Allison Williams Girls

Performer of the Week: Allison Williams

THE PERFORMER | Allison Williams

THE SHOW | Girls

THE EPISODE | “The Panic in Central Park” (March 27, 2016)

THE PERFORMANCE | Girls‘ Marnie Michaels is privileged, selfish and maddeningly self-absorbed. But Allison Williams’ deft, multi-layered performance in last Sunday’s episode — one that focused entirely on her character — reminded us Marnie is also wickedly entertaining and sometimes achingly lost.

The opening three-quarters of “The Panic in Central Park” played like a deluded fairy tale for Marnie, as she stormed out of her apartment after a fight with husband Desi, bumped into ex-boyfriend Charlie and embarked on an adventure littered with red flags and warning signals. The actress’ dreamy smile and giddy demeanor played like the physical manifestation of rose-colored glasses —  which Marnie refused to remove even as Charlie’s repeated trips “to the bathroom” and squalid apartment made it clear he’d descended into drug addiction.

Occasionally, Williams allowed us to see the sense of loss Marnie continued to experience over her split from first love — “You were my family. You know that,” she confessed, her voice filled with a quiet seriousness — but not even a fall into the Central Park Pond and a scary encounter with a mugger could break the nostalgic spell, leading to a night of passion and dreams of running off together to open a general store.

In the morning, as Marnie discovered heroin gear in Charlie’s pockets and set off (barefoot!) through the quiet New York streets, Williams’ face registered numbness, sadness and confusion — all of which gelled into something resembling an epiphany as she arrived back home and told Desi she no longer wanted to be married. When Marnie’s infantile spouse wept and begged her to “remember the hope of the beginning,” Williams turned Marnie’s tearful regret into biting incredulity. “The hope of the beginning?!” she barked, realizing the absurdity of her entire relationship with Desi. “You mean when you had a girlfriend, and I saw you like twice a week, and half the time that we f***ed you covered my face with a pillow because you couldn’t handle the guilt?”

Later that morning, sneaking into bed with BFF Hannah and her boyfriend Fran, Willams continued to play Marnie as shellshocked and a little lost, but the slightest hint of a smile was a signpost that this mess of a twentysomething might finally be on the road to happiness.

Sterling K. Brown American Crime StoryHONORABLE MENTION | The next time Christopher Darden runs into Sterling K. Brown, the actor who plays him on The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, he might want to shake his hand. Brown’s portrayal of the prosecutor has been a quiet masterpiece, a subtle examination of one frustrated man’s desire to see justice done. In this week’s episode, Brown took Darden to his absolute limit, fueled by the lawyer’s anger over both the Los Angeles Police Department’s institutional racism and Johnnie Cochran’s choice to play that card in Simpson’s defense. Darden’s incredulous courtroom outburst was the showiest bit, but we were equally moved by Smith’s wordless moments with Sarah Paulson’s Marcia Clark: What Brown can communicate with a mournful glance — such as the one they exchanged as Darden dangled on contempt-of-court charges — would take other actors pages of dialogue to achieve. If Ryan Murphy stays true to form and repurposes the series’ cast for subsequent seasons of American Crime Story, here’s hoping Brown is one of the first calls he makes.

Jussie Smollett UndergroundHONORABLE MENTION | Jussie Smollett delivers the occasional outburst as Jamal Lyon, but nothing he has done on Empire rivals the wild-eyed intensity of his visit to this week’s Underground. Guesting on the WGN America drama as runaway slave Josey, Smollett stared daggers (and thrust an actual one) at John Hawke, an abolitionist mistaken for the man who sold off Josey’s wife Tempy nine years ago. “Tell me the truth! Tell me you sold her,” Josey dared John, Smollett’s face seething with anger. When John spins a yarn that assuages his abductor some, Smollett flipped a switch and revealed Josey’s measured relief… until the fib was found out. “Just one lie-after-lie-after-lie-after-lie…,” Josey hissed. “Now I have to cut your lyin’ tongue out!” Airing as it did after Empire’s midseason premiere, the fiery performance dynamically capped a Smollett double-header.

Which performances knocked your socks off this week? Hit the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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21 Comments
  1. Sandy Duncan's Eye on Network TV says:

    Allison Williams Performer of the Week…I want a recount. The best thing I can say about her acting is that she has a lovely singing voice.

  2. Dude says:

    Sterling K. Brown has been the MVP of People vs OJ all season long. Courtney B. Vance and Sarah Paulson have the showier roles (and are both phenomenal) but Brown somehow manages to outact them with a simple look.

  3. Brian says:

    Nice to see Sterling K. Brown getting a shout out.

  4. Chris says:

    Not to take away from the performers of this week, but my prediction for the Performer of the Week for next week will be hands down Jeffrey Dean Morgan for The Walking Dead and rightfully so. He will command the screen from the moment he appears.

  5. Helvetica says:

    What about Tom Cavanagh as two versions of Harrison Wells? The difference in the nuances between them was amazing and so well perfomed.

  6. Mafalda Neto says:

    When I saw this episode I knew she would make tvline’s performer of the week. Sadly, I can’t say I was that impressed with her. Still, the best episode of the season so far on “Girls”.

  7. Shutterbug99 says:

    This was my favorite episode of Girls to date. I’m still coming to terms with this new life of Charlie’s – and I’m wondering if their hook up will have consequences (of the sexual-health kind) for Marnie…

  8. Patrick Maloney says:

    McCaleb Burnett as Grotto in Daredevil Season 2 has been more fun to watch than all three of these performances combined!

  9. Hedy S. says:

    Who is Smith? Anyhoo, Sterling K. Brown has been awesome. That girl from Girls is not a good actress. That show is disgusting anyway. I made it through two episodes, and had to shower and scour myself off, it was so dirty, and not in a good way.

  10. The Beach says:

    Not that anyone is watching it but Christina Hendricks has been very enjoyable to watch on Hap and Leonard.

  11. I loved the latest Girls episode, and — like most people, I imagine — I can’t stand Marnie. I thought AW did a wonderful job, and it was nice to see a different side of the character.

  12. Bin Ho says:

    You were KIDDING right? Have you actually seen anything Williams has done? She is one of the most over hyped “actresses” in Hollwood.

  13. Kev says:

    I loved this episode of “Girls”. It had something really special. I can’t even really describe what it was, but it was amazing.

  14. Patrick Maloney says:

    It’s unfair how this column keeps ignoring the phenomenal work Jon Bernthal did on Daredevil!