House of Cards Season 4

Performer of the Week: Robin Wright

THE PERFORMER | Robin Wright

THE SHOW | House of Cards

THE EPISODE | “Chapter 49” (March 4, 2016)

THE PERFORMANCE | Let’s just come right out and say it: Wright won House of Cards‘ fourth season by a veritable landslide. Her steely first lady stole the show early on as Claire went toe-to-toe with husband Francis in an epic battle of intellect and hubris, and Wright had us rooting for her FLOTUS every step of the way. (Not that she needed our support — she had the situation more than handled.)

While that marital battle raged, Claire was fighting a war on another front — with her disapproving (and cancer-stricken) mom Elizabeth (played to acid-tongued perfection by Ellen Burstyn). The pair’s painful history yielded one blockbuster scene after another, and allowed Wright to show us Claire at her most vulnerable. And this was particularly the case in the Wright-directed “Chapter 49,” which found Claire in the position of having to end the life of the woman she alternately loathed and loved.

The death scene in question featured nary a syllable of dialogue, thus requiring Wright to express all of Claire’s regret, anger and sadness using only her eyes. And express it she did. As Claire slowly administered the lethal dose of pain medicine to her bedridden mother, we felt every beat of her internal struggle. And our hearts broke right along with hers as she watched her mother slip away.

It was the perfect emotional climax to one of the series’ most relatable arcs, made all the more satisfying by Wright’s powerfully subtle and restrained display of grief.

unnamedHONORABLE MENTION | Watching Shameless‘ Lip come to the realization during Sunday’s season finale that he is following in his drunken father’s footsteps was, simply put, heartbreaking. One of the most underrated performers on the Showtime drama, Jeremy Allen White expertly conveyed his character’s rebellious denial and reluctant acceptance of his problems. When his little sister Debbie expressed her concerns about his behavior, it was the final straw for Lip. Sitting in front of a rehab facility with his mentor, his voice broke and his eyes watered as he confessed that he couldn’t afford treatment. Although the bill was ultimately taken care of, Lip nonetheless dawdled apprehensively outside the building as White’s face filled with fear and anxiety. We would never wish ill upon Lip, but when it gives Allen the opportunity to deliver such a raw, emotional performance, the character’s pain almost seems worth it.

Jon Tenney ScandalHONORABLE MENTION | The only thing more surprising than Jon Tenney’s explosive return to Scandal this Thursday was the incredible transformation he brought to the villainous Andrew Nichols. The physical repercussions from his stroke — most notably his pained, slurred speech — were so believable, they made his monologues uncomfortable to watch, even more so than (spoiler alert!) the image of Olivia beating him to death with a metal chair. Much as Andrew presented two very different faces during his days in the White House, Tenney straddled the line between sympathetic victim (“Do I disgust you?”) and reprehensible bastard (you know, that whole speech about Olivia being a cheap whore) so successfully, he kept us speculating about Andrew’s fate until the hour’s miserable, bloody end.

unnamed-3HONORABLE MENTION | It’s rare for the quiet portrayal of repressed feelings to “pop,” but Castle’s Jon Huertas this week made us feel every bit of Esposito’s conflict upon being reunited with his onetime fiancee. The look on Huertas’ face when Javi laid eyes on Sonia, whom he himself arrested years ago, got the emotional ball rolling. Espo’s attraction was underscored when during a warm moment, Sonia stole the tiniest kiss, and he barely deflected it. But Huertas most wowed us when Javi revealed how back in the day he almost forsook his badge and ran away with Sonia, “because I couldn’t imagine a life without you.” When Sonia suggests they live that life now, Huertas cradled guest star Angelica Celaya’s face. “It can never be like it was,” Javi deferred, adding: “If I was strong enough to arrest the love of my life, you are strong enough to face what comes next.” As the ex-lovers’ foreheads touched, we were as well.

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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42 Comments
  1. SassyAF28 says:

    Why didn’t u include Alison pill from the family she was phenomenal in this week’s episode

  2. Aly says:

    Robin Wright was phenomenal all throughout s4. Best part of the season for me!

  3. Tates says:

    I know a lot of people didn’t like “The Walking Dead” season finale (I did), but I thought Andrew Lincoln was amazing in it. To see Rick be so confident at the beginning of the episode at the first barricade and then start to slowly lose and question himself about The Saviors at every barrier to be completely broken in the woods in front of Negan (and his group) was beautifully acted.

    • Lexi says:

      I agree the ending was excellent!!! I, also, agree Andrew Lincoln was phenomenal… as you said at the start he is so cocky and at the end he is terrified for himself, his son and his people… And while people whine about the ending I almost threw up hearing that bat smack into whoever was being killed …

  4. Dani says:

    So happy to see someone from Shameless get some love! Such a brilliant show, and all the kids in it are stars.

  5. Jennifer Stevens says:

    Chi McBride deserved it this week. His performance on H50 was great.

  6. Shar says:

    Ashley Johnson on Blindspot continues to give a wonderful performance each week. She’s far more than a supporting player on that show and I find her story more interesting than Jane’s.

    • Cate53 says:

      Agreed, I love her and the way they have not just dropped the story about her dead boyfriend but have her deal with it is the most effective part of the show for me

    • Winter says:

      Ashley Johnson is by far the best thing on the Blindspot. That show though is just losing me entirely. I can’t seem to care about anyone else on the show at all.

      • Moonlight4evr says:

        Agree about Blindspot. Patterson is the only character I even intrigued by and could care less about the two leads and a foursome love triangle! This show was my favorite new show that debuted this year. However, it went on too long of a break and when it came back it seems to have loss its momentum.

        Jon Huertas you made me fall back in love with Castle for ONE episode. What a stellar, breath-taking, emotional performance!

  7. Cate53 says:

    How is the cast of The People v OJ Simpson not mentioned here? Probably because it is hard to say which actor was the most impressive and this finale want the showiest episode for the actors. Sterling K Brown was quietly effective, Sarah Paulson and Courtney B Vance continued to impress. David Schwimmer showed Robert Kardashian’s horror and disgust at helping to get a guilty man off really well. Gooding also impressed but not sure we want to see OJ taking any awards!

    Perhaps the performers of the week could also be some of the characters killed off

    SPOILERS

    Ricky Whittle on The 100
    Katie Cassidy on Arrow
    Nicole Beharie on Sleepy Hollow

    All great characters who got the chop RIP

  8. Shaun says:

    John Travolta was pretty good in the parking lot.

  9. Leo says:

    Jessica Sanchez needs to be here. Also how could Katie Cassidy not appear here. You better be saving her up for next week’s spot…

  10. spindae2 says:

    Lindsay Morgan as Raven Reyes on The100, oustanding switches loved it!

    • Flashrow says:

      Usually she is very mediocre to me as Raven, but I could see it is not the actress, because she nailed it in the ALIE mannierism and tone

  11. Jake L. says:

    Surprised Kerry Washington isn’t here for Scandal this week. Of course, she routinely does great work, but this week required more than usual of her and she rose to the occasion.

  12. DD says:

    Ryan Seacrest!!! He made me cry as he signed off from American Idol for the last time, and is such a terrific host (case in point, when the baby kept stealing his microphone)

  13. Marine says:

    Jon Huertas in Castle! He was brilliant and it’s refreshing and awesome to see more about other characters than Castle and Beckett. Javi’s always been my fav so very happy for him and I really, really enjoyed his episode.

  14. floweduh says:

    Shameless rarely gets some love. I’m glad it’s finally getting some recogniton. But yes Jeremy Allen White’s performance was phenomenal! Throughout the whole season we got to see the emotional side of Lip and it was good.

    This season on House of cards was deep! And Robin Wright’s performance is Grrreat! My favorite scene is when she is by Francis bed side when he got shot and she didn’t really show that much emotion towards him. Definitely Emmy material thus year!

  15. Emilie says:

    Paul Wesley on TVD. Amazing performance by him as usual.

  16. jericho says:

    How is the performer of the week from March 4th? I know Netflix drops them all on the same day so its difficult to include them, but it just seems like this should have been included in March, not April.

    • Pixley says:

      Agreed. Netflix gives the middle finger to traditional television scheduling — don’t reward them for it. They can be performer of the week the week their shows come out.

  17. Patrick Maloney says:

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

    • kirads09 says:

      Agree. He has impressed me throughout (I am at ep 7). Not that Charlie isn’t wonderful as Matt, but in both seasons thus far I find myself more drawn to the “villain” – Fisk, The Punisher – more than the superhero! The show (and actors who portray them more importantly) have done such an incredible job of making them “human” rather than mere caricatures of big bads.

  18. mArS says:

    Odd to not include someone from American Crime Story (new or again), but actors from a show that premiered 5 weeks ago..

  19. Leo says:

    Not surprised Jon Huertas has been overlooked for so many years, so was Ruben Santiago-Hudson as well as Penny Johnson Jerald. Gifted actors everyone of them, as is Susan Sullivan. So much could have been done with them and never was.

  20. fiberlicious says:

    Completely agree about Jon Tenney. Outstanding performance.