Pretty Little Liars

Performer of the Week: Troian Bellisario

THE PERFORMER | Troian Bellisario

THE SHOW | Pretty Little Liars

THE EPISODE | “The Talented Mr. Rollins” (July 5)

THE PERFORMANCE | Breaking up may be hard to do, but when Bellisario is at the wheel, at least it’s easy to watch.

Spencer has always been the most theatrical of the Pretty Little Liars — need we remind you of her over-the-top Queen Elizabeth Halloween costume a few years back? — and Bellisario has routinely crushed her character’s meatier moments, be it a psychological breakdown or a debilitating drug relapse.

But it was her powerful performance in this week’s episode, that of a heartbroken young woman accepting her fairytale romance’s unhappy ending, that really resonated with us. It’s always satisfying to see what Bellisario does when she’s allowed to break free of her character’s stoic nature, even when the circumstance doesn’t exactly lend itself to a celebration.

A polarizing pair from the start, Spencer and Caleb’s relationship owes most of its plausibility to Bellisario, who routinely kept the courtship grounded in truth. This was never just another romance; it was a sudden connection with a friend’s ex, and Bellisario always played her part with cautious optimism.

Watching Spencer work through the truth with tears streaming down her face (“I want to be with somebody who thinks about me the first thing in the morning, and the last thing at night”) was heartbreaking. The split may have been inevitable, but no one could have predicted how much Bellisario’s performance would make us feel.

HONORABLE MENTION wayward-pines-hounsou| Wayward Pines tapped into two-time Academy Award nominee Djimon Hounsou‘s toolbox, as flashbacks shed light on CJ’s soul-crushing “job” of monitoring Earth’s devolution. As Pilcher would remark, it was unimaginable what CJ witnessed, and Hounsou indeed registered sadness as society slipped away (and conflict as Pilcher ill-advisedly woke Group A). Most compelling was CJ’s “conversation” with his lonnnng-dead wife, where he pined for fresh-picked tomatoes and “the smell of summer,” where he mourned the fact that he doesn’t even have the option of one day laying next to Eileen in the ground. Instead, he has seen “bombs falling like rain” and a sky “green with poisoned light,” realities so harsh he was tempted to scream, though there was “no one left” to hear his cries. All told, Hounsou brought a real resonance to CJ’s incredible plight.

Performer of the Week Zachary UngerHONORABLE MENTION | And the award for Child Actor Who Absolutely Crushed It goes to Containment‘s Zachary Unger. Tuesday’s episode was an emotional, teary and bloody farewell to Katie (an incredibly compelling Kristen Gutoskie), and Unger — as her son, Quentin, — was a grief-stricken revelation. As Quentin tried to stay strong for his dying mom before finally breaking down (“I’m so scared,” he sobbed), Unger displayed a maturity and depth beyond his young years. Katie’s untimely death would have been sad no matter the circumstances, but Unger elevated it to gut-wrenching.

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