Winona Ryder Performance Stranger Things

Performer of the Week: Winona Ryder

THE PERFORMER | Winona Ryder

THE SHOW | Stranger Things

THE EPISODE | “The Body” (Episode 4)

THE PERFORMANCE | No one was ever going to mistake Stranger Things‘ high-strung Joyce for someone who has an easy time keeping it together. So we were all the more moved that, when Chief Hopper informed the single mom that her son Will was dead, Ryder made sure we saw her character trying — and trying heartbreakingly hard — to sound reasonable, even as she was explaining how she knew he was still alive.

Joyce had just talked to Will through the Christmas lights, you see. “One blink for yes, two for no,” she said, her portrayer’s sad eyes conveying her awareness of how much crazier every syllable made her sound.

Later, Ryder wowed us in an altogether different way as, with Will’s funeral approaching, Joyce stopped apologizing for speaking her truth. “I don’t care if anyone believes me,” she railed at older son Jonathan. “I am going to bring [Will] home!”

And, by God, Ryder said it with such conviction that you couldn’t rule out the possibility that Joyce just might. She certainly tried, when Will called to her from The Upside Down. Ryder hurled her entire body into the scene, as the desperate mom tore off the wallpaper to get a glimpse of Will in his alternate dimension.

When, after telling him to hide from the approaching monster, Joyce axed (!) her way through the wall to save him, only to discover that the hole just looked out on her yard, Ryder’s devastated expression said all that needed be said about the poor woman’s confusion and dismay.

PHOTOS Stranger Things: 15 Moments That Made the Series an Insta-Classic

HONORABLE MENTION | tyrant-finnigan-season-3-episode-3Days later our hearts still ache for Tyrant‘s Molly al-Fayeed, whose unimaginable loss was made painfully real by Jennifer Finnigan. Opening this week’s episode, Molly went from numb over her daughter’s sacrifice (“We have nothing to say,” she coolly told husband Barry) to grasping a glimmer of hope, upon hearing Emma’s voice on the phone (“I am a mother,” she barked at kidnapper Ihab. “Tell me what I have to do do get my daughter back!”). When Molly’s brave plan to trade herself to the Caliphate on the down low got tampered with, and then went unexpectedly sideways, Finnigan’s bellowed “Nooooooo!” made us feel every bit of her character’s anguish and sense of helplessness, watching Emma be stabbed to death for all to see.

HONORABLE MENTION | Tina Fey’sLaura Benanti Melania Trump Sarah Palin. Larry David’s Bernie Sanders. Laura Benanti‘s Melania Trump. As if having “Tony Award winner” atop her resume wasn’t already impressive enough, Benanti will now be recognized for crafting one of the best modern-day political impersonations following an appearance on Tuesday’s Late Show. The Supergirl and Nashville vet turned heads as the nation’s potential next First Lady, and for good reason: she completely lost herself in the role and became Melania. It was a transformation so astonishingly thorough that even a simple Twitter search pulls up a number of inquiries asking if Stephen Colbert had somehow booked Ms. Trump just one day after she was accused of plagiarism at the Republican National Convention. It was  that good, and not to mention wildly funny.

HONORABLE MENTION | In a Screampleasant turn of events, if it wasn’t another death that took us by surprise on Tuesday’s Scream, but rather a powerful message delivered by star Carlson Young, whose long-overdue speech at the Lady of the Lake carried the weight of Jake, Branson and every other character who’s died at the hands of the show’s mystery killer. As Brooke downed a flask of vodka backstage, we feared that her big speech would conclude with her falling flat on her face, but it ended up being an emotional mic-drop moment that — much like Young’s tear-jerking performance — the town of Lakewood would not soon forget.

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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13 Comments
  1. Matt C. says:

    Carlson Young is so underrated on Scream. I wish she had been cast as the main protagonist instead of just the best friend, but fortunately they’ve been using her way more this season than last year!

  2. patrickmaloney33 says:

    Winona Ryder and Carlson Young are blowing my mind!

  3. Alec says:

    Jennifer Finnigan was just perfection. P-E-R-F-E-C-T-I-O-N. What an actress!

  4. Ally says:

    Should have been Jon Stewart

  5. Shaun says:

    Nothing for Suits or Portia Doubleday?

  6. darkangel200 says:

    Great pick! I loved seeing Winona Ryder again and I agree she was great in this.

  7. Lisa says:

    Ive been preaching carlson youngs immense talent since last season on scream! Even when the narrative drags she continues to knock it out of the park. And winona ryder was simply phenomenal on stranger things. Im honestly surprised the show isnt getting more buzz considering how entertaining of a viewing experience it was

  8. Cate53 says:

    I found Winona Ryder a bit screechy for a lot of Strnger Things. Her character was largely one note nutso for most of the show!

  9. m83 says:

    I thought Ryder did fine, but Millie Bobby Brown was by far the standout from “Stranger Things.”

    • militantgod says:

      A lot of people are hating on Ryder because her character wasn’t likable but at the end of the day she was really great in it. Totally agree on Millie Bobby Brown. She was by far the stand out for me. Gaten Matarazzo was pretty terrific as well. I loved David Harbour being giving a leading role. He’s one of those unheralded actors. Bring on season 2!

      • kcg19 says:

        I didn’t realise people didn’t like her. I thought she was great! She was trying to save her son and doing a damn fine job at it!

  10. Lala says:

    Tyrant should have killed-off Molly…she’s annoying. After this many seasons, she’s still the weakest link…even Sammy has grown & has become a more like-able character now.

  11. soarinj5505 says:

    I feel like I’m in the minority regarding Winona in Stranger Things. I found her portrayal of Joyce to be extremely grating throughout most of the show. I would give accolades to David Harbour & and Millie Bobby Brown way before I’d give her something.