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.
HONORABLE MENTION | Days 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’s 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 pleasant 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!