feud bette and joan season 1 episode 1 recap

Performer of the Week: Jessica Lange

THE PERFORMER | Jessica Lange

THE SHOW | FEUD: Bette and Joan

THE EPISODE | “Pilot” (March 5, 2017)

THE PERFORMANCE | Were Joan Crawford alive today, we have to think that she would have been satisfied — dare we say pleased? — with Lange’s casting in FEUD. Not only has the Ryan Murphy fave won the second Oscar that always eluded Crawford, but she plays the Hollywood legend with an empathy that never fails to remind us that, behind the leading lady, there was a flesh-and-blood woman as damaged as she was determined.

In the anthology series’ first episode, Lange comes out just as Crawford would have — swinging — choking on resentment over the dearth of parts for actresses her age yet hell-bent on not going down without a fight. Once the erstwhile Lucille LeSueur discovers the comeback vehicle that she needs — What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? — Lange shows us, in short order, a dozen different sides to her fascinatingly flawed real-life character.

For instance, in one scene, the American Horror Story vet masks Crawford’s cunning with charm — going so far as to make (relatively) nice with Bette Davis, the rival whose respect she so craves. In another, Lange reveals just how mercurial Crawford was, as she goes from calling out Baby Jane’s producer/director for giving Davis a bigger per diem to making an incomplete pass at him. And so Lange goes, adjusting Crawford’s attitude as often as she changes her wardrobe.

Where the three-time Emmy victor’s work is the most remarkable, however, is in its depiction of Crawford’s fragility. When we think of the Mildred Pierce icon, we think tough-as-nails. But Lange shines a light beneath that hard image — in particular, as Crawford basks in praise after shooting her first take as Blanche Hudson — to make it plain that, as aggressively as she hustled for fame and fortune, what she really wanted was to be loved. Somehow, we think she’d approve.

Claire DanesHONORABLE MENTION | Claire Danes‘ famously quivering chin got a real workout this week on Homeland, as “Imminent Risk” saw Carrie’s daughter Franny snatched away from her in family court. Danes has often taken a backseat this season, plot-wise, but here, she stepped into the spotlight, conveying the raw devastation and sheer panic of a mother separated from her child. And the trembling desperation in Danes’ voice as Carrie begged Keane to help her get Franny back… it was almost too heartbreaking to watch. The only good thing about Franny being gone: It propelled Danes to her finest performance of the season.

Dan Stevens LegionHONORABLE MENTION | As Legion‘s conflicted mutant David Haller, Dan Stevens has been stuck in his own mind (literally) most of the season. But this week, in “Chapter 5,” Stevens got to take David’s massive telekinetic powers out for a spin — and have a little fun for once! Wearing a sly smile, David stormed through Division 3 laying waste to enemy soldiers, and Stevens made the mutant’s newfound cockiness positively unnerving. Plus, David later retreated back into his psyche, where Stevens gave a truly odd performance of Kermit the Frog’s “The Rainbow Connection.” Kick-ass action scenes, emotionally wrenching psychodrama, Muppet song covers… is there anything Dan Stevens can’t do?

HONORABLE MENTION | Kristen Wiig had the weight of the (end of the) world on her shoulders last Sunday, carrying an entire episode of The Last Man on Earth without the support of Will Forte or any of the supporting cast. And to say she was up for the challenge is an understatement of apocalyptic proportions. The Saturday Night Live alum delivered an Emmy-worthy performance as newly introduced survivor Pamela Brinton, whose initial naiveté regarding the severity of the virus had us howling from the get-go. From her delivery of the line, “Refried beans? Why don’t you fry them right the first time?,” to her absurd attempts to teach her dog how to talk (“Damnit Jeremy, you’re not even trying!”), Wiig had us missing the days when she was on our TV screens (mostly) every weekend.

Which performance knocked your socks off this week? Tell us in 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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  1. Grace Park was amazing on H50 last night!

    • MMD says:

      I totally agree. Her absolute fury was completely palatable and I don’t know how she didn’t become totally unhinged (which I expected to happen all episode).

  2. Kevin Tran says:

    Claire Danes’ performance on Homeland was outstanding. How good or bad of a mom Carrie Mathison is right now?

  3. Brian says:

    Jessica Lange is a goddess. She’s always amazing in her roles.

    Thank you Ryan Murphy for exposing Lange to today’s generation.

  4. kirads09 says:

    For my money there was no better performance this week than Jared Harris as Anderson Dawes on The Expanse. His speech to the belters (totally stealing Johnson’s thunder) and then the way he goes and talks one on one to the major players trying to manipulate them – quite Shakespearian villian like. Dawes is a larger than life enigma and character. So Jared is MY performer of the week.

    TBH – I’m sure it is fine given the cast. But personally feel rather than watching Feud, one’s time might be better spent watching All About Eve, Mildred Pierce and the original Whatever Happened to Baby Jane – see the real deals in glorious action.

    • ravynrobyn says:

      I cannot tell you how much I agree about seeing the REAL actresses and their movies vs Feud. I had been drooling in anticipation for Feud did months. Then, last Sunday I got to see “All About Eve” on the glorious big screen, in a real theater…SIGH. Feud was ok, great actresses, wonderful costumes, etc-but ain’t nothin like the real thing😍

      I think Feud would have felt flat to me, even if I hadn’t seen Margo Channing-but after seeing her…meh. Gonna watch “Mildred Pierce” this week and WHTBJ next week.

      PS-Love your profile pic, always have 😊

  5. Tim says:

    The best thing about Franny being gone is that we don’t have to watch horrible acting.

  6. WKay says:

    It’s all about Dan.

  7. T.W.S.S. says:

    No honorable mention for Susan Kelechi Watson (Beth) from This Is Us?

  8. Joey Padron says:

    Happy Dan and Kristen got honorable mentions, they both did great on new episodes of both of their shows this week.

  9. Mary says:

    For me it would be Melissa Benoist and Chyler Leigh from Supergirl and since it’s so hard to pick from this week’s episode of The Flash, I’d say Barry, the Wests, Jesse, Caitlin, and Julian.

  10. Nerwen Aldarion says:

    Jessica Lange was great as Joan Crawford but I feel like Susan Sarandon did even better than Lange. Lange was playing herself playing Joan, Sarandon actually WAS Bette Davis down to the masculine walk. Lange might have had more material to work with this week but Sarandon stole the show

    • PatriciaLee says:

      Who will ever forget Bette’s choice of dress for a decades old recluse, stepping through the doorway showing she never grew up?

  11. patrickmaloney33 says:

    Finally some love for Legion! Such an underrated show.

  12. J says:

    Kristin Wiig’s performance was incredible

  13. N!loofar says:

    what about Rupert Friend?

  14. Rod says:

    Claire Danes was outstanding on Homeland.
    Wiig as well on Last Man on Earth.
    Louie Anderson always gives the best performance as well.

  15. Wes says:

    Cole Sprouse was amazingly on Riverdale this week.

  16. Shannon says:

    Keiynan Lonsdale (The Flash) or Cole Sprouse (Riverdale) deserved at least a mention. They were incredible this week.

  17. Keirin30 says:

    Jessica Lange is acting circles around Susan Sarandon. Susan Sarandon seemed to have phoned in her performance.

  18. Phredd! says:

    Cole Sprouse in this week’s “Riverdale” was heartbreakingly good! Should have been an Honorable Mention!

  19. May says:

    I second cole on riverdale! He is showing some really good potential and increasing the quality of the show!

  20. Sarah says:

    I prefer Susan Sarandon’s performance. She seems like she is having so much fun as Bette Davis.

  21. Viv says:

    Meh. JLang being neurotic JLang — slightly more fragile this time.

    Sarandon nailed it. I could watch her play Bette for the next 50 years. Stunning tribute! Hate her dumb@ss politics — looove those shoulders… And that Margo Channing hair fling?! Whaaaaa — Bravo, Ms. S! So much wonderfully delicious work.

  22. Ahs ruined my life says:

    Although Jessica has enjoyed numerous nominations and awards for the various TV roles she’s had for last few years, why isn’t she surrounded by scripts from movie directors? I wish she was starting in exciting feature length films and being nominated for Oscars again. I love you Jess.

  23. Luisa Yanez says:

    In Feud, Jessica Lange has turned Joan Crawford into a living, breathing complicated woman, who managed to survive in Hollywood with her cunning street savvy. Lange has made us forget Faye Dunaway’s “NO WIRE HANGERS!” Joan. This Joan is both sad and exasperating. Lange gets better in every episode of Feud.