Performer of the Week: Laurence Fishburne

Hannibal - Season 2THE PERFORMER | Laurence Fishburne

THE SHOW | Hannibal

THE EPISODE | “Kaiseki”

THE AIRDATE | Feb. 28, 2014

THE PERFORMANCE | There are few things sadder than watching a good man who knows he’s done something terribly wrong – and also knows he can’t fix it. And there are few things better than watching a masterful actor take on that challenge.

In Hannibal‘s Season 2 premiere, that man was Laurence Fishburne’s Jack Crawford, the FBI chief filled with guilt over the downfall of his star profiler, Will Graham. In just about every moment he was on screen, Fishburne wore Jack’s regret like stones weighing down his pockets. A gourmet meal with Lecter became an opportunity to mourn a lost friendship. A finger-pointing interlude with Alana and one of the bureau’s internal investigators was weathered with a weary sigh, Fishburne slumping slightly in his seat. And during Jack’s visit to see Will, who was imprisoned as an accused serial killer, the actor conveyed his character’s anger and disappointment with a tired, incredulous look. Really? his face seemed to say, after Will announced he’d had a new memory of Lecter’s duplicity. After all I’ve seen, you want me to believe this?

Let’s not forget, either, how the subtleties of Fishburne’s performance for 90 percent of the episode stood in stark relief to what he did in the cold open. As Hannibal and Jack battled for their lives in Lecter’s tricked-out kitchen, Fishburne turned in a physical performance that was elegant in its brutality. He hurled his body (and co-star Mads Mikkelsen) around the set, throwing his all into a fight scene as beautiful as anything else the show has shot. Here’s hoping that Fishburne’s Jack makes it out of that closet alive.

HONORABLE MENTION | As Glenn, the good-hearted manager to Nashville‘s Juliette Barnes, Ed Amatrudo has one of those thankless roles: He’s usually in a scene for Juliette to yell at, or order around, or both. But this week, when he bid Ms. Barnes goodbye in order for her to become an even bigger star, Amatrudo moved us with just a few lines of teary dialogue. “I gotta get out of the way and let you be a superstar,” he said, clutching his suitcase and barely holding it together as he recalled their first meeting. Thank goodness Juliette later came to her senses and refused to let him quit, because we want to see a lot more of Amatrudo’s warm, loving presence on screen in the future.

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HONORABLE MENTION | As his Winston Bishop went to ridiculous levels of procrastination to avoid looking at the test results from the Police Academy exam — and thus, discover if he’d be able to transition from the unemployment line to the fulfillment of a lifelong dream — New Girl‘s Lamorne Morris turned in one of the funniest performances of the TV season. Every scene found Morris Lamorne-Morriscareening between the wide-eyed panic of realizing his results were a smartphone click away and the daydreamy avoidance techniques of a guy in total denial. In one scene, after Winston booked Coach’s training services for an afternoon — blocking his pal’s potential hookup with a sexy client — we saw him on the receiving end of a “ground stretch” that Morris took to absurd levels of inappropriateness. Eyes closed, a giant grin plasterd on his face, and cooing, “I’m takin a little trip here, Coach. You know where I’m going!” Later, when Winston realized in the middle of a disastrous job interview at a coffee house that perhaps he’d forgotten to fill out the back half of his police exam, Morris channeled Winston’s typically wayward exuberance with an uproarious line-reading directed at his potential employer: “I didn’t choke! I’m just careless! And that is my biggest weakness, ya bitch!” Winston’s bravado didn’t even last a nanosecond — “I’m so sorry, dude. I’m so sorry, dude! Man, I didn’t mean that. Dawg, I didn’t mean that at all,” he added, panicked — but our laughter carried on much, much longer.

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