THE PERFORMER | Millie Bobby Brown
THE SHOW | Stranger Things
THE EPISODE | “Chapter Eight: The Upside Down”
THE PERFORMANCE | Though critics — including us — have quite rightly raved about Winona Ryder’s star turn in Netflix’s retro drama, c’mon. The show was really all about those awesome kids. And, in the final Season 1 episode, Brown totally stole that show.
First, as Mike (the also-excellent Finn Wolfhard) struggled to explain to Eleven the difference between a sister and a Snow Ball date, the 12-year-old adorably — and with very little dialogue — conveyed the confusion of a girl who has no frame of reference for either concept. And, after El’s crush finally clarified the distinction with a kiss, her portrayer’s slight smile shone more brightly than the Christmas lights that have become synonymous with the series.
Later, Brown channeled her tormented character’s rage, shooting a look that should’ve killed her pursuers even if her psychokinetic abilities failed her; her fear, as she was most reluctantly reunited with her evil “Papa”; and her sadness, as she made Mike promise that all the dreams he’d put in her head would come true.
Which, tragically, they wouldn’t. (Not until Season 2, anyway.) That leads us to the two moments of Brown’s performance that have haunted us the most since we binged Stranger Things: the heartbreaking one in which El paused her suicide mission to dispatch the monster just long enough to gaze back at Mike and say goodbye, and that soul-tearing scream as she destroyed herself along with the creature.
Thanks to the talented youngster (and her castmates), we finally understand why actors say never to work with children: There’s a good chance they’ll outshine you!
HONORABLE MENTION | Exciting as it is when The Haves and the Have Nots‘ Veronica explodes, Angela Robinson does even more thrilling work when Mommie Dearest issues threats as quietly as a ticking time bomb. So “I Am a Wolf,” in which she squared off with the son she’d recently driven to stab her in the breast implant, was a treat. No sooner had she informed Jeffrey that, his sexual orientation be damned, he’d be attending the engagement party she was throwing him and the woman he had no intention of marrying than she warned that the next time she had him beaten would be worse than the last. Yet, through it all, Robinson remained so poised, she gave us nightmares. Calm, scary-as-s— nightmares.
HONORABLE MENTION | Sunday’s episode of HBO’s Vice Principals lit a fire under Kimberly Hebert Gregory’s fierce, formidable principal Dr. Brown, and watching the theater vet tear into the material was something akin to a religious experience. During the HBO comedy’s first three episodes, we looked on as Danny McBride and Walton Goggins’ despicably childish and mean-spirited duo attempted to destroy their new boss’ spirit, even going so far as to burn down the single mother’s house. Episode 4 was the first time we saw Dr. Brown crack under the strain, and Gregory made us feel every bit as angry, sad and overwhelmed as her character. And when she fought back we cheered. And man, did she ever fight back. In an Emmy reel-worthy scene, Dr. Brown hijacked the high school’s pep rally and delivered a mic-dropping sermon that formally heralded Gregory’s arrival as a comedic force of nature.
Which performances knocked your socks off this week? Hit the comments!