THE PERFORMER | Aubrey Plaza
THE SHOW | Legion
THE EPISODE | “Chapter 6” (Mar. 15, 2017)
THE PERFORMANCE | As mischievous sidekick Lenny on FX’s mind-bending superhero drama Legion, Plaza often taps into that rich vein of cynical sarcasm that served her so well as April Ludgate on Parks and Recreation. But when Legion switched gears this week, it allowed Plaza to show off a whole new side to Lenny. (Two or three sides, really.)
With Syd trapped in a nightmarish alt-reality where she and the Summerland crew are patients in a mental hospital, the formerly loony Lenny stood in as their therapist. And Plaza played it admirably straight at first, with a calm, soothing approach to her patients. But we knew something was off, and we were right: Plaza got to kick up her heels (in fishnets, no less!) in a dazzlingly surreal dance sequence, as Lenny confidently boogied her way through David’s memories, proving her intentions aren’t exactly pure. And when Lenny revealed to David her horrible plans for him, Plaza was flat-out terrifying, planting her foot firmly in David’s crotch and then giving him a lapdance while telling him how she planned to use his mutant powers to her advantage.
We’re still not sure if Lenny is a real person, or just a jagged shard of David’s fractured psyche. (Honestly, there’s a lot we’re not sure of on this show.) But no matter who or what Lenny is, Plaza has been a wickedly funny delight every minute she’s been on screen — especially in this week’s well-deserved showcase.
HONORABLE MENTION | Since the 2010 premiere of The Walking Dead, Lennie James has done an admirable, at times breathtaking, job of portraying Morgan as an honorable man in a world where doing right can feel terribly wrong. And never was a greater challenge posed to the character’s innate goodness than in “Bury Me Here.” First, James let us see how the pain of Benjamin’s death reopened old wounds that brought Morgan to the brink of suicide. Then, upon learning that Richard was to blame, he confronted Ezekiel’s right-hand man in a scene made all the more impressive by the fact that James acted the hell out of it without uttering a word. Even more stunning, when Richard reneged on his promise to confess, James showed us not only Morgan’s commitment to what had to be done — kill the schemer — but also his profound sadness that it had to be done.
HONORABLE MENTION | As Girls neared the end of its six-season run, Becky Ann Baker turned in another showstopper of a performance as Loreen popped pot gummies like they were regular candy to dull the pain of her midlife crisis — or to try to dull it, anyway. But we should all be glad that Hannah’s mom failed to go numb, because Baker’s handling of her character’s self-pity and rage was alternately heartbreaking and hilarious. For instance, she made Loreen almost scary when she hissed at Hannah to “stop f—ing saying” she might still meet someone. And did anyone not lose it over the absolute seriousness with which she told her pregnant daughter that “every time I look at your baby, I will see my own death” — then puked on herself? Talk about going out on a high!
HONORABLE MENTION | We here had known for a while that Josh Segarra‘s Arrow character would be revealed as Prometheus — and it always seemed an odd fit. But wow. As if with the flip of a switch, Segarra transformed mild-mannered D.A. Adrian Chase into not just a worthy adversary for Star City’s mayor and hero, but a really mean one. In his first “unmasked” scenes already, he has clearly, chillingly put Oliver on notice that he is neither a foe to be trifled with nor scared easily. Whether suggesting Oliver has been “asleep this whole time,” dismissing his threats as the words of an “impotent” man, deflecting a seething Lance and Rene with “shop talk” or gutting his plaintive wife, Segarra has convinced us that Chase is one stone-cold seeker of vengeance.
Which performance knocked your socks off this week? Tell us in Comments!