THE PERFORMER | Milo Ventimiglia
THE SHOW | This Is Us
THE EPISODE | “Sometimes” (Nov. 13, 2018)
THE PERFORMANCE | We thought we knew Jack. But as Ventimiglia proved beautifully in Tuesday’s This Is Us, we were wrong. The episode allowed Ventimiglia to give viewers an in-depth look at a man we’d previously only glimpsed: a haunted veteran — of both war and an abusive household — trying to resume the rhythms of a normal life. The character’s struggle to do so, combined with the actor’s skill at playing all of Jack’s troubled nuances, was fascinating.
During the road trip, Ventimiglia made Jack’s smiles tentative, as if he were afraid to be happy for too long. Young Pearson may have gotten good at “swallowing the bad stuff,” as he mentioned to Rebecca, but Ventimiglia’s efforts showed that Jack had yet to properly digest the loss he’d recently experienced.
This stew of emotions was the most clear in the second half of the episode, starting when Jack visited Squirrel’s parents. Ventimiglia steeled Jack as though he were going back into battle, his posture rigid and his eyes downcast while he took responsibility for the soldier’s death and braced for his family’s fury. When the Wattersons instead embraced their visitor, you could feel the tension as Ventimiglia barely held Jack together, despite everything in him wanting to collapse in that warm and loving space.
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By the time Jack picked Rebecca up at the record label, the character was primed for some type of release. While Rebecca sang, Ventimiglia physically turned away from her, giving Jack as much physical cover as possible for the tears he couldn’t keep in check. The moment wasn’t cathartic: Ventimiglia visibly strained to hold in Jack’s grief, shame and guilt. And when Pearson just couldn’t stop himself, his portrayer somehow added embarrassment on top of an already layered performance. Poor Jack. Lucky us.
HONORABLE MENTION | It was the worst of times, and then the best of times for The Flash‘s Iris this week, and Candice Patton gave us a front row seat on that roller coaster of emotions. First, there was her quiet reaction to Nora’s outburst about Iris not supporting her, now or ever; you just felt the gut punch the insta-mother sustained. Later, Patton dimmed the light in her eyes as Iris opened up to Barry, communicating a painful dejection. “I love our daughter with all my heart, but she hates me, because I turn my back on her…. I’ve already become [the person she hates], and I didn’t have a choice.” Luckily, Iris’ badass saving of Barry’s life opened Nora’s eyes, paving the way for amends. “I want you to live your life. And I want you to be a part of mine,” Iris told her daughter, warmly. “No secrets and lies, just us, being who we are today.”
HONORABLE MENTION | It’s not like The Good Place needed any more great cast members, but they added another one this week anyway, with comedy legend Michael McKean making his debut as the painfully virtuous Doug Forcett. The Spinal Tap veteran lent Doug a scruffy, blissed-out vibe as he happily opened his home (and organic radish farm) to Michael and Janet, laying out his very strict moral code to his guests. But Doug’s ethics backfired when he accidentally stepped on a snail, and McKean was hilariously unhinged as Doug broke down in wild sobs over his, well, misstep. Doug proved that it’s possible for a person to be too good — and McKean just about proved that, too, with a delightfully daft performance.
HONORABLE MENTION | Even as Wednesday’s finale of American Horror Story: Apocalypse drowned in its own glorious lunacy — singing robot heads, anyone? — the harrowing hour never lost its emotional potency, thanks to grounding performances from the likes of Billie Lourd, who proved as vital to the episode’s success as her character was in taking down the Antichrist. From the painful goodbyes she exchanged with her fellow witches to the rage she channeled while battling Michael, Lourd managed to push her own boundaries without breaking the delicate confines of Mallory’s emotional limits. (Let’s be real, no one would ever refer to the character as “high energy.”) Her performance was, in a word, supreme.
Which performance(s) knocked your socks off this week? Tell us in Comments!