THE PERFORMER | Natasha Lyonne
THE SHOW | Russian Doll
THE EPISODE | “Ariadne” (Feb. 1, 2019)
THE PERFORMANCE | 2019 has only just begun, but we suspect that one of the year’s best performances has already graced our screens: Lyonne’s wry, spirited and wholly unforgettable turn as Nadia, the cynic at the center of Netflix’s trippy comedy Russian Doll.
Though Lyonne is captivating from Russian Doll‘s very first frame, it’s her work in the season finale that left the biggest impression — spoilers ahead! — because she’s actually playing two Nadias. After finally breaking the time loop in which they’ve been stuck, Nadia and fellow death-defier Alan (an excellent Charlie Barnett) learn that they’ve been reset in two separate timelines; as the episode unfolds, Lyonne plays both the original Nadia, who plans to hook up with birthday party attendee Mike, and the looping Nadia, who has been resurrected countless times.
Lyonne is equally magnetic in both portrayals, and the stark contrast between the two Nadias just serves to highlight how far the character has come. It’s hard to take your eyes off the original Nadia in all of her sarcastic, unfiltered glory (“You tell this Cronenberg-lookin’ motherf—er that I don’t like stalkers! Mostly.”), but in the next scene, the looping Nadia breaks our hearts with her sad, sweet bedtime story for Alan. Later, Lyonne is especially effective as the looping Nadia races to the roof of Alan’s building, overcome with fear that he may have taken his own life.
Russian Doll‘s finale is a brilliant showcase for Lyonne, who spends all eight episodes giving us new reasons to root for Nadia. Her performance is so superb, in fact, that we’d be content to watch it on a never-ending loop.
HONORABLE MENTION | Not a week goes by that Catherine O’Hara doesn’t astound with her portrayal of wiggy Moira on Schitt’s Creek. (She deserves an Emmy for the accent alone!) But she really outdid herself in “Housewarming.” As the ultimate hands-off mother found herself drawn ever deeper into the “infelicitous burden” of helping babysit Roland Jr., O’Hara slowly, hilariously ratcheted up her outré character’s reactions to the unfolding drama. By the time she’d made it all the way from a detached observation that the “bebe” was crying (“Isn’t it scheduled to be dormant by now?”) to abject terror at the sight of spit-up (“Its body is ejecting things?!?”), we were convinced that what we’d just watched had to have been even funnier than Not Without My Cousin.
HONORABLE MENTION | Mahershala Ali is getting plenty of awards buzz for his starring role in HBO’s True Detective (and deservedly so!), but we’re more and more impressed each week by Stephen Dorff, who plays Ali’s on-screen partner Roland West. A ’90s movie star who disappeared there for a few years, Dorff is reminding us why he first caught our eye with a quietly compelling performance, especially in this week’s powerhouse scene playing an aging Roland. Sporting gray hair and more than a few wrinkles, Dorff tapped into decades of pent-up resentment as Roland exploded on his old partner: “I’d whip your ass if it wouldn’t kill ya.” Eventually, though, the two grumpy old men mended fences, and Dorff displayed a heartbreaking vulnerability buried deep inside the old cop. We love a good comeback story… and Dorff’s standout work this season is truly a great one.
HONORABLE MENTION | During Supernatural‘s milestone 300th episode, Jared Padalecki and Jeffrey Dean Morgan delivered an emotional father-son moment 14 years in the making. As Sam and John poured their hearts out to each other, apologizing for their past mistakes, Padalecki and Morgan poured themselves into the scene, leaving no tear left unshed. Both actors perfectly conveyed the cathartic release that came with the exchange, which allowed Sam and John to finally put the past behind them. Morgan was also gut-wrenching during John’s scenes with his wife Mary, especially when his face crumbled as he realized his longtime love was alive. His quietly hopeful, disbelieving cry of “Mary?” pierced our hearts. Thanks to Padalecki and Morgan’s impassioned performances, the Winchesters’ highly anticipated family reunion was more than worth the wait.
Which performance(s) knocked your socks off this week? Tell us in Comments!