THE PERFORMER | Brian Cox
THE SHOW | HBO’s Succession
THE EPISODE | “Chiantishire” (Dec. 5, 2021)
THE PERFORMANCE | Logan Roy’s formidable presence looms large over every frame of HBO’s riveting corporate drama, with his children fighting and clawing to either win his favor or take his place, even when he’s not on screen. But when he is on screen, we’re treated to Cox’s magnificent, thunderous portrayal of a lion in winter who’s not ready to relinquish even an ounce of his power. This week, Cox stepped to the forefront and shined as Logan had a bone-chilling encounter with his former favorite son Kendall.
Cox also did nice work around the episode’s edges, with a flash of deadpan humor as he puzzled over Lukas Matsson’s cryptic tweets (“I’m not used to negotiating via eggplant”) and a blast of righteous rage while scolding Roman for his, um, unfortunate texts. But really, we’re here to talk about that dinner scene between Logan and Kendall. What a scene! Cox was uncharacteristically warm at first, trading Logan’s usual bellows for whispers — but we saw how twisted Logan’s mind is when he had his grandson taste his food first to make sure it wasn’t poisoned. Kendall poured his heart out to his dad, admitting defeat and agreeing to take a payout and disappear, but Cox had a sadistic glint in his eye as Logan relished the victory, toying with Kendall like a cat with a wounded bird. Cox cracked a wicked smile as Logan denied his son even the dignity of a swift exit, and the actor drew on his considerable gravitas to put Kendall back in his place, with Logan cruelly twisting the knife by bringing up the caterer who died at Shiv’s wedding.
“I f–king know things about the world, or I wouldn’t turn a buck,” Logan coldly informed his son. “Not necessarily nice things.” It’s a gut-punch of a reminder that as horrifyingly amoral as Logan Roy can be, he is right about a few things. And it’s a testament to Cox’s stellar work that he shows us the man behind the monster. We may not ever be on Logan’s side of an argument… but he’s never less than fascinating.
HONORABLE MENTION | Was Kathryn Hahn uncanny as The Facts of Life‘s Jo? Yup. Was Ann Down spot-on as Mrs. Garrett? Oh dear, yes. But Live in Front of a Studio Audience‘s biggest surprise was how 40something Kevin Hart — the eyeroll-iest casting when announced — so effectively evoked our compassion, much as Diff’rent Strokes‘ tweenage Gary Coleman did back in the day. Suddenly shoved out of his big brother’s orbit, wee Arnold Drummond was wounded, uncertain how to proceed without Willis at his side. Hart could have “gone big” with a caricature of a foot-stomping tyke, but instead tapped into Arnold’s confusion. Coleman was a superstar during his Diff’rent Strokes run, having blended cutesiness and catchphrases with a certain relatability. Hart delivered a fitting homage.
HONORABLE MENTION | When we heard that Ghosts was doing a storyline about Hetty possessing “living” Jay, we expected there would be funny hijinks. But we had no idea just how impressive, uncanny and hilarious Utkarsh Ambudkar‘s impersonation of Rebecca Wisocky’s 1800s robber baron would be. The actor absolutely nailed Hetty’s snooty, high-pitched voice, her haughty laugh and her rigid mannerisms, down to the way she holds her clasped hands at her waist. With comedic dexterity, Ambudkar easily volleyed between freaked-out Jay and Hetty’s archness as the two battled for control of his body. Pete was spot-on when he compared the scene to watching tennis rivals John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors — but in this case, Ambudkar was playing against himself like a total champ.
HONORABLE MENTION | The Sex Lives of College Girls‘ Leighton is a posh, sometimes snobby freshman who often makes us laugh with her razor-sharp retorts. But in the HBO Max comedy’s Season 1 finale, Reneé Rapp made us feel for her character as she took a small but brave step in coming out to suitemate Kimberly. Leighton’s fear and hesitancy was evident in Rapp’s quick and muted (but impactful) delivery of, “It wasn’t a guy, it was a girl. I’m gay.” Rapp then brought aching vulnerability to the confession when Leighton sobbed, “I don’t want to be like this. Kimberly, it’s terrifying. I don’t want my whole life to change.” Rapp’s ability to go from comedic tour de force to heart-wrenching tears in a single episode was truly impressive.
HONORABLE MENTION | Chris gave as good as she got, in multiple ways, on this week’s S.W.A.T., in a nice showcase for series vet Lina Esco. Upon discovering that a kidnapped young woman was one of several Honduran refugees who had sought safe harbor from a local named Mama Pina, Chris labored to present her and her colleagues as friends, not foes. So when Deacon got too accusatory with Mama Pina, Chris confronted him back at HQ, not once relenting in her POV that he was setting up the refugees to suffer in prison the same indignities they did as drug mules — and Esco’s intensity was gripping. Capping her performance was a solid, visceral, close-quarters fight scene with zero evidence of obvious doubling. A kickass night, all told.
Which performance(s) knocked your socks off this week? Tell us in Comments!