THE PERFORMER | Tracy Morgan
THE SHOW | TBS’ The Last O.G.
THE EPISODE | “The Payback” (Dec. 21, 2021)
THE PERFORMANCE | We’ve all heard the old adage that comedians make the best dramatic actors, but there was still something wonderful and unexpected about Morgan’s compelling turn in The Last O.G.‘s Season 4 finale. From his character Tray’s dopey optimism and gratitude when Percy came to visit at the Tompkins-Marcy Community Center to his crestfallen disappointment when the shady criminal attempted to collect on his past financial favor, Morgan physically and emotionally pivoted with every high and every low Tray experienced.
Most impressively, the SNL and 30 Rock vet made us believe his alter ego really wanted to do the best he could for his twins Amira and Shahzad, who were graduating from high school, as well as his community. On one hand, you could say the community tried to help him, too, when Javi shot and killed Percy for threatening Tray with a butcher knife. While Morgan’s mug informed us Tray was touched by the well-intentioned assist, his sinking brow signaled the former felon’s immediate need to protect the kid so the act wouldn’t wipe out Javi’s future the way drug-dealing had when Tray was his age.
That’s why Morgan made Tray’s voice crack with fear and determination as he nervously commanded Javi to give him the gun and escape to a boxing camp in the Poconos. “You were never here, you understand me?” the actor shouted before clumsily pulling Javi in for a tight hug and visibly bracing himself for the worst. After Javi left, sweat pooled around Morgan’s temples as his eyes and hands raced to wipe the gun clean but suddenly steadied when the character calmly slipped the pistol through a nearby sewer grate. Unbeknownst to Tray, the police would be paying a visit even sooner than expected because security footage caught him on camera but not Javi.
Until then, Tray rushed to Amira and Shahzad’s graduation and cried. Not just because his only son called him a hero during his speech — a compliment Tray didn’t think he’d earned — but as his portrayer conveyed so beautifully, the heartbroken father wept because he realized this joyous moment was as fleeting as his freedom.
HONORABLE MENTION | We’re very badly missing Barry — two and a half years since the last new episode, people! — so it was a balm to see Bill Hader back on HBO this week on Curb Your Enthusiasm… three of him, actually. Hader played antiques dealer Igor, and also giggly hotel concierge Gregor, and also goulash slinger Timor, all with the same vaguely Eastern European accent. Larry was convinced they were all related, but they insisted they weren’t — even though they all tend to call things “shplendid.” Hader slipped seamlessly back into SNL sketch mode with the broad but undeniably funny characterization(s), and he gave as good as he got during one of Larry’s trademark squabbles over nothing much at all. It’s not a new season of Barry, but we’ll take it.
HONORABLE MENTION | Not to put too fine a point on it, but Hawkeye‘s Clint lives or dies in the finale based on how sincere Yelena perceives his penance to be. Luckily for Clint, Jeremy Renner mined a decade’s worth of big-screen bonding between Clint and Natasha as he labored to convince Yelena that her late sister would not be denied the chance to sacrifice herself to save the world. “Nothing was gonna stop her,” a bruised Clint recalled. “She made her choice; we’re gonna have to find a way to live with that.” As Renner said that last bit, the sadness in his eyes said volumes; even more so as Yelena spoke of her love for Natasha, and Clint quietly replied, “Me, too.” Add on a sweet, earlier scene between Clint and Kate (as the latter shared how the Avengers’ archer inspired her), and all told, Renner really hit the emotional bull’s-eye.
HONORABLE MENTION | The Oval‘s Victoria Franklin has never been one to suffer fools, but she was in especially rare form this week as she sparred with the vice president. Actually, “sparred” implies that both sides contributed similar efforts. The truth is, Victoria absolutely eviscerated the smarmy VP, with each venomous threat delivered to perfection by Kron Moore. Her words may have been ugly, like the way she casually referred to the VP’s kids as “those little bastards,” but there was something strangely beautiful about her performance. At this point, Victoria spews vitriol as naturally as she breathes, and Moore makes it all seem effortless. It’s only right that this week’s episode was called “The Children,” because Moore took us all to school.
Which performance(s) knocked your socks off this week? Tell us in Comments!