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Performers of the Week: The 'Rez Dogs'

Reservation Dogs POTW

THE PERFORMERS | D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai, Devery Jacobs, Lane Factor and Paulina Alexis

THE SHOW | Reservation Dogs

THE EPISODE |I Still Believe” (Sept. 28, 2022)

THE PERFORMANCE | In the Season 2 finale of Sterlin Harjo’s gem, the Rez Dogs learned how much stronger they are together than apart.

While the crew’s late friend Daniel had always been part of the Rez Dogs’ DNA, their westward excursion showed us just how much Bear (Woon-A-Tai), Willie Jack (Alexis), Elora (Jacobs) and Cheese (Factor) were still grieving. And in just 30 minutes’ time, the group finally acknowledged how their friend’s suicide left holes in them that may never be repaired.

While we had already honored Jacobs for her work in Episode 4, we couldn’t dare split up the Dogs as they carried out Daniel’s last big wish: Going to California with his friends. No single actor outshined the others; rather, it was their combined chemistry and the characters’ reliance on each other that made us laugh at their antics and reel in their heartbreak.

Despite Elora’s car getting stolen (with all of their money and Daniel’s letter inside), the group relentlessly trudged forward with the mission. When they finally reached the oceanside, they were confronted by all sorts of feelings and realizations. Jacobs exhibited a wealth of vulnerability in her body language and diction as Elora admitted her fear of letting Daniel go. Woon-A-Tai was brought to tears, as Bear was consumed by love for his friends. Alexis displayed a wealth of fortitude as Willie Jack proved to be both the Dogs’ safety net and comedic relief. And after they joined together for a prayer, Factor quivered and choked on his emotions as Cheese revealed his lingering anger.

Reservation Dogs has proven to be special in a myriad of ways, and most of the praise we’d bestow on it hinges on the wowing work of these four young actors. They may still be at the start of their hopefully fruitful careers, but they’ve already delivered a powerful showcase we won’t soon forget.

HONORABLE MENTION | Much of the criticism directed at Netflix’s Dahmer has centered on the limited series’ decision to put the spotlight on the ubiquitous serial killer and not his innumerable victims. Perhaps that’s what makes the Paris Barclay-helmed sixth episode, “Silenced” — which spends most of its hour focused on Tony Hughes (Deaf U‘s Rodney Burford), a 31-year deaf gay Black man murdered by Dahmer — such a welcome outlier, and Karen Malina White‘s performance such a gift. The veteran actress plays Tony’s doting-turned-grieving mother Shirley with such heartbreaking restraint you find yourself wanting to reach through the screen to hug her. The unconditional love and, eventually, inordinate pain radiating through White’s expressive eyes — particularly in that gorgeously rendered closing dinner table scene — drives home the full tragic weight of a promising life cut short.

the-handmaids-tale-o-t-fagbenle-season-5-performanceHONORABLE MENTION | In this week’s The Handmaid’s Tale’s Luke edged a lot closer to seeing things June’s way, and we say: Praise be. The character’s development opens new and very interesting avenues for O-T Fagbenle, who has been so good throughout Luke’s long history of trying to talk wife June off her murderous ledge. Luke’s newfound bloodlust — or the beginnings of it, at least — in Wednesday’s hour allowed Fagbenle to give his performance a heightened feeling of barely-restrained frustration and a highly moving sense that this was a character who has finally, finally been pushed to his edge. Case in point: Luke’s showdown with Serena, during which Fagbenle dazzled as he took his character from feigned calm to murderous rage in the space of a few minutes.

Andor Stellan SkarsgårdHONORABLE MENTION | Andor‘s Stellan Skarsgård had several engaging scenes this week, each speaking to Luthen’s commitment to the cause. First, we saw Luthen coax Cassian into joining Vel’s ragtag team on Aldhani to “put a real stick in the eye of the Empire.” (“I didn’t risk my ass for the Starpath unit,” he avowed. “I came for you.”) Then there was his locking of horns with Vel, who opposed the idea of a stranger being foisted into her heist plan. (When Luthen roared at her, “Listen to me!,” it made clear how critical he believes Cassian — sorry, ‘Clem’ — to be to their effort.) And of course capping Skarsgård’s turn was first the moment inside his ship, where we watched him transition into his jocular Coruscant persona, followed by said alter ego’s covert assignation with Senator Mon Mothma. Across this episode and the one before it, Skarsgård made Luthen a memorable, formidable (and unpredictable) player.

Which performance(s) knocked your socks off this week? Tell us in Comments!