The TVLine Performer of the Week: Yvonne Strahovski

yvonne-strahovski-the-handmaids-tale-season-5-performance

THE PERFORMER | Yvonne Strahovski

THE SHOW | The Handmaid’s Tale

THE EPISODE | No Man’s Land” (Oct. 19, 2022)

THE PERFORMANCE | No matter whether you love, hate, or love to hate Serena Joy Waterford, there’s one thing that’s undeniable: Yvonne Strahovski is so ridiculously good in the role. Five seasons in, and she’s still finding new ways to mess us up emotionally in a tough, complicated part. Praise be! Let’s talk about this week’s episode, shall we?

Strahovski gave a tour-de-force performance throughout the hour, which kicked off with the ousted Gilead founder going into labor with her first child. Serena’s desperation, both physical and emotional, was clear in all of Strahovski’s choices: the keening moans as contractions intensified, the desperation with which she kept her gun trained on June as it wavered, the steel in her voice as she refused to go to a hospital — even if that meant enduring one of life’s most painful processes in an abandoned barn.

That pain broke Serena open emotionally, allowing Strahovski to play up the most human aspects of her extremely detestable character. As an audience, we were right there with June; one moment basking in the powerful love that flowed from Serena to her newborn son, Strahovski’s teary smile a thing of beauty, and the next loathing her for comparing her situation with the Wheelers to June’s in Gilead. (We know Serena was exhausted, but how oblivious can one person get?!)

 

Wanna revisit a moment of TV perfection? Cue up the moment that Serena suggests that June take little Noah and give him a better life than she can offer. Strahovski’s eyes overflow with tears as Serena quietly explains her seriously not-good prospects. Know what else overflows? Our admiration for how beautifully this actress can play on both our sympathies and our contempt, sometimes within a matter of minutes. We’re still not sure how we feel about Serena these days, but Strahovski? She’s amazing.

yvonne-strahovski-performance-the-handmaids-tale-season-5-episode-11HONORABLE MENTION | Reminding us all why she’s a legend, the estimable Marla Gibbs turned in an utterly heartbreaking performance in Thursday’s Grey’s Anatomy, first by introducing us to the feisty, funny woman that Simone’s grandmother once was and then by showing us the confused and frightened senior into which she had been turned by dementia. As quickly as Simone gently explained to her grandmother that she was not her mother, her mother had died, Gibbs changed her whole demeanor, her face contorting with outrage and a hard-to-witness lack of comprehension. “Somebody help,” cried Joyce, unable to believe what she was being told. “Bravo,” cried the audience, bowled over anew by the 91-year-old television icon who’s been slaying for going on five decades.

Documentary Now Season 4 Premiere Alexander Skarsgard August DiehlHONORABLE MENTION | Comedy can come from the strangest places, and this week’s Documentary Now! found it in the rugged mountains of Russia, thanks to the riotously funny duo of Alexander Skarsgard and August Diehl. Skarsgard played a 1980s German film director making a documentary about the remote region — while also filming a CBS sitcom pilot there called Bachelor Nanny. Skarsgard’s trademark intensity lent itself perfectly to comedy, with the director’s lofty artistic ambitions driving him to ridiculous extremes. And the hilarity only doubled when Diehl entered as an avant-garde comedian who violently clashed with Skarsgard’s director — when he deemed his accommodations insufficient, he held a knife to the director’s throat — bringing a wild-eyed manic energy to an already wild episode. Documentary Now! has always been a treasure trove of tiny acting gems, and with Skarsgard and Diehl’s profoundly silly double act, Season 4 is off to a superb start.

Andor Fiona Shaw MaarvaHONORABLE MENTION | Andor‘s Fiona Shaw had us and Cass feeling all the things as Maarva declined her son’s offer to skip town, to instead fight the good fight on Ferrix. For one, we were crushed to hear how Maarva had for 13 years avoided the part of town where husband Clem was hanged by Imperial forces. But upon learning of the bold Aldhani garrison raid, “I put on my best coat and walked across the square with a smile on my face!” she shared, inspired as she now is to “stick it out here” on Ferrix. Then when Maarva noted that Cass has “a different path” ahead of him, your heart had to swell as Shaw looked upon Diego Luna with adoring eyes. “I’ve never loved anything the way I’ve loved you,” Maarva avowed. “But you can’t stay. And I can’t go.” Suffice to say, Shaw had us as sad to see mom and son part ways as they were.

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