THE PERFORMER | Anna Torv
THE SHOW | HBO’s The Last of Us
THE EPISODE | “Infected” (Jan. 22, 2023)
THE PERFORMANCE | To say Torv made the most of her brief time on The Last of Us would be quite the understatement. In just two episodes, the Fringe vet crafted such a complex, multi-dimensional character that we were genuinely heartbroken when Tess was killed off in Sunday’s tense hour.
Although two decades of dystopian living hardened Tess’ outer shell, Torv always remained tethered to her alter ego’s underlying humanity. The actress brought that quiet vulnerability to the fore in the final act of “Infected” when Tess — unbeknownst to viewers at first — was bitten by one of the cannibalistic creatures.
From the subtle note of warmth she flashed to apocalyptic partner in crime Joel as he bandaged her wounded foot to the frustration she unleashed when he refused to see their End of Days glass as half full, Torv subtly shifted Tess’ energy from badass survivalist to badass living on borrowed time.
And when Tess came clean about her terminal condition, Torv razed all of her character’s self-protective walls in one fell swoop. Filled with a mix of desperation and anguish, Tess begged Joel to see their Ellie-centric mission through and save himself (and, in turn, mankind). “I never ask you for anything, not to feel the way I felt… ” she cried out, Torv layering each anguished word with 20 years of complicated romantic baggage. “This is your chance. You get her there. You keep her alive. And you set everything right.”
Tess saved the day in the end but Torv was the episode’s true hero.
HONORABLE MENTION | Earlier this season, Leverage: Redemption hinted at Sophie’s complicated past with someone who was like a daughter to her. So when icy Interpol Inspector Astrid was revealed last week to be said stepdaughter, we were, frankly, whelmed. But that simply paved the way for the finale to really move us, as series vet Gina Bellman and guest star Alexandra Park (The Royals) each let down their characters’ walls. Park really impressed us when stone-cold Astrid had her elusive stepmom at gunpoint, only to eventually and lower her weapon as Sophie explained her years-ago vanishing act. Following a fun bit of theater in which the duo collaborated to catch a thief, Bellman in the ladies’ closing scene exuded such a sweet, maternal warmth, as Sophie and Astrid reflected on a fond memory.
HONORABLE MENTION | Gossip Girl showrunner Josh Safran says the one thing that will keep him up at night is knowing that the series ended with its beloved throuple — Audrey, Aki and Max — on the outs. Sure, we understand his frustration in the absence of closure, but keeping that trio together in Thursday’s finale would have deprived the audience of Thomas Doherty‘s devastating performance as the victim of a failed romantic experiment. In contrast to his character’s signature swagger, Doherty is at his best when Max allows himself to be vulnerable, and we haven’t seen him this raw since a certain teacher messed with his heart back in Season 1. From now on, the Max in HBO Max is for Max Wolfe.
HONORABLE MENTION | One of the most challenging roles played on TV this week was Ava, a Deaf surrogate who in the second episode of Fox’s Accused anthology decided to kidnap the baby she had birthed for a couple, upon suspecting that they would not let their Deaf child grow up in a signing environment. Switched at Birth alum Stephanie Nogueras met the challenge, though. Yes, her Ava acted brashly, criminally. And in Ava’s on-the-run exchanges with boyfriend KJ, Nogueras communicated a concerning degree of impulsivity. But when Ava later took the stand at trial, Nogueras saturated her signing with so much passion and sincerity that you kinda understood when the couple withdrew their case.
Which performance(s) knocked your socks off this week? Tell us in Comments!