Sunday, March 22, 2015

Series: This Week's TV MVPs - Week 5

Can you believe we've been doing this series for five weeks already? We've already featured some amazing performers over the past few weeks and I'm so excited to have a great team who's dedicated to naming some of the most outstanding performances from actors and actresses each week. This week, some of the best work on television was some of the most heart-breaking. My companion this week is my name twin, my soul sister, and my other (better) half in the Arrow fandom: Jen!
So let's get to it, then!

Jenn's MVP: James Spader as Raymond Reddington (The Blacklist)

Why he's the MVP: I could probably listen to James Spader recite the phone book or the alphabet or read the menu of some crappy burger place forever and I would be content. He has such a commanding voice and a commanding personality, that his presence on The Blacklist is always nothing short of extraordinary and fascinating. In this week's episode, however, Spader was a stand-out both comedically and dramatically. Red's desire to do whatever it takes to protects Liz is a constant focal point in this series and was never more evident than in "Tom Keen," where he and Ressler traveled to Russia in order to get Tom to return to the United States and confess that he killed the DC harbormaster, not Liz. There's this impeccable balance in the way that Spader plays Reddington -- he is equal parts terrifying and hilarious; calm, collected, and chaotic. I think that what has impressed me the most and what impressed me regarding "Tom Keen" was how calculated Red was. He always has a plan and even if his initial one fails, he always has a back-up. He makes jokes and he quips, but he's a shrewd businessman and criminal. He's meticulous.

But what really landed James Spader on the TV MVP list this week is his final monologue to Liz. The woman feels the weight of immense guilt for not being able to prevent Tom from killing the harbormaster, so she anonymously sets up a fund for the harbormaster's daughter to go to college. She donates a significant amount of money to do so and when Red discovers this, he warns Liz that she's sliding down a slippery slope. Though she means well... where does it end? Furthermore, Red explains to Liz that what she's doing isn't really for the daughter at all: it's so that she -- Liz -- can feel better about what happened. The way that Spader delivers this monologue, this story (that we assume is bluntly telling Liz that he knows all of this because HE is doing that for HER), is just so calm, so deliberate, and makes you want to lean in closer. That is why Spader is so stellar on The Blacklist: he carries this show from week to week, completely understanding the emotional nuances of Red's personality, understanding how he's both a hero and a villain and sometimes both within the span of an episode. In "Tom Keen," we had the opportunity to see Red's honesty and vulnerability displayed in that final scene with Liz. And James Spader did a tremendous job in finding the exact right emotional balance in that moment.

Jenn's (other) MVP: Carlos Valdes as Cisco Ramon (The Flash)

Why he's the MVP: I talked about him extensively in my character appreciation post, but I love Cisco Ramon. So much. And it's so easy to dismiss him as comedic relief -- to brush him aside as the young man who utters one-liners and wears funny t-shirts and who basically serves as the in-house resident nerd of the group. He's young, he's endearing, and he's fun. But Cisco Ramon has always been so much more than that and I love that The Flash is unafraid to explore Carlos Valdes' range as an actor. He has impeccable comedic timing and he delivers snarky lines so well, but Carlos proved in this week's episode that he can completely and utterly deliver on the emotional moments. I think I read this in an article or an interview with the creators, but Cisco wasn't scripted to cry during his confrontation with Wells. That was something implemented by Carlos because he believed Cisco knew, from the moment he walked into that room with Wells, that he was going to die.

And you can see the pain etched on his face as the tears stream down his cheeks. His face quivers and it's so utterly painful and so beautifully acted by Carlos Valdes. This is a young man who plays a character who smiles and laughs so often that these emotional scenes stun us. They punch us right in the heart (... too soon?) as we watch this young man who believed in Wells, who trusted him, who saw him as a friend and a mentor and a role model crumble. Honestly, Carlos Valdes' performance in this scene was nothing short of heartbreaking and nothing short of extraordinary. He reminded us all that Cisco may be fun and sweet and nickname metahumans but that he is also a young man who feels things deeply and who feels pain just as traumatically as anyone else on this show. That is precisely why he made my second MVP this week: it is impossible to ignore the painful, raw, beautiful way that Carlos Valdes played his death scene.

Jen's MVP: Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity Smoak (Arrow)

Why she's the MVP: Where would Oliver be without Felicity Smoak? Where would Arrow be without Emily Bett Rickards? I shudder at the mere thought. For the duration of Season 3, the Arrow fandom has suffered the inevitable downward swing of its main love story: Oliver and Felicity. They love each other but can't be together (insert myriad of reasons here). It sucks. It has for quite awhile and the fans' patience is wearing thin. Very thin. But the writers tossed us a bone in this week's episode and commenced on the Olicity the "rebuild" or the upward swing as I like to call it. Otherwise known as sunshine and rainbows. And nobody does sunshine and rainbows better than Emily Bett Rickards.

The woman absolutely glowed in every scene. Yeah, some of those scenes were snuggling with new boy toy Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh), but the majority of the glow was saved for the real man in Felicity's life, Oliver Queen. Oliver finally dropped the man pain for 15 seconds and TALKED TO FELICITY. Alert the press, a miracle has occurred. Hurt by his falling out with Detective Lance, upset about Felicity's new coupling with Palmer and overall disillusioned with life as The Arrow and Oliver Queen, Oliver was seriously contemplating taking Ra's Al Ghul (aka THE DEVIL) up on his offer for to become the new Ra's Al Ghul. Given that it's Lent, think Lucifer tempting Christ in the desert. Yeah... it was that bad. So who better than to save Oliver's soul than the angel on his shoulder: Felicity Smoak? The minute Oliver allowed himself to be Oliver Queen, shedding his cold exterior, Felicity instinctively reached out in compassion, understanding, love and, most importantly, delivered Oliver the swift kick in the ass he sorely needs. Stephen Amell is a master class in subtle acting, but it's Emily Bett Rickards that consecutively steals the scenes on Arrow.

Emily sparkled in every scene with her charming nervous babbling, perfect comedic timing, earnest concern and innocent yet insightful observations. But that's Emily... week after week. Emily and Stephen sizzle in every scene, but instead of angry angst bubbling between them, they were allowed to return to their roots - playful, sweet, sexy, flirtatious banter.  Emily is one of those rare actresses that has chemistry with almost everyone, BUT there is something special between her and Amell. I often think she's the Lucy to his Ricky Ricardo. The funny woman versus the straight man routine. But it's deeper than that. Emily exudes a natural warmth and tenderness as Felicity Smoak, so much so that she softens the cool and gruff Oliver Queen, allowing Amell to display his natural warmth, which in turn humanizes the damaged Oliver. It is a connection that Oliver and Arrow survive on. In a matter of two scenes, Felicity sets Oliver back on the straight and narrow and for the first time in a long time, Oliver finds his footing again.

It allows Felicity, and Emily, to deliver what could be her line of the year. Overjoyed at the sight of Oliver's humanity, Felicity says: "You know how you always say that you just want me to be happy? Well the thing is, as long as you're in my life... I am." Emily delivers the line sweetly, with a bit of nervous hesitation, and then finally overwhelming devotion and love. Oliver, and at times Arrow, has been floundering this year without Felicity Smoak and this episode highlights exactly why. Not only is she the heart of the team, Felicity is the heart of the hero and her masterful portrayal makes Emily the heart of Arrow. Oliver is lost without Felicity and Arrow would be lost without Emily.

So there you have it, friends! Jenn and Jen tackled television this week together and mentioned some of the outstanding performances. Who made YOUR list? Sound off in the comments below and let us know your thoughts. Until then. :)


  1. Yes, the heart reference was too soon! :)

    I am still upset by the whole Cisco dying scene. Thank heavens Barry went back in time and the events of last week will be changed drastically. Carlos' face during that scene just ruined me. Not only did we learn that he doesn't get along well with his family (which makes me full of questions and want to adopt him even more) but we saw some father/son-ish bonding before Wells coldly ruins everything! Tom Cavanaugh was chilling but Carlos totally owned that scene. Because of what he showed in his performance we as the audience knew what was going to happen too. We could feel this cold, onrushing terror as we truly saw who Wells is.

    Horrifying and powerful and Carlos was amazing!

  2. Hey I just really wanted to write how much I love this column. I loved Carlos in that scene but also Tom too. How calm he was in explained his power and who he was to Cisco. Notice in the scene that his voice never changes or wavers. It's always calm and that is what truly terrifying. Because if he killed someone he considered a son. Someone who was no threat to him (Powers-wise), what would he do to Barry Allen to get home?

    Also I do like the choice Carlos made to cry when Wells is about to kill him. I have enjoyed seeing his growth on the show as a not just comic relief but the heart of the show in my opinion.

    So thank you and Looking forward to next week's!!