Monday, April 6, 2015

Series: This Week's TV MVPs - Week 7

(Oh come on, you didn't think I would be able to resist including this GIF, did you?)

It's the seventh week of the TV MVP series and it's been such an exciting little experiment to be able to chat with some of my favorite people about what they've been watching on television and which performances have been stand-outs. This week, we've got a hearty mixture of male stand-outs in comedy and drama, which is always exciting. So let's chat about some television with some of the people who know the most about it.

Hippity-hopping through Easter weekend with me are:
  • Blogger, aspiring TV writer, and generally awesome person, Constance Gibbs
  • Arrow reviewer extarodinarre, one part of the Jennifer trifecta, and human ray of sunshine, Jen!
Let's get to it, then! :)

Jenn's MVP: Max Greenfield as Schmidt (New Girl)

Why he's the MVP: Everyone in New Girl is hilarious for different reasons. Zooey Deschanel can play awkward and quirky and lovably optimistic like no one else. Lamorne Morris can deliver one-liners with ease. Jake Johnson just has to make a face or dance or sing for you to crack up. Hannah Simone's Cece has the best facial expressions. And Damon Wayans' erratic, frantic comedy is some of the funniest ever. And then there's Max Greenfield as Schmidt. I love Schmidt. I love him so much. He's been such an amazing character to watch grow, particularly this season, after his tumultuous season three arc. In "The Right Thing," Max Greenfield shines in a storyline about Schmidt's mother coming to town. We get to watch him hysterically unravel at every opportunity and every conversation with his mother (who is controlling and belittling). Schmidt has so many issues in his life and all of them really stem from the childhood he had -- he wants to be loved by everyone and adored because he never felt loved. He wants to be successful because he never felt good enough. And even in his adulthood, it's clear that whenever he's confronted by his mother, all of Schmidt's insecurities and deeply-rooted issues bubble to the surface and overflow.

Max Greenfield did a fantastic job at conveying both the hilarity and also the poignancy in Schmidt's relationship with his mom. He delivers some fantastic lines, gets to indulge in fantastic and hysterical physical comedy (putting on the sweater and the hat at lunch), and also gets to deadpan a lot of his scenes, too. But one of Schmidt's best moments in the episode is when his mother begins to insult Nick. That's the final straw for Schmidt, as he finally stands up to his mother and tells her that Nick is the best friend he's ever had. Max does such a great job in this moment balancing humor (telling his mom there are leftovers in the fridge) and anger. Overall, this was such a stellar episode for Max, comedically, and he made me laugh a lot while also conveying growth in Schmidt as a character and causing me to have a deeper understanding of him.

Connie's MVP: Grant Gustin as Barry Allen (The Flash)

Why he's the MVP: Grant Gustin brings so much to Barry Allen. He's got the humor and the energy, the deep emotion and tears—and let's not forget those pipes we only got a sneak peek of. This week on The Flash, we focused on the angst. Barry finally (FINALLY) sees that Harrison Wells comes from Sketch City, USA and it tears him up all episode. I actually kept yelling at him because he was being way too obvious about his sudden suspicion of Dr. Wells. But it's so perfectly in character. Back in the Flash/Arrow crossover episodes, Oliver tried to teach Barry about patience, about entering a new environment and planning first, rather than just reacting. Barry is only slowly learning that lesson. He snarks, he bites, he rages subtly at Wells, when NOW IS NOT THE TIME. But he's hurting. Someone he trusted might have killed several people, including his mother, and might have been manipulating him for evil this entire time. This puts Barry off his game. When Wells tells him that the Trickster's bomb might be in a different location, Barry ignores it, leading to his father's kidnapping from prison.

"So I'm supposed to leave my dad's fate in the hands of the man who may have had something to do with my mom's murder." 

The scene in the pipeline was so great. Grant brought out Barry's frustration, his confusion, his impatience, his sadness, his anger all to the forefront. "As fast as you are, [seeing the best in people] is your real power." Then Grant curls up into a big ball and my heart breaks for Barry. Here he's a little boy again, a boy whose mother was murdered and his father was taken away from him. As I said earlier, Grant can bring the child-like humor and energy of The Flash, but here he shows us the lonely child that Barry must have been.

Then Barry gets to finally, officially tell show his dad that he's The Flash. His relief and his glee is so contagious.

"You always did look good in red."

Grant Gustin makes you feel Barry's emotions through the screen. He is SUCH a great actor, his range is phenomenal and this week he got to remind us of this fact.

Connie's (other) MVP: Mark Hamill as James Jesse/The Trickster (The Flash)

Why he's the MVP: I'm sneaking two MVPs this week because The Flash inspired me to do so. Mark Hamill is a nerd hero. Best known for playing Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars franchise, he also played this same character, The Trickster, on the 90s The Flash series, as well as voicing the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series. Everyone was pumped for him to return to the Flash universe and he indeed killed it! The Flash loves hammy, over the top characters, and Mark Hamill brought that in spades. From his first two scenes in the prison, "TAKE. OFF. MY. MASSSSKKK!!" to the Star Wars callback 30 years in the making, Hamill is one of the reasons why this episode of The Flash is one of my favorites of the series so far.

I literally SCREAMED when he said "I am your father." He said the thing! He said it with Star Wars-ish music in the background! I love that the writers went there (does this mean there's no "I am your father" jokes in the Star Wars sequel series coming up?) and that Hamill agreed to it and delivered the line as flawlessly as he did. He hams it up brilliantly the rest of the episode, but that moment was worth all of the MVP trophies. 

Jen's MVP: Paul Blackthorne as Quentin Lance (Arrow)

Why he's the MVP: It would be easy to paint Detective Lance as a bad guy and maybe in the hands of a lesser actor he would be one, but Detective Lance is played by Paul Blackthorne. So it's an entirely different story.

Arrow is about a grown man who dresses up in green leather and a mask to fight crime. He uses a bow and arrow when the criminals have guns. There needs to be a character to ground the show in reality, someone to look at the situation and ask "Really?" For Arrow, that character is Detective Lance. At first, Lance was determined to arrest The Vigilante, convinced he was outside the law, a criminal and a murderer. But over time, as the system failed Lance and the threats against Starling became too great for the police department, he found himself in partnership with The Arrow.

But the team Lance trusted betrayed him this year. After Sara dies, again, Laurel demands that no one tell her father, out of concern for his health. Oliver begrudgingly agrees. Now that Lance knows the truth, the fallout is severe. Blackthorne plays Lance with a gritty realism, a man who's seen it all and suffered even more, creating a wryness that borderlines on exhaustion. But underneath the skepticism, dry wit and pain, is a man who loves deeply and cares about the citizens in Starling. A man who believes in justice. Lance sounds very similar to Oliver Queen doesn't he? That's exactly the point and exactly the problem.

Anger is tricky to act. Too much and the character looks ridiculous. Not enough and the anger isn't believable. Paul Blackthorne strikes that delicate balance, which melds into a perfect performance. Blackthorne plays almost the entire episode simmering, but when Laurel accuses her father for going after The Arrow because he kept Sara's death a secret, the Detective explodes. Blackthorne's anger is like gun firing and then recoiling. It's loud, explosive, even dangerous, but then almost instantly recoils into calm. Lance isn't angry with The Arrow for keeping Sara's death secret. Lance is angry with The Arrow for Sara's death. The Canary died because she was part of the vigilantism The Arrow started. She died wearing a mask and the masks started with The Arrow. What's more, Sara became The Canary because she got on that boat with Oliver Queen. Lance knows The Arrow and Oliver Queen are the same man. The source of Lance's anger is Sara, but it's also not without logic. It's only because Blackthorne is able to control his anger and intermixes it with the cause and effect logic of a seasoned detective, that the audience can believe why Lance is going after a knowingly innocent man.

But it's not until his one-on-one confrontation with Oliver that the truth is revealed. While transferring Oliver to jail,  Lance begins to question him. This is a confrontation that's been building for three years. Blackthorne is eerily calm, which immediately sets the tension on edge. But he allows the grief to creep into Lance's voice when he asks Oliver: "When did you decide that you knew what was best for my family?" When Oliver responds emotionally: "I love your family," it is too much for Lance. Blackthorne explodes again, hitting Oliver hard, like a hunter attacking his prey, and tells him to remain silent.  But then... the anger recoils again. Lance tells Oliver that he's not a hero, but a villain.

The reason Lance never discovered The Arrow's identity until now was because he didn't want to know. Lance knew deep down it was Oliver Queen. He also knew the anger and hate would return immediately if he was ever forced to acknowledge his identity - making a partnership impossible. The truth is, more than any other character, Detective Lance needed the mask to see the real Oliver Queen. Without it, all Detective Lance can see is the man who murdered his daughter. It doesn't matter how many lives The Arrow saves, Oliver can never save the one life Lance truly wants... Sara's. It was the one relationship on Arrow that was completely predicated on the separation of Oliver's two identities. Blackthorne's ability to move deftly from logic, eerie calm, grieving father, determined detective and unbridled rage one moment to the next, is the only reason the audience is accepting of his ignorance and grieving the loss of Oliver's secret identity. By tapping into the pain and anger that Detective Lance has carried since the pilot, Blackthorne showed the audience that the truth of Oliver's identity has only served to severe a friendship that couldn't have existed without the mask.

There you have it, friends. These are our TV MVPs this week. Who were some of your favorite performances? Hit up the comments below with your thoughts. Until then! :)


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