Sunday, April 10, 2016

Series: This Week's TV MVPs - Week 34

Welcome back to another week of our TV MVP series! This is Rae, filling in for Jenn as she's off adventuring this weekend. This week on TV it seemed like everywhere you looked there were touching performances and crazy storylines. We focused on some of the most emotional performances in this week's MVP series. 

Joining me are:

Lizzie’s MVP: Katie Cassidy as Laurel Lance (Arrow)

Why she’s the MVP: Katie Cassidy has never been my favorite actress. She’s never been my least favorite, either. I’ve never seen her in anything other than Arrow, and in my opinion, she’s never had the material in this show to really pull at my heartstrings. Sure, she had a rough arc in season two, but that consisted of the writers forcing her to make an angry face for 20 episodes, instead of allowing her to break and then rebuild herself on something other than rage.

Imagine my surprise then, when in this episode, in her final scene, Katie Cassidy had me not only believing every word she was saying, but sobbing. Actual tears. For a character I could never relate to, this was the best possible ending. And not because the writing was perfect, no. Her last words were laughable in the context of who Laurel had become. And yet, Katie Cassidy sold them. She sold the impossible, the contradictory. She sold the nonsensical writing she was more often than not saddled with. She made viewers who never cared about her feel desperately sad to see her go.

And she made me reconsider her as an actress. If only for that, I’m glad for how her journey ended. Now I know not to blame her for how little I always liked her on Arrow. Now I know it’s okay to give her a chance in whatever she tries next.

Meredith’s MVP: Paul Blackthorne as Quentin Lance (Arrow)

Why he’s the MVP: Just look at his face. Look at it. Okay but, for real, Paul Blackthorne won the title of MVP in a less-than-30-second scene this week. He had a couple other short scenes, including one that served as closure for him and his TV daughter, Katie Cassidy’s Laurel Lance, and they were all strong and solid. But it was this quick, wordless scene that broke me. I teared up. I felt his raw, real pain more acutely than anything else this episode. And he did it all without any words.

Now, to be fair, any member of the Arrow cast could have easily claimed the MVP title this week. Notably, Katie Cassidy (like Lizzie said), David Ramsey, and Stephen Amell. Every member of Team Arrow was brilliant this week, at their very best acting-wise. But Blackthorne so brilliantly and realistically portrayed a father’s anguish in this hallway scene opposite Amell, that I just could not in good conscience give my title to anyone else.

Paul Blackthorne is one of the strongest and most experienced actors on Arrow, and in my opinion he is sorely underused. His character has been through so much, and Paul’s nuanced acting has allowed Lance’s growth to fit the character and storyline perfectly. I’m still bitter that we didn’t get an actual goodbye scene between Quentin and Laurel, but I’m hopeful that we’ll have some meaty stuff between them in the flashbacks next episode. Nonetheless, as Amell’s Oliver stumbles into the hallway after Laurel dies in front of him, just as Blackthorne’s Quentin rushes up – hoping, desperately hoping – to see his daughter alive and well and recovering, the emotions run high and the total, all-encompassing pain is tangible. 

As a parent, I can’t even begin to imagine what it feels like to lose a child, and Quentin Lance has had to feel it more times than most. That doesn’t lessen the pain, at all, and Blackthorne plays it all expertly. Honestly, Laurel wasn’t my favorite character. My emotions in this episode are solely a reaction to the emotions the characters I care about are exhibiting. And while every member of the team’s pain was palpable, Blackthorne’s performance was the one that resonated the most. I knew he would make me cry, and I wasn’t disappointed. As he stumbles, and falls to the ground, physically unable to remain standing and carry his pain, I started to cry. Real tears rolled down my face as Blackthorne once again had to play a grief-stricken father. My heart remains heavy for Quentin Lance still, days later, and for pulling that kind of response from me, Paul Blackthorne is this week’s MVP. 

Rae’s MVP: Tobias Menzies as Frank Randall (Outlander)

Why he’s the MVP: Last season on Outlander, Tobias Menzies was terrifying as the sadistic Black Jack Randall. This season, Menzies is getting the chance to also come into his own as Claire’s first husband, Frank Randall, a descendent of Black Jack. In the season premier of Outlander, Frank sees his wife for the first time in two years. Menzies’ performance as Frank is layered, nuanced, touching, and real. The pain and emotion in his eyes is only matched by the love he has for Claire. And when he hears about her time away from him and with another man, Menzies’ face makes it clear he is devastated, but still very much in love.

Menzies’ performances as Black Jack and Frank are distinctive on their own. But as Frank, he also uses characteristics similar to his distant relative, Black Jack. To convincingly play two different people at the same time, on the same show, is a difficult skill in the first place. To play one of those people as a man who has characteristics of the other is another level entirely. 

As Black Jack, it’s easy to hate Menzies. And you would think it would be just as easy to hate him as Frank because he a rival love interest for Claire competing with the walking fantasy Jamie Fraser. But Menzies is dishy enough to compete with Sam Heughan, and his unconditional love for Claire gives Jamie a run for his money. Even the most staunch members of #teamJamie may shed a few tears for Frank during his moving speech to Claire.

Hopefully this season will allow Menzies to spend more time as both Frank and Black Jack. No matter who he is on the screen, you'll love him or hate him, and enjoy doing both. 

Who were your TV MVPs this week? Let us know in the comments below!


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