Jenn's MVP: Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen/Green Arrow (Arrow)
Why he's the MVP: This week was Arrow's 100th episode, and it was a spectacular nod to the show's origins and how far it — and the characters — have come since then. But it also caused Oliver and Thea to ask an important question of themselves. If they could go back in time and ensure that the ones they loved would all still be alive, would they? I've watched Oliver struggle with his identity for seasons now, and admittedly it can get a bit old. But "Invasion!" was a really incredible way to tell a new kind of identity crisis story: the "what if" episode. What if Oliver hadn't gotten on that fateful boat? What would his life look like then?
Without a doubt, the MVP of the episode was Stephen Amell. The way he deftly navigated the emotions of Oliver throughout the episode were spectacular. His goodbye scene with Katie Cassidy tore at my heartstrings a little bit (and I don't even like Oliver and Laurel together!), because for the first time in a long time, this week's episode felt like a real and true goodbye. As Oliver hugs his parents goodbye, he knows that the closure he gets from hugging them one last time and expressing his love is bittersweet. He'll never see them again, whether in a shared hallucination or otherwise. Oliver displayed immense growth and tenderness throughout "Invasion!" and that was all due to Amell's portrayal.
But the scene in particular that caught my attention — and some tears — is the scene in which Oliver is poised to step back into reality. He turns around before he goes though and sees the faces of the most influential people in his life. He sees dead ones and living ones, but each person's purpose is to echo words they've said to Oliver before. They tell him they love him, that they know him, and urge him to continue to fight and to be the hero they all believe in. Oliver is overcome with emotion, and Amell plays the moment so beautifully and tenderly. We don't often see Oliver this way. When he's emotional, it generally skews toward anger. But not this time. No, as Oliver hears the voices of the people he cares about (and the encouragement he needs so desperately), he cannot help but cry.
And in that moment, Stephen Amell understands just what those people and words mean to Oliver. Because our hero can only look back, with tears, and slightly nod. It's so subtle, in fact, that I really didn't notice it until I watched the GIF above. It's as if Oliver is making an unsaid promise to live out his full potential — to be the hero that they all already believe he is. He will not let them down. And even though the alternate universe he was in was a hallucination, the lessons he learned from it and the emotions he felt were real. Thank you, Stephen Amell for conveying all of that through a wordless scene. That's mighty impressive and is worthy of MVP status.
Jon's MVP: Carlos Valdes as Cisco Ramon/Vibe (Legends of Tomorrow)
Why he's the MVP: It’s astounding how far The CW's “Arrowverse” has come in the past four years. With this past week’s mega four (technically only three) show crossover, the expanse of this universe was shown to be quite astounding, as every bit of the shows were given their own chance to shine. However, in Carlos Valdes’ case, we saw Cisco not only try to find forgiveness, but to understand Barry’s dilemma through his eyes.
One of the best parts of the Arrowverse is the relationship between each of the team members on their respective shows. You feel for these characters through their many highs and lows. The crossover allowed not only for each team to respond to each other, but to also face their internal problems. A prime example of this comes from Team Flash. Ever since Barry goofed things up and created Flashpoint (and, boy howdy, did EVERYONE let him know how bad he goofed this entire crossover), emotions between his teammates have been running high, to say the least. This is especially true in Cisco's case. Since Cisco’s brother was killed in a car crash as a result of Flashpoint, Cisco and Barry are at a crossroads in their relationship. During the Legends of Tomorrow portion of the crossover, Cisco has a heart-to-heart with Felicity, stating that one of the reasons he came on the ship was to get away from Barry for a while.
Valdes delivers the pain and anger Cisco has been building inside in such a brief, yet emotional moment. It’s a testament to how he can balance drama and humor so well — and do it all at the drop of a hat. But what makes Valdes’ performance very special this week is the journey he took into reconciling with Barry. Rather than simply say, “Hey man. I thought about it and I forgive you,” Cisco fully understood the ramifications of time travel when he helped Mick, Steel, and Vixen free the Dominator in 1951... the very same one who decided to take out all meta humans in 2016, seeing them as a threat.
Valdes shows the shock and pain going through Cisco incredibly well. He now sees what Barry must live with as a result of trying to do the honorable thing. In this, we see that Barry isn’t the enemy, but time itself is the enemy. And when Barry offers to give himself up to the Dominators, it’s Cisco who seals the answer by telling Barry that he’s more than a hero; he’s his friend. This line is delivered with such quiet magnitude by Valdes, allowing for this character arc to come full circle.
Erin’s MVP: Oscar Nuñez as Father Doug (People of Earth)
Why he’s the MVP: It took about five episodes for me to admit that I loved this show. What kept me coming back every week were the characters. I mean, you can’t survive on similarities to The X-Files plots alone. (Although, there are many and that is a huge bonus.) The show centers around a support group of “experiencers” — people who have been visited by alien beings. We also get quite a bit of screentime with the actual aliens. Father Doug is neither an alien nor part of the group, but is one of my favorite characters.
Priests can often seem alien to us laypeople and Oscar Nuñez portrays this very real quality in his character of Father Doug, as well as his very relatable human qualities. In this week’s episode, “Significant Other,” we get a closer glimpse at Father Doug. Nuñez manages to keep the endearing element even while being annoyed by co-workers and parishioners on the daily. We empathize with him as he mourns the life that could’ve been. (He was the keyboardist in the Latin jazz funk band, Operation Mongoose.) And we enjoy watching him cut loose and loosen the literal and proverbial clergy collar. He strikes up a friendship with the main character, Ozzie, and they bond while commiserating over the struggles of being an outsider.
Father Doug employs his priestly skills of being a good listener and confidant, but also finds he can confide in Ozzie. Nuñez portrays his appreciation of this subtly and sweetly. The bulk of the episode is the group members telling their loved ones about their “experience” in what was supposed to be a safe and judgement-free environment. We see that go horribly wrong for those members, but Ozzie — who opted out of participating — finds exactly that in Father Doug, and Father Doug finds the same in Ozzie. This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship and I love how Nuñez plays with this development.
Nuñez got the biggest laughs out of me in this episode. Watching him go through his daily life was hilarious. He is adept at playing understated comedy. (Please see The Office for further proof of this.) He patiently listens to everyone and genially tolerates every situation that comes his way, including awkward confessions. The woman who works at the church complains about that squirrel who is back “with his swagger” and he takes this in stride. The coffee patron asks him to pray for him and the Giants interrupting what should be a relaxing morning ritual. He kindly puts up with it. While drinking a beer and watching the game at the bar, he politely laughs at the overplayed jokes. “Hey, Padre, what are you drinking? The blood of Christ?” He lets it slide. “Never gets old, Tommy!” He lets the viewer see his annoyance, but you know that the offending person is unaware. To me, it makes it even funnier, like I am in on the joke. These instances show that even though he is godly, he is human and things can bug him, but he handles them benevolently and graciously. He is a kind soul and often characters like that don’t get the big laughs, but Nuñez manages to do just that quite handily.
Nora's MVP: Jeffrey Wright as Bernard/Arnold (Westworld)
Why he’s the MVP: Jeffrey Wright has always been compelling as Bernard, but in the penultimate episode of Westworld, he gives an Emmy-worthy performance. Bernard has been an anchor on the show, both sensible and empathetic. He’s one of the “good guys” and has a tragic past involving the death of his son. He may be clinical at times but he knows that something bigger is going on and is determined to find out what it is. Oh, and spoiler alert! ... It turns out that Bernard is a host and also the park’s co-creator, Arnold.
Jeffrey Wright’s acting has been brilliant throughout the whole season of Westworld. However, with the big Arnold reveal, Wright gives an unforgettable performance. He delivers a masterclass in acting when Bernard realizes that his “cornerstone memory” — the death of his son — is to give him purpose as a host. Bernard may be a robot, but his reaction is anything but. Wright shows us the grief and anger Bernard feels. He had worked on so many hosts and knew that all of them had cornerstone memories. To realize that he had been manipulated in that way is powerful to watch.
Wright makes enough of a transition to the part of Arnold so that it’s easy for the audience to see the differences between the two characters. Arnold is a bit warmer and gentler than Bernard. We know from past episodes, too, that Arnold cared for the hosts in a different way to Ford. He isn’t detached. He sees them like we do on Westworld — as people with desires and emotions.
In a show with standout performances each week, Jeffrey Wright shows what it is like to go through very human emotions all while playing a machine.
Who is YOUR TV MVP this week? Sound off in the comments below!