Sunday, March 29, 2015

Series: This Week's TV MVPs - Week 6

May sweeps are rapidly approaching (can you believe it's almost May already? ) which means that a majority of television shows are plowing full-speed ahead in terms of plot and twists and character arcs. While a lot of shows are beginning the stretch into their season finales, a lot of others aired their own finales this week. Since there was a lot of great television, especially dramatically, this week, let's hop to it and talk about some stellar performances.

Joining me in my quest this week are:

  • Friend, writer, lover of all animals cute and cuddly, and first mate on the SS Ray Palmer Is A Jerk: Laura Schinner
  • Weekly contributor, live-tweeter extraordinarre, and fellow Arrow lover, Constance Gibbs
  • Soul sister, name twin, love of my life, and sunflower personified: Jen

Jenn's MVP: Janel Parrish as Mona Vanderwaal (Pretty Little Liars)

Why she's the MVP: I've talked at length about why Janel Parrish's portrayal of Mona Vanderwaal was stunning and why Mona, as a character, was so compelling and interesting and layered, but it bears repeating this week because Mona's reappearance on the season finale of Pretty Little Liars reminded me why I loved her so much. When the Liars are abducted by A, they encounter another person holed up in his/her/its house: Mona. Presumed to be dead by her friends, the young woman wears a blonde wig and a replica of the top Ali wore the night she went missing. For a good chunk of the episode, the woman pretends to be Ali. It's revealed through Mona that she's playing A's game: he (I'm going to call him a "he" because we're pretty certain at this point that A is a man) wants her to pretend to be Alison and she plays the part so that she can figure out a way to escape from and outstmart A.

I realized how much I missed Mona when she appeared again in this episode because I missed what Janel brought to this character. Mona has always been such a complex female character: she pretended to be dumb for a long time when in actuality, her wit and intellect matches that of Spencer Hastings. Mona loves games and she plays games to win. She's conniving and compelling because of that and she tells the Liars that she's determined to beat A. Janel brings such a fierceness to Mona's personality, such a raw vulnerability in moments where she's reliant on others or when she's scared. And I truly appreciate how much depth Janel is able to bring to a character who, in the hands of any other actress, might have been mishandled. We feel (or at least I do) empathy for Mona. Whether she's good or she's bad or she's being sarcastic, I thinks she's awesome. I think she's different than any other female character I've seen in this show and definitely any other character I've seen recently on television. Janel Parrish does such an amazing job in conveying the emotional nuances of this character (evidenced by that scene above, how Janel can convey so many things without even uttering a word), that she definitely made my MVP this week.

Laura's MVP: Michael Rowe as Floyd Lawton/Deadshot (Arrow)

Why he's the MVP: It’s no secret that I’ve had A LOT of issues with Arrow this season, especially concerning he-who-shall-not-be-named. They’ve managed to get a lot of things wrong, leaving me disappointed and frustrated, wondering what has happened to the show I used to love so much. Among all the missteps this season, there has been a few shining moments. Laurel has had her strongest season so far (which honestly isn’t saying much) and Thea’s arc has been rewarding to watch. This week’s episode of Arrow, though problematic in many ways, gave us another light in the darkness, with the return of Michael Rowe as Deadshot.

Throughout the whole run of the show, Deadshot has remained one of the most interesting villains to watch develop, as each appearance revealed another layer of the character. Starting out as simply a killer, we later learned that he’s also a father and a man who is way more complicated than he appeared to be. Somewhere along the way, he became a character that he could feel sympathy for and care about, in large part due to Michael Rowe’s portrayal of Deadshot.

This week, the final layers of the character were revealed through flashbacks where we learned exactly what had happened to make him the killer he was when we first met him. In an emotional performance, Michael Rowe made us feel everything that Deadshot has been through, returning from war with PTSD, losing his family, landing in prison, and finally being recruited to use his ‘special skills’ to be an assassin. It was difficult to watch as his PTSD caused him to lash out at his family, a shocking and real portrayal of what some soldiers really go through.

In present day, Michael Rowe delivered as well, showing who Deadshot has become: a snarky man who may have lost all faith in love but at the end of the day still cares about people. He is willing to sacrifice himself so that Diggle and Lyla can live the life that he was never able to, completing his arc with Diggle that had begun with us finding out he killed Andy Diggle. The fact that we could feel so much sympathy for this character, even more than we feel for a certain other character who is supposedly a hero, has everything to do with the journey Michael Rowe has taken us on with his portrayal of Deadshot. He has been a fantastic addition to this cast and he will be missed greatly.

Connie's MVP: Mindy Kaling as Mindy Lahiri (The Mindy Project)

Why she's the MVP: Mindy Kaling gets my MVP vote for this week. Not only because we should all take every opportunity to talk more about the show so that it gets officially picked up for a 4th season, but because Mindy Kaling showed her comedic and dramatic chops in this week's finale episode both as an actress and as the writer of this episode. First let me say that Mindy looked AMAZING in her sari. I wanted her to wear it more in the episode. Her disappointment that Danny kept making excuses to come up to Boston was so palpable in that scene.

(Sidenote: as Ann stated in her review of this week's episode, this season has been very repetitive. Lots of lying and ignoring of trolleys of emotional baggage between Mindy and Danny, all for it to blow in their faces leading one of them (90% Danny) to apologize in a big romantic gesture. That remains true here, but as Ann said, and I hope to express, the performances of this episode help to give that repetition more weight.)

In this episode, it's both parties that share the blame in their problem of the week. Mindy hid the fact that her parents don't know about Danny and Danny wasn't honest about his feelings about marriage. We've always known that Mindy and Danny were basically polar opposites, but rarely do those difference pierce Mindy like Danny's admission that he might not want to get married again. Watch the end of the baby shower scene as Danny admits this and Mindy looks around, realizing that this painful conversation is happening in front of, as her said earlier, the people that love her, plus all her recent ex-boyfriends (and Ma's mail lady). She bolts. The scene in Danny's childhood room was so quiet and emotional, as scenes in that room tend to be. "Why do I not get to try it out? I know you love me, but it's not fair." You hear the break in her voice and you want Danny to get over all his crap and marry her right then and there. But the show, despite its inconsistencies, hasn't shied away from relationships taking time. Mindy (the show, the writer, the actress) really committed to this being a dramatically emotional finale. I appreciate when comedies can focus on the dramatic, while not losing any credibility as a hilarious sitcom; The Mindy Project handles it extremely well.

All-in all, I've really enjoyed this season of The Mindy Project and really hope it gets renewed for a 4th season. I appreciate their commitment to Mindy/Danny (even if I feel like it's going to be snatched away at any and every possible second; we're all Mindy, wondering if Danny really wants to commit) and want to see where in the world they're taking this pregnancy plot. Mindy gets my MVP this week for being amazing at all three of her jobs as writer, actress, and showrunner. Secret second mini-MVP? (Shhh, don't tell Jenn ;-)): Laura Dern. "For the baby, this mansion you give!" Every line out of her mouth was gold.

Jen's MVP: Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen (Arrow)

Why he's the MVP: Consistency. That's what comes to mind when I think of Stephen Amell's acting. Week after week, Stephen delivers solid performances that anchor the story and the cast.  There's a reason why he's the lead. Other than mind blowing talent and the genetics of a Greek God (think Apollo) of course.

Oliver Queen is reserved, still, silent and emotionally closed off. That's a very difficult character to revolve a story around and a very difficult lead for an audience to connect to. In the hands of a lesser actor, Arrow would have flopped out of the gate. But Amell's talent for nuance and subtle in his performance is the life blood of Oliver Queen. One look. That's all it takes. A flick of the eye. A sigh. A tilt of his head. A small smile. That's all Stephen needs to do to convey everything Oliver Queen is feeling, which allows the audience to understand one important and irrefutable fact about Arrow's central character. The reason Oliver Queen is emotionally closed off isn't because he doesn't feel... it's because he feels so much. Underneath the seemingly still waters is a rushing rapid of emotions. A torrent of grief, pain, guilty loss, swirling with unending compassion, heroism, selflessness and a limitless capacity to love.

Every once in a while, the writers toss Stephen a perfect fast ball that he CONSISTENTLY knocks out of the park. Arrow is so fast-paced and action-packed and Oliver is so stoic, it's rare that he's allowed to emote... to talk about who he is and what he's feeling. There are really only two characters he's allowed to do that with on a regular basis - Diggle and Felicity. It's with Diggle that Oliver feels safe shedding the "man of steel" facade and talk about what he's afraid of. And Felicity... oh Felicity. No one brings the depth of Oliver's love to the surface more than the person he loves the most.

Stephen has stepped aside to allow other characters to shine this year, but this week's episode allowed the hero of the show to be the hero of HIS SHOW. He handles Palmer, Dr. Douche, with the cool confidence of an actual hero instead of someone's who's just trying to be one. Also, watching Oliver kick Supersuit's ass was just nifty. But it's his scenes with Felicity, the incomparable Emily Bett Rickards, that the Amell magic sparks to life. Oliver's heart eyes seeing Felicity appear in her red dress, his sly glances at her during Diggle and Lyla's vows and the painful longing as he watches Lyla and Diggle dance showed that although he's kept Felicity at arm's length, she is always in his thoughts. Amell conveys Oliver's agony over what he wants versus what he believes he can have in the simple moments. A glance at her. A glance at them. Even... a glance at a bouquet.

But it is the confrontation over Ray Palmer and the truth of his identity that Amell zeroes in on and takes the writers' emotional fast pitch and delivers a grand slam. Oliver is horrified to find out that Felicity is dating another vigilante. She is actively choosing the very life he's sacrificed his own happiness to protect her from. Oliver's reasons are incredibly noble and heroic, but when Stephen allows his voice to break when he says, "You deserve better," he reveals the real reason Oliver is not with Felicity. Good old fashioned self-hatred. That current of guilt and grief runs strong in Oliver Queen. As Felicity and Oliver argue over what she deserves, Oliver turns away and Stephen shows the audience what Oliver cannot show Felicity. Anger, disbelief and frustration that Felicity still cannot see that he, Oliver, is the danger. Stephen delivers one more heart crushing line: "I told you I couldn't be with you and save the city." Amell's voice cracks again at "I couldn't be with you." It is a genius delivery and shows how much Stephen understands Oliver Queen at his core. Oliver's pain over not being with Felicity, even after all these months, is still raw but is only made bearable by the belief that she was dating a "good guy" who could give her a "normal life." Realizing that she has simply chosen someone who is just like Oliver eradicates Oliver's protection and his selfless sacrifice; making the pain of losing Felicity not only unbearable but pointless as well.

Five words. Name me another actor that can do all that with five words.

Emmys, Golden Globes, People's Choice... Oscars. They all just need to happen for our amazing Captain. Anything but accolades for the amazing Stephen Amell is unfathomable. What a joy, what a gift, to the acting world.

There you have it, folks! Our TV MVPs for this week. :) Hit up the comments below and let us know who made your list. Until then!


  1. Good stuff Jen. You made me want to go back and watch those scenes, so points for persuasion :)
    I agree that Stephen Amell brings so much to the table. He says so much with so little. The tilt of his head, a deep sigh, the raised eyebrow, and always effective, the puppy eyes! I love when the show gives him the opportunity to bring these little nuances to the screen. I wonder how much is SA and how much is his interpretation of Oliver Queen. I would love to see him in another substantial role and see how much it differs from this interpretation. Anyway, good read and definitely on point. I enjoy your other posts on Tumblr too :)

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