Sunday, April 19, 2015

Series: This Week's TV MVPs - Week 9

Here we go, friends! It's another week of television and another week of our TV MVP series. I've been saying this the past few weeks, but it bears repeating: as we head toward May sweeps, the performances on television are only getting better and better. This week was no exception and we had the opportunity to witness amazing dramatic work on television. Joining me in our weekly conquest is the following group of ladies:

  • Writer, cat-lover, and friend Laura Schinner
  • Avid TV-watcher, analyzing queen and writer Constance Gibbs
  • Name twin, soul sister, and writer extraordinaire, Jen
  • Best friend, partner-in-crime, and light of my life, Jaime Poland
Let's get to it then, my darlings!

Jenn's MVP: Elyes Gabel as Walter O'Brien (Scorpion)

Why he's the MVP: Okay, I don't talk a lot about Scorpion here because I don't watch it live. I'm never home on Monday nights and if I am, I watch Jane the Virgin at 9 PM. But Scorpion has been a consistently good series on CBS and one that -- in my opinion -- is completely underrated. Is it full of cliches occasionally? Yes. Are there some bad puns? Yes. It's a case-of-the-week show and yet not like CSI, really. The focus of Scorpion is on the characters who do all of this work: who solve the crimes and the show makes sure it develops the team as much as possible. The first season's penultimate episode titled "Cliffhanger" ends with Walter speeding off and careening off a cliff in a a sports car. Why, might you ask, does he do this? Because he's spent the entire day completely and totally emotionally compromised.

When we meet Walter, his social skills are nearly nonexistent. He cannot relate to people. He's a genius and doesn't put stock in emotions or feelings. And yet by "Cliffhanger," we see Walter being completely emotionally wrecked -- Cabe told him the truth about Baghdad, which destroyed Walter's trust in his mentor/father figure. Paige and Walter had an enormous blow-out, ending with Paige telling Walter that she was moving away with Drew and taking Ralph with her. Elyes was absolutely stellar in "Cliffhanger" because we got the chance to see Walter at his absolute most emotionally vulnerable. All of his logical armor was cracked and broken and the fact that he started to cry when Paige and he fought was just so gutwrenching and powerful to me. Watching Walter evolve from a person who believed he knew everything and didn't need anyone to relying on a team -- on Cabe and Paige and the others -- to seeing him totally unravel and tell the remaining Team Scorpion that he didn't NEED anyone was just so powerful and moving. I was so impressed with the range that Elyes displayed in this episode, from anger to complete desolation to acceptance and bitterness, everything he did was fantastic. It was his strongest episode to date and I was totally moved, emotionally, by how he made me ache for Walter.

"Cliffhaneger" was a top-notch display in Elyes' acting and how well he understands Walter as a character. So bravo.

Connie's MVP: Tatiana Maslany as Sarah/Alison/Helena/Cosima/Beth/everyone (Orphan Black)

Why she's the MVP: This week saw the season three premiere of Orphan Black and as usual, Tatiana Maslany knocked it out of the park. I'm writing a Strong Women Series post on the characters of this show (coming soon!), but the person behind the depth and realism of each character is Maslany. It's not just how she plays over five characters per episode. It's not just how real they feel and how much heart they have. But its the way she can morph from one character to another and then have those characters play another clone...! I am astounded every week by the levels of nuance she brings to each character. 

The season starts off with a dream sequence where all four "sestra" clones give Helena a baby shower. Just that scene alone introduces you to who each of these women are. You learn each of their different characteristics and mannerisms—which Maslany crafts so perfectly: the loose way Sarah moves compared to the tightly wound Alison. Helena's relaxation rooted in her lack of social graces, Cosima's hippie freeness which flows through her body like water. The special effects/CGI team is amazing for this show in the way that they merge all four Maslanys into one scene so seamlessly. You forget they are the same woman.

Then the real nuance begins when Maslany plays a clone who imitates another clone. In past seasons it's gone 4 levels deep (it's seriously like Inception: Maslany to Helena to Sarah to Beth or Maslany to Sarah to Alison to her husband Donnie) and while it didn't quite go that far this week, there were two clones playing other clones in the same room. Have I confused you yet? Sarah playing Rachel while Alison plays Sarah while speaking to each other is a sight to behold. It could be easy for Tatiana Maslany to slip into the end result clone. To jump into Rachel's proper mannerisms, for example. But she's Sarah. Sarah doesn't know all of Rachel's mannerisms. They use their body differently and watching Sarah adjust to Rachel, to try to avoid detection from people who know Rachel, to get the cadence of her voice right, to wear her dress the same way (which is different from the way Sarah herself would wear a dress), is so mind-blowing to see. To see Maslany as Sarah-as-Rachel watch Alison play Sarah, with Sarah judging the way Alison is pretending to be her while also trying to keep her from losing her accent and spilling the beans, is nerve-wracking. Each roleplaying clone has levels where we as the viewer can see the outer clone they are playing and the underlying mannerisms that show us the core clone. It's confusing and breath-taking and WHERE ARE TATIANA MASLANY'S AWARDS? WHERE ARE THEY? It's frustrating she hasn't had more recognition with the masterful way she plays these characters. She might be my MVP every week until the end of season 3. Sorry not at all sorry.

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

Why he's the MVP: Quentin Lance has had an interesting journey over the seasons on Arrow, especially in terms of his relationship with Oliver and the Arrow (no matter what the show tries to tell us, I’m going to remain stubborn in believing he knew all along that they were the same person). We’ve seen his anger at Oliver for hurting both his daughters along with his suspicions early on that Oliver was the Hood. As the seasons progressed, we saw his hatred of the vigilante, who worked outside the realms of the law, slowly progress into a respect and willingness to work together as he realized that the Arrow was no longer dropping bodies and was actually helping the city. 

At the same time, he’s had to deal with the death and reappearance of one of his daughters and the drug problems of his other daughter. Suffice it to say that Lance has had to overcome a lot in the past three years. And Paul Blackthorne has delivered every step of the way, taking us on this journey with Lance and making us love this character who, while grumpy most of the time, has a good heart and strives only to protect his city and those who he loves. 

More recently, we’ve seen the return of cranky and angry Lance after he found out that once again Sara had died. This has put a strain on his relationship with both the Arrow and Laurel, as he rightfully felt that both owed it to him to tell him about Sara a lot sooner than they did. Blackthorne has been incredibly believable in his portrayal of Lance, who has overcome so much heartache and yet still continues to do what he feels is right.

This week we saw Lance at perhaps his most unlikeable since the show began. With Oliver having turned himself in as the Arrow, confirming the vendetta that he’s always had against the man who ruined both his daughter’s lives, Lance refuses to allow Roy to take the fall for what Oliver has done. As he realizes that he’s powerless to stop Roy, having found no concrete evidence that points at Oliver, we see Lance’s downward spiral continue with him becoming more and more unlikeable by the second. He blames Oliver for Roy’s ‘death’ in prison when really he himself could have stopped it by ensuring more security was placed around Roy. 

Despite the fact that he’s now going up against all our favorite characters, it’s still difficult to dislike Lance, in large part due to Blackthorne’s portrayal of him. Everything Lance does has a good reason behind it and he’s only doing what he thinks is right and just. We’ve seen in Blackthorne’s portrayal of the character how deadset Lance is on justice and so it makes sense for him to be acting the way he has been. On top of that, we’ve seen the pain this character has experienced that has all led up to this moment. With all that he’s been through, it’s no wonder that Lance has finally snapped. 

Jaime's MVP: Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen (Game of Thrones)

Why she's the MVP: It is a truth universally acknowledged that Daenerys Targaryen is the best part of Game of Thrones – for a show with such a large and complicated ensemble, Dany’s storyline has been an easy one for the viewers to attach to.  She’s the freaking rightful queen of Westeros, the last Targaryen, and the freaking mother of dragons.  Dany is baller.

But Dany’s status as reigning swag champ of Essos is only possible because of Emilia Clarke’s brilliant portrayal of her.  And in the fifth season premiere, we got to see a side of Dany that we haven’t really encountered before – the young queen feeling unsure and unsteady in her role as a leader.  She’s needed guidance before, sure, and she’s seen the repercussions of her decisions (notably when she learned that one of her dragons had killed a young girl), but the consequences of her decisions have never been so immediately challenged as they were when she refused to reopen Meereen’s famous fighting pits.  She refuses to let any person submit themselves into a position of servitude or entertainment, even if they do so willingly.  As someone who was sold into slavery to her husband, who’s freed countless slaves across Essos, she refuses to let any person’s life be owned or dictated by someone else.  But Clarke’s portrayal of Dany’s doubt when Daario expressed a different view of the fighting pits made it clear to the audience, in a way it hadn’t been for a while, that Daenerys is just a young girl trying to be the best possible leader she can be.  She wants the best for her people, but how can she do that when she only has an outsider’s view of their ways of life? 

The other big Dany moment in the premiere was when she went to visit her dragons – her children, the only children she’ll ever have.  It was Drogon who first made Dany fear her dragons when she realized she was unable to control them, but in this episode, it was abundantly clear that Drogon isn’t the only dragon she can’t control.  Viserion and Rhaegal have gotten bigger, and even snap at her when she goes to see them.  Dany’s always been quick to earn people’s loyalty and trust, but with her inability to understand her people’s ways of life, and her ever-growing inability to control her dragons, Dany’s status as a leader is going to be questioned and compromised constantly.  And Clarke plays it brilliantly, reminding the audience exactly why we love Dany, while still waiting – and dreading – her next inevitable mistake.  

Jen's MVP: Colton Haynes as Roy Harper (Arrow)

Why he's the MVP: This week, fans said goodbye to one of Team Arrow's members - Roy Harper. In a send off befitting of the character, Colton Haynes delivered his strongest performance to date.

When the audience first met Roy Harper, he was a thief from the wrong side of town. For the most part, Hayne's portrayal ranged from angry to angrier.  However, as the story arc expanded and Haynes connected with other cast members, specifically Willa Holland as Thea and Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen, he revealed the nuances of the character. Underneath that anger was a compassionate and caring young man who simply wanted to help those the world had abandoned. Sounds familiar doesn't it? The reason why Roy Harper became Oliver Queen's sidekick was because these two men held a great deal in common: anger and a desire to do good. The makings of a great hero's story.

This week, Roy Harper's heroic story came to a conclusion. Seeing himself in Roy, Oliver took him under his wing and taught him how to harness his anger into something powerful... a mask. While Roy absorbed whatever knowledge Oliver could offer, from fighting skills, to tactics, it was the emotional lessons that resonated the strongest. When Oliver meets with Roy to convince him to retract his confession, he quickly discovers the angry kid and the obedient pupil are gone. In their stead is a resolute man. Haynes' softens Roy's voice with a determined earnest as he argues with Oliver. The avenue that Oliver provided to make the world a better place, Arsenal, wasn't enough to alleviate his painful guilt. By sacrificing himself for Oliver, Roy found another way to make amends. A life for a life. Colton keeps his voice calm, with the emotion just brimming under the surface, when he says, "For time since I remember what I did... I'm okay." The audiences knows that Roy Harper, Arsenal, has achieved the peace he's long been searching for.

It wouldn't be a proper Arrow send-off without a kickass fight scene. Colton harnesses Roy's rage into the lethal weapon Oliver Queen trained him to be, single-handedly fighting off several inmates while handcuffed. After Roy is attacked, Detective Lance meets with Roy Harper to convince him to turn on Oliver. Colton's trademark biting anger returns, but he layers it with overwhelming remorse and guilt. With tears shining in his eyes, Roy Harper makes an emotional confession to the Captain. He is a murderer, not worthy of the mask he wears and deserving of any punishment he receives. He is not a hero.

After faking his death to free Oliver from any criminal implications as The Arrow, Roy Harper shows just the opposite is true. He is a hero. To save the one person who never abandoned him, Roy says goodbye to the only real family he's ever known. Sacrifice is the essence of heroism and Oliver Queen taught him well. Colton Haynes plays his final scene with Team Arrow with a hopeful sadness. He's leaving one life to start another, mirroring in fiction the real life story. As he drives away, at peace and absolved of his sins, The Arrow's promise of a second chance for Roy Harper is finally fulfilled.

As Colton Haynes moved Roy Harper deftly from anger, to guilt, to determination, to sadness, to peace, he gave a tour de force performance that effortlessly drew upon all the pieces of Roy Harper. The audience was allowed to see all facets of the character one last time. Colton, like Roy, may be gone but he will not be forgotten. Once a member of Team Arrow; always a member of Team Arrow.

There you have it, friends! Who made YOUR TV MVP list this week? Hit up the comments below and let us know. Until then! :)


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