Sunday, May 10, 2015

Series: This Week's TV MVPs - Week 12




Why yes, I did just yell that in my head a la 300. We are plunged into May sweeps now, watching as our favorite characters unravel, explosions rock their screens, people die, hook up, or break up. The majority of series will air their season finales in the coming weeks. To continue our celebration of sweeps and the amazing performances that they deliver, it's time to delve into another week of our TV MVP series. So let's get to it, shall we? Joining me this week for the series are:

  • Supernatural guru, writer, and lovely human being Deena Edwards
  • Newest writer of the Just About Write staff, Rae Nudson
  • Soul sister, name twin, lover of my soul, and all-around awesome sunflower, Jen
  • Lover of everything cute and cuddly, friend, and contributor Laura Schinner

Jenn's MVPs: Max Greenfield and Hannah Simone as Schmidt and Cece Parekh (New Girl)

Why they're the MVPs: This season of New Girl was astounding because it focused on what the show was when it is at its best: the story of a bunch of weirdos who constantly mess up but who keep trying to make themselves and each other better. New Girl was always the story about how broken people are broken in all kinds of ways, some more evident than other, but how even when you're weird or quirky, you need other people. Schmidt has always been such an interesting character on this show and though last season saw him as a divisive one in fandom, season four reminded us that it is possible for characters to grow and to change and to become better organically. Schmidt's trajectory this season was all about how he wanted to shed everything that was "holding him back" from the life he desired. He wanted fame. He wanted fortune. He wanted better, cooler friends. He thought all those things would satisfy him. But as the season progressed, so did Schmidt's character. He turned down the chance for fame and fortune and insisted that he wanted love -- real love -- instead. And by "Clean Break," Schmidt is still convinced of that, but also convinced (thanks to Coach) that he needs to shed the last bit of his past with Cece in order to truly move forward with his life. A clean break from that relationship is what he needs... right? Similarly, Cece has embarked this season on an adventure of her own which has been really refreshing to watch. Her arc has been all about how she can better herself -- she quit modeling, went back to school, and is trying to be the best version of herself she can be, even when she doesn't know quite what that looks like. When Cece decides that she wants to go on a pilgrimage and climb a mountain, Jess encourages her. Because Cece knows that she NEEDS to do this act, not just to clear her mind of Schmidt, but to truly figure out who she is as a person.

In "Clean Break," Max Greenfield gives an absolutely hilarious (as always) portrayal of Schmidt, especially as the man attempts to retrieve the box of artifacts and memories from his relationship with Cece. But where Max really shines and where Hannah Simone excels in the season finale is the final, emotional scene between the two. As Schmidt realizes he's still in love with Cece and confesses to her (when she returns from the mountain after learning Schmidt and Fawn broke up), there is such an utter beauty and fragility with which these two play the scene as it unfolds. Max has such an amazingly wonderful way of portraying the sincerity within Schmidt's absurdity that it makes you weep (it made me weep) when he confesses how much he values Cece's friendship and how much he doesn't want to mess up what they have now. And then, Cece confesses that she's in love with Schmidt and there's this brilliant, wonderful moment where Hannah Simone cannot utter the words and starts to, but cannot finish the sentence.

That moment and the moments that follow where she tearfully confesses how much she loves him were some of the greatest, most simplistic and powerful of the episode. What follows those moments from Max and Hannah are more amazing, emotional ones where Schmidt reminisces on the moment he knew he was going to marry Cece and then proposes to her. I absolutely loved this Schmidt/Cece end because it felt earned not just for the characters as individuals, but for them as a pairing. Max Greenfield and Hannah Simone have done AMAZING emotional work with Schmidt and Cece in the past ("Double Date," "See Ya") but they were absolutely fabulous in "Clean Break" and earned my TV MVPs this week.

Deena's MVP: Felicia Day as Charlie Bradbury (Supernatural)

Why she's the MVP: I've always been a huge fan of Felicia Day. There's just something about her that always seems to bring a huge smile to my face anytime I see her. She's just wonderfully nerdy, and adorably likeable right off the bat, no matter what character she plays. So it's no surprise that when she made her first appearance in Supernatural, I immediately knew Charlie Bradbury would become a character I absolutely adored. And just as I thought she would, that sweet, highly intelligent redhead grew on me immediately and with every episode she reappeared, I liked her more and more. Though, of course, like most of the characters we grow to love, she was taken from us far too soon. Which is why I'm picking Felicia as my TV MVP for this week.

Like I mentioned in my review for this past week's episode, Charlie went out a hero. That being said, there wasn't anything extremely outstanding about her performance for the majority of the episode. Mostly, it was just Charlie being Charlie, albiet a slightly more stressed out and conflicted Charlie. But it was specifically those last few moments before her death that really had me admiring her. She was equal parts incredibly brave and terrified as she faced off with the man who was going to kill her -- rather than cowering in fear, or saving her own life and simply handing over what he wanted, she stood her ground and prepared for a fight, and I believe Felicia portrayed that fear and courage in the perfect way, and the perfect amount of it that made it so believable. There's an acceptance in her final moments where you just see it and know, everything she's said about doing whatever it takes to save Dean, it's true. She's willing to die than let the information she has be used for more chaos and deah, and so she does. 

Oh, and the little exchange about Sam and Dean being like brothers to her? I just wanted to reach through the screen, hug her, and never let go. This entire episode left me a ridiculous, emotional mess, and it was all because Felicia was so so very wonderful at expressing this just as wonderful character that we all fell head over heels for in the short time that we had her. 

Part of me feels like this isn't really goodbye for Charlie, and with this being Supernatural, it's very reasonable it won't be, which is something to look forward to. Because if Charlie comes back, for however long and for whatever reason, it means we also get to have Felicia grace our televisions and laptops again, and that thought alone makes me smile.

Rae's MVP: Caitriona Balfe as Claire (Outlander)

Why she's the MVP: Caitriona Balfe is great as Claire every week on Outlander, but this week she gets to showcase so many different sides of Claire: an outlaw, a healer, a wife, a gypsy, and a broken woman who has lost her love.

Claire is searching for her husband, Jamie, who has escaped capture by Redcoat soldiers and is now on the run. As part of her plan to draw Jamie out of hiding, Claire goes from town to town bringing herself as much attention as possible. The idea is that if word spreads there is a beautiful English healer/dancer/singer/etc., then Jamie will know it is Claire and come running. As Claire tries on every new identity, Caitriona's skills shine brighter. Claire goes from gentle healer to gossipy fortuneteller to a gifted singer seamlessly, but her most affecting scenes are when her pain and worry come to the surface, even if only for a second.

In a wonderful scene where Claire's sister-in-law Jenny talks about breastfeeding her newborn daughter, you can see Claire's interest in learning about caring for children, and then the pain on her face when she thinks about not being able to have children herself. Jenny doesn't know that Claire thinks she is infertile, and Claire doesn't tell her. But it's clear what she is thinking just with that look.  
Later, when Jenny has to leave Claire, she gives Claire a knife and asks if she knows how to use it. You can see Claire's face cloud for a moment as she remembers the last time she used a knife to defend herself in a horrific attack with some defected soldiers. The memory flashes over face subtly and quickly, before she steels herself to defend herself again if she needs to. 

This is the essence of Claire -- she feels for people deeply but she will do whatever it takes to protect herself and fight for her loved ones. She doesn’t, however, need a knife to hurt someone. One night, when Claire is exhausted and frustrated that she hasn’t found Jamie, she lashes out at Murtagh, a man from Jamie’s clan who is helping Claire on her search for her husband. He can’t know what this feels like, she says, because he hasn’t lost someone he loved. 

Well, Claire should know better than to presume that about a person, especially in the dangerous times she is now living in. Murtagh speaks of how he loved Jamie’s mother and views Jamie as a son (and for all we know, Murtagh could actually BE Jamie’s father). Claire recognizes that Murtagh also loves Jamie, and her exhaustion and fear lead her to break down in his arms. This confession of love also convinces Claire that she can trust Murtagh, and so she bends from her stubborn ways and defers to Murtagh once again, seeing that she might be stronger when she listens to him instead of ignoring him.

Claire becomes many different versions of herself on her search for Jamie, but throughout each version of Claire, Caitriona maintains the inner strength and perseverance that defines the character. And just as importantly, she makes each version of Claire insanely fun to watch. 

Jen's MVP: Candice Patton as Iris West (The Flash)

Why she's the MVP: Time to mix it up and share the love with The Flash this week. Candace Patton KILLED it this week. It was the episode everyone has been waiting for since the pilot: Iris realizes Barry is The Flash and confronts him.

Praise Jesus.

The nice part of being a spinoff is you can learn from your predecessor's mistakes. The Flash avoided a Laurel Lance by allowing Iris to piece together the very obvious evidence that her best friend is the Scarlet Speedster. Given that Iris is a reporter, this bodes well for her career and also clues her into the A-storyline.

(Side note: Does Iris know that in the middle of all this "I love Eddie" talk she gives Barry major heart eyes? Heart eyes are happening. Can someone get Iris an advanced copy of The Flash Season One on DVD? I think she'd find it enlightening for Season 2. Moving on.)

The best part of Iris' discovery is that A) she put it together on her own B) it was based on private moment while Barry was in a coma and C) Iris. Was. Mad. The Flash didn't gloss over the fact that every single person in Iris' life that she loves has been lying to her. For months. I feel like Iris and Thea Queen need to have coffee. THY NAME IS AGENCY.

Candace's first scene with Grant Gustin's Barry was a wonderful example of perceptive shifting in performance. The nuances in the performance, the slight hint of sarcasm, the anger bubbling underneath, shifting her body away as Barry reaches out to comfort her while lying to her. Iris was testing Barry, allowing him one final chance to come clean and fess up. He failed.

And then she shows up at Star Labs. BAM! Did anyone else cheer? I cheered. Loudly. It was a beautiful moment for Iris and a necessary comeuppance for Barry. Candace played that moment as cool but strong. She was hurt and angry, but level-headed and, for a change, Barry was fumbling for answers. It was a wonderful spin on the old dynamic wheel and sorely needed. Iris took an interesting approach with Barry next. Instead of unleashing anger at first, she tells him very matter-of-factly that she's disappointed in him. Everyone knows that disappointing someone you love is way worse than making them angry. When Iris discovers that her father also lied to her, that tips the scales for her. Candace seamlessly transitions into exhausted disappointment to heartbroken anger. 

Which brings to the real confrontation of the episode, in my opinion: Joe versus Iris. It was more than a confrontation; it was a statement of independence. A statement of adulthood. The need for superhero stories to coddle their female characters like they are infants needs to end and Iris not only stood up for herself: she stood up for Lois Lane, Mary Jane Parker, Thea Queen, and Laurel Lance as well. Candace treads the line between irate and reasoned, which is an almost impossible task for an actor. Angry but not irrational. Reasoned but not complacent. The nuance in her performance however is a healthy dose of anger... at herself. For not seeing that everyone was lying to her. For not seeing that Barry was in love with her. Candace explodes in frustration as she conveys Iris' sense of powerlessness because knowledge is power. Maybe she would have made different choices if allowed the opportunity to make them. Candace does an excellent job of underlying the real issue between father and daughter. This isn't about protection. This is about control. 

The forgiveness scenes are some of my favorites and quite possibly Candace's best work. Iris deftly puts aside her anger and proves confidently that "Iris in the know" is an asset to Team Flash. She softly, lovingly and assertively tells Barry how much she believes in him. Belief in the impossible is the core of the Barry and Iris' love story and Candace manifests in action what the undercurrent of her storyline this year has been. She's always been part of the A-storyline. She is the voice in Barry Allen's head. 

However, it is the final scene with Jesse L. Martin that Candace knocks it out of the park. The anger is still there. The hurt is in her eyes, but Candace conveys her deep and abiding love for her father as she wisely and compassionately tells him, "Daddy I know that everything you do is out of love. So love me enough to always tell me the truth." In one line, Candace embodies the very soul of Iris West - compassionate, forgiving, strong, loving, independent and wise. The key to every superhero story is that their great love must be their match in every way. The hero's great love must also be a hero. This week Candace Patton proved both she and Iris West are more than up to the task.

Laura's MVP: Melissa Fumero as Amy Santiago (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)

Why she's the MVP: Brooklyn Nine-Nine has done what many shows have failed to do by depicting a realistic and compelling story between their two romantic leads, Jake and Amy. The relationship has always been present throughout the series, without taking away from the quality of story being told. Every once in a while, we’ll get an episode that focuses on their relationship, as they struggle with balancing their feelings for each other and maintaining their friendship. Up until now, they’ve never been in the same place at the same time in terms of acting on those feelings with other relationships and fear of ruining such an important friendship getting in the way. 

Recently, those feelings they have for each other have been getting harder to ignore and it seems as though they’re getting closer to acting on them. The chemistry between Melissa Fumero and Andy Samberg is reaching its peak and it’s not likely that the two will be kept apart for much longer, especially with the finale coming up. Between the bickering and competitive nature of the characters, there’s a clear respect and genuine friendship there that Fumero and Samberg play perfectly. 

Melissa Fumero took my spot for MVP this week because of how flawlessly she portrayed Amy’s conflicted feelings towards Jake and another romantic interest, Dave Majors. Normally, Amy would be all over someone like Dave who is not only great at his job, but pretty impressive in all aspects of life. Though she doesn’t know it, Jake has been planning on asking her out all episode, leading to some delightfully awkward interactions between the two. In the end, it’s Dave who asks her out first but instead of reacting the way we’d expect from Amy, she turns him down. 

Although Amy later tells Jake that the reason she isn’t interested in Dave is that she no longer wants to date cops, her actions speak otherwise. Her new dating rule will lead to more complications for Amy and Jake’s chance at a romantic relationship but all hope is not lost. At the end of the episode, when she pulls the classic ‘tucking hair behind both ears’ move that signifies Amy is interested in someone, it’s clear that her resistance to Dave doesn’t only have to do with the fact that he’s a cop. Her feelings for Jake are also in play and it’s only a matter of time before they give into those feelings. Throughout it all, Melissa has provided the comedic elements necessary to make a successful comedy while also subtly portraying the growing feelings that Amy has for Jake. What more can you ask for from one of your romantic leads?

There you have it, friends! Our TV MVPs this week. Do you agree or disagree? Add your own to the comments below. Until then. :)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this awesome review of Iris West and Candice Patton, it's great to see people with intelligence and common sense understand her and her point of view and how important she is to Barry/Flash.