Sunday, May 24, 2015

Series - This Week's TV MVPs: Week 14

Welcome to the fourteenth and final week in our TV MVP Series until the fall of 2015. Since all of our favorite shows wrapped this week, making way for summer cable or network series, we're going to be kicking off a brand-spankin' new summer series titled "Summer Lovin'"! In it, all of your favorite Just About Write authors will be back to discuss the best things we've seen on the big and small screen that week and what is worth watching. I'm so excited for the series and I know the other ladies are, as well.

But before we officially welcome summer around the site, we have one more TV MVP week to get to. I jokingly tweeted that we would make this final week all about The Flash's Grant Gustin and... well, half of the post is true to my word. Below, here are the lovely recruits that helped me out this week:

  • BFF, partner-in-crime, and girl who will always (always) be on my side: Jaime Poland
  • Lover of all things cute, cuddly, or related to Stephen Amell: Laura Schinner
  • My bespectacled New York queen and writer extraordinairre, Constance Gibbs!
  • One of the newest additions to the team and delightful human being, Alice Walker
  • Soul sister, name twin, human ray of sunshine, precious unicorn, and all things wonderful: Jen!

Jenn's MVP: Grant Gustin as Barry Allen (The Flash)

Why he's the MVP: So when The Flash's finale aired this past week, I tweeted that Grant Gustin would basically be all we talked about in today's column. Though there are other names on this list today, Connie, Laura, and I decided that we would each focus on writing about a particular emotional scene of Grant's in the finale. Because -- and this cannot be overstated -- Grant Gustin was absolutely stellar in "Fast Enough." As Barry Allen, Grant often gets to flex his comedic muscles. He's endearing and babbly, and so often I tweet: "human puppy dog" whenever he comes on screen. As a person, Barry is usually very lighthearted. Though he grapples with decisions and indecision frequently, he is, more often than not, living a life of optimism and hope. So it's important that in "Fast Enough," Grant carries the story, emotionally, with three very distinct but poignant scenes.

The scene that I chose to write about and why Grant makes my MVP list is the scene between Henry and Barry. First of all, let me take a moment to dote on Grant Gustin as an actor when it comes to emotional depth and resonance: there are a lot of actors who are good but who are not believable when it comes to crying. There are those whose performances feel overwrought or melodramatic or else just flat-out inappropriate. There are actors who struggle to connect, emotionally, with their characters so in moments of heightened emotion, their performances come across as strained and tense -- stiff, at best and downright cringe-inducing at worst. Never so with Grant Gustin. Grant exudes such class and believability in scenes where Barry Allen breaks down. And what happens in those moments is so striking -- he becomes almost child-like. Grant has a young face and he is a young actor but there is always such a vulnerability that is portrayed whenever Barry cries that makes me think how brilliant Grant is to be able to produce such a response.

When Henry tells Barry that he cannot go back in time (a decision that I agreed with wholeheartedly), you can see Barry begin to break down. Tears form in his eyes when he tells his father that if he goes back, he can save his mother -- Henry's wife -- and they can be a family again. A real, proper one. There's yearning in this scene: a pining for the childhood Barry could have had and you can see all of that childhood in his eyes. Henry then tells Barry that he's in awe of the man that Barry became and that's when Grant's alter ego begins to lose it (and let's be honest here, we all were getting a bit misty-eyed too). Because when Grant Gustin really shines it is usually in scenes with his father -- the man who reminds him exactly of who he is. And what Barry needed in this moment was for someone to reaffirm that though Nora was gone, it made him into the hero that he became. Not just as The Flash, but as Barry -- a man with a good and kind heart. 

Grant breaks down as John Wesley Shipp's alter ego tells him that his mother would never have wanted him to save her if it meant losing what made him so special. It's this brilliant, heartbreaking moment where Grant fully and totally portrays Barry's brokenness and his grief, still, over his mother's death. And kudos, meanwhile, to John Wesley Shipp who constantly portrays Henry as gentle and loving and constantly encouraging Barry to become the man that he's always been destined to be -- a hero. 

Honestly, Grant Gustin absolutely blew every other performer out of the water for me this week with not just this emotional moment but the next two you're going to read about, too. He's such a wonderful, humble, and stellar performer and I cannot wait for more of The Flash in season two.

Connie's MVP: Grant Gustin as Barry Allen (The Flash)

Why he's the MVP: I'm gonna get personal for a second. My mother died when I was a baby. Too young, really, for me to even remember her. I’ve lived a perfectly lovely life with my grandmother and the other family members who made sure that I was loved and taken care of. But there's always something in you that wonders what your life would be like if your parent was still around. Even if you think your life would be drastically different, there is always that what-if. Barry spends the episode grappling with the decision to make his what-if a reality. And while we all considered it ridiculous that he'd want to change things because we, as pop culture enthusiasts, know how time travel works (and how it goes wrong), we're still devastated when Future Barry tells Our Barry not to help Nora and he watches her final moments. Grant handles this moment with all the care it deserves—not that there was little doubt. Everything about his moment in the past is precious. From his realization that he really did it and the moment of hesitation when his future self told him not to interfere to the way he hid in his room as Reverse Flash stabbed Nora in the heart and the moment he realizes this is his chance to say goodbye. 

Grant floors me with his performance as he sits by Nora. He’s barely holding it together and he tries so hard to just be The Flash, but he’s never really been good at that. The Flash has always been Barry (compared to how, for the most part, The Arrow is not Oliver Queen). He takes off his hood and she knows before he even says anything: “You look just like my father.” The freedom he feels in this moment, even in his despair, is so apparent. He’s never been very secretive about his supposed secret identity, but to be able to tell his mother… that’s something he’s probably always wished she could know. That he was a something special. 

“I got a second chance to come back here and… tell you that I’m okay.” 

There’s this little thing Grant does, as Nora says goodbye, where he hardens his face, like he’s confidently letting her go. Then she exhales and he loses it once again, mourning both her life and the alternate timeline he doesn’t get to create. I love how The Flash showcases the emotional depth of superheroes without it being perceived as hokey (compare to the memes of Tobey Maguire crying as Spider-Man). That’s all Grant Gustin. I dare you to watch that scene without at least a prickle of a tear in your eye or some serious tugging at your heartstrings. 

Laura's MVP: Grant Gustin as Barry Allen (The Flash)

Why he's the MVP: There’s no denying the fact that when Grant Gustin cries, we all cry. Because of this, there were many tears shed by not just him during the finale, but by the audience too. The season finale of The Flash was full of emotional decisions that could change the character’s lives forever, leading Barry to turn to his friends and family for advice. And as he confided in each of his loved ones, more emotions came into play, leaving us all in tears by the end of each scene. Unsurprisingly, his conversation with Joe West, the man who adopted him and raised him after his father went to prison, was no exception.

With the decision to go back in time to save his mom, the one thing Barry has dreamt of doing his whole life, comes a lot of complications. First and foremost is the undeniable fact that it would change the lives of everyone he loves. If his mom hadn’t died, he never would have been adopted by Joe, his friendship with Iris may have never grown so strong, and Cisco and Caitlin may never have even met him. Even with this knowledge, we see Joe early on in the episode urging Barry to take the risk, selflessly putting Barry’s happiness in front of anything he might be feeling. 

Later, after finding out that going back in time could also create a wormhole, Barry goes to Joe again for advice, just like any kid would go to their dad when they don’t know what to do. Grant Gustin and Jesse L. Martin both brought their A-game in this scene, making us feel everything their characters are feeling in that moment. The fear that they could not only destroy the city but also lose the special bond that they have is something that neither wants to face but knows that they have to.  While Barry may be able to gain back a mother and a father, in the process he would also be losing another parent. 

The show has done a fantastic job this season depicting Barry and Joe’s relationship as that of a father and son, and it all led up to this scene. As tears came to Barry and Joe’s eyes, they came to our eyes as well because the actors and the writing have made us so invested in this relationship. There’s no doubt that Grant Gustin deserves MVP this week for his performance in the whole episode, but it was this scene that made me the most emotional. 

Jaime's MVP: Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson (Mad Men)

Why she's the MVP: Last week, Mad Men’s series finale aired, and in a move that pretty much no one saw coming, actually provided its characters with a huge amount of closure.  Sure, we don’t know everything, or how long everyone’s happiness will last, but it left the audience confident that we don’t have to worry anymore about the characters we’ve grown to love over the last eight years.

Now, I haven’t polled everyone who watches Mad Men so I can’t be sure, but it seems safe to assume that the character everyone was most worried about was Peggy.  After all, she is a beautiful tropical fish, and she needs to be protected at all costs.  And thankfully, she got an amazing ending – she and Stan finally admit their feelings for each other, and in the last shot we get of her, she’s hard at work (as always) – with Stan behind her.  For once, she’s found balance and happiness in every area of her life.

Elisabeth Moss is constantly acclaimed for her performance on the show, but the scene when Peggy realizes she’s in love with Stan – a realization that comes on quickly – shows how great Moss is, and was the perfect final showcase for the sweetness and obliviousness that Peggy carries in spades.  Her initial shock at Stan’s confession that he’s in love with her, quickly fading into acceptance, into a quiet moment mostly to herself where she realizes how important he is to her…It was subtle, as most big moments on Mad Men are, but so meaningful.  In true Peggy form, it’s almost spiteful when she tell Stan how she feels – “I must be,” she says, since Stan is right about everything.  It’s not a big moment; after all, they’re both sitting in their respective offices, talking on the phone as they so often do.  It’s a very normal day at work, and both Moss and Jay R. Ferguson play that perfectly.  There’s nothing special about this moment except for what they feel for each other – and then it becomes huge.

Alice's MVP: Jon Hamm as Don Draper (Mad Men)

Why he's the MVP: As I'm sure you're all aware, the last few weeks have been sweeps weeks so every show has been turned up a few notches, every performer on the top of their game. Mad Men was nearly flawless in those final few weeks, a heady mix of nostalgia and good storytelling. Our appreciation was increased because we knew were saying goodbye to these people, though sometimes it can be hard to keep a critical eye amid the nostalgia. Luckily, this is Mad Men, and they did not disappoint. Almost any main character could have made my list this year: January Jones killed it, bringing all of the emotions through her swan song. And the brilliant Jamie Poland already told you at length about what feats Elizabeth Moss achieved this year. For me, for this final episode of this show I loved so well, the trophy of MVP has to go to Jon Hamm. Handsome Don, careful Don, mean, thoughtful, sorrowful, lost, confident Don carried the episode (and the show), switching from different versions of himself with ease. His final performance was good, so layered it launched a thousand thinkpieces.  

We've seen Don Draper go through a lot. We've seen him grow and regress, improve and degrade. He's been an antihero, almost the new textbook definition of it (move over, Tony Soprano). The series finale saw him break down. On the surface, not so unique. Don has had breakdowns before; he's cried before. What makes this so different is he went through (another) breakthrough and it looked and felt different from anything he had gone through before. The emotions, only expressed through his face and his body told a different story. He was changing and we were watching him change. When he was fighting and sneering, he was old Don - when he was crying and confessing and hugging, he was new. He managed to be two people, split in an episode. Change personified. 

Or he wasn't changing at all. His smile that some saw as happiness, enlightenment, change was seen by others as sneaky and duplicitous. His one final smile was picked apart and analyzed and no one can agree on what exactly it means, because it means something different to everyone. That's precisely why Hamm is so good. He was able to take this awful, unlikable man and turn him into someone we understood, even when we weren't sure what he was doing or where he was going. I don't claim to know how the rest of Draper's life would go (though I do think he made that ad) but I do know that with Hamm inhabiting him, he was a more developed, complex human then he had any right to be. I'll miss that. 

Jen's MVP: Rick Cosnett as Eddie Thawne (The Flash)

Why he's the MVP: Rick Cosnett. Buddy. Pal. Friend. I'm sorry. You've been Tommy'd. ("Tommy" is now a verb in the Arrow/Flash fandom, which is many levels of wrong, but it is what is is. Life of a hero's journey. No pain no gain.) 

In fact, we've all been Tommy'd. AGAIN. That's right. Being Tommy'd shouldn't happen on The Flash. This is supposed to be the happy show. What's worse is that I didn't see it coming and I really should have. On the upside Rick Cosnett, have a drink with Colin Donnell. He's a really cool dude. Hopefully one day they'll Lazarus Pit Tommy, which means they'll resurrect you. That black hole your body disappeared into was mighty suspicious and The Flash writers have proven they can't resist a good Arrow parallel.

But that's the future. We must deal with the present and in the present you, Eddie Thawne, are dead. What a way to go out though. After The Flash finale ended, I was reminded of a line from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, in which Xander, the only member of the Scooby Gang lacking any kind of super power, remarks on his normalcy.

Xander: They'll never know how tough it is, Dawnie, to be the one who isn't chosen. To live so near to the spotlight and never step in it. But I know. I see more than anybody realizes because nobody's watching me. I saw you last night. I see you working here today. You're not special. You're extraordinary.

It's not easy playing the regular guy on a superhero show. It's not easy playing the third point in a triangle. Over the course of the first season, Rick Cosnett navigated those waters beautifully. Eddie Thawne was kind and honorable. Even though I was convinced Eddie wasn't the long-haul guy for Iris, he wasn't the enemy. Eddie was a good guy, worthy of Iris West. Despite my WestAllen shipping preference, I found myself liking Eddie. More than like, actually. I loved Eddie Thawne, but I only realized how much I did in The Flash finale. That's the power of Rick Cosnett. He makes you fall in love with him without you even realizing it.

Eddie is facing a crisis of identity (swing over to Arrow and have a drink with Oliver Queen. You two can commiserate). Eobarnd Thawne gave Eddie a glimpse into the future, if you recall. Iris is married to Barry Allen. It shakes Eddie. I think Eddie was aware he was part of a love triangle. He just didn't realize he was the third point. It leads him to break up with Iris. There's no greater statement of who you are than who you love, so the finale finds Eddie struggling with who he is now that he's without Iris -- now that the life he planned for them is no longer a possibility. Eddie is hanging out at S.T.A.R. Labs and feels useless and in the way. It leads to a beautiful scene with Dr. Stein, who points out that of all the cities and times Eobarnd could have been stuck in, he was stuck in the same time and city as his great great great great (I forget how many greats) grandfather. Coincidence? Yes, but it makes Eddie an anomaly with the power to choose his own future. With the power to choose who he'll become. I loved Rick's reaction to that moment. It was wide-eyed and hopeful, because Eddie just realized a life with Iris was still in his power to choose.

Mr. Cosnett is not done though! He delivers a beautiful monologue to Candace Patton's Iris West about the hundreds of coincidences that led him to her. It is loving, endearing, sweet, tender and romantic: everything Eddie Thawne is. Screw destiny. Eddie Thawne is choosing his own future and his choice is Iris. And Iris? Her choice is Eddie Thawne. This is something I particularly loved about The Flash this season. Finding out Barry was The Flash didn't suddenly change the way Iris felt about Eddie or who he was to her.  Yes, Iris may have feelings for Barry but in this time and in this place... Eddie is the man she loved. In Arrow, that was always Tommy's fear: that once Laurel found out Oliver was The Arrow, she would choose him. I appreciated that The Flash stayed true to Iris' feelings for Eddie, mask or no mask.

Dang it The Flash. Just when you get me on board and I'm finally okay with Iris and Eddie this is what you do. Not cool.

All of this makes Eddie's sacrifice more heartbreaking. He'd finally chosen the future he'd always wanted -- Iris -- and she chose him in return. But Eddie gave it all up to save Barry Allen. Rick Cosnett needs to give acting classes on how to die on screen because that scene was unbelievable. He played it beautifully. Eddie was slightly shocked and bewildered at what he'd chosen to do in a microsecond -- shoot himself in the heart so Ebonard can never exist. By the way, a special shout-out to Jesse L. Martin. His screaming of, "Eddie what did you do?" still leaves chills down my spine. Rick-as-Eddie resolutely replies, "No such thing as a coincidence." It's a devastating line. Eddie realized that in all of this, he wasn't just an anomaly, but a man with a destiny. Just like Barry. It just wasn't the destiny he wanted. Eddie Thawne was in this time and place to stop Eobarnd Thawne. Eddie existed... so Eobarnd wouldn't. 

And then Eddie says goodbye to Iris and Rick Cosnett shreds my heart into tiny little fractional pieces. "That's all I ever wanted to be. Your hero." Rick's voices breaks with emotion at the beginning and then he whispers "your hero" with Eddie's last dying breath. And that's it. Eddie is gone. It is a heart-wrenching performance. Like Colin Donnell, Rick reminds The Flash's audience of the vital importance of characters like Eddie Thawne. You don't need to wear a mask to be a hero. You don't need super speed or unimaginable talent with a bow and arrow or a super suit. Each of us has the power to do the impossible. Each of us has the ability to choose to be heroes if called upon. We simply must be brave enough to say yes. 

There you are, friends! Let's continue the conversation in the comments below. Who made YOUR TV MVPs this week? Did we get it right? Let us know. Until then. :)


  1. Grant Gustin really deserved all the kuddos you guys gave to him this week. He (and all his costars) hit so many moments of brilliance in that finale and they each rang true because I believe in and care about all of those relationships and characters. Grant simply killed me last week and my head ached for ages because I was crying so much.

    I would have to go with the moment Connie wrote about though as the moment that just stabbed me in the heart. Maybe it's because I have a little boy but that moment between Barry and his mother was superb. (And Grant hadn't had any scenes with her up until this point but they both made me believe in their connection and heartbreak.) How did Barry know that the most important thing his mother needed to know before she died was that he and his dad would be okay? If I were going to die that would be the biggest worry and fear in my mind and when Barry let her know that he gave the most precious gift. I'm actually starting to cry right now just thinking about that scene again. Darn you Flash writers! The words and the acting combined to make that a scene that I will always remember. The show may be a fantasy/super-hero show but that was a moment of pure human truth.

    AND IRIS HAS BEEN LAUREL'D ALL YEAR LONG. Best finale ever, Grant nailed it and so did the rest of the cast and writers.