Sunday, October 4, 2015

Series - This Week's TV MVPs: Week 15


For those of you who are new around the website, perhaps you weren't here for the launch of our TV MVP series in the spring, welcome. This is a fun series where the writers who participate pick one stand-out performance from that week in television and write about why the performer was so great. I loved the opportunity we got last television season to talk about some great performers because it demonstrated to me how varied all of my writers really are and the scope and depth of television we watch on a weekly basis. We all have shows that overlap with one another, of course, but we also all have varying degrees of interest in shows. And that's what makes our site so great, in my opinion: we all love each other but we are all so different and so diverse. (I hope that, in addition to the great writing here, is what you love too!)

So joining me this week in our first official TV MVP series of the fall television season are:
  • My Spanish sister from another mister, Lizzie
  • A woman I love more than most people on the Internet I haven't met in person, Mer
  • My honorary Gryffindor and Florida friend, Deb
  • Basically my personal stylist, Maddie
  • The human form of a puppy GIF, Hope!
  • My name twin, soul sister, cheerleader, and confidante: Jen
  • Our friendly, fun token male, Jon!
  • The mac to my cheese and our social media queen, Chelsea
Let's get started!

Jenn's MVP: Jennifer Morrison as Emma Swan (Once Upon A Time)

Why she's the MVP: I'll be the first to admit it -- I wasn't exactly excited about Once Upon A Time's return after the season finale aired last year. The show has, over the years, occasionally become more campy (and not in a fun or self-referential way) than I would like, with plot holes that often make the show look like Swiss cheese. But I set all of those feelings aside when I stepped into the show's panel at Comic-Con this year. The direction the show decided to take with making Emma the Dark One had potential to be very interesting and the very thing that would breathe life back into the show for me. What I saw and heard at the panel actually made me feel genuinely interested in the series again. It was with that new found intrigue that I watched the screener for "The Dark Swan."

And I loved it. It was a compelling hour of television with humor and heart and upped stakes. But what truly stood out to me above everything else was the tour de force Jennifer Morrison displayed. I think that Emma Swan is an extremely difficult character to play. She's, in a lot of ways, a bit prickly and distances herself from others. But yet, she's also a caring mother and someone with the instinct to protect the people she cares about. And in the same breath, she pushes aforementioned people she cares about away to keep them safe. Jennifer Morrison is an all-star for the way she conveyed each and every one of those facets of Emma's personality in the season premiere. As the new Dark One, Emma still manages to retain a lot of what makes her Emma -- her defiance and her snark, her love for Henry and for Hook, and her sense of humor. But something else bubbles below the surface in this episode: this pain and resentment and ease of slipping into channeling those emotions into violence. We haven't seen Jennifer get the chance to explore this darkness within Emma. We've seen her beautifully navigate Emma's closed-off heart and have seen that development. But "The Dark Swan" was such an amazing example of the range Jennifer has as Emma and the things she can do.

The scene in which Hook stops Emma from killing Merida was one of the most powerful scenes in the entire premiere. Jennifer portrayed Emma's pain, her sense of hopelessness, and her inner turmoil so beautiful and believably that we, too, wanted to embrace Emma. And the end of the episode was proof that Jennifer will be having a lot of fun with what Emma acts like as the new Dark One (detached and evil in a saunter-y, sexy kind of way). I was so impressed with Jennifer's performance and look forward to what she does with Emma Swan the rest of the season.


Lizzie’s MVP: Colin O’Donoghue as Killian Jones/Captain Hook (Once Upon a Time)

Why she's the MVP: Jennifer Morrison gave a great performance in the season premiere of Once Upon a Time, but Jenn has already covered why Jennifer was amazing. And for all the good things we can (and should) be saying about her, not enough people are giving credit to her co-MVP of this episode – Colin O’Donoghue.

If there’s one thing Colin O’Donoghue excels at, it’s angst. Tortured Hook seems to be his best setting. (Well, either that or leering Hook, but that’s neither here nor there.) In  this episode, with the love of his life turning dark, Colin’s got more than enough material to convey that angst and more.

More than tortured Hook though, this is desperate Hook. This is a man who’ll do anything – anything – to save the woman he loves. This is snapping at Regina, plotting with Henry, releasing wicked witches kind of desperation. It’s a little endearing, I'll admit, and yet at the same time, extremely painful to watch. Colin doesn’t play Hook as calm and methodical, he doesn’t play him as a man who can think and then act. No, Hook, in this episode, is a tad unhinged and we absolutely love it. Some people can remain calm in the face of overwhelming circumstances – but Killian Jones has never struck us as one of those.

And then, in the climax of the episode, the desperation ebbs away. With Emma in front of him, Hook is once again calm and collected, the suave pirate of days gone by. He doesn’t know what to do when Emma’s missing, but he certainly seems to know what to do and what to say, when she’s in front of him. He understands Emma. He loves her.

He also understands darkness. He understands the importance of a single choice. And, if Emma is going to find a way to get rid of the Dark One for good, then that’s exactly who she needs by her side.


Meredith’s MVP: Priyanka Chopra as Alex Parrish (Quantico)

Why she's the MVP: I have not kept quiet about the fact that Quantico is my favorite new show of the season. The show is fast-paced, suspenseful, has a diverse cast of characters, and is different than anything else currently on TV. It also has a not-so-secret weapon in its leading lady. Priyanka Chopra plays Alex Parrish, a beautiful, smart, brash and bold FBI recruit.

I wasn’t familiar with Chopra prior to watching the premiere. When I turned the show on and immediately tweeted: “Wow, Quantico’s lead actress is gorgeous; who is she?” I was promptly bombarded with responses, but I was too busy being captivated by her to really notice them. She commands your attention when she is on screen and not just because she’s beautiful, which she is, but because she is just as talented as she is attractive.

It helps that the Quantico writers have written Alex as a fully-realized character. She is the perfect example of the type of female role model all television shows should strive to create. She is unapologetically woman, and Chopra as Parrish owns her sexuality while not letting it define her. Beyond that, she is also an extremely talented investigator, who initially comes off as maybe a bit too abrasive, but within a few scenes is shown making connections and establishing friendships with other women as well as men. It’s all done so well I almost couldn’t believe it.

Really the entire show deserves to win MVP of the week, but Chopra leads the cast gloriously. She exudes chemistry with all of her co-stars, most notably Jake McLaughlin’s Ryan Booth, the guy the show is setting up as her potential love interest. I can’t recommend this show highly enough (and I’m already trying to steal Jenn’s recaps/reviews.) Watch it, and fall in love with Chopra and the rest of the cast as much as I have.


Deb’s MVP: Nicole Beharie as Abbie Mills (Sleepy Hollow)

Why she's the MVP: The first time we see Abbie Mills in season three of Sleepy Hollow, it's just after she slams a fleeing criminal in the face with a trashcan lid. It was a pretty wonderful re-introduction of the character, not only because of the coolness of calmly hitting someone in the face with a trashcan lid but also because she follows up the action sequence with some understanding, reassuring the guy that she'll try and protect him from his unpredictable drug-dealing boss. It’s the Abbie Mills character through and through.

Abbie is simultaneously super-heroic and very grounded, and I think a lot of that mix comes from her portrayal by Nicole Beharie. I believe everything that Abbie is doing as genuine, even though the wide range of traits – from undeniable badassery to empathetic vulnerability – would usually make a TV character seem scattered and poorly defined. You usually have a character who can shoot the demons in the face without blinking or a character who can cry and make it seem heartbreakingly genuine; to have both in one requires very careful writing and a very skilled actor. The writing for the character of Abbie is great, because the concept of a law enforcement officer with a questionable past who has made big mistakes helps bring her down to our level, but the expressiveness, humor, and compassion that Beharie brings to the role lets us connect with Abbie more precisely.

There weren't any big, sweeping acting moments in the third season premiere of Sleepy Hollow, but I thought the understated easiness with which the characters of Abbie Mills and Ichabod Crane (played by Tom Mison, who also gets to be a TV MVP this week!) settle back into their friendship was worthy of remark. The actors and the writers found a perfect way to demonstrate that weirdness that happens when two friends who haven't spoken in a long time meet back up again, how there's initial discomfort followed by comfort again – inevitable, like those two people can't not be friends with one another. Ichabod's been in control of the whole "going away" situation so he comes off as moderately less affected by it, but Abbie is clearly mad about Ichabod's out-of-the-blue call after nine months of nothing and she is also hurt by the silence and missed her friend, and all these emotions are clear and identifiable in a way that makes the character of Abbie seem human and real. The progression from that initial anger to making fun of Ichabod’s new haircut was subtle and lovely to watch.


Hope's MVP: Tom Mison as Ichabod Crane (Sleepy Hollow)

Why he's the MVP: Although I love this series for many reasons – its history, its rewritten history, its witch/demon/horseman fighting (although I could have lived without seeing this week’s demon, for sure), and its apocalypse-battling… those are not THE reason I love Sleepy Hollow. I loved season one. I tolerated the ups and downs of season two. But what keeps me so invested in this series are the characters and their humor. Ichabod has been reacting to the modern era (and its representation of his own times) since day one. Honestly, as Sleepy Hollow enters its third season, you might think it would be getting a little old. Not for me. Maybe it’s the fact that I love anything with time travel. It might be my love for history. However, I’m pretty sure a lot of it has to do with Tom Mison’s portrayal of Ichabod Crane.

When you think about it, it’s totally understandable that someone like Ichabod would still be finding things about the modern age that confuse, baffle, or miff him. There’s a lot of ground to cover, plenty to realistically continue to do for years. But on another show, with another actor, such scenes would probably become a stale running gag. Mison perfectly balances Ichabod’s confusion, anger, and incredulity, and conveys it all in one fell swoop that comes across as real and natural. Ichabod is dead serious about everything he awkwardly says and does, as he should be. 


However, as the show’s male lead, he can’t spend the whole time ranting about the taxation of donuts or having heart-to-hearts with roadside assistance people. When he’s serious, he’s just as sincere. In this episode, he was 100 percent Team Witness (and Team Save the Archives, a very worthy cause). It can’t be easy to play someone two centuries removed from their time. There are so many nuances to consider on top of an already complex character. Mison has brought so much depth to his character that Ichabod, whatever the scene, just WORKS.

I was nervous about season three, so I’m really glad it has gotten off to a good start. All the actors did wonderful jobs, and the writing gives me a positive outlook on the rest of the season. However, you can tell the writers’ tactics coming into this episode were to remind us all of how endearing and hilarious Ichabod can be; which, along with the amazing character dynamics, has been one of the series’ constants. They threw a boatload of one-liners and reaction sequences at Mison, and he totally pulled them all off.

Maddie’s MVP: Sean Giambrone as Adam Goldberg (The Goldbergs)

Why he’s the MVP: It takes a lot to be not only the lead but also the emotional core of a show. That's why The Goldbergs was a gamble in having its lead be a child actor. For me, child actors can be pretty hit or miss, as they walk the fine line between cute and irritating. However, Sean Giambrone has knocked it out of the park for the last two seasons of this show. Not only is he the cutest cuddlebug that is lovable to not just (s)mother, but the core of Giambrone's portrayal of Adam Goldberg is the sweet, earnest, and real quality he gives to the character. After this week's episode, Giambrone continued to be just as heartwarming and hilarious as previous seasons. 

Puberty has struck on The Goldbergs, and Adam is no longer the scrumptious little snugglebear that we have come to know and love. He's taller and gangly, needs to use deodorant for the first time, and his voice is all over the place. Another thing Adam is dealing with for the first time: insecurity. The speech toward the end of the episode where Adam expresses that he no longer thinks he's the amazing kid his mom always said he was gave me all the feels. 

Giambrone killed it this episode. He was still the Adam we know and love with a performance emanating the goodness that comes with childhood innocence laced with the right amount of sarcasm and quips. However, his performance this episode brought us all back to how we felt during that tragically awkward time, too. It was honest and heartwarming. As Adam embraced the awkwardness that comes with "The Pubening," delivering an off-key rendition of "What I Did for Love," I was moved to tears. As we head into this new season, audiences can be rest assured that Adam, while growing up, is still the same amazing kid we've loved to have on our TV screens every Wednesday.

Jen's MVP: Jaimie Alexander as Jane Doe (Blindspot)

Why she's the MVP: There are many things that make or break a series, but key among them is the strength of the lead. An audience's ability to connect with a lead's charisma and his or her emotional resonance is often the gateway to connecting the audience to the whole story. Luckily for Blindspot, they are anchored by the strength of their lead, Jaimie Alexander, who plays Jane Doe.

Blindspot is about a woman covered in tattoos who's found in a canvas bag in the middle of Times Square. One of the tattoos reads: “Kurt Weller FBI.” Obviously, this leads Jane Doe to Kurt Weller and the FBI. Weller and his team try to determine who Jane is and what her tattoos mean. Despite her memory loss, Jane's mysterious tattoos have twice thwarted domestic terrorist attacks. To be honest, the premise is a little ridiculous, but Jaimie Alexander sells it. Jane could easily look like a deer in headlights, but Alexander plays her with a subtle, quiet panic. Jane keeps her cool, but inside she's screaming.

It's the levelheadedness in high pressure situations that sell her Special Forces training. Well, that and her super ninja skills. In both examples, Alexander exhibits a steel will and unshakable confidence even though she has no idea what she's doing or what she's capable of doing. To convey a character is simply acting on instinct is no easy acting feat, but Jaimie makes it look effortless.

Of course, no amount of fancy moves can save a character if the audience can't connect to them. It is the quieter moments with Jane, where she shows her vulnerability and fear, that Jaimie really shines. Whether Jane is worrying if she was a good person or realizing she has no frame of reference for what “okay” feels like, there's an innocence to Jaimie Alexander's portrayal. Jane is like a little girl, lost. You want to know if she'll make it home safe. It means Jaimie Alexander has made you care about Jane Doe while giving you a reason to tune in next week. What more can a show ask from its lead?

Jon’s MVP: Jake McDorman as Brian Finch (Limitless)

Why he's the MVP: Limitless is a show I had very little interest in watching from the get-go. A sequel of sorts to the 2011 film, the idea of adapting the concept and completely recasting the same premise as the original, save for guest appearances by Bradley Cooper, never really held much appeal to me. But after two episodes, Limitless is slowly becoming one of my favorite new shows of the fall, and most of this can be attributed to the performance of its lead, Jake McDorman.

McDorman portrays two personalities on the show that balance each other out. The first personality is average Brian Finch: the simple, likable everyman who is just trying to get by, especially when it comes to helping his ailing father. The other personality is NZT Brian Finch, the cocky, wisecracking, and charming genius. This personality is able to remain two steps ahead of everyone while solving a case, almost like Sherlock Holmes on a super-drug. Both sides are enjoyable to watch, and McDorman switches back and forth between each personality with relative ease. Some highlights of the show occur when Brian envisions the second, smarter version of himself talking back to him while he tries to solve the crime. Limitless is the very definition of the “Everyman being thrust into a higher calling” and McDorman knocking it out of the park is why he gets my TV MVP for the week. 


Chelsea's MVP: Elise Bauman as Laura Hollis (Carmilla)

Why she's the MVP: It is no secret that Carmilla is my favorite piece of media this year above any other film, TV, or web show/channel. This series features an entire cast made up of women and a nonbinary character and actor, witty and heartbreaking stories, and complex, interesting mysteries all sponsored by a tampon company. What more could a girl want? 

Spoilers for the finale of Carmilla ahead! 

This week gave us the last two episodes of the season and Laura Hollis in her darkest moments. After Danny’s death in Tuesday’s episode, Laura is ready to surrender to Vordiemort to prevent further bloodshed of innocent students on campus. We open the episode with Carmilla in chains, ready to be executed, when a shady Perry tells Laura how to kill Vordiemort. Now, little Miss Hollis has always lived in a black and white world, where good defeats evil and there is always a happily ever after. Right as the creepy old man is about to kill Carm, Laura makes a split second decision to destroy the Silas Charter, thus killing Vordie and throwing the campus further into chaos. 

After escaping into the tunnels with Carm and Laf, Laura spirals into a silent self-loathing depression, and Elise Bauman continues her great run this season of crushing our hearts and making us cry. Her breakdown when Carm tries to cheer her up and convince her that the one moment of not thinking doesn’t have to define the rest of her life makes us understand the mysterious little Cupcake even more. Laura’s fatal flaw is that she cares about people and their causes too much, even the “bad guys.” Elise beautifully balances Laura’s guilt from taking somebody’s life with the disgust she has for herself, and her love for Carm and wanting to her to be safe. Carm has always been her hero and she got to be Carm’s hero this time. My running phrase this season has been: “When Elise cries, we all cry,” because despite all of Laura’s mistakes, we still cheered for her and wanted her to be right. 

Season two was all about Laura’s growth and bringing shades of gray into her worldview, and Elise gave us a flawed heroine that we still wanted to root for. All this and more is why she is my MVP for the week. If U by Kotex orders a third season, I look forward to seeing how Elise plays Laura in this shaded world and I cannot wait to see what Season 0 brings us later this month. 

Well, there you  have it folks! These are some of the best performers we saw last week. Did we miss any ones you think should be on here? Hit up the comments below with your thoughts. Until then! :)


  1. Elise as MVP for carmilla? LOL. Please, sophia/annie/natasha, even the guy who plays vordenberg all had better performances with much less to work with.

  2. Laura Hollis is the heart and soul of the series. So yeah well deserved.

  3. Elise! Yes! She killed it this season and has always been the glue that holds the show together. MVP for sure

  4. Glad to see Elise finally getting some recognition for her fantastic portrayal of one of the best leading female characters I've seen in a long time

    1. Same here, Elise's talent speaks for itself but this time she got some recognition for her beautiful and breathtaking work, yeah MVP for sure!

    2. Definitely. Her performance blew me away. MVP all the way!

    3. Wonderful monologues, delightful facial expressions, amazing emotional scenes, I cried, laughed, got upset, got sad all thanks to Laura Hollis, I mean all thanks to Elise's marvelous performance. MVP is just a title but her talent, yeah her talent speaks for itself.

  5. So cool to see Elise on here. She made me laugh and cry this season. Awesome actress, awesome character

  6. Considering they filmed Carmilla season 2 in 4 consecutive days, Elise having the most to do, and had not really had any breaks, it's amazing how she still managed to perform so well. She also had many emotionally exhausting scenes, and she knocked those out of the park. We may be exasperated by Laura this season, making big mistakes left and right, but Elise managed to make her to still be likeable enough that we rooted for her. MVP for sure.

  7. “When Elise cries, we all cry” lol where is the lie?

  8. Elise as MVP all the way! This season has been amazing for Sophia, Natasha, and Annie, but it was Elise who really blew me away with her performances this season. It's been really hard to sympathize with and root for Laura when she has been so blind & biased this season and making so many huge mistakes, but Elise has done an incredible job of letting me feel for Laura even when I disagreed with the things she was doing.

  9. Sorry, I have to agree with the first comment. Terrible monologues, overacting in emotional scenes, just all around poor performance esp in the later half of the season. Not even close to MVP for carmilla let alone acorss various media content.