Sunday, November 1, 2015

Series: This Week's TV MVPs - Week 19

Out of all of the things that I have done for this website, creating this series — the TV MVP Series — has been one of my favorite, if not my favorite, endeavors. I initially began the series in hopes that one day I would have enough people on staff to reflect a wide range of pop culture tastes. And I have! My staff is absolutely amazing and though we watch a lot of the same shows, we all watch them a little bit differently. And that, in my opinion, is what makes this place such a fun site for me to be around. It's also what makes this series such a joy to participate in each week. I love reading about the actors and actresses in shows that I watch (and some that I don't!) who stir the hearts and emotions of my writers. Because I know that they probably stirred your hearts, too, with their performances.

So without further ado, let's celebrate some great performers! Joining me this week are:

  • Fellow Hufflepuff and awesome human being, Lizzie
  • Delightful and articulate Anne
  • Fashionista and fab writer, Rae
  • Sass queen and boy band aficionado, Megan
  • Film queen and fantastic friend, Lynnie
  • Strong woman and everyday hero, Mer!
  • Our token male and movie-lover, Jon
  • Magical wardrobe fairy and sweet girl, Maddie
  • Creative writer and the woman who introduced me to my great love (Hamilton), Connie!
  • The (wonderful) woman who insists on cheating in this series, Chelsea
Let's do this!

Jenn's MVP: Melissa Benoist as Kara Zor-El/Supergirl (Supergirl)

Why she's the MVP: For someone who doesn't read comic books, I've picked up a crazy amount of comic book adaptation television series in recent years — Arrow, The Flash, and now Supergirl. And, much like The Flash's charismatic lead, Grant Gustin, I knew of Melissa Benoist from a little show called Glee. As Marley, she brought sweetness and innocence and goodness to the sitcom. As Kara in Supergirl's pilot, Melissa brought a lot of that same charm and sweetness. Anchoring a television show is a difficult task. Your lead sets the tone for the series, as they are the leader of the rest of the cast. And Melissa is absolute perfection as Kara and her superhero alter ego, Supergirl.

The reason I love The Flash so much is because I often refer to the way Grant Gustin plays Barry Allen as "puppy-like." And I mean that, sincerely, as a compliment. He's energetic and endearing and adorable. The same can be said of Melissa's portrayal of Kara. I love that she brings such energy, enthusiasm, and passion to this role. The scene in the pilot where Kara fangirls over herself on television? Absolutely adorable. And that alone — that vibrant energy — would be enough to warrant my liking. But what Melissa Benoist manages to do in the pilot is perfectly portray the emotional weight to Kara's story, which is what earns her the spot as my MVP this week. 

Kara is a strong woman, not because she dons a suit. She is a strong woman because she is trying to give herself the best life possible and trying to give that to others, as well. She's seeking to find her purpose, earnestly, and in the process is unraveling more about herself. I love that Melissa managed to hone in on that emotional component in the pilot because it's so important. Earnestness and energy and babbling are cute. But what really sets Melissa apart as an actress — and I suspect why she was chosen for this role — is that she doesn't let those things be the only qualities that define her characters. Kara is more than just an assistant, and Supergirl is more than just a hero in a cape.

Melissa brilliantly gave us a woman to connect with, a woman to root for, and a woman to want to learn more about as the series progresses. I can't wait to see what else both Melissa Benoist and Supergirl have in store for us this season.


Lizzie’s MVP: Candice Patton as Iris West (The Flash)

Why she's the MVP: "You need to, like, let it go, Lizzie," is probably what you’re thinking. You are probably also thinking: "PICK SOMEONE FROM ANOTHER SHOW." And I swear, I tried. I try every week. But inevitably I end up here again. It’s not my fault that The Flash keeps bringing it, in terms of acting. I’m not about to go ask them to stop giving us these wonderful performances just so I’m forced to pick someone from another show. I don’t think you are either.

So, yes. Let's talk about Candice Patton. I wasn’t a fan of Iris West the first time I watched The Flash, I admit it. But a funny thing happened a few weeks ago: The Flash began streaming its first season on Netflix, and I thought that I would just catch up. I binge-watched during a memorable weekend where I barely got up from my bed, and yeah... here I am, a big Iris West fan. I still can’t pinpoint why I didn’t love her my first time watching the series, but I sure love her now.

I suppose that the only thing I didn’t love about season one's Iris West was the way everyone lied to her — the way she never gets to make a decision for herself. And maybe, with that fresh in my mind, I can appreciate this week’s Iris West even more. Because this Iris West, who had her agency taken away from her for so long, finally got the chance to make a choice. She chose to forgive her mother, but not to trust her. She chose to put herself and her father first. She chose. No one pushed her, no one coerced her. Now, I’m not saying that whatever choices she made were either right or wrong. I don’t know. And even she doesn’t know. But it’s her choice, and no one can take that away from her.

And, to put the cherry on top of the sundae, at the end, when Joe informs Iris of Francine’s health issues, she doesn’t just go back on her choice, no. She trusts her instincts. She investigates. She does what Iris West does best. And then she confronts her mother with the truth. Once again, she might be wrong. Who knows. But she gets to decide that. No one is making decisions for Iris West, not anymore. And Candice Patton played all of these emotions throughout the episode beautifully.


Anne’s MVP: Stephen Colbert as himself (Late Night with Stephen Colbert)

Why he's the MVP: I am a twenty-year-old Republican. These two identifiers mean many things, but these two in particular: one, that I have been loving the variety of candidates and watching the debates so far; and two, that as a twenty-year-old college student I have spent hours procrastinating on YouTube watching late night talk show clips. Jimmy Fallon gets the lion’s share of positive feedback because he is very talented in creating games on his show designed for YouTube fame, but this week I realized that there is nobody in this world like Stephen Colbert (President 2020?).

This compliment comes in the wake of the third GOP debate, which was panned for the poor way it was moderated. Full of disparaging “gotcha” questions, the debate appeared as if the moderators didn’t want to question the candidates as much as attack them. The tension between moderator and candidate escalated to the point where Ted Cruz attacked them himself: "Donald Trump, are you a comic book villain? Ben Carson, can you do math? John Kasich, will you insult two people over here? Marco Rubio, why don't you resign? Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen? How about talking about the substantive issues?" Republican pollster Frank Luntz’s focus group ticked the highest score ever, a 98/100, on the comment. Some questions were so openly antagonistic that audience members booed.

Both Republicans and Democrats distrust the media. Both sides are right to — so often, no matter what FOX says, the media isn’t “fair and balanced”; if you read headlines following Ted Cruz’s outburst, for example, you will get cries of “liberal media agenda” on one side and cries of “shallow rhetoric” on the other. And despite Ted Cruz’s impassioned speech, it’s not like candidates act with any level of decency towards each other, either. Marco Rubio called out Jeb Bush for just this on Wednesday: “Someone has convinced you that attacking me will help you.” If Jeb had done a better job, this would have been the case.

We live in a time where information moves fast and a candidacy can be make or broken with a sound byte. We live in a time where candidates are “just chillin’ in Cedar Rapids” or “[turning] down for what.” We live in a time where we should be getting the best information, but instead we’re getting the most inflammatory. People dig in their heels; so afraid to be wrong, or at least challenged, they instead demonize the other side. How is that correct?

Stephen Colbert is a respected member of the media. He has tremendous, tremendous power in shaping perceptions, and rather than fall into this trap that has become so popular lately, he respects those whom he disagrees with while making it very clear that he disagrees with them. This commentary comes as a result of his handling of the CNBC debate but it has always been true on his talk show, where, most notably, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have appeared. These interviews are full of challenging substance; they cut across the political nonsense rhetoric that all politicians love, and are interviews done in the service of the viewer, which shouldn’t be as unique as it is.

But it’s not just that Stephen Colbert’s political commentary is informed and substantive. On his show, he’s so funny, full of life and enthusiasm. His respect for politicians extends to every person that he interviews. Any fears that anyone had that his talk show would lack the energy of The Colbert Report are blessedly ill-founded, and maybe that’s because both are the creation of the remarkable Stephen Colbert, who, when it seems like the media and all its members are trying to be the buzziest, is one of the few that is talking straight.


Rae’s MVP: Bellamy Young as Mellie Grant (Scandal)

Why she's the MVP: Is is the year of #Olitz, and Mellie has had enough. Fitz has taken everything from Mellie, over and over and over, and now she’s out of her house, losing her job, and teaming up with her husband’s fiancĂ© to burn it all down. Bellamy Young has portrayed loss, happiness, drive, grief, and desperation while playing Mellie, and this week she got to let Mellie snap. Mellie finally gave Fitz and Olivia what they had coming in few a cathartic and terrifyingly awesome rants — she let them know every grievance, every mistake, every time they benefited from her sacrifices. She has given up everything for Fitz, and in return she has lost her son, her marriage, her career, and her pride. But Bellamy made sure that Mellie never lost her humanity. Under all the anger and bitterness is a woman who loved deeply and is deeply driven only to repeatedly get burned.

Mellie has gone over the edge, and she is doing whatever it takes to get back in control of her life and get what she wants. After all, what does she have left to lose? I can’t wait to see how far Mellie will go and who she takes down on her way to the top. Bellamy Young, I am here for you.

Megan’s MVP: Mindy Kaling as Mindy Lahiri (The Mindy Project)

Why she’s the MVP: Okay, I mean. Come on. We all know that Mindy Kaling is, hands down, one of the funniest and most articulate women in the media right now. She’s gorgeous, she’s bold and she wants to be successful. That’s a fantastic set of qualities I am desperate to see more of in Hollywood.

I love The Mindy Project. I was devastated to learn that Fox had cancelled it but was over the moon when Hulu decided to pick up this incredible series about a female OB-GYN in New York City trying to find love and figure out her life (in some really sweet outfits, might I add). I had totally dropped the ball on catching up as the season aired on Hulu — a fact I remedied only this weekend.

I absolutely love the character of Mindy Lahiri. I think she’s hilarious and quick-witted while also being totally flawed. In this week’s episode "Mindy and Nanny," Mindy has to go back to work while Danny is away and feels this his mother Annette has become too overbearing to be around every day. This causes her to look for a nanny that is both young and fun but also understands that she needs to take care of her son like it was her own. Mindy is happy to be back at work and feel like herself again after living the stay-at-home mom life, but when her nanny posts a picture of her son Leo in a shirt for the anti-vaccine movement, she loses both her cool and her hip new nanny. This causes her to have to run back to Annette and ask for her forgiveness. She realized that Annette wasn’t only taking care of little Leo, but that she was also taking care of Mindy.

What I loved about this episode was how Mindy Kaling and her writers really showcased what it was like to be a new mom who wants to stay home but also wants to go back to work. She depicts how hard it is to be only half in both places and how hard it is to admit that you need the help that you require to be in those places. And that help is hard to come by. It’s hard to find someone out of the blue that you trust with the care of your child and sometimes you clash with members of your family. Mindy showed the struggle in finding the happy medium between who you were and who you’re turning into once you’ve had a child. I loved it.

Thank you, Mindy Kaling, for always being honest and humorous. You’re a wonderful human being and Mindy Lahiri is still one of my favorite characters. You’re a gem.


Lynnie’s MVP: Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity Smoak (Arrow)

Why she's the MVP: One of the things that I like about Emily Bett Rickards’ performance of Felicity week to week is the way she always finds real beats in the middle of the chaos. No matter how crazy the situation, or the number of cop-killing officers there are wandering around stealing drugs and awkwardly knifing her boyfriend, Felicity always has the genuine reactions of someone who seems like a girl we could all know and have in our lives. Emily Bett Rickards manages to always play the humor and pain with equal parts grace, natural talent, and dedication to making Felicity feel like a friend we get to see once a week.

In "Beyond Redemption," Rickards showcases Felicity’s typical sunshine, humor, and strength alongside the role of the loyal girlfriend who stands behind Oliver Queen no matter what. Felicity has his back — like always — as he announces his candidacy first to his friends and then to his city. The pride on Rickards’ face as Felicity sees him declaring to save the city as Oliver Queen the man instead of as the Green Arrow is all you need to understand that Felicity is one hundred percent there. She supports Oliver, she is proud of him, and she will continue to have his back for as long as there is a back to have. She gets where he’s been and is so proud of him for finding the strength to do something different. She supports him even when she is silently dealing with the heartbreak of hearing Ray Palmer’s last message to her.

Rickards portrayed Felicity’s reluctance to talk about Palmer with Curtis, her dogged evasion of the pain, and her consequent facing up to the truth beautifully and expressively. The journey to listening to the recording felt honest, culminating in a scene between her and Echo Kellum that was raw, resonating, and captured the chemistry between Kellum and Rickards even as Curtis’s story and Felicity’s reactions to it tore out viewers’ hearts and stomped all over them.

Rickard’s comedic timing and instincts remained unmatched as well in this episode. Her slipping in the chair, her “obviously,” and the ogling of Stephen Amell on the salmon ladder were perfection. The latter was also the reaction of 100 percent of the fandom. There were surveys done.

Rickards keeps Felicity real, and that’s why the IT genius turned CEO will always feel as much a superhero as the Green Arrow.


Meredith’s MVP: Paul Blackthorne as Quentin Lance (Arrow)

Why he's the MVP: I don’t think anyone who watched this week’s episode of Arrow can argue with the fact that the title of MVP goes to Paul Blackthorne (except Lynnie... and maybe Maddie...). This episode was pretty much all about him — his relationships with his daughters, with Oliver and the Green Arrow, and his partnership with the villain of the season, Damien Dahrk. Quentin had so many intense scenes, and Blackthorne showcased just how brilliant of an actor he is, especially when acting opposite someone as strong as Stephen Amell, or Neal McDonough.

Now, to be fair to Paul, he’s always been a strong actor, capable of delivering his lines and showing emotion in a very believable way. His character, however, has had ups and downs. Quentin Lance has vacillated between vengeful, angry, drunk father, to total vigilante supporter, and back again, so many times it can make the audience dizzy. He’s also spent much of his time onscreen isolated from most of the other cast, which is a shame because Blackthorne really shines when working with Amell and Emily Bett Rickards, in particular.

Take for example his brief moment of comedy this week, opposite Rickards’ Felicity. Lance comes down to the new Arrow Cave, and jokingly responds to Felicity’s concerns about inviting the police into their “secret base,” saying that he has enough evidence to put them away for 25 years.


It’s such a brief interaction, but the audience reaction was so strongly positive because of how much chemistry these two have, and how engaging they are together, even when only interacting for a few seconds.

Despite the unevenness of his character, Paul Blackthorne consistently demonstrates that he understands Quentin Lance, and is able to portray his feelings and motivations in a believable and accessible manner. He’s had a number of notable scenes, such as when Quentin calls Oliver a monster towards the end of season three, but this week’s episode was so chock-full of them, it’s impossible to deny the strength and magnetism Paul brings to the screen, and even more impossible to select just one as his very best.

The bulk of Paul’s scenes this week were focused on finding out his dead daughter has been brought back to life by his other daughter, as well as responding to Oliver discovering that Quentin isn’t exactly the moral compass he thought. And Paul handles all of these scenes with so much emotion, so much turmoil and self-loathing and guilt. It’s clear in his face, his body language, his tone and his words. He delivers every line to perfection, and his scenes opposite Amell this week are some of the very best he’s had on the show to date.

It’s exciting as a fan of Paul to see this storyline developing for Quentin Lance this season. He’s really front and center now, as Oliver’s inside man with Damien Darhk. But can he really be trusted? Was Oliver’s speech about wanting to make Quentin proud enough to sway him back to the side of good? Only time will tell, but any story that has Quentin in scenes with Oliver, Diggle, Felicity, and Damien Dahrk is one I’m on board with.

And I suspect this won’t be the last time Blackthorne is showcased as MVP of the week.

Jon’s MVP: Bradley Cooper as Eddie Mora (Limitless)

Why he's the MVP: When Limitless came out in 2011, it was an unexpected hit. Many discovered the film was incredibly engaging and smart. It not only appealed to audiences who enjoyed fun popcorn films, but also those who want to think on films more after they end. Limitless is also one of a series of films that made Bradley Cooper a bona fide star.

When it was announced that CBS and Cooper would help adapt the film as a television show, it was a welcome surprise to learn that Cooper would reprise his role as Eddie Mora, albeit in a recurring capacity. Even though he’s only really been in two episodes of the series so far, Cooper’s presence has been felt for the entire show. We know that he’s out there, watching over Brian at every turn, whether it’s through his fixer Mr. Sands or when Cooper himself really does appear. When Morra DOES show up, Cooper naturally knocks it out of the park thanks to his goofy and charming personality. Yet there always seems to be something sinister and menacing beneath Morra's exterior, especially in this latest episode.

One of the most interesting twists of the series as a whole has been the character of Eddie Morra. For those who have seen the Limitless film (and really, if you haven’t, stop reading my blurb and go watch), Eddie seems to have everything figured out by film’s end. He seems to be in complete control of his life and the situations around him. The series presents a very different Morra. It is as if the power of the NZT has corrupted him. His plan for Brian and as senator remains mysterious, but one can not help but get the feeling that he wants to mold things to his image, as evidenced by the line:

“You can't change the world on its own. It has to be willing to be change.” 

This is rather surprising, as in the film we rooted for Morra. We wanted to see him succeed as the protagonist. Now things seem unclear. While Morra appears to have his good intentions, his methods are more questionable and villainous. Which begs a couple of questions: What is Morra’s real endgame? Is the true Eddie Morra thinking or could NZT Morra be in control? We know that Brian has two personalities, so why not Morra? With Morra’s intentions, it is as if Morra’s NZT side has fully taken over, showing Brian what he could gain and what he has to lose.

Maddie’s MVP: Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen (Arrow)

Why he’s the MVP: Season four of Arrow is really letting Stephen Amell show his acting full range and I love it. He was incredible in this week's episode, but what was truly special this week was the exploration of Oliver’s relationship with Quentin Lance. Upon learning Lance is working with the baddie Damien Dhark, Oliver feels betrayed and the scene where he confronts Lance is a tour de force in brilliant acting. Mer has already extolled on the phenomenal excelle of Paul Blackthorne in this scene, but Amell brought it just as much.

The emotion in this scene is palpable. I have been in a situation where someone you look up to, who you saw as having their life together more than you, does something to expose their hypocrisy. It is crushing and destroys some of your faith in the people around you. I remember the emotions I first felt, and Amell brought all of those to the surface in this scene. The rage, the hurt of betrayal, the vulnerability, and the all-around disappointment. Up to this point whenever there was a confrontation with Lance, Oliver would remain stoic and take whatever accusations or insults Lance through at him.

However, this is the first time we see a confrontation between these two where Oliver has the moral high ground. The aforementioned emotions are all there throughout the scene, but in the beginning Amell plays them bubbling between the surface. If Lance admitted guilt, his storm of emotions could be assuaged, but when that doesn’t happen he loses it and the result is breathtaking. The righteous rage takes over and Amell towers over Blackthorne in both physicality and intensity. Amell adds a layer of desperation to his outburst as well, because Oliver immensely wishes this betrayal wasn’t happening. He wants to have Lance as a role model and father-figure, but the image of that man is being destroyed and Oliver is devastated.

The swell of anger cools to indignation and sadness because sometimes letting out our anger does not change the fact that we’ve been hurt and our faith has been shattered. At this point in the series, Oliver is very much a man but the break in Amell’s voice and vulnerability in his eyes give us a glimpse at the boy he once was. Few things break us like the betrayal of a family member and Amell fully displays that brokenness.

On the other hand, family can put us back together. So after the big dramatics, it’s a joy to see on screen that Oliver finds healing and self-assurance in his family: Thea and Felicity. There is a lightness and ease to the way Amell is portraying Oliver this season and it is most evident in his scenes with these two. The brokenness and vulnerability left over from the confrontation with Lance carry over, but Thea helps restore Oliver’s faith in people and himself. Without any words, Amell shows the audience the healing effect of Thea’s words as his light resurfaces.

While not the focus of this episode, Amell’s scenes with Felicity have such subtlety and an easy quality and that’s what makes the couple work for the show so well. There are bigger problems at the forefront but Amell still puts in the nuances of Oliver as an attentive boyfriend who can notice the little things, bicker like a married couple when he brings Lance in the layer, and whose confidence is galvanized with just one look at her. Amell’s performance makes it clear that even amidst betrayal and chaos, Oliver is simply not as burdened as he was before. It’s a whole new side to Oliver, and it is a joy and marvel for audiences to watch.

Connie's MVP: Mehcad Brooks as James "Jimmy" Olsen (Supergirl)

Why he's the MVP: Mehcad Brooks. Guys. James Olsen.

"When he said hi, I forgot my dang name."

Hamilton knows what's up because that is also what happened to the entire Supergirl fandom. When we meet him in the pilot, Jimmy Olsen is no longer the scrawny, kinda nerdy photographer. He's tall, he's commanding, he has a great smile... oh, and he knows Superman! When you change a character in a major way (and I'm not even talking about the race-bending that I am 1000% in favor of), there is always trepidation because fans are instinctively going to want to reject it. But Mehcad Brooks brought so much charm (and handsomeness) to James Olsen that most of us fell in love with him instantly.

Every time James showed up on screen, my timeline was flooded with "hi" or ::heart eyes emoji::. And yes, he's attractive, but that isn't all there is to him. He also immediately cares for Kara. There's no hesitation or confusion about where his loyalties lie or whether his intentions are good or sinister. He's supportive, isn't overbearing (he lets Kara figure things out on her own), he covers for her at work, and even moved to an entirely new city because his buddy Superman wanted some help with his family. That means loyalty, trustworthiness, and devotion are at the heart of Jimmy as a character. Many people are amused or concerned about James' lack of nerdiness, but those are Jimmy Olsen's defining qualities. Those are what make him him, not his perceived dorkiness.

This James Olsen has met Superman — who knows what adventures or messes he's gotten into with Clark at the Daily Planet (I presume James knows Clark is Superman, right?) that affected who he is today. His past has made him into this confident, suave but clearly joyful man. He finds amusement in small things — like Kara being flustered around him. I can't wait to see how he develops, what new things we get to learn about his character, how he and Kara bond (and flirt), and thus how he clashes with Winn. I can't wait for flashbacks to a possibly more stereotypical Jimmy Olsen? I can't imagine Mehcad as bumbling or unsure of himself, but it IS called acting right?

Okay, here is one more example of why we all love Jimmy:



Cheating Chelsea’s (film) MVP: Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman (Steve Jobs)

Why she's the MVP: Many of us know the basics about the late Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple and technology extraordinaire. I count myself as one of the many proud Apple users, turning up my nose at any sort of PC or android, and being eternally thankful for the great work this complicated man did in his lifetime. In Danny Boyle’s film Steve Jobs, the viewers learn that Jobs was not alone throughout these technological breakthroughs — he was assisted by none other than Joanna Hoffman, the person who was not afraid to stand up to this stubborn genius. It is only fitting then that this extraordinary woman be portrayed by one of the greatest modern actresses, Kate Winslet.

Winslet had the incredibly difficult task of bringing this woman to life, not only because the person she is portraying is still alive but because she is such a unique character. The accent alone is something of wonder. A Polish woman raised in a family that spoke Russian, who spent a great deal of her life in the United States sounds like an actor’s nightmare but Winslet found a rhythm in this accent that then helped define the character. Her character brings out the best in the difficult Jobs and sees through the walls he put up to block out the world. She takes the time to understand why he acts the way he does and brings out the best in him without being a love interest. Winslet and Fassbender have a great chemistry in their scenes and you believe them to be platonic soulmates by the end. The performances feel natural even when the actors are spouting Aaron Sorkin’s grand, robust dialogue. Winslet brings humanity to the film and balances Fassbender’s calculated and cold Jobs. Not a stranger to the Academy Awards, I foresee another nomination in Winslet’s future.

What did you all think of this week in television? Hit up our comments with your own MVPs! Until then. :)

1 comment:

  1. Totally agree with Lizzie! Candice was perfect this last week, and seeing Iris make a decision on her own and be allowed to feel and do as she pleases was so refreshing. I just hope she gets to follow up on her brother soon!