Sunday, December 6, 2015

Series: This Week's TV MVPs - Week 23

Welcome back, friends and readers! After a week on hiatus, I'm sure you are just as eager as we are to dive back into the immersive world of television. And luckily for all of us, it's midseason finale time! (I'm not sure HOW because I still refuse to believe that this month is actually December...)

Because we are moving ever closer to the winter finales of some of our favorite shows, the acting and writing quality has been rising to the occasion to meet us. The stakes have never been higher for some of our favorite couples, while on other shows, characters are literally facing life and death decisions. There are pregnancies and scandals, first kisses and final goodbyes. December is the time that television shows bring out their A-game, and we are more than happy to meet them as they do. With that in mind, let's kick off this week's series with some of the best acting on television that we watched this week.

Joining me today are my following wonderful Christmas elves:

Here we go!

Jenn's MVP: David Tennant as Kilgrave (Jessica Jones)

Why he's the MVP: As most of you probably know, I'm a fan of Doctor Who. I began watching the series years ago, when I recalled how friends from high school had been obsessed with it. I fell in love quickly, and became particularly engrossed around the era in which David Tennant played the Tenth Doctor. Tennant had such a boyish charm in the role that it was impossible not to find him absolutely endearing. Most of us were enamored by his performances, both comedic and dramatic, and he remains, perhaps, the most beloved Doctor of the modern age.

So when I heard that Tennant had been cast as a villain on Marvel's new Netflix series, Jessica Jones, I was immediately intrigued. I've seen him, of course, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire as a villain, but never so prominently. After finishing my binge-watch of Jessica Jones this weekend, I can say with absolute certainty that David Tennant far exceeded my expectations of what he could be as a villain. And I think that some of that, in part, is due to the fact that the show did not ask him to remove all of the qualities that make him beloved.

Kilgrave is a monster, but he doesn't look like one — and aren't those the most dangerous kind? A lot of Jessica Jones fixates around the relationship between Kilgrave and Jessica, one that is toxic and abusive. But Kilgrave doesn't see it that way. He remembers things the way that he wants to — believing Jessica to have been in love with him, happy — while Jessica remembers things as they are. She remembers the dark nightmares, the rape, and the things he made her do. It's the calm, natural ease that Tennant gives to Kilgrave that is downright terrifying. David Tennant isn't an imposing human being. He is attractive. He has an accent. He's got an infectious smile. And all of the things that make him such an endearing human being are utilized in Jessica Jones to depict the kind of horrors that abusers can inflict upon their victims.

There's something chilling about the way that Kilgrave rarely ever loses his temper — the way he smiles, calmly, as he instructs people to kill themselves or each other. Tennant allows Kilgrave to have sarcasm, humor, and utilizes his charm in order to make this villain one of the most terrifying. From start to finish in Jessica Jones, David Tennant is an all-star, using complex monologues, simple nuances, and facial expressions in order to give depth and complexity to a villain who can justify any evil act that he does. 

Seriously, someone give him ALL the awards.

Megan’s MVP: Alexandra Park as Princess Eleanor (The Royals)
Why she’s the MVP: The Royals is a show that takes the British monarchy and its squeaky clean image and gives it a raunchy new makeover. There’s scheming, drug use, coercion, wild partying, and a family in disarray. There’s even murder! It basically takes what the tabloids speculate and translates it to our screens. It’s fantastic and trashy and you totally can’t stop watching.
One of the best parts about the show is Princess Eleanor, played by Alexandra Park. She’s riotous and outspoken and wears far more black makeup than I’ve ever seen on a real life royal. She’s the opposite of what we expect a princess to be. Throughout the first season, she didn’t really have much complexity beyond being the wild child. Toward the end, she got a bit more emotional but it wasn’t until the finale that she really showed any vulnerability.
That’s definitely changed this season. She is still partying hard, but it’s more out of fear of dealing with her emotions than wanting to have a good time. She just wants to forget about everything going on: her father's death, the fact that the monarchy is a travesty, and that she's never found real love. So she parties and has casual sex and doesn't care about anything. Alexandra Park presents all of this in such a believable way. Eleanor's apathy comes across so fantastically, and you feel the impacts of her rebellious attitude.

In this week’s episode, she has finally found a shred of happiness after learning that the man she loves has left his wife. Her relief and joy come across so strongly, and Park displays Eleanor's changing emotions throughout the episode so realistically that the audience can't help feel what she's feeling — whether it be annoyance after being told what to do, vulnerability after sneaking out to go partying, or her guilt after returning home and realizing she let Beck down.

For the first time in the series, Eleanor gets truly emotional when she breaks down and cries, telling Beck that she can't have quiet in her life right now. Sometimes big emotional scenes, especially when the actor doesn't get them often, can feel forced or stilted, but Park delivers her lines with such fragility. It's so fulfilling as a viewer to see her character finally opening up to someone when it’s clear that she hides so much. And then traces of the Eleanor we know return when she tries to stop her tears and avoid flipping out on the waiting paparazzi. She's got so many conflicting emotions, and Parks plays the constant emotional switches and nuances so beautifully. Her body language, the way she carries herself as a princess, the way she utilizes her eyes and face to convey a response is so utterly fantastic. She inserts a strength and attitude to Princess Eleanor and is starting to bring real emotion to one of the show’s toughest characters, and I’m so excited to see how she attacks the rest of the season.


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

Why he’s the MVP: Jennifer Morrison has gotten all the rave reviews and critical attention this year on Once Upon A Time, and with good reason. She’s been fantastic as the Dark Swan and sublime as struggling Emma. That being said, the real magic this season apparently has to do with the writing, because this past week, Colin O’Donoghue gets his chance to shine, and boy, does he take advantage of it.

O’Donoghue has played an evil villain before. He’s done the whole "mad at Emma" thing, too. At this point, you’d think his rage as Dark Hook would be something uninteresting because we have seen his darkness before. We would expect good acting, yes, but nothing spectacular. But there’s such restraint in his new Dark One persona, such a subtle edge of madness, that you can’t help but admire the subtleties in the acting. He’s not playing this character as Killian Jones or as the vengeful pirate — this is a new kind of evil, and it shows.

His chemistry with Morrison is especially on-point this episode, even when he’s playing a version of Hook who’s pretending not to love Emma. It’s in his scenes with Morrison that we get the first glimpse of what’s perhaps the bigger plan that this new Dark One is hiding. Because he can’t look at Emma in the eyes when he’s lying — he can’t insult her and relish in the reaction like the vengeful pirate would have done. Dark Hook went dark too fast. And though, at first, we accepted it, O’Donoghue’s performance gives an indication that perhaps there’s more to this than just succumbing... maybe there’s hope.

For now, we can say this: Thanks to great performances from its leads, Once Upon A Time has delivered its strongest season since the first one, and we couldn’t be more thrilled. 

Lynnie’s MVP: Carlos Valdes as Cisco Ramon (The Flash)

Why he’s the MVP: Cisco Ramon is a national treasure. 

This comes down to two things –– fun writing and Carlos Valdes. Valdes has a true gift for being balanced and present in his acting. He never undersells or overacts. He is there in the room with you. He’s also perfectly able to switch between a lovable goof to conflicted hero in a episode’s time. (Because when Carlos Valdes cries, we all cry.) 

In this week’s episode (and part one of The Flash/Arrow crossover event), he is tasked with protecting his not yet and never will be girlfriend, Kendra, from the most savage of vandals. Valdes moves through the emotional beats of someone his character cares about being in danger, learning she has a soulmate and is a not-really-but-kinda-metahuman, and dealing with the transformation with equal parts lightness, subtle repression, and gravitas. Joking with Thea and comforting Kendra were played with equal skill and attention to the details that make Cisco pop on screen and resonate; not to mention the fact that he had some of the best lines of the night. Cisco Ramon is a national treasure and I’m blaming (see: thanking) Carlos Valdes.

Who were your TV MVPs this week? Hit up the comments below and let us know. Until then! :)


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