Sunday, December 13, 2015

Series: This Week's TV MVPs - Week 24

Welcome, dear friends, to another week of our TV MVP Series! If you've been following us for 24 weeks, you already know why we do this. But in case you're new, let me give you a crash course into what constitutes a "TV MVP." Every week, we — the staff — typically watch a lot of television. Like... a lot. And each week, actors and actresses continue to bring some of their most impressive work by portraying depth and emotional nuances to characters we care deeply about. Some weeks, though, certain people rise above the rest of the pack. These are our MVPs!

As you might know, we are headed into holiday hiatus, with the majority of shows taking breaks until the return in the new year. Since hiatus is approaching, next week's TV MVP Series will be our last installment until 2016. Awwww. Thank you to all who enjoy this series and especially to the writers who have helped contribute to it and helped me bring this idea to life.

Now, let's get started. This week, the following delightful human beings will be helping pull our one horse open sleigh into holiday hiatus:

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

Why she's the MVP: I have to preface this MVP blurb by saying something first. I've watched Once Upon A Time since the show began. Back then, we were all uncertain as to whether or not this show would be successful, given its fairy-tale premise. But fans embraced the show and the reason for that is because of its complex characters. Now, over the years OUAT has occasionally stumbled, leaning too heavily on plots that are more convoluted than creative and putting some character development through the wringer. In spite of this though, the show's decision to make Emma Swan become the Dark One proved to be a resurgence in quality for the series. No more did the show feel the need to heavily rely on the latest Disney princesses and instead shifted the focus back to the character whose journey is most central to the journeys of everyone else on the show.

This is all a long preface to say that I've never really cried while watching OUAT. I might have teared up before, or gotten a bit misty-eyed. But when I watched "Swan Song" and, in particular, Jennifer Morrison's performance, I sobbed. Not like, cute crying. No, I was actually hiccuping because I was crying so hard. What exactly made me cry, you ask? The sheer amount of emotion and pain that Jennifer Morrison channeled into every scene throughout the winter finale. I'll talk about the scene above momentarily. but Emma spent the majority of the episode as the Dark One, clearly though, feeling pain and an immense burden of sacrifice for what she did to Hook by turning him into the second Dark One. Morrison excels at subtleties in her acting — the way she tilts her head or narrows her eyes or lets a single tear slip out. And for most of "Swan Song," Morrison got to play the really complex role of a hero trapped in a villain's body. The moment she decides to sacrifice herself to save everyone from Hades, you can see the emotions play across Morrison's face clearly. 

But nothing compares to the amazing and gut-wrenching way that Morrison portrayed Emma's reaction to losing Hook. The fact that Snow and Charming had to restrain and comfort her says a lot, but the way that Morrison conveyed this anguish is on a completely different level than the way we've seen her play any other grief or loss (and on a show like this one, there is a lot of grief and loss). Emma, here, is completely unhinged — she has just lost the love of her life, but worse still is the fact that she had to be the one to run the sword through him in order to save everyone. It's this absolutely painful moment and I cannot say enough wonderful things about how Morrison handled that delicate balance between heroism and complete and utter despair. It was an impeccable and extremely emotional moment — as Emma turned from darkness to light once more, she held the man she loved and sobbed over his broken body. Jennifer Morrison managed to convey this grief and made it raw and palpable. Nothing about that moment felt overacted or contrived and I'm so impressed with the way that she delivered in this moment. Emma's heartbreak was my own. The pile of tissues can attest to that.

(And hey, if you're feeling masochistic, go watch the entire scene here.)


Lizzie’s MVP: Eric Christian Olsen as Marty Deeks (NCIS: Los Angeles)

Why he’s the MVP: Eric Christian Olsen is a great comedic actor. You know this, I know this, and the universe knows this. Considering that he was brought into NCIS: LA in order to embody that comedic relief, if you’d asked me what I’d learned about him as an actor after seven seasons, I would have had a lot of great things to say about his comedic timing and rhythm.

I didn’t know he had it in him to bring me to tears as well. I really didn’t.

Again, NCIS: LA hasn’t really given Olsen a chance for many serious moments. Sure, he’s had some, but his character is very good at deflecting. And all of the serious moments he’s gotten the chance to explore before have been instances where someone else is in danger (typically, Kensi). Seven seasons in, however, it was time for the writers to make Deeks suffer in a personal way. It was time to go dig into his past. It was time for the tears.

For about half the episode, I expected that, for every serious line that would be delivered, a joke would follow. Sometimes that happened and sometimes I didn’t. This character is still who we know and love, after all; and Olsen still plays to his strengths. And then Deeks' mother came to visit in jail. And then I had to sit through that gut-wrenching conversation without a joke to save me from the weight of the emotion. And then I learned that a really, really good actor keeps the talent of being able to emotionally wreck you hidden so he can sucker punch you with those emotions when you least expect it.

So, kudos to you, Eric Christian Olsen. You’ve always been able to make me laugh. Now I know you can also make me cry. 


Mer's MVP: Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity Smoak (Arrow)

Why she's the MVP: Arrow is a show about Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell). However, Emily Bett Rickards has proven that there would be no Arrow and no Oliver Queen, without Felicity. This has never been truer than this week’s midseason finale. This episode was as much about Felicity Smoak, and the relationship Oliver Queen has with her, as it was about Oliver himself. 

So much so that the show has built itself around Oliver and Felicity's relationship, culminating in (spoiler alert) Oliver’s proposal to Felicity this week. But while she has always demonstrated impressive talent and an ease at her craft that translates remarkably well on screen, Rickards has grown and evolved into a formidable actress, holding her own against the show’s main character, as well as the entire cast of players with whom she interacts. 

This week’s episode was no exception. Rickards got to play the entire range of Felicity — from adorable, quirky, babbling and funny, to serious, emotional and loving, to terrified but brave, and to over-the-moon happy. Every emotion Felicity is feeling throughout the episode is felt by the audience, thanks completely to the way Rickards wholly embodies her character. Her scenes with Charlotte Ross’ Donna Smoak are cute, sweet and funny, speaking to the way the characters’ and actors’ relationship has grown since Donna was first introduced just over a season ago. 

Rickards utilizes her flare for humor once again in the early part of the holiday party scene, where she babbles awkwardly in conversation with Curtis and his husband, reacts in true, sarcastic Felicity fashion to the discovery of Donna and Quentin kissing, and tries to decide whether or not to approach Oliver about her knowledge that he had planned to propose three months prior. It is this last interaction that provides Rickards one of her best, though brief, performances of the episode, as she uses her entire body and face to convey her thoughts and feelings.

What follows is one powerful and emotional conversation between Oliver and Felicity after another, for the remainder of the episode. Felicity is the emotional strength Oliver needs, the honesty and authenticity he strives for, and the embodiment of his light, and thanks to Rickards’ performance, all of this is completely believable. Though I’m particularly fond of the holiday conversation between Oliver and Felicity, it was the soundless declaration of love the couple shared through a glass wall that stands out as the most emotional moment this week. Her fear here — not of dying, but of being separated in those final moments from the man she loves — is tangible, and this scene elevated both Rickards’ and Amell’s performances, marking some of their very best work on the show to date. 

Rickards’ unsurpassed portrayal of Felicity as someone who uses her vulnerability to make her stronger and approaches every challenge head on has allowed a character who started as a one-off guest star to evolve into the only imaginable and believable partner for Oliver Queen. Emily Bett Rickards is unmatched in the way she can convey to and evoke emotion from the audience, and I felt all of her fear, vulnerability, strength and joy this episode. 

Though the ending of the episode was supposed to leave her fate in question, there really is no question at all. Arrow, and Oliver Queen, would not survive without Emily Bett Rickards or Felicity Smoak. She isn’t going anywhere. And this week further cemented her as MVP.

Megan’s MVP: Sarah Hay as Claire Robbins (Flesh and Bone)

Why she’s the MVP: It’s been years since we’ve seen the silver screen take on the cutthroat world of ballet. When I read that Starz was releasing a miniseries about it, I lost my mind. Once I saw the first trailer, I was right to have been excited. It looked gritty and dirty and addicting. And I was right — this miniseries does not disappoint.

At the center of the series is Sarah Hay as Claire Robbins. While there is a certain element of acting to performing in a ballet, it’s not like performing in a film or on television. As a soloist in the Dresden ballet, the choice to cast Sarah could have gone the wrong way.

But it didn’t. From the very first episode, where she plays a skittish, scared ballerina in the big city, until this week’s episode where she’s competing with the face of the company to be the new face herself, she’s managed to take it all on without giving too much of herself away. She’s kept her secrets and kept pushing to be better. She doesn’t want to be a pawn, but she understands that she has to play the game if she wants to move forward. It’s amazing to see someone with no previous acting experience just blow us away like that.

(I really want you guys to watch this series, so I’m being purposely vague!)

Jon's MVP: David Harewood as Hank Henshaw (Supergirl)


CBS is the one station this year that is really impressing me with how they are stepping up with their original dramas. First, we had the surprise of Limitless, now it’s Supergirl. The show, made by the same creative team as The Flash and Arrow, has been consistently entertaining week after week. Part of this is due to its delightful cast, who are so charming and likable.

However, this past week’s episode belonged to David Harewood, who not only showed a different side of Hank Henshaw than we’ve seen previously, but also revealed possibly one of the best twists I’ve seen on TV this year.

As seen in previous episodes, all that we know of Hank Henshaw is that he’s the gruff, stone-cold leader of the DEO, with not a single care in the world for Supergirl. We are also under the belief that he had something to do with the death of Kara and Alex’s father. However, we see a different side of Henshaw this week — the vulnerable and kind side. We get to see him actually care about Alex for once, as a boss and co-worker. It’s a different side of Henshaw that Harewood plays it well.

One of the best scenes comes when Alex corners Henshaw, demanding to know what happened to her father. Not only do we see the genuine confusion on his face, but a bit of hurt too. Harewood captures those conflicting emotions perfectly.

But that’s got absolutely nothing on the big scene of the night. For weeks, we’ve always seen Henshaw as a calloused, alien-wary individual (with constant glowing red eyes to boot). But, in what’s easily the best scene this show has had to date, we find out that this man is not really Hank Henshaw. As it turns out, he is an alien who was being hunted by the DEO in Peru, along with Alex’s father. He took on the form of Henshaw out of respect to Alex’s father who died trying to protect his life. Harewood manages to convey the world weariness perfectly. Harewood did an excellent job showcasing that disillusionment with the world around him. But which alien was Hank all along, you ask? He’s J’onn J’onzz, also known as Marian Manhunter.

This is such a great reveal because, up to this point, it wasn’t known how exactly Martian Manhunter would come into this live-action TV universe, or if he ever would. The only time we’ve seen this character on screen was in the 2001 animated Justice League series. It also never seemed fathomable to put him in a live-action show because of budgeting and design. But lo and behold, they actually did it and he looks GREAT. I’m amazed the cast and writers managed to keep this a secret for as long as they did without things getting leaked.

Harewood went from being strict and tough to looking majestic as an alien, and he pulls it off brilliantly. Not only does he look great in the makeup, but the design of the character looks incredible. Here’s to hoping that we see more of Martian Manhunter again, as well as seeing Harewood peel back more layers to Henshaw’s character. 

Who was your TV MVP this week? Hit up the comments below and let us know! :)


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