Sunday, March 20, 2016

Series: This Week's TV MVPs - Week 32

It's officially the first day of spring! Doesn't it seem like it was just Christmas a few weeks ago? In spite of the fact that most of our shows are on hiatus still, with others set to come back by the end of the month, there were still some great performances throughout the past week in television. And while Netflix binge-watching is at an all-time high (hello Daredevil, and soon-to-return Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), there were also some great cable network performers too.

Because this upcoming week is Easter, there will be no TV MVP Series next Sunday. I want to give everyone on staff the chance to eat some yummy candy while hanging out with friends, family, or attending church service. Since this is the last TV MVP Series installment until April (how did that even happen?) let's hop — pun intended — to it! Joining me this week are:

Jenn's MVP: Jake McDorman as Brian Finch (Limitless)

Why he's the MVP: Limitless is a show that I've loved since its pilot. And it's a procedural unlike any other on television right now. At any moment, this show can be the funniest, zaniest comedy and the very next, it is the most heartbreaking drama. The tone of the show is set by two things: its writing and its cast. The writing for Limitless has always been solid (admittedly, sometimes the whole procedural aspect of the show becomes the least interesting and slightly boring part), as has the acting. And the man carrying the show on his back — Jake McDorman — has never been more superb than he was this week. Brian Finch's life is slowly unraveling: his family now knows about NZT, Rebecca has figured out he's lied to her, and the FBI is beginning to piece together the fact that Brian may be aiding Morra in NZT-related matters. So what does Brian do?

He runs.

He flees and he seeks out Piper — the only other person he knows who knows exactly what he's feeling. The best part about Jake McDorman in this role is that he perfectly encapsulates Brian Finch. He has the ability to play goofy and silly so perfectly (see: the scene in which he's drinking with the Russians and imagines his friends, family, and Rebecca lecturing him and telling them how disappointed they are). McDorman can play this goofy, funny, quippy Brian Finch with effortlessness and ease and he's extremely good at it. But what is so amazing about him as an actor is the fact that Brian isn't just a fun-loving character who nicknames his handlers and imagines comic book-style scenarios — he is someone living with the burden of NZT and his lies on a daily basis. And what makes McDorman such a powerhouse is his ability to transition so smoothly from a character who is making us laugh, to one who is making our hearts break.

That is why he is the MVP this week — he managed to convey every facet of Brian's personality and do so believably. I care about Brian Finch because Jake McDorman begs me to through his portrayal of him. And for that, he deserves all of the credit.


Lizzie’s MVP: Melissa Benoist as Kara Danvers/Supergirl (Supergirl)

Why she’s the MVP: Melissa Benoist is my TV MVP this week simply for that one scene after Kara wakes up, free of the effect of the Red Kryptonite. Beonist is superb as Kara — in a way that has both surprised me and delighted me — but this is the first time I think she’s had the chance to really prove her acting chops. Evil Kara was fun, and a nice departure from perpetually optimistic. But even that character is a bit one-dimensional. This moment — with Kara talking to Alex and trying to apologize — this was the moment where I went, "Wow, this girl can act."

Equally powerful, though not as emotional, is the moment with Cat at the end of the episode. Kara is, essentially, doing the same thing she did with Alex: apologizing. But Benoist almost underacts this scene, in a way that’s especially poignant. Kara can be vulnerable with Alex, but not with Cat. Not completely. And yet she needs to be if she’s going to have any hope of fixing the mess she made.

I’m not sure what’s next for Kara, but now I’m 100% sure that, whatever is coming, Benoist will make me believe it. And that’s a good thing — no, that’s a great thing.

Marilyn’s MVP: Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier (The Walking Dead)

Why she's the MVP: When the character of Carol Peletier first showed up on The Walking Dead, she didn’t make many waves. She had an abusive husband and a daughter and she always seems a bit mild — a bit easily forgettable. That impression evolved almost effortlessly over the seasons, thanks in part to Melissa McBride’s flawless portrayal of a woman who has had to adapt the harsh world around her or perish.

This last week found Carol in a rough spot, taken hostage by Negan’s people along with Maggie. Carol seemed to be struggling with her life choices of late; living in the relative comfort of Alexandria made her yearn for a simpler, easier, more civilized life. With shaking fingers, a quavering gaze and even the tone of her voice, McBride portrayed Carol’s innermost fear with deft skill. She was afraid, of course, of herself and the animal she had become.

I always know I’m in for a good episode when there’s a focus on Carol and Melissa McBride is on my screen. She carries off the role of a hardened survivor of a zombie apocalypse so well that I can scarcely recall a time when Carol was just another frightened person, wandering the aftermath.


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

Why she’s the MVP: Priyanka Chopra carries a heavy load as the lead and central character of the story on Quantico, with her pulling double duty in both the present day and the flashbacks. She’s impressed me during this freshman season with her magnetism on screen — she has chemistry with everyone, and she really captivates the viewer. Part of that is due to her physical beauty, and the sensuality she exudes. To be totally fair, and as the reviews I split with Jenn have acknowledged, I have at times found her performance uneven. But this past week proved that Chopra has completely grown into her role, and deserves the title of lead. She can more than carry the emotional arc being thrown at her in this back half of the season.

Last week’s episode focused on Alex and Natalie (Anabelle Acosta) working together to stop the terrorist who was behind the bombing the FBI is investigating — the same terrorist who has a bomb strapped to Natalie’s chest as the episode opens. Chopra perfectly captured Alex’s emotional state this episode — she went from terrified, to determined, to distraught, frenzied, and desperate, as the episode progressed. But it was that final emotional scene between Alex and Ryan (Jake McLaughlin) that really cinched it for me.


Throughout this episode and the previous one, we had seen Ryan express concern and doubt toward Alex, worrying about her mental state while also pushing her away and acting a bit cold to her. But at the end of this episode, after (SPOILER ALERT!) Natalie dies, Alex goes to Ryan. She is hysterical and desperate, and she has reached her breaking point. She just can’t do this alone anymore. So she goes to the one person she truly trusts, despite his lack of trust in her as of late, and she breaks down.

Chopra was simply mesmerizing in this scene. I teared up, and my heart clenched. She so perfectly, beautifully, and heart-wrenchingly portrayed Alex’s utter desperation, that it was hard to watch while also impossible to look away. Kudos to Chopra for acting this scene brilliantly. She is definitely my MVP this week.

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Jon’s MVP: Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood (House of Cards)

Why he’s the MVP: We live in a new age of television. Television is now easy to access with the click of a few keys on a keyboard. Internet streaming sites have realized this, and have since begun creating their own exclusive content. The flagship of this new age of TV is Netflix’s House of Cards, which just released its fourth season.

While the show has essentially changed the game by releasing all episodes, effectively creating the term “binge-watching,” the show is also recognized for its shocking twists and turns, as well as its powerhouse acting. The cast is anchored by Kevin Spacey, who is still completely mesmerizing to watch as President Frank Underwood.

Throughout the course of this series, we’ve seen Underwood delve further and further into corruption, not stopping until he acquires ultimate power. While last season saw him struggle to retain his new power among a sea of disbelievers, this season sees him launch a full scale war to keep hanging onto that power, with the parallels to this year’s election season abundantly clear.

What’s so different about Spacey’s performance this year is how he makes Underwood seem almost human. SPOILER ALERT: The moment when Underwood is shot and begins to hallucinate about all the people he’s killed or destroyed in order to ascend the political ladder makes him come across as morose. In that moment, we don’t know whether to feel sorry or not for Underwood’s misdeeds. You can’t help but wonder if he’ll come out of this reformed.

The answer to this is, obviously, no, as Spacey soon reverts to Underwood’s chilling ways. It amazes me how calculating and tactical Underwood can be, especially when teaming up with Claire. What will happen next to both Frank and Claire remains the most interesting part of the season, as they both managed to pull themselves from the brink of extinction. It’ll be fascinating to see if Frank’s luck continues... or runs out.

Who were your TV MVPs this week? Hit up the comments below and let us know!


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