Sunday, April 3, 2016

Series: This Week's TV MVPs - Week 33

Welcome back from our mini-hiatus, friends! We hope you had a fantastic and relaxing Easter holiday. As we charge through April — doesn't it feel like it was JUST January?! — we are getting closer and closer to season finales and all of the twists and turns those usually contain. This week on television, there were some astounding and heartbreaking performances, as well as some powerful comedic ones.

So let's dive into a celebration of some of the best actors and actresses on television this week, shall we? Joining me are:

Jenn's MVP: Echo Kellum as Curtis Holt (Arrow)

Why he's the MVP: In spite of the fact that this season of Arrow was touted as "lighter" than last (and is, in some ways), the show has brought a lot of heavy material into the lives of the characters within Team Arrow. And with this coming week's impending death, that depth and heaviness is only going to weigh on the characters more. But there is a bright light in Arrow's fourth season — and it's not, as you might expect, always Felicity. No, this season that light and levity is placed upon Curtis Holt. As a character, Curtis is exceptional — he's loyal and brave and hilarious. And no actor could portray him better than Echo Kellum.

I always talk about Ben and Kate whenever I talk about Echo, so why not mention the show again?! The reason that Curtis is so beloved in the fandom, in spite of the fact that he's been in very few episodes, is because of the magnetic energy that Echo brings to the role. He throws everything he's got in his comedic arsenal into bringing zingers and awkward puns, and it's something he truly excels at. Echo's Ben and Kate character was similar, in ways, to Curtis Holt. That silly, fun, lovable personality is what endears him to the viewers and to (most of) Team Arrow. In this week's episode, Echo determines the location of the Arrow Cave... er, sorry, "bunker" and fills in for recently-quit Felicity. He's not meant to replace her, for there is no true replacement for Felicity Smoak, nor do I think the writers introduced him to the team in this episode because they needed to fill a missing tech slot.

I think that Curtis was brought in to provide a contrast to Team Arrow. In spite of the wild adventures he has throughout the episode, Curtis chooses — in the end — his life of normalcy over a life of fighting crime. And what's so great about Echo Kellum as an actor is that he has this ability to be completely and totally rapid-fire: with line deliveries and bad jokes and frantic, wild gesticulating. But there's this amazing ability of his, too, to be subtle and convey intimate moments quietly and believably. The emotion that Echo conveys is never undercut by comedy or by a joke. His ability to navigate so well between subtle emotional beats and hugely comedic moments (please go watch Curtis FLIPPING OVER A RAILING IN THE ARROW CAVE) is praiseworthy. I'm so glad Curtis exists in Arrow and I'm even more grateful that Echo is playing him.


Bonus MVPs: Paige Turco and Henry Ian Cusick as Abby Griffin and Marcus Kane (The 100)

Though there is a lot of anger and controversy surrounding The 100 these days, one thing the show is absolutely doing right is portraying the complex relationship between Kane and Abby. The amount of growth these two have exhibited individually and together as a team, and now romantic pairing, is astounding. And really, Paige Turco and Henry Ian Cusick are selling the journey of these characters so perfectly that it made this week's kiss between the two breathtaking. Kane's journey has gone from one of selfishness to self-sacrifice, as this week he is willing to die so that others can be spared. Even in his final hour, he is thinking of someone else — Abby. When the woman enters to say goodbye to him, the first words out of Kane's mouth are: "Are you all right?" The next scene is a beautiful portrayal by Turco and Cusick of two people who have lost so much, now unwilling to lose one another. Abby, defiant, tells Kane that she will save him. And Cusick-as-Kane's reaction to this is to laugh, almost as if he cannot believe the woman he's come to love.

Because there is no doubt, through the way that Turco and Cusick portray their characters, that Kane and Abby love each other with such stunning simplicity but such emotional ferocity. Turco, in particular, is completely gut-wrenching as Abby cries and hesitantly reaches out to cup Kane's face, afraid of saying goodbye. And the way that Cusick portrays such emotional nuances and subtleties of Kane's love — the slight nod before the guards escort him out, the unspoken words behind his eyes, and the way that he gently and passionately reacts to Abby — is gorgeous. It's hard to remember that these two used to be in opposition to one another on nearly every level. But the job of great actors is to convince us of the journey, and Cusick and Turco have completely and utterly convinced me that Kane and Abby love one another. For that alone, they deserve to be MVPs.


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

Why he’s the MVP: O’Donoghue has gotten plenty of chances in this show to flex his acting chops, especially in the past season. And when he does flex those emotional chops, he’s usually playing to the romantic side of Hook. And that’s fine, but there’s only so many "I love you faces you can give another person — or, at least, you would think that would be the case. In this episode, however, O’Donoghue gets the chance to play the man in love with Emma, as well as the loving brother. And boy, does portraying the brother give him a lot of avenues to play.

There’s the loving brother, of course. Then there’s the one who loves Liam, and yet can’t be better just because of him. There’s also the betrayed brother — the one who realizes that the person he trusted the most in the world lied to him. And, finally, there’s the brother who has to say goodbye — the one who's a mixture of despair and happiness at giving Liam a chance to move on. That O’Donoghue goes through all of these progressions seamlessly is just a testament to how much he’s come to embody Killian Jones. When we were little, Captain Hook was a guy with a mustache and perm in animated movies and specials. Now, O’Donoghue has made this iconic character his, and not only that, he’s made his interpretation the valid one.

We don’t want another Captain Hook. More than that, we don’t need one. Our perception has been altered. And we’re perfectly okay with that.

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Deb’s MVPs: Melissa Benoist/Grant Gustin as Kara Danvers/Barry Allen (Supergirl x The Flash Crossover)

Why they’re the MVPs: The Supergirl/The Flash crossover event was probably my favorite bit of television this week, and that is largely due to the amazing chemistry and cuteness radiating off these two lovely, lovely actors. They were so wonderful together that I was actually granted permission to name them both as my MVP, which is excellent because I don’t think I could have separated them or chosen one over the other. It was the winning combination of Melissa Benoist and Grant Gustin as their endlessly endearing superhero characters that really sold the crossover and made it a fun, lighthearted, highly enjoyable viewing experience.

The best thing about the relationship between Kara and Barry was the way they were completely believable as fast friends — no suspicion, no competition (other than the friendly sort), no jealousy. Just friendship. Maybe it was the familiarity preexisting in the two actors that added to their on-screen chemistry, or maybe it was just that Melissa and Grant understood how similar their characters are and how much they would like immediately like each other. Both Kara and Barry are good-hearted, bright, hopeful heroes — they’re quick to smile, are fascinated and appreciative of the world around them, and only ever want to help. Together, they made for a fantastic team that I was truly sorry to see break up at the end of the episode.

I can only hope that my MVPs are reunited again sometime soon, because seeing them on-screen together was a gift.

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Jen’s MVP: Wentworth Miller as Captain Cold/Leonard Snart (Legends of Tomorrow)

Why he's the MVP: It’s not really a newsflash that Wentworth Miller is an amazing actor. His exceptional performance in Prison Break is probably what he’s most well-known for, after all. My Wentworth Miller love affair began long before Prison Break. He guest-starred on an episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer (season two's “Go Fish”). The episode wasn’t all that spectacular, but Wentworth was. The BTVS community is — above all things — loyal and if you are a good actor, we are with you for life. Wentworth is a good actor.

He’s turning his role as Leonard Snart on Legends of Tomorrow into another star performance, stealing every scene he’s in. What I adore about this particular role is that it’s allowing Wentworth to showcase his comedic chops and, of course, they are fantastic. Snart has all the best lines and Wentworth serves them with a biting and crisp delivery worthy of the name “ZING!”
Leonard: The ladies will be left in 1958!
Jax: What about Ray?
Leonard: Like I said.
Warning: There will now be an abundance of cold puns. They are too easy to ignore. #sorrynotsorry

Legends of Tomorrow was only given a 16-episode run for its first season. So, making Snart’s Captain Cold — a villain from The Flash’s side of the DC world — a believable hero in such a short time frame is no easy task. His evolution is primarily believable because of Wentworth’s performance. He has an ability to find the nuanced and subtle beats in a line or a moment. Yes, Snart presents himself as an emotionally cold, calculating, self-serving thief. But Wentworth captures what’s underneath the character’s chilly exterior.

It’s revealed Snart didn’t kill his partner-in-crime Heat Wave — Mick Rory — after he betrayed the team. Snart, captive and powerless against Mick, desperately and angrily tries to explain he had every intention of going back for him. In fact, Leonard Snart actually loses his temper. He’s furious Mick can’t see that he is loyal, above all other things. And, of course, because Heat Wave knows Captain Cold best, he threatens the life of Snart’s sister. As he imagines watching his beloved sister die over and over again, the dread and fear in Snart’s eyes in painfully evident.

Another surprising turn in Leonard’s journey is his burgeoning feelings for the beautiful, but lost, assassin Sara Lance, The White Canary. Legends of Tomorrow has been playing it cool with these two thus far, but there are subtle moments in Wentworth’s performance that convey the depth of his feelings for Sara. His gaze is never far from her. There’s a softness in his eyes as he looks at her and a tenderness in the way he speaks to her. More than anyone, it is Snart who has encouraged and believed in Sara’s humanity. Which is odd coming from a man who professes to have none himself. He chose the team primarily because Mick attacked and hurt Sara. He would never let anyone hurt her. Not even his best friend.

It is through the power of Wentworth Miller’s performance that we understand the truth about Leonard Snart. There is a warm and loving heart underneath that cold exterior. Given enough time, it will melt everything else away. Wentworth Miller is the reason we believe Captain Cold will become a legend.

Megan’s MVP: Jeremy Piven as Harry Selfridge (Mr. Selfridge)

Why he’s the MVP: Okay, allow me to preface this with the fact that I am not generally a big Jeremy Piven fan. I loved him as Ari Gold on Entourage (and subsequently his exact same role in Cars) because it was incredible. But apart from that that, not so much.

HOWEVER, let me tell you how amazing he has been for the last three seasons as Harry Selfridge, the infamous store owner on Mr. Selfridge. I was practically screaming when I discovered the premiere date. The life of Harry Selfridge was a sordid one — full of peaks and valleys, influxes and of funds and colossal debts. He lived a life of adultery and luxury, family and loyalty. In essence, he was a complex man. For whoever played him, he had to be good.

I was apprehensive before the first season premiered, but after the pilot episode, I was convinced that Piven was the right man for the role. It was something different for him, and a role that he had succeeded in. It makes you wonder why he never chose a similar character to portray before.

In last Sunday’s fourth and final season premiere, ten years has passed since the third season’s finale. Selfridge's engagement fell apart, his daughter Rosalie’s husband Sergei is sleeping around on her, there’s tension between Selfridge and his son Gordon, and he’s trying to make the store the front page of the papers again by unveiling a statue to womanhood and introducing a new department. But his personal and public life are both crumbling and — during the statue’s ceremony — Harry takes a fall and lands himself in the hospital.

What Piven does so well is walk the delicate balance between being a sympathetic and understanding — but also very stern — boss while trying to keep his head above water with his family. It takes someone who is well-trained in their craft to be able to believably portray two different versions of the character and make both of them real. And Piven does. He takes his years of training and makes you both sympathetic to the trouble that Harry Selfridge has found himself in. and also mad that he’s taking things out on the wrong people.

Piven plays the stretch of Selfridge’s life — from episode one to now — with the exact right emotion, no matter the scene. He brings this person back to life and gives a new generation a look into the life one of the world’s most famous names. It’s refreshing to see Piven in such a rich role that he’s depicted so well. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the season holds, knowing that Selfridge is on a downward spiral from here.

Who were your TV MVPs this week? Let us know in the comments below!


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