Sunday, May 15, 2016

Series: This Week's TV MVPs - Week 38

It's not hard to believe that summer is just around the corner. We've been barraged recently with news of TV show pick-ups and cancellations. And as we bid farewell — in some cases, permanently — to our favorite shows over the next few weeks as they depart for hiatus, we're also slowly winding down our TV MVP Series. For those who were around last summer, you'll recall that we began a series affectionately titled the Summer Lovin' Series. By the end of May, the TV MVP Series will be shelved until fall and we'll pick up our summertime equivalent. In it, we'll get the chance to discuss each week what staff members are loving — whether it's actors and actresses, movies, Netflix binges, songs, books, or anything else we can think of related to pop culture.

We only have a few more weeks of the TV MVP Series left, but we have some great performers to celebrate this week on television. Joining me are:

Let's begin!


Jenn's MVP: The entire cast of New Girl

Why they're the MVPs: I was going to try and narrow my focus down to one cast member, but the more that I contemplated the show's final two episodes of the season, the more I realized that I just couldn't award one MVP vote. (Also, I'm the editor-in-chief of the site and occasionally I get to break my own rules. Fun!) Everyone in the cast brought their A-game not only in the final two episodes ("Wedding Eve" and "Landing Gear"), but throughout season five. A lot of credit is due, of course, to Liz Meriwether, Dave Finkel, Brett Baer, and the writing staff. Season five was on par with the second season in terms of quality and consistency of the writing. Moreover, it was just flat-out hilarious. But a lot of the credit is also due to the New Girl cast, who now functions as a true ensemble. It's not that the show wasn't an ensemble before — I think you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who disagreed — but with Zooey Deschanel's absence for a few episodes this season, the show proved that it is not reliant on one single person to carry the entire show. Each cast member brings something unique and profound.

This week, Zooey Deschanel hit every single emotional beat perfectly. When Sam breaks up with Jess and she wonders aloud why she was hesitant to commit to him, he tells her point-blank the thing she knew — and has always known — but hasn't vocalized in years: "It's Nick." Deschanel's face during this scene was amazingly complex and layered. You could feel every single emotion that Jess had. She was pained because of the break-up, taken aback, contemplative, and then hit with that breathless feeling of what it felt like to be in love with Nick years ago. Deschanel should be everyone's MVP for this one facial expression alone. And then there was the beautifully heartbreaking scene near the end of "Landing Gear" where Jess watches Nick and Reagan dancing together. There are no words in either of those scenes, and yet Deschanel commands the room with only her facial nuances.

Jake Johnson also deserves immense credit for the way he's developed Nick Miller this season, especially in the final episodes of the season. His hilarious delivery aside, the best part of Nick this year was the way he became emotionally available, more mature, and vulnerable. The Nick Miller in "Wedding Eve" and "Landing Gear" is the best kind of Nick Miller — hilarious, with his quirks and tics, but also developed and well-rounded. Johnson took a character who, in season three, was immature and silly and made him so sympathetic in this season. Nick is still silly, of course, and Johnson gets to play that version often. But this year, it was all in the subtleties — the way that he didn't say anything when Jess yelled at him, the happiness and growth he demonstrated in his relationship with Reagan, etc. 

I cannot give enough praise to Max Greenfield for his depiction of Schmidt. I've lost count of how many times Greenfield made me cry this season, either through laughter or emotion. He took this character of Schmidt — who was narcissistic, obsessed with order and structure, and woman-crazy — and developed him this season into the kind of man we all deserve. Not a perfect one, but one who makes mistakes and yet STILL puts others ahead of himself. Greenfield's wordless support of a crying Cece at the end of "Wedding Eve" as well as his utterly tear-inducing vows/wedding made for some amazing MVP-worthy performances. Speaking of Cece, Hannah Simone has absolutely shone in this season of New Girl. Between Cece's inebriated reactions to things (Hannah Simone's delivery of those lines? Hysterical) and her character development, Simone has done an incredible job of fleshing out the character of Cece Parekh. She's such a loyal, wonderful character on this show and Simone has managed to add even more layers to her this year.

And perhaps the biggest MVP of all? Lamorne Morris as Winston Bishop. Winston has always been one of my favorite characters on this show. He's hilariously aloof, well-meaning, and good-hearted. I love that a character like Winston exists, and Morris' performance has been impeccable, especially this season. I'm so thankful that Winston has become a success — he's a well-known and respected cop, he's in love, and he's offered tangible solutions and help to the people he cares about. Winston is one-of-a-kind, and Morris continues to bring the laughs ("Return to Sender" and the bird shirt sub-plot? So perfect), but also the heart. Out of all of these characters, he's arguably the heart of the show. Winston is so lovable because Lamorne Morris is so lovable.

Every cast member of New Girl brought out impeccable performances in the final two episodes of this season. And that is why they truly all deserve MVP status.

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

Why she's the MVP: On this week’s Arrow, we got to see Felicity Smoak go through a whole gamut of experiences and emotions. And Emily Bett Rickards, who plays Felicity, pulled off each moment with the practiced ease we’ve come to expect from her each week. We learned as early as season one that Rickards is able to deliver the laughs — to break up the gloomy tension that lives naturally in this show in a way that is organic and fresh. But we’ve also learned that she just as effortlessly handles the emotional moments. It’s through her performance that we connect not just to her character, but to the characters she interacts with. She humanizes Oliver Queen, she brings out John Diggle’s big brother nature, she makes everyone she comes into contact with shine just a little brighter. That, my friends, is true talent. 

This week, Felicity had to set aside her personal feelings and work with her estranged father in order to prevent a nuclear apocalypse. Rickards handled these scenes with her father (played by Tom Amandes) with effortless grace, showing Felicity's wit, her intelligence, and her brittle emotions. I would smile one moment, as Felicity cracked a sarcastic joke and the next minute, my heart would ache for the loss of connection between these two family members. Rickards handles this dichotomy easily, showing us she’s more than just the comic relief — more than just a love interest.  

At the end of the episode, something tragic happened. Despite her best efforts and as a result of making an impossible choice, Felicity had to watch a nuclear bomb explode a small town. Tens of thousands of lives were lost, and you could see the impact of each and every one of them in her devastated face in the aftermath. Emily Bett Rickards grounded that moment, made us care for this small town of Havenrock and made us also care about her character and how Felicity will deal with this tragedy going forward. 

Stephen Amell has said in the past that they cannot make Arrow without Felicity Smoak. Every bit of that comes down to Emily Bett Rickards, for taking what was meant to be a bit player and bringing her to brilliant, stunning life on our TV screens. Long may she reign!


Lizzie’s MVP: Jennifer Morrison as Emma Swan (Once Upon A Time)

Why she's the MVP: Saying that Jennifer Morrison turned in an amazing performance is like saying water is wet. She’s been slaying it this season of Once Upon A Time, both as the Dark Swan and as a softer, more self-aware version of Emma Swan. But it’s not until this episode — "Last Rites" — that all the character growth comes to a head. Because it’s one thing to open yourself up to love, to fight, to have hope, and to be happy. But it is another altogether to let yourself grieve the loss of the one thing you never thought you could have.

Emma deals with grief in her way. First, with avoidance. Because if she faces it head-on, if she thinks about what she’s lost, then she’ll crumble, and the town needs her; her family needs her. Then, after Robin and after Hades is defeated, Emma can finally let herself grieve. She can stand in front of the grave of the man she loves — the man she was willing to sacrifice everything for — and admit that without him, she just doesn’t know what’s next. He was her future, and the future is now bleak without him.

Which, of course, is when the gods (the god Zeus, whatever) chooses to send Killian Jones back to Emma Swan. And then rush of giddy affection that overtakes Emma as she sees and kisses her beloved is as well-played and impactful by Morrison as the grief was. This isn’t just regular happiness for Emma. No, this is... everything. Hook is everything. And, Emma — this woman who’s lost so much, the one who never thought she’d get a chance for a happily ever after — now has all of that within her grasp. We see it in her face. We understand it.

Jennifer Morrison makes sure we do.

Megan's MVP: Kit Harrington as Jon Snow (Game of Thrones)

Why he's the MVP: By now, everyone around the world, whether you care about the seven kingdoms of Westeros or not, that Jon Snow is alive and well. Well, I wouldn't say well, per se, but alive definitely. His death last season was one of the biggest screening "WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THIS?" moments in the series and it was this past Sunday's episode where Jon reconciled with coming back to life.

To have been dead and been brought back to life, Harrington had to make it believable. It couldn't have just come back and said, "I saw a beautiful light and white robes aplenty." He had to be confused and scared and unsure of how to navigate a life that was over and now returned to him. How would he manage to paint that sort of picture for us? How was he going to make us believe that Jon has met his end, came back and wasn't going to take this bizarre gift for granted as he knows what comes after his last breath?

But he does. He does it so beautifully because that's how it's supposed to be. He couldn't have come back and just gotten back to business, taken vengeance on those who had betrayed and  murdered him at Castle Black and then moved on. It wasn't going to work like that. He was just as dumbfounded as the betrayers, his commradres, Melissandre at his resurrection. He was wary of those around him and having seen the blackness of what lies beyond.

It was a testament to the range Harrington has and a side that we have yet to see so far in the first five seasons. While we've seen him in love with and sad over Ygritte, sympathetic towards others, confused over his true parentage and as strong as ever in the face of death, this is the first time we've truly seen Jon Snow vulnerable and untrusting. He always has a plan, always ten steps ahead. But he didn't see this coming and didn't know he would be coming back. Who would?

As a man of few words until they're needed, Kit Harrington does an amazing job of letting his emotions play across his face... his wonderfully, beautifully, carved from the gods face. If last season belonged to Brienne, Arya or Daenerys, this season shall belong to Jon Snow and the rise of the Lord Commander to his proper station.

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


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