Sunday, May 29, 2016

Series: This Week's TV MVPs - Week 40

We have come to the end of our TV MVP Series for this television season! This week, most primetime television shows ended with some pretty epic (and, in some cases, rather tame) finales. With the ending of our shows comes the ending of the series for a few months. In the interim, be sure to check out our Summer Lovin' Series each week, where we will post what pop culture phenomenons, television shows, movies, and books are on our radars during any given week. Before that, however, check out which performers we think deserve MVP status. Joining me this week are:

Here we go!


Jenn's MVP: Neal McDonough as Damien Darhk (Arrow)

Why he's the MVP: Neal McDonough has been my MVP this entire season, let's be honest. He did an absolutely impeccable job of walking this balance between sarcasm and terror with Damien Darhk. I was apprehensive before he debuted as Darhk, but all of those worries were erased when he graced the screen. What makes McDonough such an MVP is the way that he's able to transition from chewing scenery in a fun, campy way to demonstrating the villainous prowess of his character. In this week's Arrow finale, we got the opportunity to see another layer of Darhk, too, when Thea threatened his daughter. You could see the complete and utter worry flash across his face as he saw that his daughter was being used as a hostage. Because even in his most evil moments, McDonough managed to convey this very important and fundamental characteristic of Darhk's — his humanity. The difficulty in introducing Darhk was in humanizing a character who has extraordinary abilities. And though I fault Arrow's writers for the uneven storytelling of his evil desires (we never really learn why Darhk wants the world to burn, but I guess some men just want that?), McDonough never wavers in his portrayal of the character. He's consistently at the top of his game, throwing everything he has behind this villain.

What I really loved about Damien Darhk was his dark and dry wit. McDonough has amazing comedic timing and delivery, and often served as the "straight man" character this year, calling out absurdities within the plot and characters. It was McDonough's balance between this humor and the serious, more dastardly moments that truly makes him an MVP. And in this week's finale, he goes out in a brilliant and wonderful way, fighting Oliver before dying by his arrow. I'll miss Neal McDonough terribly, and would definitely not argue if the show found some magical way to resurrect him next year. Regardless, Damien Darhk was the most consistent and engaging villain the show has had in a long time and that was all because of McDonough's performance.

Jon’s MVP: Dominic Cooper as Jesse Custer (Preacher)

Why he’s the MVP: With the regular TV season winding down, it’s time to look ahead to some of the upcoming summer TV shows. One of the shows that definitely caught my eye was the TV adaptation of the cult comic Preacher. Having only dabbled in the comic briefly but never reading the entire thing, I was vastly interested to see how the comic would be brought to the small screen. After seeing the pilot — and without spoiling it — I can say this with certainty: everyone should watch this show. There is nothing else like this on television right now. Not only was the pilot visually striking, but the show featured some of the best performances seen on television this year. It was incredibly difficult to pick an MVP from this show for this week, but my choice is Dominic Cooper, who plays our hero, Jesse Custer.

What I love about Cooper is how humble and soulful his performance is. In the beginning, Custer is unsure of what his purpose is. His sermons aren’t very good, and the whole town tolerates him. Cooper makes Custer here so open and vulnerable, yet unsure. We don’t know what to think of this character the entire episode, even though we know him to be the hero. Cooper does an excellent job showcasing that vulnerability.

There’s also a certain cowboy-like charm that Cooper brings. Whenever he interacts with the townsfolk, he brings this likability to the character that becomes infectious. You can’t help but feel for the guy, and therefore want to root for him. The one scene that comes to mind is the bar fight, where Custer takes it upon himself to stop an abusive husband. Not only is the fight scene incredibly well-done, but because Cooper is such a likable actor, you root for his character to win.

However, by the end of the episode, Custer begins to have more confidence. After his body becomes the vessel for a mysterious entity, he starts to find the fire within him, stating that he’s going to lead his church and be their savior. Not only does this prove an intriguing set-up for the series, but it also showcases Cooper’s immense charisma and talent. For that, he is my MVP of the week.


Mer’s MVP: Jordan Gavaris as Felix Dawkins (Orphan Black)

Why he’s the MVP: Did you know that Jordan Gavaris is not English? I did not. I did not know this. It literally blew my mind when I found out, as I watched the beginning of the special Orphan Black after show following this week’s episode. He isn’t English. WHAT? I still can’t believe it. And apparently I’m not the only one. Gavaris’ English accent is so convincing, he had a few cast members fooled when he first met them. And while his absolutely perfect accent would be enough to make him my MVP this week, there’s more.

One of the unique things about Felix is that he is the secret glue that holds the entire group together on Orphan Black. On first glance, it appears to be Sarah — always at the center of everything. But look a little deeper, and it is absolutely Felix. He is the one each sister turns to in her time of need, he is steadfast and solid and reliable. As an actor, Gavaris is as intuitive as his character. The layers to Felix — the outwardly flamboyant, over-the-top party animal, who underneath it all is street smart and sensitive and able to handle any crisis — are subtly peeled back so perfectly and expertly by Gavaris.

Gavaris has captured the essence of Felix so well, that I actually had to stop and think about his character growth over the seasons. While Felix wholeheartedly took on this fight that isn’t his, Gavaris has played all sides of the character so seamlessly. Especially this season, with the introduction of Felix’s biological sister, and the underlying tension within Felix, as well as between Felix and the sestras, Gavaris is flexing his stellar acting chops. But this week’s episode proved that above all else, Felix is the head on the shoulders of the Clone Club — talking one sestra down from a crisis over the phone while riding in a taxi to stop another from making a very, very bad decision. The sestras are lucky to have Felix Dawkins, and we’re lucky to have Jordan Gavaris.


Megan’s MVP: Nyle DiMarco as himself (Dancing With the Stars)

Why he’s the MVP: Before this season of Dancing With the Stars began, I was excited. I usually glance at the roster of “stars” and think, “Eh, maybe I’ll watch it.” But this year, I screamed when I saw that the gorgeous, final winner of America’s Next Top Model, Nyle DiMarco, would be competing.

Nyle made an impression on those of us who stuck with Tyra Banks and her sinking model ship during its final season. Standing out first because of his looks, we quickly discovered that Nyle was different from the rest of the cast: he was deaf. While most were skeptical about his abilities to take notes and always step up during the challenges, he continually proved everyone wrong and ultimately won the show’s final title.

And he continued to wow people. On a show that’s based on dancing with musicality and flow of music, many wondered how he was going to succeed. But from the first dance, he proved he was not only capable, but also a frontrunner. Because he could not hear the music, he relied on watching his partner move and following her to stay on beat. In the event that he had a slip-up, he would take the judge’s notes and come back stronger the next week. He even danced in complete silence for 15 seconds to show the audience how he experiences the competition and then went on to dance blindfolded. It was absolutely stunning.

But it was this last week of competition that really sealed the deal. Week after week, he inspired so many people to go above and beyond what they believe themselves capable of. He proved that you can do anything that you set your mind to. He inspired so many people to embrace what makes them different. He became a voice for the Deaf community that so many needed. During his final week, he absolutely stunned audiences with his performances. During his freestyle routine, he even inspired judge Carrie Ann Inaba to thank him for everything he brought to the show in ASL. He had all of us weeping for so many different reasons.

When Tom Burgeron announced that Nyle and Peta won, I leapt from my seat and started crying. Well, I was already crying, but that added to it. He was so sweet and so genuine throughout the season and managed to touch every viewer’s heart. Nyle DiMarco is an inspiration to everyone to strive for so much more and be an advocate for whatever it is you hold dear. He’s the perfect MVP.


Jen’s MVP: Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark (Poldark)

Why he's the MVP: One of my favorite things about television is discovering new shows and actors. I love being introduced to new stories and the people who portray them. Well, I have recently been introduced to Poldark and Aidan Turner, and I am hooked. Ross Poldark is a Revolutionary War soldier who returns home to find his love, Elizabeth, engaged to his cousin. His father is dead, and his family’s farm and fortune are squandered. And that’s just the first episode.

What’s unique about Ross is that he’s anti-establishment. He pretty much thumbs his nose at the entire British hierarchy. He cares deeply for his poor tenants, while the rest of his family and friends ignore their plight and look down upon them. Ross wants to build a successful copper mine. It’s important to him for many reasons, but primarily because Poldark wants to ensure his tenants' survival. Yet, Ross is also tortured. There’s a deep sorrow in him from the war, and the loss of his Elizabeth. He’s quick to anger and slow to forgive. It makes him a dark and twisty hero, which is exactly the kind of hero I love. Aidan Turner is a revelation in this role. He has to balance Ross’ “moods,” as he terms them, with his heart of gold. Turner walks the line carefully. He’s able to move Poldark through a river of emotions in a matter of a few scenes, sometimes even a few sentences.

Ross Poldark is a taciturn man, so Turner relies a lot of nonverbal communication.  His walk and piercing stares are as equally important as the words and tone of his voice. There’s so much Ross Poldark doesn’t say, and yet Turner conveys all of it so the audience doesn’t feel like we’re missing out. Instead, it’s almost like we’re in on a secret with Poldark. The highlight of the show is Aidan Turner’s chemistry with Eleanor Tomlinson who plays Demelza, Ross’ kitchen maid. And well... watch the show you’ll find out more. There’s a warmth and gentleness that Turner captures in scenes with Tomlinson’s Demelza that’s unlike any other interaction on the show, including the scenes with Elizabeth.

Ross’ emotional evolution with Demelza progresses from kind ignorance to rebellious admiration. And yet, he never overplays his hand, so the audience isn’t quite sure what Ross’ motivations are. The intent is so we are as surprised as Poldark when he finally comes to some important conclusions about Delmeza. Turner is a delight in these scenes. He brings humor, honesty, and a rather remarkable amount of self-awareness to Ross’ feelings for Demelza. It’s really only because Turner plays it so elegantly, and with a soft touch, that the evolution feels gradual instead of sudden. After all, Poldark is only eight episodes.

In short, I’m obsessed. How I went so long in my life without Poldark and Aidan Turner I’ll never know, but I am quite thankful for having amended the error.

Who was YOUR TV MVP this week? Let us know in the comments below!


  1. I, too, have recently joined the Poldark bandwagon. What's even more amazing in Aidan's portrayal of Ross is that they filmed all the indoor scenes for the series before filming all the outdoor scenes. Aidan was quite masterful in capturing Ross' evolution twice over.

  2. Poldark and Aidan Turner every day and every week of the year ;)

  3. Ahh...welcome to the Aidan Turner appreciation group. He has
    weaved his spell on me as well. His performance never disappoints. It seems that he is also an all around nice guy. Can't wait to view Poldark season 2. The absolute best show on TV.