Sunday, October 30, 2016

Series: This Week's TV MVPs -- Week 45

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Welcome back to another fun week of the TV MVP Series. I feel like I say this every week, but this week we had some especially powerful performances on television, and I'm incredibly excited to honor them alongside y'all. This week, Megan joins me as we discuss some powerhouse dramatic performances. Let's get started!

Jenn's MVP: Justin Hartley as Kevin (This Is Us)

Why he's the MVP: Everyone has been hailing This Is Us as NBC's new Parenthood. And it's hard to deny that the feels of both shows are essentially similar, because both navigate the emotional ups and downs of a family unit. But what This Is Us has done over the past few weeks is incredible, and it's something the creators and writers of the show should be proud of. I'm constantly in awe of the acting in the series — which is so emotionally raw, vulnerable, and heartfelt — and love the way it seamlessly integrates comedy into heartbreaking circumstances. In this week's episode, however, one player stood out: Justin Hartley as Kevin. Though most of the storyline involving Kevin this week caused me to cringe from secondhand embarrassment as he tried to explain the complexities of life and death to his nieces, one of the most impressive moments of this entire series occurred when Kevin decided to apologize to the little girls for scaring them about death.

Hartley then gets to deliver a monologue which is incredibly profound and also extremely emotional. And he does it with such sincerity and sensitivity that it honestly made me dissolve into a puddle of tears. Kevin is often a very self-absorbed character and the comedic relief during most scenes, which is what makes him stand out on this show. And Hartley does an incredible job with that element of Kevin's character. He's this aloof, attractive guy who has deep thoughts but who never really vocalizes them. Until this episode.

Kevin tells his nieces something he has never told anyone — not even his twin sister, Kate. He tells them that whenever he reads a script, he paints how it makes him feel. And the script he was trying to memorize when he scared the little girls made him feel like a swirling mess of colors; it became a tapestry of lines with no real beginning or end. Kevin tells the girls that this is like life — we're all a part of a giant painting that begins before we're even born and goes on after we die. He tells them that if they think about death that way, it's beautiful because it means the people we love are never really gone; they live on through the legacies they leave. Justin Hartley delivers this monologue incredibly. I honestly cannot say enough about how sincere and simple, yet profound it was. This Is Us is a show that relies a lot on dialogue, but this is one scene in which a single character talks uninterrupted for quite some time.

Hartley sells it, from beginning to end, and manages to make us all cry and feel for not just Kevin, but everyone who has ever lost someone they loved. This Is Us continues to be a masterpiece in storytelling, and keeps tugging at my heartstrings. Thank you, Justin Hartley, for yanking on them this week..

Bonus MVP: Rachel Bloom as Rebecca Bunch (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend)

I am really loving how Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is handling the love triangle and the development of its characters this season. It's only two episodes in, and already the show is not holding back in this area, providing us with a newly-coupled Josh and Rebecca (the latter, a little bit delusional because after chasing the person she's wanted for so long, she's beginning to realize that the dream was perfect and the reality is imperfect), as well as the newly-found Greg, whose absence in a chunk of the premiere is because he's in recovery for alcohol addiction. If it sounds like the show is favoring heavy stories and bypassing the fun, slapstick shenanigans that made it a hit, you'd be sorely mistaken. The show is just as funny as season one so far, and Rachel Bloom is shining in this role — a role that not many people would be able to pull off with such a balance of delusion and endearment.

But the reason that Bloom gets recognition from me this week is because of the end of the episode. In "When Will Josh See How Cool I Am?" Bloom gets to play around and be silly with Rebecca as a character. She imagines herself as a world-class, sexy table tennis player and spends most of the episode making impressing Josh her priority. At times, Rebecca is deluded and kind of grating (returning to the naivete that made her such an interesting character to both root for AND root against in season one), but toward the end of the episode, she has this simple and profound conversation with Greg. Rebecca confesses that she and Josh are together, and Greg handles the news well. He is hurt, obviously, and tells Rebecca that the reason he got a DUI in the first place was because he was driving over to her house to tell her that he loved her at the end of last season. This news is shocking for Rebecca and dangit, Rachel Bloom absolutely nails the progression of emotions on Rebecca's face — from shock to sadness to acceptance.

And at the end of the episode, after she has a frustrating conversation with Josh that seems to lead nowhere, Rebecca returns to he room, pulls out Greg's sweatshirt, smells it, and then cuddles with it on her bed like a security blanket. Rachel Bloom did an amazing job with such a quiet, vulnerable moment. Rebecca spent so much of the episode in heightened emotional states that she hasn't really processed everything that's happening around her. She and Josh don't have a fairytale ending, and now she's learned that Greg — this now put-together, even-tempered, emotionally transparent guy — loves her. It's confusing and overwhelming and Rebecca's first instinct is to grab the thing in her room that provides her comfort: her remnant of Greg. It's a really subtle, beautiful, and utterly sad moment played with excellence by Rachel Bloom. She doesn't have to deliver any dialogue, and yet we fully understand what she's feeling.

Kudos to you, Rachel Bloom. You deserve them.

Megan's MVP: Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan (The Walking Dead)

Why he's the MVP: Throughout all of season six of The Walking Dead, we heard whispers about a leader lurking out in the barren Georgia landscape. He was a leader that was not to be trifled with, but someone who Rick believed his group could take down and eliminate. The threat loomed larger and larger as the season progressed, and Rick got too cocky. When we finally met Negan in last season's finale, we knew — just like the group knew — that they were in trouble.

When this past Sunday's episode began with the tail end of Negan's season finale speech, a chill ran down my spine. As the bat slammed and we saw how he reveled in the torture of this group, I knew that Jeffrey Dean Morgan was perfectly cast for this supervillain of sorts.

Negan is a character who doesn't mess around. He believes in order and everyone bowing to him. If he has to execute violent methods to drive this point home, he will — and he doesn't think twice about it.

To play this sort of character, you have to have commitment. I have to believe that you're a tyrant who doesn't accept disloyalty, a break in ranks, or someone going up against you, but also someone who enjoys being a tyrant and is abusive of that power.

And that's exactly what Jeffrey Dean Morgan did. He made you believe that he took joy in bashing the heads of two beloved characters in. He was cold and unfeeling. He didn't take no for an answer. When he took Rick into the RV and went on a little joy ride, he proved his unwavering power and resolve. He laughed in every crying face and delivered each chilling speech with such ease. It's scary how nervous and on edge he made the audience.

He scared me from my comfy seat on the couch and made me extremely nervous for the rest of this season. Negan is not to be messed with and he was so expertly cast. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is about to mess us all up this season. I don't know if we're ready.

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

1 comment:

  1. Kevin's monologue was beautiful and deep but the MVP for me was Negan. He is a compelling adversary for Rick Grimes and his group. Jeffrey Dean Morgan does a great job portraying the character's charisma as well as his ruthless, sadistic side which is usually acted upon with purpose. I look forward to what else Negan brings to the table and his impending downfall.