Monday, November 6, 2017

Series: This Week’s TV MVPs -- Week 65

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We're already into November, which is hard to believe! Since we're rapidly approaching the holidays, many shows are already beginning to go on hiatus, or else air their midseason finales. There were some pretty incredible performances on television this week, and Mer joins me to discuss them!

Jenn's MVP: Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity Smoak (Arrow)

Why she's the MVP: This week was essentially the Oliver and Felicity Power Hour on Arrow. And while I enjoyed Stephen Amell's performance (especially when he accidentally tells Felicity the incorrect route to take because he gets his right and left communication mixed up), Emily Bett Rickards is the true star of the show. In Harry Potter, Hermione Granger is the series' unsung hero. Though Harry has heroic moments and is the titular character, he would be dead a thousand times over if not for Hermione's brains and courage. So is the case with Arrow — if not for Felicity Smoak, Oliver Queen wouldn't even exist currently. She's saved him a million times over, and this week was the chance for Oliver to be there for Felicity the way she's always there for him.

Rickards is a master of levity in a show that's often very serious. Though I love Echo Kellum's rapid-fire silliness, Rickards has mastered the subtle art of facial nuances and quippy one-liners. She gets the chance this week to revisit some of the fun Felicity I miss — the one who sneaks around, pursuing hijnks and capers. You can tell that Rickards enjoys this side of Felicity, and she has a blast with it. But Rickards isn't just an MVP because she can make me chuckle — she really was able to convey Felicity's frustrations and vulnerabilities in a believable manner. Felicity Smoak is no damsel, but she's also not used to dealing with the burden of self-imposed guilt that colors the way Oliver thinks and lives. So this week, Rickards also got the chance to convey those facets of Felicity's personality and experience, and the result was wonderful. I've always been a fan of Emily Bett Rickards' performance on this show, and this week helped remind me why she's such a valuable asset to the cast.


Bonus MVP #1: Megan Mullally as Karen Walker (Will & Grace)

When I watched this week's episode of Will & Grace I didn't expect to cry but thanks to Megan Mullally's performance, I actually did. We're so used to seeing Mullally excel as loud, brash, and often insensitive Karen that to watch her completely nuanced performance was stunning. For the majority of the episode, Will and Jack try to fix Karen and get her to accept the loss of Rosario. Karen is, understandably, coldly resistant to their attempts to cheer her up and get her to acknowledge her grief. In a really moving scene though, Will is the only one to break through to Karen. Instead of trying to fix her with words or platitudes, he simply stands behind her and hugs her, not saying anything. He allows her the choice — she can stay where she is or she can say goodbye to Rosario. It's up to her, and he won't push her in either direction.

Ultimately, Karen visits the church alone and gives a really moving goodbye speech to her best friend and former maid. Karen grieved in the way she needed to, not in the way everyone else wanted her to. And ultimately, it's really fitting for her — she needed the privacy to mourn without everyone else judging her or expecting a certain reaction from her. Mullally absolutely slayed that goodbye scene, and it was equal parts moving and heartbreaking. Only Megan Mullally would be able to take a character who is so incredibly bold and convey how humbly human we all are when we face the loss of someone we love.

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Bonus MVP #2: Josh Groban as himself (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend)

Don't watch this week's incredibly meta — and brilliant — number "End of the Movie" until you've caught up on the show itself. Once you do, you'll be able to appreciate how incredible and timely the song is. ... And you'll also understand why I've had Josh Groban singing his line, "Like me, Josh Grobaaaaaaan" stuck in my head all weekend. Even though he's literally only in the show for a few minutes, somehow Josh Groban made the scene he was in both hilarious and poignant. Anything crooned by him is gold, but this song is one of my favorites of the whole series now. Kudos to you, Josh Groban, for being so great.


Mer’s MVP: Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven (Stranger Things)

Why she’s the MVP:

WARNING: Spoilers for season two of Stranger Things ahead. Read at your own risk!

Anyone who has watched Stranger Things knows that Eleven is really the heart of the show. She has a mysterious connection to the Upside Down and the Demagorgan which makes her both heroic and dangerous. In addition to that, her tragic past and upbringing make for an always emotional storyline. Eleven is equally naive and innocent, powerful and aggressive, lonely and vulnerable, and underneath it all just a pre-teen girl who wants somewhere to call home. Mastering a character that multifaceted and layered would be a challenge for any actor, let alone one as young and new to the scene as Brown. And yet, master it she does.

There were multiple times throughout watching this season that I cried, I am not ashamed to admit. And the vast majority of those moments were because of Brown’s performance as Eleven. Her scenes with Harbour’s Jim Hopper were some of the most emotional of the entire series, and her standalone episode was one of my favorites (I know this is a somewhat unpopular opinion, but I was really invested in Eleven’s independent story, even as I was desperate for her to reconnect with her friends.)

Over the course of the season, Millie-as-Eleven broke my heart, terrified me, made me angry, and made me proud. With most characters, you either love them, hate them, or love to hate them. Thanks to Brown’s brilliant performance, that’s not true with Eleven. She elicits so many emotions from the viewer that my thoughts and feelings about her changed with the episode — maybe even the scene. Millie Bobby Brown took one of the most unrealistic aspects of the show — a young girl ripped from her mother’s arms and raised with no identity to become a telekinetic government weapon — and used raw vulnerability and quiet emotion to make her one of the most relatable characters. Everything Eleven does is believable, from wiping another girl off a skateboard out of jealousy, to saving the entire gang from demadogs, to dressing up for a school dance. All of these different acts feel true to her character, and that is solely due to the absolutely perfect performance by Millie Bobby Brown. She is the true MVP of Stranger Things.

Who was YOUR TV MVP this week? Sound off in the comments below!


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