Performer of the Week: Danai Gurira
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Performer of the Week: Danai Gurira

THE PERFORMANCE | The gauntlet of emotions that Gurira ran in the second episode of the Walking Dead spinoff left us exhausted on one hand (jeez, poor Michonne!) and, on the other, awestruck (what a tour de force!).

Over the course of the hour, the veteran of the OG series cued up and knocked out variations of her iconic character at her fiercest (as she slashed walkers and Civil Republic Military soldiers alike), her funniest (as she made new friends to whom we would have been wise not to get attached) and her most vulnerable (as she fought, breathlessly, to recover from the effects of a chorine-gas bombing by the CRM).

Through it all, Gurira, with a steeliness behind her eyes, conveyed without words what carried Michonne down this bumpiest of roads: her steadfast belief that, at the end of it, she would be reunited with lost love Rick. Only when she and traveling companion Nat reached Bridgers Terminal — and, seemingly, evidence that Judith and R.J.’s father really was dead — did her resolve falter.

First, as Michonne tried like hell to stay the course, Gurira deftly toed the line between conviction and madness. Then, when Nat helped his pal accept that she could go home to her kids and still hold on to hope, however faint, the actress let loose, sobbing from the inside out, as if she hadn’t just lost Rick all over again but a part of herself. (You can watch a little of the fraught scene above.)

Of course, all of that was but a precursor to the one-two punch of Nat’s demise and Michonne’s shock at discovering that among the soldiers who’d killed him was… Rick. In an instant, Gurira’s expression switched from one of rage to one of incomprehension. Her whole face contorted with feeling as Michonne realized that she wasn’t dreaming. This was real. He was real.

Shortly, our embattled protagonist would discover that reuniting with Rick was less the end of the journey than a turning point on it. But in that moment, she was left by the twist of fate the same thing that we were left by her portrayer’s hella-raw performance: astonished.

Scroll down to see who scored Honorable Mention shout-outs this week…

HONORABLE MENTION: Juliette Binoche

HONORABLE MENTION: Juliette Binoche
HONORABLE MENTION: Juliette Binoche

In The New Look Episode 6, Juliette Binoche delivers a tantrum for the ages. After being rejected from her business partner Pierre’s swanky party, Binoche’s Coco Chanel must dine among the plebeians — and her venomous chews of disgust can be heard over the hum of the nearby soirée. Binoche then quietly, but furiously, lays the foundation for her character’s impending explosion. First, she covers her face from other diners to feign superiority, then she snatches her wine glass from Pierre mid-pour and firmly plants it back down mid-gulp to prepare for a verbal spar. Later, at peak-tantrum, Binoche plays up Chanel’s childish entitlement while maintaining a layer of vulnerability despite lashing out like a girl telling her parents she hates them. And, like a child, Binoche’s exasperated pleas to Pierre make us wonder whether she means what she says or would take it all back for a hug. All in all, a cranky-girl masterclass from a revered Oscar winner. —Claire Franken

HONORABLE MENTION: Andie MacDowell

HONORABLE MENTION: Andie MacDowell
HONORABLE MENTION: Andie MacDowell

Andie MacDowell doesn’t need to do much to impress us on Hallmark Channel’s The Way Home. Even just watching her character Del meaningfully stare into the distance is riveting, thanks to the actress’ talents. In the latest episode, Del was confronted by memories of painful phone calls from when her son Jacob first went missing. In flashbacks, MacDowell’s layered performance was captivating, hopefulness giving way to heartbreak as the calls turned out to be dead ends. When Del confessed to her granddaughter that she never got rid of the landline so that Jacob had a way to call home, her face softly curled up in decades of heartache, underscoring the impact of her words without overwhelming them. While another performer may have completely broken down, someone of MacDowell’s caliber knows that, sometimes, less is more. —Vlada Gelman

HONORABLE MENTION: Edi Patterson

HONORABLE MENTION: Edi Patterson
HONORABLE MENTION: Edi Patterson

Resident Aliens Harry Vanderspeigle finally met his match when Edi Patterson‘s Heather flew into the picture. As a Blue Avian alien, Patterson kicked her quirky comedy into high gear, from her outburst of anger after realizing she was stuck on Earth, to her trembly physicality when the actress fully suited up as the owllike creature. Throughout the episode, she rivaled Alan Tudyk’s raucous, offbeat vocal ticks with ease, particularly while unleashing the weirdest guttural laugh we’ve ever heard and later, when fluently speaking Harry’s oddball language — an auditory experience so strange it bordered sheer gibberish. Watching Patterson go toe-to-toe with Tudyk (which included improv!) was so wildly entertaining that we couldn’t possibly imagine anyone else taking on the role. –Nick Caruso

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