Performer of the Week: Pedro Pascal
THE PERFORMER | Pedro Pascal
THE SHOW | HBO’s The Last of Us
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THE EPISODE | “Kin” (Feb. 19, 2023)
THE PERFORMANCE | The Last of Us executive producer Craig Mazin often talks about how people often lie to themselves not because they’re evil or manipulative, but because they can’t bear to face fundamental truths. Accordingly, this week’s episode of the HBO drama found Pascal’s Joel unable to fool himself any longer into thinking that he could keep Ellie safe on her journey to the Fireflies’ lab. That realization broke him — and set up Pascal for his most moving performance of the season so far.
We’re talking, of course, about that scene in the workshop. Earlier in the episode, Pascal played Joel as happy to find Tommy safe, territorial when he learned his brother was married and cuttingly mean when Tommy announced he was going to be a dad. Underlying it all was a fear that Pascal conveyed in Joel’s private moments of panic, his whole body seizing up as it grasped him hard.
Those roiling emotions came spilling out — messily, gorgeously — as Pascal had Joel fall to pieces while begging Tommy to take Ellie on the rest of her journey. As he haltingly ran through Joel’s litany of failures, Pascal made his voice breathy and small, full of tears just barely held back. We got the feeling that everything Joel had feared for months was coming to the fore, and Pascal played the monologue as though his usually reticent character was unable to stop talking once he’d started.
By the time Joel confessed to “failing in my sleep,” Pascal allowed himself to be consumed by Joel’s mounting despair. The character’s usual, gruff façade fell away as his breath hitched in sobs that he fought to control. As Joel pleaded with his brother to take Ellie the rest of the way on her journey, we marveled at the desperation carved into the pain on Pascal’s face. And we take back what we said about the scene being his best of the season: This was some of his finest work — ever.
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