Performer of the Week: Thandie Newton

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THE PERFORMER | Thandie Newton

THE SHOW | Westworld

THE EPISODE | “Trompe L’Oeil” (Nov. 13, 2016)

THE PERFORMANCE | Honestly, this honor is long overdue. Newton’s performance as robot brothel madam Maeve on HBO’s sci-fi fantasy series has been a revelation each week, as Maeve pulls herself out of her carefully prescribed narrative “loop” and slowly becomes more self-aware. This week, though, Newton took the role to a haunting new level.

Newton imbued Maeve with a spark of intelligence as she tested her newfound boundaries in the saloon, along with those of fellow hooker Clementine’s. She was stricken with a visceral fear and guilt as Maeve silently watched Clementine get her mind erased yet again in the robot lab. And she was positively chilling as Maeve calmly confronted lab workers Felix and Sylvester and informed them she was planning to escape the park… and they were going to help her.

“At first, I thought you and the others were gods,” Maeve told them. “Then I realized you’re just men… and I know men.” She then taunted them, “You think I’m scared of death? I’ve done it a million times. I’m f—king great at it.” Finally, she turned to the terrified human lab workers and asked, “How many times have you died?” It was a masterful sequence, driven by Newton’s fiercely courageous performance. Acting? She’s f—king great at it.

This Is Us
This Is Us

HONORABLE MENTION | It’s a crowded cast on NBC’s This Is Us, so it’s understandable that Susan Kelechi Watson hasn’t had a ton of screen time as Randall’s wife Beth. But in this week’s episode, “The Best Washing Machine in the Whole World,” she took the spotlight and ran with it. Watson was downright hilarious as Beth and Randall’s birth father William giggled and bonded over a pan of pot-laced brownies. But when Beth discovered that Randall’s adopted mother Rebecca was in contact with William and never told Randall, the pain that flashed on Watson’s face cut deep. Sterling K. Brown already took home an Emmy this year, but his onscreen wife is every bit his equal.

unnamed-2
unnamed-2

HONORABLE MENTION | If coming out, like grief, has stages, Supergirl‘s Chyler Leigh masterfully walked us through them as Alex achieved clarity about her sexual identity. First, she was all tension and hesitation, as Alex revealed to Kara that she has “those feelings” for Maggie Sawyer. “And if I’m being honest, maybe I’ve had thoughts like this before,” she said, reflecting on the past. Leigh then shattered our heart when Alex saw Kara as being unsupportive, declaring through tears, “I don’t know if I can do this without you.” Confirming her sister’s approval, Alex launched into a warm, shiny tribute to Maggie’s “beautiful” qualities — only to eventually get FriendZoned by the lesbian cop. There, Leigh had us feeling the gut punch of a first crush crushed, especially when she shared with Kara her sense of humiliation. It was all we could do not to reach through the TV and assure her, “It gets better.”

Kate McKinnon
Kate McKinnon

HONORABLE MENTION | Beautiful. Haunting. Poignant. Rarely are any of these words used to describe a memorable moment on Saturday Night Live, yet they’re the only ones that come to mind when we look back at Kate McKinnon (as Hillary Clinton) performing the late Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” during this week’s cold open, before offering a promise to America: “I’m not giving up, and neither should you.” Not only were McKinnon’s vocals on point (who knew?), but the solemnity and simplicity of the performance were exactly what many frustrated viewers needed after suffering through the most discouraging, stressful week of an endlessly discouraging, stressful election cycle. SNL has been one of the loudest, most consistent voices leading up to the presidential election — and never was that voice put to better use.

Which performances knocked your socks off this week? Hit the comments!

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