THE PERFORMER | Aja Naomi King
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THE SHOW | Apple TV+’s Lessons in Chemistry
THE EPISODE | “Poirot” (Friday, Nov. 10)
THE PERFORMANCE | In an otherwise by-the-book adaptation of Bonnie Garmus’ 1950s-set novel, Lessons in Chemistry has completely reimagined Harriet Sloane. She was a minor character at first, but Aja Naomi King’s performance nudged Harriet toward significance until she emerged as a quiet heroine in Episode 6.
After Elizabeth called Harriet to brag about wearing pants on TV, King let out a breath, rolled her eyes and simply said, “Wow.” She stood completely still, clutching the receiver in one hand and dangling the telephone in the other. With just one word, she conveyed exhaustion, pain and disappointment in her friend.
But she always managed to project an undercurrent of love, even during frustrating moments. After Elizabeth admitted that she won’t be able to support Harriet at her protest, we saw King go through shock, betrayal and dismay in the time it took her to say, “Oh my god.” But then Harriet overcame her frustration, and she opened up to her friend. “It’s not about me,” she continued, and it didn’t for a moment seem like she was reciting some prepared speech. She felt these words. And we believe in this friendship, despite its improbability in the 1950s.
Then, at the protest, King became the scene’s anchor amid chaos and disorder. When Harriet stared into a police officer’s megaphone, keeping her gaze forward as protesters were assaulted all around her, everything slowed down. She grabbed Elizabeth’s arm, and it felt like she was grabbing ours. As she forced herself to sit still, struggling to keep a straight face, viewers might have found themselves within inches of the screen — King’s ability to foster emotional intimacy encourages physical closeness, too. Overall, her performance made us a little disappointed to return to Supper at Six.
Scroll down to see who scored Honorable Mention shout-outs…
HONORABLE MENTION: Brendan Fraser
Spoiler alert: If you haven’t watched the Doom Patrol series finale, turn back now.
Look, we’re not going to feign surprise that Brendan Fraser, who just this year became a literal Academy Award winner for his work in The Whale, delivered a powerful performance in the series finale of Max’s Doom Patrol. We will, however, remain consistently impressed by his ability to affect us so deeply with only his voice emanating from Cliff Steele’s robotic frame. The episode’s final shot of Cliff shutting down will haunt us for the foreseeable future, as will his devastating final line: “I made it home.” Apparently it only takes four simple words to break our collective heart into little tiny pieces, especially when spoken by Fraser.
HONORABLE MENTION: Tom Hiddleston
What a glorious showcase the Loki finale was for Tom Hiddleston‘s talents. Since 2011, Hiddleston has brought an unmatched balance of wryness and gravitas to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and he perfected that combination in the sophomore closer as Loki traded in his mischief for a purpose much more meaningful. In the episode’s first half, Hiddleston was utterly hilarious, bringing a rapid-fire, deadpan delivery to Loki’s endless attempts to save the temporal loom. And in the second half, he conveyed a teary-eyed tenderness in Loki, understanding with bittersweet clarity what he must do to preserve the Sacred Timeline for good. Over and over again, Hiddleston reminded us why, even at Loki’s most villainous, he’s remained one of the MCU’s all-time great characters; should this finale become Hiddleston’s last time in the role, we’re not sure there was a better way to go out.
HONORABLE MENTION: Madison Lintz
In Bosch: Legacy‘s season finale, Maddie was all up in her feelings following her father’s brush with death, teeing up Madison Lintz’s best performance across the franchise. Maddie was already emotionally stung after realizing her dad had kept secrets about the pipeline explosion. So when she took her first life — gunning down dirty cop Ellis to save her dad from certain death — she had a lot to say. “I’m f–king furious. With you. With Eleanor…,” Maddie erupted at her father, Lintz infusing every word with intensity. Off that mention of her mom, she added, “What would I do, if I lost you, too? Ever think about that?” Lintz was equally excellent in a silent sequence where Maddie shed proud tears at her mom’s FBI memorial, and then afterward, where she sweetly recounted for Chandler how her parents first met. Just wonderful stuff.
Which performance(s) knocked your socks off this week? Tell us in the comments!
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