THE PERFORMER | Bob Odenkirk
THE SHOW | Better Call Saul
THE EPISODE | “Saul Gone” (Aug. 15, 2022)
THE PERFORMANCE | Bob Odenkirk is no slouch. He didn’t just deliver a great performance in the series finale of AMC’s Breaking Bad prequel; he essentially delivered three great performances, saying goodbye to each of his three alter egos and cleansing Jimmy McGill’s soul with a magnificent courtroom monologue that might have been his finest work on the series.
As crooked Cinnabon manager Gene, Odenkirk was like a caged animal, desperately fleeing from the authorities and cursing himself once he got caught. But then a switch flipped, and Odenkirk shifted into Saul Goodman mode, smugly taunting the feds (and Hank’s widow Marie) while using his formidable legal skills to get his sentence whittled down to a mere seven years. When it came time for the climactic courtroom scene, though, Odenkirk was fully Jimmy McGill, finally coming clean about all of his misdeeds — even a few the authorities didn’t know about. Jimmy’s speech condemned him to a lifetime in prison, but as he spoke, he looked lighter, like a psychic weight was slowly being lifted off of his shoulders. (The subtle way Odenkirk’s voice wavered when talking about Howard and his brother Chuck just about broke us.)
We also swooned at Odenkirk’s final scene with costar Rhea Seehorn, with Jimmy and Kim sharing one more cigarette together and confirming that Better Call Saul was a love story after all, albeit quite a twisted one. Odenkirk had a thousand different emotional beats to play in the finale — from cruel to kind, from defiant to repentant — and he nailed them all, giving us a dazzling closing statement that more than did justice to an all-time great series.
THE PERFORMER | Tessa Thompson
THE SHOW | Westworld
THE EPISODE | “Que Será, Será” (Aug. 14, 2022)
THE PERFORMANCE | Thompson was an MVP of Westworld‘s redemption season, as Dolores-Hale treated people/hosts as the playthings they are. But a bored god can get careless, and Hale in the finale realized that her best laid plans went awry. Regardless of how you have felt about Hale, Thompson’s performance compelled you to sympathize, as she scrambled to salvage her vision.
“Make me stronger,” Hale cooly ordered the drones that tended to her after William put a bullet in her bean. But, “Leave my scars,” she demanded. “I want to remember my past.” And do not touch that face. “I want William to know it was me who killed him.”
Marching to the tower, Hale realized that William had made the humans “as insane as himself,” Thompson registering just the right amount of sadness in her eyes. “They’ll destroy everything in their path.” Hale scoffed at Bernard deigning to leave her a message, but after she pressed play and heard his words, Thompson made something so simple — stomping on the hologram of New York, to crack the floor and get at Dolores’ pearl beneath — seem downright cathartic.
Thompson’s scene opposite Angela Sarafyan’s Clementine was imbued with its own sadness, as Hale set the dutiful host free to “see what’s out there for me” — even if it meant getting hunted down in William’s violent game.
Capping Thompson’s dynamic outing was an inevitable face-off with Ed Harris’ William, at the dam. They traded ideologies, and bullets, until a pivotal moment where Hale, backed into a corner, bided time by reciting Bernard’s message — it was time for “a test,” run by [Dolores]. “If she chooses to. If I choose to give her a chance.” Reaching for the gun Bernard had presciently hidden, Hale declared, “And I do!” while gunning down William.
After Hale used Dolores’ pearl to set in motion said test (and save a small part of the world in the Sublime), Thompson in a beautiful, wordless sequence marched off to a craggy slope, where Hale crushed her own pearl to end her own life.
HONORABLE MENTION | Well, we have a new favorite Never Have I Ever couple… and it’s Paxton and Ben. When Episode 6 forced Darren Barnet and Jaren Lewison’s characters to spend way more time together than they ever have before, the result was a comedic windfall that played to both actors’ strengths. We got physical comedy, as Barnet bodily carried Lewison’s ailing alter ego to the hospital. We got cringe humor, as Ben was forced to endure the indignities of discussing the state of his bowels, with Lewison truly looking like he wanted to die. And then — the best part! — we got earnest discussion of feelings, with Barnet showing a vulnerability Paxton rarely reveals and Lewison shaving down Ben’s edge as the boys talked about what was truly important to them. Consider us ‘Baxton’ fans from here on in!
HONORABLE MENTION | It took the death of her grandmother for Reservation Dogs‘ Elora to finally break down. In “Mabel,” the young woman came face-to-face with her compounding grief, as the community gathered together to mourn. Actress Devery Jacobs delivered a cocktail of conflicting emotions as her character struggled to fulfill her role as a caregiver on the rez, while taking the space she needed to process. But we knew what else was on her mind — the trauma of finding her dead friend and sorrow from growing up motherless — and Jacobs expressed it all with poignant facial expressions and a fragility we felt through the screen. When Mabel (in spirit form) came to bid her granddaughter farewell, we watched Elora’s own spirit lift with just a few small tears and the slightest of smiles, the result of one bravura performance.
Which performance(s) knocked your socks off this week? Tell us in Comments!