THE PERFORMER | Ramón Rodríguez
THE SHOW | ABC’s Will Trent
THE EPISODE | “It Was the 80s” (May 2, 2023)
THE PERFORMANCE | You don’t deliver a freshman season that earns a rare average grade of “A+” without having something really special going on. And for Will Trent, that added oomph came from a stellar cast led by Rodríguez.
Coming out of an episode that saw Will just begin to reel from the reveal that Amanda (Sonja Sohn) had known his late mother, Rodríguez in the season finale took that bombshell and ran with it, exploring a variety of emotions all stemming from Will’s recontextualized abandonment as a newborn.
Rodríguez’s standout work started early on in the hour, as Will tenderly regarded “the first picture I’ve ever seen of my mother.” Yet when Amanda tried to accompany the visual with anecdotes, Will barked, “No, we’re not doing that now!” — so hurt he was that it took Amanda 15 years to come forth with the name Lucy Morales.
Indeed, Rodríguez for most of the finale showed us that Will frankly didn’t know what to do with this new information. Take that gut-punch of a moment when, learning that Lucy had died during childbirth, Will suggested, “So technically I killed her.” Or when he angrily grilled the lead detective on Lucy’s decades-ago murder, for being “sloppy, lazy, dumb, or guilty!” Such intensity.
But then, in a much quieter and unexpected scene, Will whilst poring over Lucy’s case file felt, and we saw, his mother’s tender presence. “I have so many questions…,” he started. “Where were you from? What did you smell like? Did you have a name for me? … I hope I made you proud.”
The powerful hour then closed with two fantastic, yet tonally disparate, sequences.
You had Will informing slithery James Ulster that he was under arrest for the murders of a long list of people, namely “my mother, Lucy Morales.” But when James nearly offed himself with poison? “This is not how this ends!” roared Will, launching into CPR. “Breathe, asshole!”
That was followed by Evelyn (LisaGay Hamilton) informing Will that it was Amanda was the person who found him in a trash can after his birth, and who hoped, yet was legally unable, to make him her own son. This scene was all about Rodríguez’s reactions and facial expressions, as he came to regard steely Amanda in a new light — and then flagged her at the coffee machine to deliver the weightiest “Thank you.”
Scroll down to see who scored Honorable Mention shout-outs this week…
HONORABLE MENTION: Alex Borstein
Five seasons and two Emmys later, Alex Borstein still has a few tricks up her sleeve with regard to her portrayal of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel‘s foul-mouthed, supremely loyal manager Susie Myerson. Case in point: In this week’s stunningly inventive, riotously funny and profoundly poignant episode, much of which centered on Susie being a begrudging guest of honor at a circa-1990 Friars Club roast, Borstein was tasked with playing Susie through multiple decades amid some extreme emotional highs and lows. And there was nary a false note in her work. The actress’ brilliantly restrained, subtle reaction shots as her alter ego gamely weathered blow after blow at the roast were comedy gold. The explosion of anger Borstein-as-Susie unleashed toward Midge during their synagogue-set showdown was imbued with perfectly modulated cornered-rat desperation and regret. And, in the episode’s final moments, the look of tearful relief on Borstein’s face when Midge extended Susie that olive branch spoke volumes of the deep love she has for her best friend.
HONORABLE MENTION: Anthony Carrigan
Hoo boy… this was a rough week on Barry, with Sally and Gene facing painful life crises. But no one was put through the wringer more than our beloved goofball NoHo Hank, and Anthony Carrigan expertly stripped away the Chechen gangster’s silly façade to expose the cold calculations at his core. Hank murdered his new allies to realign with the Chechens, and Carrigan was horrifyingly precise as Hank explained to Cristobal exactly why their deaths were necessary. (Hank told Cristobal that when he talks about going legitimate, “you sound naïve,” and a chill ran down our spines.) But Carrigan did let Hank’s emotions show when Cristobal walked out on him, with Hank begging him to stay and then breaking into jagged sobs when he refused and Hank’s men had to take him out. It was devastating to see Hank go to the dark side like that, but Carrigan absolutely wowed us with his ability to turn a court jester into a malevolent prince.
HONORABLE MENTION: J. Smith-Cameron
“I am good at my job.” It was just six simple words, but J. Smith-Cameron infused them with such wounded pride and defiance this week, they took our breath away. As Succession‘s buttoned-up legal counsel Gerri, Smith-Cameron is usually the levelheaded voice of reason, doing her best to keep the Roys from shooting themselves in the foot, and she was ferocious as Gerri painstakingly laid out to Roman why firing studio executive Joy was a bad idea. A flailing Roman, though, decided he could just fire Gerri, too, and when he told her she wasn’t good at her job, that’s when Gerri quietly responded with those six words, with Smith-Cameron’s lip quivering with raw emotion. (The checkered history between Gerri and Roman also loomed large over this ugly spat.) Gerri is too professional to have a full-on meltdown at work, but with just that tiny lip quiver, Smith-Cameron revealed the deep well of feelings lying underneath her polished exterior.
Which performance(s) knocked your socks off this week? Tell us in Comments!
This story originally appeared on TVLine