THE ARTIST | Natasha Lyonne
THE SHOW | peacock Poker face
THE EPISODE | “The Hook” (March 9, 2023)
THE PERFORMANCE | Watching amateur sleuth Charlie Cale use his polygraph skills to solve murders was a treat all season long on the Peacock comeback mystery, thanks to Lyonne’s hilariously raucous performance. But she outdid herself in this week’s season finale as Charlie dropped her own poker face a bit, allowing us to get a sense of what really makes her tick.
The finale offered plenty of opportunities for Lyonne to make us laugh, from Charlie accompanying a wild bachelorette party to having to endure Cliff’s very earnest recitation of “Hook” from Blues Traveler. (He really is the worst.) But Lyonne also displayed steely intensity as Charlie confronted Cliff, her eyes filled with emotion as she considered shooting the guy, and later stood face to face with the intimidating casino boss Sterling Frost Sr. ., never giving a thumbs up. The episode also gave our first good look at Charlie’s backstory, introducing us to his sister Emily, played by Clea DuVall, and Lyonne highlighted Charlie’s emotional bruises as the two sisters bickered and ripped old family grudges. The stress of living on the run for a year crept into Lyonne’s voice as Charlie asked his sister, “Do you think I like living like this?” (THE Poker face the writers still keep their cards close to their chests regarding Charlie’s past, but Lyonne manages to fill in the blanks beautifully with just a few words and a look.)
In the end, Charlie caught the bad guy, of course – using an, uh, unusual ring to subdue Cliff – and went on the run again, this time with another casino boss swearing to find her. (And we can’t wait to see Lyonne tangle with Rhea Perlman in Season 2.) But for now, let’s enjoy what Lyonne gave us this season: an instantly memorable TV character with an endless supply of sassy one-liners. and some hidden depths yet to be explored.
Scroll down to see who scored honorable mentions this week…
HONORABLE MENTION: Whitney Cummings
If you had told us… well, Never…that comedian Whitney Cummings would deliver one of the most compelling performances of any given week, we would have raised an eyebrow. But in the latest episode of the Fox anthology Accused, Cummings delighted us from start to finish. In “Brenda’s Story,” Cummings played a comedienne (with quite a different style to hers, mind you) who was violated by a successful relationship between peers and pasts. In the aftermath, a shocked Brenda struggled to figure out what to do next, juggling advice from a temperamental prosecutor, a compromised comedy club owner (played by Rhea Perlman), a longtime friend (Grace and Frankie‘s Baron Vaughn) and a new acquaintance (24by Mary Lyn Rajskub). Adding layers to Cummings’ heartbreaking performance is the fact that Brenda is, frankly, a mess, an admitted drunk with a reputation for self-sabotage. All told, Cummings’ dramatic turn was no joke, but he unexpectedly killed nonetheless.
HONORABLE MENTION: JB Smoove and Nick Kroll
History of the world, part II, Hulu’s four “night” sequel to Mel Brooks’ 1981 cinematic comedy, was of scattered quality, of course. Lots of singles and doubles, few circuits. But in the sketch series called “Curb Your Judaism,” JB Smoove and Nick Kroll, as apostles Luke and Judas, served up a far more satisfying meal of laughter than the Last Supper they had just attended. (As Judas scoffed, “More like a final snack, right?”) Successfully adopting the rhythms of Calm your enthusiasm (which Smoove knows only too well), the duo had a lot of fun with observational humor about Jesus’ obsession with foot washing, St. Peter’s solo show (no free tickets, really ?), the curiously No-kosher food which Jesus then mocked (“As a Jew, I am livid! I will fall over! ”) and, relatedly, the creaking process involved in foreskin regrowth. As stated in TV Questions, someone is ordering Limit your Judaism to the series now.
HONORABLE MENTION: Jessica Williams
An art exhibit for ex-husband Nico brought out the worst in Contraction‘s Gaby, but the best of her interpreter Jessica Williams. The actress let Gaby’s unease show through the generally cool and collected exterior of the therapist under the scrutinizing eyes of Nico’s friends. After Gaby and her ex finally had a heart-to-heart, Williams’ expressions were tinged with nostalgia for the past, then anger at how Nico was coping without her. Williams capped off her performance with a moment of comedic tour de force when Gaby exclaimed so loudly and determinedly that a nude painting of Nico’s current girlfriend was actually of her that she had to be dragged by his friend. If Williams is this hilarious and entertaining during a meltdown, then Gaby should lose him more often.
Which performance(s) hit your socks this week? Tell us in the comments!