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Performer of the Week: Elisabeth Moss

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Performer of the Week: Elisabeth Moss

THE PERFORMER | Elisabeth Moss

THE SHOW | The Handmaid’s Tale

THE EPISODE | “The Crossing“ (April 27, 2021)

THE PERFORMANCE | Just when we think we’ve seen June Osborne’s rock bottom, the Hulu drama shows us just how much more horrible things can get. That said: How great was Moss in the very harrowing Episode 3?

Let’s put aside, for a moment, the fact that the stunning hour also was her directorial debut — a well-executed task on its own. But we can’t stop thinking about Moss’ performance, particularly in the scenes in which June dines with Commander Lawrence and then is tossed into a room with her daughter, Hannah, who has been kept from her for years.

Opposite Bradley Whitford’s Lawrence, Moss made June defiant and angry, unwilling to give up the location of the fugitive handmaids, no matter the cost. She peered at him from the end of a long table, eviscerating him with June’s baleful gaze. Long before June told her former commander exactly what he could do to himself, her body language communicated her complete lack of desire to help the investigation: It was as if all of her hatred for Gilead was a focused laser beam, trained solely on him.

So when June was taken unexpectedly to see Hannah, the shock of realizing that her daughter was afraid of her gave Moss the opportunity to play a sudden sea change in her character. In a word: devastating. The Emmy winner took June from obstinate to obliterated, barely able to choke out a word or two between her tears. Moss gave herself over entirely to June’s desolation, and while we wished she hadn’t been brought to the point of confessing the handmaids’ location, Moss helped us understood every bit of why she did it.

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HONORABLE MENTION | As Erin McMenamin’s short-tempered dad Kenny, Patrick Murney has been a terrifying presence so far on HBO’s Mare of Easttown. But this week, that terrifying side gave way to wrenching grief as Kenny learned that his daughter was found dead. Murney thrashed about like a caged animal as a furious Kenny had to be restrained by the cops and unleashed a primal scream that doubled as an explanation: “That’s my daughter! That’s my daughter!” Once he calmed down, Murney spoke with a chilling precision as Kenny announced his certainty that Erin’s ex Dylan killed her. And he followed through on that certainty, with Murney tapping into a potent vein of vengeance as Kenny methodically hunted Dylan down and shot him in cold blood. An unforgivable act, maybe, but also an understandable one, thanks to the vivid depth and shading that Murney brought to Kenny’s sorrow.

HONORABLE MENTION | The penultimate episode of Shadow and Bone’s first season pulled the layers all the way back on Kirigan (played by Ben Barnes), revealing how the Darkling ended up creating the fold in the first place. Oscilating between flashbacks of the much younger Shadow Summoner fighting to protect the Grisha and the stone-faced, power hungry villain we know in present day, the hour saw Barnes tap into the different nuances of his tormented character and deliver.a real standout performance. Whether he’s serving up high volume rage or keeping it calm and sinister through pointed exchanges with Alina, Barnes excelled at capturing the spirit of the book character while adding his own natural charm. He understood the assignment and passed with flying colors.

HONORABLE MENTION | Mckenna Grace is 14 years old. We raise the point because, after the way she casually wrecked the Handmaid’s Tale audience with her portrayal of traumatized child bride Esther Keyes, it’s really easy to forget that she’s not much older. In the season premiere, Grace’s performance — in particular, her haunted retelling of Esther’s repeated rapes — made us ache. She balanced moments of preternatural gravitas with bursts of childlike acting-out (that scene with Janine at the meal, for instance), all underpinned by Esther’s nascent bloodlust for the men of Gilead. Such a complex character played by such an acting wunderkind — we’re looking forward to Esther’s eventual return.

Which performance(s) knocked your socks off this week? Tell us in Comments!

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