THE PERFORMER | Jeremy Allen White
THE SHOW | Hulu’s The Bear
THE EPISODE | “Braciole” (June 23, 2022)
THE PERFORMANCE | As the talented but troubled chef at the center of Hulu’s frenetically paced restaurant drama, the Shameless vet cooked up a fascinating lead performance: a little salty and a little spicy, with lots of interesting flavors and textures layered in. In the poignant season finale — that we’re really hoping isn’t a series finale — White dug deep into what really makes his character Carmy tick and blew us away with a mesmerizing monologue that was part scathing confessional, part much-needed pep talk.
White played with different tones throughout the finale, like when Carmy plastered on a fake grin for a dream sequence where he hosted an upbeat TV cooking show, smiling and laughing as he dredged up the gory details of his “dysfunctional nightmare of a household.” But the true centerpiece was that monologue: a full seven minutes of Carmy laying his soul bare to his Al-Anon support group, spilling out his memories of his drug-addicted brother Michael, who had recently died by suicide. Michael’s rejection motivated Carmy to become a world-class chef, but he never got the approval he was seeking from him, and White recounted all of this with a mix of pride and pain, furrowing his brow and staring off into space to artfully convey Carmy’s wildly conflicted feelings. It was a slow burn of a scene, with only White’s face and voice to tell the story, but he made it absolutely riveting.
Freshly unburdened, Carmy was able to find the strength to get back to work revitalizing his family’s humble sandwich shop, with White having a few quiet personal moments before snapping back into frantic lunch-rush mode. (His emotional reaction to reading Michael’s final letter to him was a marvel of restraint, too.) It’s not officially renewed yet, but we can’t wait to see what The Bear serves up next, thanks to White’s deliciously complex and soulful work.
HONORABLE MENTION | The Orville‘s Topa storyline is an innately delicate one, revisiting as it does Klyden’s court-supported decision to have his and Bortus’ female child gender-reassigned at birth, in keeping with Moclan norms. Imani Pullum‘s debut this week as adolescent Topa is all the more impressive when you consider that she was so heavily featured in the sci-fi drama’s longest episode to date, and opposite strong work by Adrianne Palicki, Peter Macon and Chad Coleman. As Topa opened up to Kelly about harboring feelings of sadness and uncertain identity, Pullum immediately drew us into the child’s conflict — never more so than when Topa asked Isaac about his suicide attempt. On the flip side, once Topa’s birth gender was surgically restored, Pullum with that first, wordless look in the mirror, as her character saw her true self, had your heart cheering — as the young Moclan’s surely was.
HONORABLE MENTION | Never before in The Flash‘s eight-season run did Barry Allen have cause to be more distraught, than when he was led to accidentally kill his own wife with a lightning throw. So it was important that Grant Gustin made us feel every bit of that torment — and boy, did he. Yes, he started off by displaying tempered anger, accompanied by mournful tears. But when Reverse-Flash — newly reborn by Iris’ tragic death — taunted Bar about his wife’s life finally meaning “something,” Gustin exploded with the vengeful, fiery fury we needed to see, nearly frying his foe to a crisp. As the rest of the finale unspooled, Gustin communicated Barry’s determination to defeat the Negative Forces’ singular new avatar, but also his openness to sage guidance from Iris upon her return, ultimately demonstrating the unbeatable power of quiet resolve.
HONORABLE MENTION | Millie Bobby Brown so thoroughly inhabits the role of Stranger Things’ Eleven that we often forget we’re watching someone act. But there could be no overlooking her performance in Season 4’s penultimate episode. In El’s big confrontation with… Well, we won’t say, for those of you still bingeing. But in that emotional showdown, Brown unleashed a pain and fury that was every bit as impressive as her character’s powers. Later, when “Jane” was offered a chance to rewrite history, in a manner of speaking, Brown beautifully, wordlessly played the emotions that were roiling inside of her alter ego. The scene was complex, deep and tricky to navigate, especially without any dialogue on her part. Yet Brown led us through it as surely as a lantern through a dark, dark night.
Which performance(s) knocked your socks off this week? Tell us in Comments!