Kate Burton – Scandal: YOLO
Burton is always a pleasure to watch on Scandal, and, well, also on every other TV show she pops up, in her recurring role as the scheming Vice President Sally Langston. This episode though kicked things up a significant notch; no spoilers, but when Burton croaks, “I have committed a sin” you believe it.
Laura Dern – Enlightened: Sandy
Dern is a delight on this short lived show as a woman who has returned from a therapeutic retreat filled with new hope, only to find her old world unchanged. On this episode, Dern encounters a woman she met on the retreat and it’s a complicated line Dern’s character has to walk; she wants to still love this woman, but can she? And worst of all, she feels threatened by this woman: has she implemented the life-changing lessons of the retreat better? It’s a nuanced, interior performance, but Dern is brilliant.
Laura Dern – Enlightened: The Weekend
In this episode, Dern attempts to reconnect with her ex-husband, a brilliant Luke Wilson, over a weekend canoeing trip down a river. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions and Dern captures them all: hope, optimism, disappointment, rage, despair, transcendence. Glorious.
Diane Ladd – Enlightened: Consider Helen
The show daringly breaks format to follow Diane Ladd in this episode of the show; as in real life, she’s Dern’s mother. She’s been compelling before on the show, but by letting us spend an average day with Ladd’s character, we get to inhabit her sorrow in a way that’s nothing short of devastating. Ladd’s work in this episode is perhaps the best work of her entire career.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Veep: The Choice
Louis-Dreyfus is a comic force of nature on Veep in most episodes but in The Choice she faces a very serious issue: abortion. As she frantically tries to find the perfect political opinion on the hot-button issue, she’s deliriously unhinged, genuinely inspired.
Kerry Washington – Scandal: No Sun on the Horizon
On the backside of Scandal’s third season, no less than forty episodes into the series, the always excellent Washington shows the viewer something new; it’s kind of astonishing that there’s something new in the character of Oliva Pope for Washington to find, but there’s an early scene in this episode where Washington reaches a level of literal hysteria that I honestly hadn’t seen before. Over thirty hours into a performance and she’s still finding new levels? That’s an actress worth her salt.
Kerry Washington – Scandal: White Hat’s Back On
The second season finale of Scandal was a great episode and, of course, no spoilers, but thematically it really put a cap on the season and Washington makes the journey of Olivia Pope over the nightmarish rollercoaster of season two come together perfectly.
Jodie Whittaker – Broadchurch: Episode 1.3
As the grieving mother of a young murder victim, Jodie Whittaker ran away with a lot of Broadchurch episodes. Her work in this episode is quite brilliant; the character has become her own and Whittaker invests her with a deep interior life. You’ll see the twist at the end of this episode coming, but then so did she and the final image of her in the episode is pitch perfect.
Jodie Whittaker – Broadchurch: Episode 1.6
There’s an astoundingly great scene in this episode in which Whittaker’s character meet with the mother of another murder victim; her performance in the scene is the stuff dreams are made of. She’s solicitious, wounded and afraid; she wants to care about the woman she’s talking to, but she’s also seeing her own future. Or is she? There’s some really atypical acting from Whittaker in this episode, toward the end of the episode. Great work.
Jodie Whittaker – Broadchurch: Episode 1.8
And finally. The last episode of the show; the killer is revealed. No spoilers. But it’s obviously an episode that’s going to give the murder victim’s mother plenty of space to be emotional and Whittaker nails every second she’s on screen.