Dan Bucatinsky – YOLO
Dan Bucatinsky won an Emmy for his work on Scandal’s second season, but this episode, from the third season, is easily the best work he’s ever done on the show. Too many spoilers to explain why, but he has a chance in this episode to take his character in a new, darker direction and he does it with real relish. Wickedly sharp work.
Andrew Buchan – Broadchurch: Episode 1.4
As the grieving father of a young murder victim, Buchan did consistently great work on Broadchurch, emotionally raw, but ambiguous. This episode allowed him a jaw-dropping scene where all the bottled-up rage behind that ambiguous expression explodes.
Andrew Buchan – Broadchurch: Episode 1.5
If episode 4 gave Buchan the chance to drop the façade and wear his emotions on his sleeve, Episode 5 gives him the chance to do some of his most conflicted work. It’s a nuanced performance, filled with uncertainty; his final scene in the episode is brilliant.
Tony Goldwyn – Scandal: Snake in the Garden
Goldwyn is solid, if pretty typically unremarkable on Scandal, as the philandering President, but this episode has a scene in it that stands up as the best acting Goldwyn’s ever done; not just on Scandal, but in his entire career. It’s a scene where he finally shuts up and listens; the often bellowing Fitz is silent, but his face says everything there is to say.
Jeff Perry – Scandal: Any Questions?
Perry is one of Scandal’s MVPs; as the harried Chief of Staff, he always seems right on the edge of collapsing from exhaustion, bursting into tears or exploding in rage. This episode is racing us toward the season finale, but Perry makes time among all the big events and twists to deliver some of his finer moments. An opening rant says everything I’ve been dying for someone to say and later we see him fade into a pure chill of mercilessness. Perry is always brilliant; on this episode he’s more.
Jeff Perry – Scandal: Top of the Hour
Perry has a relatively minor role in Top of the Hour, thanks to a really great Case of the Week that eats up a lot of the episode’s time, but he’s on this list for basically one scene, a brutally intense face-off with Bellamy Young. It’s Perry at his best.
David Tennant – Broadchurch: Episode 1.1
As troubled police detective Alec Hardy, Tennant hits the ground running with the very first episode of Broadchurch. You expect the Broadchurch case to be the one that destroys him, but when he stumbles into the episode, disheveled, wild-eyed, unbelievably haggard, you know this is a man already destroyed.
David Tennant – Broadchurch: Episode 1.2
It’s another solid performance here from Tennant, but there’s a scene with erstwhile psychic Steve Connolly that allows Tennant to really show his control. It’s a seesaw of emotions and Tennant nails them all.
David Tennant – Broadchurch: Episode 1.7
Time is running out for Tennant’s character in this episode, in more ways than one, and Hardy is driven to act in increasingly erratic ways. Tennant handles his encroaching sickness perfectly.
Luke Wilson – Enlightened: Consider Helen
Luke Wilson was a constantly compelling and welcome presence on Enlightened as the ex-husband of Laura Dern’s main character, but it was ironically in a scene without Dern where he delivers his most vicious performance. The scene is with Diane Ladd, playing Dern’s mother, and while Wilson has managed to keep his character walking that fine line between reprehensible and sympathetic, this scene is his darkest of the season; the writing is sharp and painful and Wilson rises to the occasion.