THE PERFORMERS | Zazie Beetz
THE SHOW | Atlanta
THE EPISODE | “Tarrare” (May 19, 2022)
THE PERFORMANCE | If acting is the art of reinventing yourself, in a way, then Beetz put on the ultimate acting performance in the FX comedy’s Season 3 finale this week. She showed us a shockingly different side of Van as Earn’s normally soft-spoken ex took center stage for once, leading her friends on a wild Parisian adventure before coming clean and revealing the deep pain she’s been masking.
When Van’s friend Candice spotted her in a Paris bakery, she wasn’t even sure it was her — and we weren’t, either. Beetz completely transformed Van into a plucky French heroine, with a cute wig and heavy French accent, and it was refreshing to see her out having fun and making mischief. (Her playful dalliance with Alexander Skarsgard was a definite highlight.) Beetz boldly embraced Van’s new identity, peppering her performance with cheeky jokes… and surprising bursts of violence. (We’ll never look at a stale baguette the same way again.) As the surreal touches piled up — a dinner of pan-fried human hands? — Van was unflappable, and Beetz brought an effortless continental flair to her that was, how you say… “ooh la la”?
The mask began to fall off, though, when Candice asked Van about the daughter she left behind in Atlanta, and something snapped in Beetz, with Van violently smashing plates and crying hysterically. Later, Van went back to her old self — and dropped the accent — tearfully admitting to Candice that she’s felt “really off” lately and tried adopting a new identity to escape her unhappy life. It was an incredibly honest and vulnerable confession, one that was just as stunning as the silly French antics that preceded it. Beetz has always shined when Atlanta has given her the spotlight, and this week, she wowed us by taking on an entirely different persona to show us more of who Van really is.
HONORABLE MENTION | How does she do it? How does This Is Us standout Susan Kelechi Watson always get right to the heart of highly emotional scenes in the most natural, most affecting way possible? When Beth volunteered to go first and say her goodbye to a dying Rebecca in Tuesday’s episode, we knew it was going to be gutting. Still, we were blown away by how Kelechi allowed Beth’s admiration for her mother-in-law to soak right into every second of the brief scene. When you watch back, note how gracefully Watson navigates the nod to Beth’s own mother (“it’s complicated”) — a gorgeous moment that is emblematic of Watson’s work throughout the series’ run.
HONORABLE MENTION | If they gave out Emmys for Hollywood premiere speeches, we’d hand one right away to barry‘s Sally, with Sarah Goldberg delivering a loopy, giddy roller coaster of a monologue this week. Sally is finally achieving the fame she’s always craved — she wrote and stars in an acclaimed new TV show — and at her show’s premiere, Sally deviated from her prepared speech to freak out about its glowing Rotten Tomatoes score. (“A ninety f—king eight!”) After an uncomfortably long pause filled with gasped sobs, Goldberg’s eyes lit up as Sally breathlessly thanked everyone in her life, with the magnitude of her success finally dawning on her. The orchestra eventually had to play her off (“I didn’t think they did that at premieres!”), but we would’ve kept listening, if only to savor more of Goldberg’s wildly chaotic and hilarious work.
HONORABLE MENTIONS | Jon Bernthal has exuded swagger in a number of his small-screen portrayals from the Walking Dead to The Punisher. What differentiates his turn in HBO and David Simon’s limited series We Own This City, which tracks the real-life corruption behind Baltimore’s Gun Trace Task Force, is his character Sgt. Wayne Jenkins’ fascinating blend of smug indifference and deep-seated neediness. The portrayer’s strut and snarl-packed posturing ramped up in this week’s Episode 4, as viewers saw Jenkins become greedier and more depraved while robbing drug dealers, looters and little people strippers alike. Nothing punctuated Jenkins’ thirst for money, power and respect more than the chilling Baltimorese speech Bernthal delivered by episode’s end, in which he told the top cop’s subordinates that they were not only the law, but they were far above it.
HONORABLE MENTION | Jinkx Monsoon gave “good Judy” a whole new meaning in the second episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, delivering one of the greatest performances in Snatch Game herstory. Fully done up as Judy Garland’s character from Meet Me in St.Louis, Jinkx crafted a masterful impression of the Hollywood icon, mixing in her own brand of side-splitting humor just to keep things at peak weird. That anecdote about Garland’s wild night with Frank Sinatra? Unhinged! Her Judy-fied performance of RuPaul’s “Don’t Be Jealous of My Boogie”? Inspired! But what really took Jinx’s performance over the rainbow was her brilliant callback to Dave, the war veteran who appeared in Drag Race Season 5 and claimed to have inadvertently caused Garland’s death. Her sincere message of forgiveness was as hysterical as it was impressive.
Which performance(s) knocked your socks off this week? Tell us in Comments!