We don’t all agree on everything, but I feel it’s safe to assume that the majority of us in this community of writers are under the rightful belief that this has been a stupendous year for performances. Especially where limited series are concerned. Vulnerability isn’t an easy emotion to master when acting, but the people who’ve excelled this year mastered it with impeccable and inimitable nuances. Some of these names are familiar ones, but a large majority of the performers in this category are new faces to Marvelous Geeks. Their performances have stood out beautifully throughout the year making my absolute honor to write about them.
1. Phoebe Waller-Bridge
I’ll be frank, I didn’t see the appeal in Fleabag while watching the first season, but the moment season two began, I was floored and ready to give every single award to Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Waller-Bridge is simply put, a mastermind — the brilliant meticulous decisions in her performances throughout the year have been strikingly moving and filled with flawless range. We see prodigious growth in Fleabag throughout the season, while Waller-Bridge ensures that her charm is stapled inflexibly and rightfully in every corner. The work she does in “Episode Four” alone is unparalleled and should stand as the very example of what it means to find the balance between comedy and drama. In Fleabag’s ways of breaking the fourth wall, Waller-Bridge enlightens viewers with brilliant ease that connects us further to the unbelievably relatable chaos inside her mind. It’s in her eccentric mannerisms and potent transparency that make her such a vulnerable character we’ve all found ways to connect to. Fleabag isn’t perfect, but Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s performances surely are and her expressive features deserve a category on their own, for the breakdown of every compelling look could result in a full length novel. Waller-Bridge leads the audience towards captivating profundities and astonishing pinnacles throughout the course of six episodes, which alone deserves continuous praise for its exclusivity in the world of television.
A character is only as good as the actor/actress who breathes life into them. The actor or actress who puts their blood, sweat, and tears into ensuring that we’re able to understand the deeper nuances, which make the character special. And these 10 performers weren’t difficult to single out this year as they made each of their characters unbelievably relatable, complex, and beautifully evocative.
(A special PSA, you will not see any performers, specifically Elizabeth Moss from The Handmaid’s Tale on this list because while I thought she was unbelievable, and definitely one of the strongest of the year, I couldn’t finish the show to properly write for it. And it’s because of the groundbreaking performances on that show that makes The Handmaid’s Tale too difficult for me personally to stomach. It makes it too real.) But do not fret, Heather over at TV Examined had a lot of amazing things to say.
Also, be sure to check out our Series of the Year | Stranger Things article, as the number one performances, characters, relationships, and moments are all featured there. Essentially, they deserved their own special tribute.
25 Inimitable Men 13/25
Randall Pearson (This is Us)
Randall Pearson is one out of the three characters featured on this list that are from their freshman year, and if that alone doesn’t showcase how inimitable they are then I don’t know what will. Randall Pearson is as close to perfect as it gets — his wife Beth even agrees. If you look up the definition of loyalty, you’ll find his name underneath as the shining example. This is Us is setting the bar ridiculously high for cable television, and with a character like Randall taking center stage to reveal a number of cataclysmic human emotions all wrapped up inside a man with a compulsive need to be perfect, you can’t go wrong.. A man whose vice is his goodness — his integrity, his drive, his kindness.
Big Three Moments of the Week
Death is singlehandedly the most tragic part of life that leaves us with a pain we can never truly heal from. And no matter how expected the death is, it doesn’t make it any easier. It’s the one hardship that has the effortless power to affect everyone. It’s a time in life where we forget about all the heartache in our hearts, the anger towards people, and look at life for all that it really is — short. We knew William’s death was coming, and we knew it’d leave a mark in our hearts, but This is Us delivered one of the most poignantly potent TV episodes of the year. It has delivered raw, heartrending emotions so evocatively; critics everywhere are calling it the saddest episode to date. And while death leaves a heartache nothing can cure, the memories we make leave us with a sense of gratification nothing else can induce.
We took a different turn with flashbacks in “Memphis”, and it allowed the audience to understand just how and why William turned to drugs for comfort. And the contrast between who he was before his mother died side by side with who he was as he died looking up at his son was breathtaking.
“Jack Pearson’s Son” | This is Us
Sterling K. Brown
Big Three Moments of the Week
This is Us continues to outshine everything and make us ugly cry more than once. After last week’s episode, it’s nice to cry again, and while that’s strange to say, with this show, tears seem to be the best sign. “Jack Pearson’s Son” encapsulated some of life’s toughest battles so effortlessly into one hour, it almost feels like it was longer. And that is quality television, world. “Jack Pearson’s Son” took its viewers down dark, hasty, unwinding roads showcasing the horrors of stress and the pangs of miscommunication. Concurrently exhibiting the significance of kindness and choice. I say this every week, but a large part of this show’s gift comes from its realistically written characters — no one on this show is perfect, and things get as ugly as possible. And sometimes, unless the show’s on cable, writers shy away from going too deep, but thus far, that’s never been the case with This is Us.
We’re fairly certain that we can all agree in the words of Brooklyn Nine Nine’s Captain Raymond Holt that “everything is garbage.” While 2016 may have been an incredibly sad year, it has without a doubt been the best in television. Honestly, it’s difficult to recall the last time we’ve had such a hard time culminating our choices. And that said, performers are the heart of a series. Without them, the characters we cherish and adore wouldn’t be as extraordinary. They wouldn’t resonate with us in the seemingly effortless ways they do. Without their meticulously crafted performances we wouldn’t feel a single thing. Without further ado, it is these 16 performers that have made 2016 indescribable.
And if you haven’t already, check out the first part of our Year-End Reviews as we pay tribute to Sundance’s Rectify.
Before we begin discussing our favorites, be sure to check out the incredible work Nerdy Girl Notes and TVExamined have already done and will continue to do within the next few days.