Performer of the Week: Steve Carell

THE PERFORMER | Steve Carell

THE SHOW | Hulu’s The Patient

THE EPISODE | “Company” (Sept. 13, 2022)

THE PERFORMANCE | For many, Carell will always be Michael Scott from The Office — and it’s understandable, since that was one of TV’s all-time best comedic performances. But he’s been quietly venturing into drama in recent years, and his work on Hulu’s taut psychological thriller might just be his finest dramatic work yet. This week, he expertly balanced high anxiety and deep compassion as therapist Dr. Alan Strauss tried his best to keep his patient Sam from killing again.

Carell’s eyes were haunted as Alan recalled the horror of Sam dragging a fresh victim, still alive, into a locked room next to where he’s holding Alan captive. With a level voice and a tranquil demeanor, Alan was almost like a hostage negotiator, carefully talking an agitated Sam through his feelings and convincing him to spare his victim’s life for now. (He kept his cool even when a persistently beeping phone seriously ratcheted up the tension.) Alan also struck up a gentle conversation with the unseen victim through a locked door, attempting to soothe his frayed nerves, and Carell managed to make their talks riveting, even though he was the only person on screen. As the victim dictated a final note to his parents that simply said, “I love you,” Carell took a thoughtful pause, choking back tears as Alan replied: “I think that’s the main point.”

As Sam grew more determined to take his victim’s life, Alan grew more desperate, with Carell’s voice turning frantic and strained. But he succeeded in earning a reprieve, and Alan and the victim shared a poignant moment, singing John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” together. Four episodes in, The Patient has been highly compelling television — and that’s thanks in large part to Carell’s delicately crafted work.

HONORABLE MENTION | Oh, Eil Gold, how we missed thee. Alan Cumming made his anticipated return to the Good universe this week via The Good Fight and his comeback more than met our sky-high expectations. It helped that the legendary blowhard was no longer encumbered by broadcast TV’s prudish censors, thereby allowing Eli to become the worst version of himself — and allowing Cumming to fully embody the colorful role. But it wasn’t just the episode-opening F-bomb tirade and subsequent snarky asides (the Rahm Emanuel crack!) that Cumming nailed. He also gave us glimpses of Eli’s rarely seen humanity in scenes with daughter Marissa, particularly during their tense run-in near hour’s end that found him struggling to articulate the affection he clearly feels for her. And the best part: We get at least two more episodes of him!

HONORABLE MENTION | As music manager Earn, Atlanta‘s Donald Glover is usually a cool customer, unfazed by the surreal chaos swirling around him. That changed, though, in this week’s second episode, with Earn opening up during therapy. He recalled getting kicked out of college after being accused of breaking into another student’s dorm room — and also revealed he was abused as a child — and Glover showed more emotion in that scene than we’ve seen from him in four seasons, breaking down in long-pent-up sobs. Glover also had a frightening glint in his eye when we learned Earn had pulled an elaborate revenge prank on an airport employee who unfairly hassled him, adding another complex (and not entirely admirable) layer to Earn’s personality. Glover has always been the main creative force behind Atlanta‘s genius, and it’s nice to see him get a proper spotlight on screen as well.

HONORABLE MENTION | From go, Alan Tudyk voiced Harley Quinn‘s Clayface with a fluid, wavering timbre that was perfect for a being with so malleable a mouth. And given the character’s penchant for the dramatic — especially during this season’s A Hard Wayne’s Gonna Fall arc — that voice comically rises! and falls with every change in mood. Season 3’s finale was an especially noteworthy showcase for Tudyk, as Clayface struggled with his very complicated feelings about being feted for his performance in the aforementioned biopic.. albeit in the guise of Billy Bob Thornton. In both Thomas Wayne’s cinematic, overly dramatic death scene, followed by Clayface’s futile revealing of himself to the screening attendees, Tudyk had us in stitches, yet also feeling sorry for the unsung lug.

Which performance(s) knocked your socks off this week? Tell us in Comments!

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