THE PERFORMER | Joseph Quinn
THE SHOW | Stranger Things
THE EPISODE | “The Hellfire Club” (May 27, 2022)
THE PERFORMANCE | In a way, Hawkins High cheerleader Chrissy spoke for all of us when, in the Netflix hit’s Season 4 premiere, she told dope-dealing classmate Eddie, “You’re not what I thought you’d be like.” Our introduction to the character found his portrayer cranking up the charisma to 11 as the outrageous outsider held court with the Hellfire Club, relishing the spotlight in the cafeteria as he alternated between entertaining and intimidating his fellow students. So we thought at first exactly what Eddie wanted us to think: that he was a scary freak.
When the most senior of seniors was alone with Chrissy, however, Quinn scaled back the larger-than-life aspects of his alter ego, revealing that beneath his no-f-ks-to-give persona and heavy-metal hairdo lurked a bonafide softy who was equal parts funny and charming. In fact, so disarming was the sincere sweetness that Quinn brought forth that we started shipping Eddie and Chrissy. Yes, right there, on the spot – he was that cute with her.
Yet the actor had still more to show us in his first Stranger Things appearance. After Eddie presided over the climax of his Dungeons & Dragons campaign with the flashy showmanship of a circus ringleader, Quinn – in a scene we won’t describe here, lest we spoil it for pokey binge-watchers – took the teenager in short order from curious to concerned, then from panicked to so utterly horrified that he let out the kind of shriek that other shrieks hear and go, “Whoa.” All in all, Quinn’s debut was as auspicious as they come.
HONORABLE MENTION | Throughout the second episode of The Time Traveler’s Wife, star Theo James carried his character’s deep and lingering grief as Henry dealt with the loss of his mother at a young age. Because time travel draws him back to the tragic memory over and over, adult Henry never truly moved on, and the pain of that never-heeled wound was evident on James’ face through countless moments. The actor was especially moving in the final scene, when Henry and Clare listened to an audio recording of his mother answering a question from Clare that his future self delivered in the past. With ragged breaths and tears, James finally let the last of Henry’s walls down and showed us both the beauty and the pain of time travel.
HONORABLE MENTION | For six seasons of Better Call Saul, we’ve loved to hate Howard Hamlin, the slick lawyer played by Patrick Fabian. But now we can see that Fabian was quietly crafting a complex character underneath those immaculate suits. He was terrific in this week’s midseason finale, first getting comically flustered by Jimmy and Kim’s long con that made Howard look like a ranting and raving drug addict. (Fabian has underrated comedy chops, it should be noted.) But he really shined when Howard later confronted Jimmy and Kim about their little scheme, with Fabian letting the pain enter Howard’s voice as he wondered why they were so determined to ruin his life. The episode turned out to be Howard Hamlin’s swan song, unfortunately – but Fabian made sure he went out on a high note.
HONORABLE MENTION | Now here’s a first for us: recognizing a performance that was given years ago, yet not unveiled until this week. But we’re Ron Cephas Jones’ big scene in This Is Us‘ series finale was included, because it turned out to be one of the most memorable moments in the highly emotional hour. As a flashback harkened back to Season 1, Jones effortlessly conveyed wistful regret as William mused about the beautiful strangeness of being a grandparent: someone who loves a child so unconditionally, yet is only in that child’s life for a short while. Jones was infallibly great throughout the series’ run, but we were especially taken with how he was able to blend wonder, sadness and an abiding joy into just a few lines, captured seasons ago. The look on Jones’ face as William stared at his granddaughters? That’s something we’ll remember for years to come.
Which performance(s) knocked your socks off this week? Tell us in Comments!