THE PERFORMER | D’Arcy Carden
THE SHOW | The Good Place
THE EPISODE | “Janet(s)” (Dec. 6, 2018)
THE PERFORMANCE | What’s the only thing better than Carden’s sublimely silly performance as The Good Place‘s digital know-it-all Janet? How about six Janets?
This week’s episode put Carden through the acting wringer, with Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani and Jason all transforming into Janets after entering her void — and Carden playing all four parts. (Oh, and she also played original Janet, along with a deadpan Neutral Janet, so that’s a full half-dozen performances Carden gave us this week.) But this isn’t just a matter of quantity over quality: Carden masterfully mimicked her co-stars, from Tahani’s upper-crust snobbery to Jason’s dude-bro thickheadedness. It’s a credit to Carden’s precise attention to detail that we knew exactly which human she was playing… even when Eleanor Janet pretended to be Jason Janet in order to trick Chidi Janet. (It’s complicated, we know.) She had to deliver some major emotional moments, too, including the first real kiss between cosmic soulmates Eleanor and Chidi.
Network sitcom episodes run about 22 minutes long, and between all of her characters, Carden was on-screen for more than 40 minutes this week. She absolutely carried one of the most innovative and consequential episodes in Good Place history, and showed off a deft versatility in capturing the essence of her four co-stars. Carden has been an unsung comedy MVP since the show began, but let’s hope this week’s showcase finally brings her the accolades she deserves — because she’s just heavenly.
HONORABLE MENTION | In the first season of Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Marin Hinkle’s Rose mainly existed just to disapprove of her daughter Midge’s life choices (and fashion choices). But in the Season 2 premiere, Rose struck out on her own, and Hinkle robustly filled out the parts of Rose’s personality we hadn’t seen yet. Feeling unloved and useless, Rose impulsively moved to Paris to rediscover herself, and Hinkle lent her a boldly feminist vigor as she gleefully smoked harsh French cigarettes and fed her dog steak tartare. (Her French wasn’t half-bad, either.) Hinkle also hinted at all the hurt and regret that’s been building up inside Rose for years: When Midge told her mom she missed her, Rose poignantly replied, “I’ve missed me, too.” Yes, Rose eventually did come back to New York and her husband Abe… but we’ll always have Paris.
HONORABLE MENTION | Stepping back into a beloved character’s shoes after 18 years would prove a daunting task for most actors, but with Sunday’s premiere of Life-Size 2, Tyra Banks made the process feel smooth as butter — which just happens to be her character’s favorite food. (Living dolls aren’t exactly known for their refined palates, OK?) In fact, since Freeform’s long-awaited sequel finally took viewers into Eve’s realm, some of Banks’ funniest scenes found her acting opposite herself in delicious, ridiculous dual roles. The movie may have been an ensemble effort, but it was Banks’ boundless energy and impressive comedic timing that kept the nostalgia fest afloat. And if we said we didn’t download her remix of the classic Eve jam “Be a Star,” well, we’d be lying.
HONORABLE MENTION | Sam Elliott just about wrecked us as a father in mourning during Episode 2 of The Ranch‘s latest half-season. Beau Bennett tends to close himself off emotionally, but after he learned that — spoiler alert! — Rooster had died in a freak motorcycle accident, he was reduced to a puddle of tears. He openly wept in front of Joanne as he lamented that he never should have taken a 7-year-old Rooster on his first motorcycle ride. You then felt his anger build, with ever morsel of pain that coursed through his veins, as he concluded that there was nothing he could have done to prevent this tragic outcome. By the time he admitted to himself that Rooster was, in fact, gone, we found ourselves both devastated for Beau and mesmerized by Elliott’s ability to convey such unthinkable sorrow.
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