THE PERFORMER | Jennifer Coolidge
THE SHOW | The White Lotus
THE EPISODE | “Arrivederci” (Dec. 11, 2022)
THE PERFORMANCE | Give us a moment: We’re mourning the loss of a legendary TV character this week. We were honestly stunned to see Mike White kill off Coolidge’s delightfully daffy socialite Tanya McQuoid in the Season 2 finale of HBO’s hit dramedy, just because she’s been the main attraction of the past two seasons. But at least Coolidge went out in style, giving Tanya a surprisingly resilient yet hopelessly inept swan song.
The finale found Tanya in serious peril as she pieced together enough clues to realize her new gay bestie Quentin was conspiring with her husband Greg to kill her and claim her vast fortune. We were impressed by Tanya’s detective skills, as Coolidge showed us a refreshingly strategic side to the normally clueless goofball. Her line readings were still gut-bustingly hilarious, though — “These gays! They’re trying to murder me!” will live on in meme heaven for all times — and we loved the sprinklings of physical comedy Coolidge added, too. (Tanya not-so-subtly sprinted away from her new gay friends to call for help… and then promptly dropped her phone over the side of the boat into the water.)
Coolidge even got to play action hero, with a sobbing Tanya grabbing a gun and shooting wildly, mowing down her would-be assailants in a hail of gunfire. But of course, she had to add a punchline, with Tanya asking a dying Quentin: “Is Greg having an affair?” (Ha!) Tanya met her end, though, when she slipped trying to exit the boat and drowned, which was actually a perfectly fitting fate for our ditzy Tanya. We hated to see her go, but Coolidge’s funny, fiery farewell performance gave her a very worthy send-off.
HONORABLE MENTION | Lizzy Caplan‘s Libby has been an entertaining and insightful narrator all season on Hulu’s Fleishman Is in Trouble, but Libby is in a bit of trouble herself, and Caplan was terrific this week as Libby’s own midlife crisis suddenly caught up with her. Libby relished a chance to reunite with her college pals, ignoring her husband Adam in the process, with Caplan displaying a stinging callousness. But really, Libby missed her old life and her freedom, which Caplan spilled out in a rambling, tear-choked monologue to Toby. She even got to play a younger Libby in flashbacks, harnessing the wide-eyed youthfulness that the older Libby is so desperate to recapture. Fleishman‘s conflicts are mostly quiet and internal, but Caplan let us know that inside these unfulfilled adults, serious emotional fireworks are popping off.
HONORABLE MENTION | The Cleaning Lady‘s sophomore finale was an emotionally arduous ordeal, namely for Martha Millan‘s Fiona. Across two harrowing hours, Millan communicated fear, resolve, uncertainty, resentment and about half a dozen more emotions as Fiona and Thony ran out of options, resulting in Fiona’s arrest and eventual deportation. The actress shone brightest, though, when a jailed Fiona spoke one-on-one with son Chris, imploring him not to follow her out of the country if she got deported. “Every sacrifice I’ve made, every lie I’ve told, every toilet I’ve cleaned — it was for you,” she told him, Millan’s voice breaking with urgency. Here’s hoping The Cleaning Lady returns for a third season, as does Fiona; we suspect Millan has much more glorious heartache in store for us.
HONORABLE MENTION | We had high expectations for FX’s Kindred, the first on-screen adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s celebrated novel, and star Mallori Johnson did not disappoint as the time-traveling heroine Dana. We were locked in within the first few seconds of Tuesday’s series premiere as Dana lay on the floor, processing the agonizing pain of having just been whipped and subsequently thrown back to the present. With virtually no dialogue, Johnson expertly conveyed the frantic desperation and growing frustration Dana felt in this jarring moment, owning the screen like a seasoned vet despite this being her first leading TV role. And as Dana was jerked through time in subsequent scenes, Johnson delivered a beautifully layered performance that would make Butler proud.
Which performance(s) knocked your socks off this week? Tell us in Comments!