Performer of the Week: Luke Kirby

THE PERFORMER | Luke Kirby

THE SHOW | The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

THE EPISODE | “How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall?” (March 10, 2022)

THE PERFORMANCE | One can only imagine how much pressure Kirby felt after reading Amy Sherman-Palladino’s script for the Season 4 finale. Among the Herculean tasks put in front of the actor: Charm the literal pants (or, in this case, the “show corset”) off of the series’ titular heroine and provide a satisfying payoff to the couple’s four-season will-they-or-won’t-they dance in the process; pay homage to his late, real-life alter ego Lenny Bruce’s seminal 1961 performance at Carnegie Hall; and light a fire in Midge that puts her, presumably, on a path to superstardom ahead of the series’ fifth and final season.

After watching the standout hour, we can enthusiastically place a check mark in each of the three columns.

Let’s start with the sex. Midge and Lenny’s long-anticipated copulation proved well worth the wait, in large part due to Kirby masterfully blending good old-fashioned chivalry with raw, primal horniness. From the devastatingly sexy way he seduced Midge from across the room with just his eyes to his sheepish insistence that he “did not plan” their impromptu blizzard-induced rendezvous, Kirby’s Lenny alternated between sweet/playful and smoldering/seductive.

When Lenny paused, leaned in and informed Midge that she was “more important than God” — a nod to her recent, surprisingly weighty standup set about death and spirituality — Kirby delivered the cheeky line as if it were a breathtaking declaration of love. Which, of course, it was. And when he flashed his trademark devilish grin and innocently confessed, “Midge: I gotta see the show corset,” the Emmy winner put the most romantic of spins on what was essentially a shameless plea for coitus.

Later, when Lenny hit the stage at Carnegie Hall, Kirby confidently put on his “Lenny Bruce: Iconic Comedian” and delivered a rousing set (or at least the highlights of one) that felt both fresh and reverential. But it was the come-to-Jesus career talk Lenny had with Midge after the show that brought us to our feet. As he got deeper into his lecture, Kirby allowed us to see the vulnerability underneath his character’s frustration. “If you blow this, Midge,” Lenny bellowed through tears, “you will break my f–king heart.”

If Kirby’s final assignment was to shatter our tickers, it was another mission masterfully accomplished.

HONORABLE MENTION | Jamie Dornan‘s amnesiac alter ego, known simply as The Man, left viewers guessing throughout HBO Max’s six-episode mystery/thriller The Tourist, and the actor did a remarkable job threading the moral ambiguity needle every step of the way. That was especially the case in the finale, which found his titular antihero coming to grips with the horrifying realization that he was (or is?) a very bad Man. As one of his victims rattled off a laundry list of his characters’ most stomach-churning atrocities, Dorman’s eyes oozed denial and regret and shame, as he protested through tears, “No… no. This can’t be true.” The Once Upon a Time vet’s perfectly calibrated work in that scene capped off what was, all told, a career-best performance.

HONORABLE MENTION | This week’s This Is Us was a full-on masterclass given by Mandy Moore, and we were riveted. Moore as newly engaged Rebecca nervously preparing her first Thanksgiving meal? Flawless. Moore as elderly Rebecca softly, but firmly, laying out her wishes for her end-of-life care? Heartbreaking, but perfect. The Emmy nominee is so very good at changing Rebecca just enough to reflect the life that’s passed between timelines, yet keeping the core of the character exactly the same, no matter the era. The control Moore exhibited as Rebecca fought to hold it together in that meeting at the cabin was perhaps the actress’ most impressive turn during the hour. After all these seasons, maybe we should be used to it, but still, we marvel.

HONORABLE MENTION | The term “serious as a heart attack” was taken to the next level on Monday’s 9-1-1: Lone Star, and Brian Michael Smith was more than up to the challenge. Even with the dramatic foreshadowing of Paul’s near-fatal incident, Smith took us by complete surprise with the haunting authenticity of his performance. Heck, if Marjan didn’t kick down his door to rescue him, we were about to. Paul’s subsequent cocktail of fear, disbelief and anger upon having his pacemaker installed against his will was a doozy, and Smith mixed it perfectly. We never thought we’d look forward to a character’s pain, but if the rest of Paul’s current journey is as satisfying as what’s already come to pass, we’re all in.

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

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