13 Praiseworthy Performances from 2017

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There was quite a noticeable shift in television in 2017. 

The small screen was the new big screen and movie stars like Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Jessica Biel and Kristen Bell all rushed to secure their spot. 

It's unclear whether the A-list actresses made shows better or if the shows made them better but there was a lot of really great television.

As I sat down to pick my favorite 13 performances of the year, I thought about what that actually meant to me and to the loyal viewers. 

A memorable performance is one that makes you laugh, leaves you thinking, forces you to feel the trauma and sticks with you long after the season has ended. 

So without further ado, these were our favorite performances of the year along with our favorite supporting scenes. 

Feel free to share yours in the comment section! 

 

1. Kristen Bell - The Good Place

Kristen Bell - The Good Place
The Good Place has such an outstanding ensemble, every character is a joy to watch for their own reasons. Yet the glue that holds every extra-through-main character together is their fearless and unapologetically herself leader Eleanor Shellstrop. She may have been a hoot in season one but in season two, she cannot stop being "woke." She's full of wit, drive, and blunt one-liners. And better yet, she challenges Michael and the rest of the humans to strive to be their most authentic selves. And her authentic self is exactly what women in 2017, especially, needed on mainstream television.

Best Scene: Season 2 Episode 2 - Every single scene where she figures it out and declares, "This is the bad place." It's a line that wholeheartedly sums up 2017 for me.

2. Justin Hartley - This Is Us

Justin Hartley - This Is Us
Emotional and complex performance from Chrissy Metz and Sterling K. Brown earned them EMMY nominations, unsurprisingly, but mimicking the series' storyline, one sibling was notably left out: Kevin. That is until now. Justin Hartley's character had some serious storylines in season one but was mostly glossed over as eye-candy, which we're not necessarily complaining about. The problem is that he's always been capable of so much more and season 2 finally allowed us to understand the complexities and childhood trauma that plagued the firstborn. His emotionally charged storyline - the inability to grieve his father, feeling like a failure in both careers and the pill-popping addiction - allowed Hartley to dig deep and add depth to the role. Not to mention, it broke our hearts. He's damaged goods but his transition from "golden boy" to broken has been phenomenal to watch.

Best Scene: Season 2 Episode 8 Undoubtedly, his meltdown on the front lawn after Charlotte refuses to let him inside to find his father's necklace.

3. Kerry Washington - Scandal

Kerry Washington - Scandal
What happens when you get control of the White House and B6-13? You think you rule the world. For its final season, Scandal found Olivia Pope channeling her inner badass in a way we've never seen before. And without the white hat. While she's used to doing whatever it takes to get what she wants without the white hat Liv is ruthless, unapologetic, raw and fierce. That's what makes her character, one we've come to know and love, so striking. She commands because she is command; it's her world and we're just living in it. It can be over the top and frustrating but Kerry has found a way to balance Olivia and between those power-move moments, we see a glimmer of the woman who put friends, loyalty and Vermont above all.

Best Scene: Season 7 Episode 7 - When Papa Pope orders Liv to give his bones back and then threatens to kill Quinn. Liv finds herself morally conflicted because she wants to save her friend but doesn't want to be weak and give into what he wants.

4. Nicole Kidman - Big Little Lies

Nicole Kidman - Big Little Lies
Way before the outpour of sexual assault allegations against virtually every man in Hollywood, one TV show spoke up: Big Little Lies. Nicole Kidman's portrayal of a powerful businesswoman who found herself at the hands of an abusive husband was upsettingly real. Kidman brilliantly portrayed a woman so in denial of how dangerous her reality was, simply because she wanted to maintain the facade that it everything was perfect, that she kept it a secret from herself. Her emotional performances — every gasp, quiver, and plea — stuck with me for a long time after. If there is to be a second season (please let there be), I cannot wait to see how character development.

Best Scene: Season 1 Episode 7 - It doesn't just focus on Kidman, although there were a handful of scenes that she carried all on her own. The best scene featured all the strong females, many of whom were frenemies, banding together to defend each other and right one very tragic wrong.

5. Noah Schnapp - Stranger Things

Noah Schnapp - Stranger Things
We don't get to see much of Noah Schnapp's Will Byers in the first season of Stranger Things because well, he's stuck in the Upside Down where he spends most of his time being cold and wet. He became the Stranger kid no one remembered, even though the whole premise focused on him. Come season 2, Schnapp is the center of all the action as the "boy who llved." Sorry, Harry. Schnapp wasn't phased by the challenging job of teetering between the real world and the Upside Down where the otherworldly monster still had a grasp on him. It's almost scary how good he is at portraying the boy coddled by his mother at the same time as he's dishing out the iconic possessed child look. His performance elevated him above the other stranger kids, who are already a grade above other child actors. Kid, you've got some gnarly talent — I'd be lying if I said I didn't cover my eyes while watching.

Best Scene: Season 2 Episode 8 - When the Demogorgon is taking over his body in the hospital and Will's eyes start rolling back.

6. Portia Doubleday - Mr. Robot

Portia Doubleday - Mr. Robot
Portia's character Angela is a villain redefined. White Rose used her lifelong friendship with Elliot to manipulate her into doing something under the pretense that she was doing the right thing. She's been thrust her into this global hacker conspiracy and since her motives don't align with Elliot's, she's become manipulative for her own purposes. In some eyes that makes her a villain, in some, a human. Portia brings a realness to the character and brilliantly flops between a well put together businesswoman and a damaged little girl because of her emotional bind.

Best Scene: Season 3 Episode 5 - When she launches the attack instead of Elliot because she believes that this is her revenge against E-Corp.

7. Lana Parilla - Once Upon a Time

Lana Parilla - Once Upon a Time
When Once Upon a Time announced a reboot that excluded half of its core cast fans were up in arms. Parilla's Regina carried a lot of weight on her shoulders as one of the few returning original cast members. And she wasn't even playing Regina! Instead, she was taking on the role of Ron, a bar owner in the newly cursed town of Hyperion Heights. Yet, despite the curse, Parilla found a way for Roni to embody everything Regina stood for; her heart, her spunk, and her maternal instinct. It's a tall order to make a fandom believe in a new character played by the same actor but Roni never felt like much of a departure from her fairytale alter-ego nor did it feel forced. She swiftly maneuvered between Roni and the Evil Queen and heck, we even came to enjoy the biker tees.

Best Scene: Season 7 Episode 6 - When Drizella gave her back her memories and slowly, Regina began remembering everything about the curse, including who cast it and what it meant for Henry.

8. Jane the Virgin - Gina Rodriguez

Jane the Virgin - Gina Rodriguez
Gina Rodriguez is America's sweetheart and the glue that holds together the phenomenally talented cast of Jane the Virgin. She's a proud Latina woman that makes you laugh through the tears and forces you to feel a range of emotions right along with her. She balances the insanity of the telenovela world with moments of reality that we can all relate to — death, heartbreak, a baby daddy you're not dating. There's such an innocence about a woman who has gone through her fair share of turmoil but still manages to come out on top, exuding positivity and showing her warrior wounds. Her performance in both the present and the flashbacks guarantees that the show will always have heart, even with its penchant for the dramatics.

Best Scene: Season 4 Episode 7 -When she goes on her book tour and is heartbroken by Adam.

9. Elisabeth Moss - The Handmaid's Tale

Elisabeth Moss - The Handmaid's Tale
I'd agree with Girls co-creator Jenni Konner when she calls Elisabeth Moss the "Meryl Streep of our generation." Moss brought a complex character to life in one of the most socially relevant shows of 2017. Offred was rigid, passionate and much quieter than the other characters, which made her that much more commanding. She helped us understand what these women — with a will to survive, rage and so much trauma — felt and believed when being forced into sexual slavery, thus providing harrowing realization of how the totalitarian regime mistreated women and their bodies.

Best Scene: Season 1 Episode 4 - There were so many powerful moments but the "Ceremony" scene was soul-crushing, especially Offred's empty look right along with the Commanders wife's empty expression.

10. Aubrey Plaza - Legion

Aubrey Plaza - Legion
Versatile. Complex. Vulgar. For a series that requires you to use every ounce of brain juice to simply keep up, Plaza's portrayal of the show's multi-personality villain seems rather effortless. The varying versions of Lennie — from quirky friend to monstrous force living inside David Haller — are so deeply frightening, it's almost hard to look away.

Best Scene: Season 1 Episode 6 - The dance scene is the most revealing of the series because we finally get to meet the fully-rounded Lennie. Plaza said it was her hardest scene because it felt like she was playing four characters in one.

11. Cole Sprouse - Riverdale

Cole Sprouse - Riverdale
The town's murder-mystery obsessed journalist has really grown into his own in season two. Watching Jughead evolve from the "boy living in the closet" to deeply brooding Southside Serpent has been quite delicious. And I'm not just talking about shirtless scenes! While Betty may still refer to him as Juggie, he's long gone. Instead, he's a man that can hold his own, fights for what's his, doesn't hide in the face of fear, and rivals many of the adult characters. He went from reluctantly joining the Serpents to becoming their millennial leader and carving his own path, despite the pushback from his dad.

Best Scene: Season 2 Episode 9 - When he takes matters into his own hands and handles Penny Peabody. That's the grisliest we've ever seen Juggie.

12. Alexander Skarsgård - Big Little Lies

Alexander Skarsgård - Big Little Lies
There's only one word that can be used to describe Skarsgård's role: chilling. The way he personifies Perry is almost as if he's meant for this role —as if he feels the same insecurities and fears of losing Celeste. Skarsgård is able to go from one extreme to the next in a single scene; from deranged to charmingly manipulative, from unhinged to deeply regretful. It's a vicious cycle and one Celeste is so hesitant to break because the good times outweigh the bad. Or so she thinks. I dare say, Skarsgård pulls off the impossible, convincing fans to root for him to overcome his demons and then again convincing us that he's a lost cause.

Best Scene: Season 1 Episode 7 - Before Celeste and Perry arrive at the costume party, he reveals that he knows about her secret apartment and plans to leave. The scene is frightening because Perry seems to shut down, informing her without any emotion in his voice.

13. Jessica Biel - The Sinner

Jessica Biel - The Sinner
Jessica Biel has been vastly underrated as an actress probably because to many of us she's still Mary Camden from 7th Heaven. Her return to the small screen, however, is proof that she's far removed from that part of her life. She crushed any doubt that she's anything less than a stellar actress who can hold her own in the most disturbing TV show of 2017. There's a genuine creepiness in her performance that takes us on a dark journey through Cora's mind, unveiling childhood trauma piece by piece and calling into question her sanity.

Best Scene: Season 1 Episode 6 - It's hard to say this is the "best" scene when it's literally the most controversial scene of the year. Cora comes home from a date and her terminally ill sister, Phoebe, probes her for details, which leads to Cora pleasuring her sister.

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