Pedro Pascal heard your complaints. They were not his complaints, by the way—you should know that, thanks. But all that stuff you were saying about his star turn in The Mandalorian: Why did they hire Pedro Pascal if they were just going to make him wear that helmet all the time? And Is that even him in there? And Free Pedro; and Hey, loser, take the bucket off your head. He heard all that. The definitive proof is his utterly unhinged performance as Maxwell Lord in Wonder Woman 1984. Say what you will about the flick itself, but Pascal-as-Lord will live forever.
The latest DC installment finds our Amazonian princess fighting for truth and justice in, yes, 1984, as well as literally in D.C. There, she toils away at the Smithsonian until one Maxwell Lord—a puffy-faced, floppy-haired business mogul slash TV personality with a penchant for tacky gold decorations, which may or may not sound like someone else you can think of—nabs a mystical antiquity that grants wishes and promptly uses it to wish for more wishes.
The ’80s, Pascal seems eager to remind us, were not all aerobics classes and synth-pop and parachute pants. There was also littering! Terrible pastel polo shirts! Worse suits! Pollution! Trickle-down economics! Thinking Georgetown is cool! And so on. His performance can be summed up in three images. One, the thing, is literally described by another character in the movie as “the thing.” As in, “Do the thing!” Here is the thing:
Two: shock, not to be confused with awe, at said thing.
And three: a recognition of the shock-not-awe, which pleases our guy so much that he doubles down.
Freed from his helmeted confines, the artist formerly known as Din Djarin does, well, simply the very most. Pascal’s Lord embodies the unglamorous ’80s, from powder-blue suits to pinstripes to what the actor has dubbed “power hair.” As Lord accrues progressively more grandiose wishes—lackeys, business empires, oil reserves, choice television time slots—he becomes more and more physically grotesque, sweating and panting and, um, bleeding in one of his eyeballs, which may or may not sound like someone else you can think of. He bounds in and out of scenes, his face working like he’s midway through a demented backstage warm-up—one he chose to escalate with a vaguely Dornish accent. By the time Lord is clutching the hand of the not-quite-Reagan president in the Oval Office, he’s got veins bulging out of the side of his head.
Given that so much of Pascal’s recent time in the spotlight has been from behind a wall of beskar, his whole Wonder Woman 1984 performance feels a lot like someone getting their braces off and rubbing their tongue obsessively over their slimy, straight teeth.
Pascal has said that he modeled the performance after Nicolas Cage, but a more accurate comparison might be No-Face in Spirited Away: He gobbles and gobbles, becoming more and more disgusting with each passing scene. Pascal prepared for the character by making a scrapbook and writing a note to himself over and over: “You are a fucking piece of shit.” “It’s just a way to sit and sort of, like, meditate on it. You know what I mean?” he explained to a reporter.
“What do you wish for?” he gasps again and again. And yes, OK, there’s always a catch. But very simply: If they’re gonna keep Pascal hidden in Mando, here’s hoping—er, wishing—that his un-helmeted performances keep making up for all the lost time.