After taking stock of the year’s best TV shows, movies, albums, and songs, we round out a week of remembrance by looking back at 2022’s best performances. In this list you’ll find dramatic actors in film and the people who made us laugh out loud on television, but we also made sure to account for some of the year’s more unconventional entertainers. Read on to see who made the cut.
Cate Blanchett as Lydia Tár in Tár
Often, we praise performances for their transformation—the character’s perceived distance from the performer’s everyday self. The beauty of Lydia Tár is how much she resembles Cate Blanchett. A widely lauded master of her distinctly highbrow craft, Tár spends her days shuttling between podcast tapings and New Yorker symposia; Blanchett herself occupies the same milieu. Which may be how the actress makes the conductor a master class in ego gone awry. Lydia is essentially Cate with an ethnomusicology degree, a queer marriage, and a willingness to internalize her own hype. (Even Tár’s sexuality isn’t that much of a stretch, given Blanchett’s prior work in films like Carol.) Even before we learn exactly how Tár has abused the power that comes with her position, we can see her enjoy herself a little too much when browbeating a grad student or teasing an assistant with a potential promotion, a temptation Blanchett herself has surely entertained. That Tár is a genuine talent only emphasizes her tragedy. She’s a genius whose creation, by Blanchett in conjunction with writer and director Todd Field, is itself an act of genius. It’s become a tongue-in-cheek meme that Lydia Tár is a real person, a joke that’s plausible only because watching her demands no suspension of disbelief. —Alison Herman
Paulina Alexis as Willie Jack in Reservation Dogs
I don’t ask for much; I simply ask that Willie Jack, the ornery and profane but fiercely loyal MVP of Hulu’s stupendous Reservation Dogs, appear in every scene of every other TV show, just so I can watch her react to people.
OK, “MVP” is the wrong framing: Reservation Dogs, the shaggy and continually breathtaking tragicomic tale of four resilient teenagers longing to escape their rural Oklahoma Indian reservation, is a delicate ensemble masterpiece, but Willie Jack (who gets the first line of Season 2, that line being, “’Sup, shitass”) still steals every scene she’s in, often wordlessly. She scrunches up her face and scratches her ear as two screwball elders lead a loopy prayer down by the river. She crosses her arms and rolls her eyes through the NARDS Youth Summit. She looms sagely in the background of various aimless antics before pushing the action forward with an impeccably timed “Skoden.” When she finally gets a true showcase scene in Season 2’s penultimate episode—the prison meeting room, the vending-machine raid, the prayer—it’s a monster, a showstopper, an all-timer, but all she really needs to do to nail it is breath deeply and let out one quiet, heartrending “Oh shit.” Put her in everything, all the time. —Rob Harvilla
Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn Wang in Everything Everywhere All at Once
After being cast in supporting roles for decades, Michelle Yeoh finally landed the top spot on a Hollywood call sheet for the first time in A24’s Everything Everywhere All at Once. It’s shameful that the opportunity took this long to come, but that lost time only contributes to what is a tremendously moving, versatile performance from the iconic 60-year-old actress. Yeoh stars as Evelyn Wang, an overtaxed laundromat owner who gets to experience all her lives that could have been as she becomes a full-fledged action hero to save the multiverse. It’s a role—or roles, really—that has Yeoh doing everything from fight sequences involving butt plugs to romantic scenes featuring hot dog fingers and Jamie Lee Curtis. It’s the goofiest we’ve ever seen her, while also the most vulnerable, as all the wild quirks of the film give way to heart-wrenching conversations between a distant mother and her distraught daughter. Yeoh has been showing her on-screen talents in a wide range of roles since her start in Hong Kong action cinema in the ’80s, but Everything Everywhere puts them on display all at once. And it’s about time she’s getting her due. —Daniel Chin
Matilda Lawler as Young Kirsten in Station Eleven
I once wrote that “TV teens come in two types of terrible”—the blandly rebellious kind that smolders with generic rage, and the kind that hogs the screen and disrupts the plot in dramas we’re watching for the adults. There’s also the more benign kind that exists solely to satisfy a child/sibling quota, and thus spends little time on screen. Young Kirsten is none of the above: She’s arguably the linchpin, and the most compelling presence, of one of 2022’s most emotionally resonant series. Lawler, in her first regular TV role, draws the difficult assignment of playing the younger version of a grown-up character embodied by Mackenzie Davis, who could qualify for this list herself. Not only does she have to persuade us that young Kirsten could turn into adult Kirsten, but she has to show us how it happens. Even in the poignant scenes she shares with Davis during the series’ most memorable episode, “Goodbye My Damaged Home,” she more than holds her own.
Lawler’s performance stands out even in a strong year for dual-timeline dramas. In the show, young Kirsten becomes a precocious child actor before a virus interrupts her fledgling career. For that aspect of the part, the talented Lawler hardly had to pretend.—Ben Lindbergh
Antony Starr as John/Homelander in The Boys
when i tweet something out of pocket and nobody unfollows pic.twitter.com/KFoSfqHYnj— torb (@torbalderson) July 12, 2022
In the glorious, goriest series The Boys, Homelander’s catastrophic powers are mostly derived from the fucked-up superhuman might of his Compound-V-juiced body. But Antony Starr’s performance as the program’s “bad Superman” is all about the things the guy can do with his face. He whimpers and sneers; he looks cocksure then agog; he has the stubborn lower lip of Vito Corleone and the plaintive eyes of a shamed puppy. He talks to himself in mirrors; he basks and seethes; he can’t believe what he’s seeing and has the twitchy features to prove it. Starr’s performance is so competent it causes people problems, and so strong that it hurts—much like Homelander, that big bad baby, himself. —Katie Baker
Sharon Horgan as Eva Garvey in Bad Sisters
It’s 2022, and there’s absolutely no excuse to not know who Sharon Horgan is. I am, however, concerned about whether or not this woman finds the time to sleep. The Irish actress, writer, and director has launched hits such as Catastrophe, which she cowrote with Rob Delaney; the HBO series Divorce; and myriad other comedic productions developed over the past decade. Additionally, her Instagram account remains one of the most entertaining places around.
Horgan’s latest project, Apple TV+’s Bad Sisters, is easily the best thing I’ve watched this year. The show centers on a group of sisters hatching a plan to murder their monster of a brother-in-law, John Paul. And while it’s obviously hard to defend manslaughter, Horgan’s writing is so brilliant that you’re ready to throw morality out the window to cheer on the Garvey girls as they seek to eliminate their sister’s abusive spouse. Everyone on the cast is spectacular, but it’s Horgan’s portrayal of the eldest daughter, Eva, that has you laughing the most as she and the rest of her sisters continue to fail throughout the series in Shakespearean ways. Come for the diabolically funny dialogue, stay for the scenic views of Ireland, and wait like me for a second season where some very-earned Emmy trophies will hopefully be used as murder weapons. —Bridget Geerlings
Julia Fox in Everything, Somehow
A disclosure: Julia Fox is technically a coworker of mine given her Forbidden Fruits podcast is hosted on Spotify, The Ringer’s parent company. A second: Her biggest viral moment of 2022 came courtesy another podcast with a Spotify arrangement, Call Her Daddy. I say all this to admit I am compromised as I declare my admiration for Julia Fox’s world domination tour, but I am not doing so at the behest of the Swedes. There are no marketing executives Slacking me furiously saying we need to pump up the FF numbers, and Julia herself will almost certainly never see this. But regardless of whatever professional complications may or may not exist, I want to be clear: No celebrity had a more fascinating year—none did more performing in the public eye—than Julia Fox, the queen of this shitty pile of sidewalk snow we call 2022.
Introducing our Special Issue cover star: #JuliaFox ⭐️ She is her own muse, thank you very much. Join us as we dive deep into the fast-forward month in the life of the LES girl turned TMZ A-Lister. Written by @hunteryharris, Photography by Juergen Teller https://t.co/rfVbz4jJFO pic.twitter.com/nhozZnYcNG— The Cut (@TheCut) February 15, 2022
As a refresher: Julia Fox began 2022 as an Instagrammer/former dominatrix turned actress best remembered for causing the Weeknd to kick Adam Sandler’s ass in Uncut Gems. Within a few months, she’d be known as Kanye West’s post-Kim “muse.” (To hear her tell it, she was also the floodgate that held back Ye, the celebrity who turned in the undoubtedly worst performance of 2022.) That relationship was short-lived, but it was a skeleton key that opened up another level of fame. And she didn’t disappoint: that New York magazine spread, rambling TikToks, dresses that literally choke her and purses made of human hair, Bowie-esque sartorial choices, wild eye makeup and missing eyebrows, fuckin’ goblin mode. (Oxford’s word of the year, even if she never actually used it.) And amid all that came the bejeweled Furbie: uncah jams, the bizarre, marble-mouthed mispronunciation of her Safdie brothers launching pad that she offered to Call Her Daddy’s Alex Cooper in February. It went viral. She went viral. It’s ridiculous, it’s perfect, and it’s everything you could ask for in the age of the over-manicured celebrity.
Was this all performance art? Or was it a phenomenal, authentic performance? I’m not sure it matters. Julia Fox was a bit of reprieve from this modern-day dystopia. So you can stan your boring movie stars and influencers. I’ll know what I’ll be doing: donning a patten-leather trench coat, climbing the nearest sidewalk trash pile, and shouting my muse’s name just to hear it echo. I may even mispronounce it for good measure. —Justin Sayles
Donald Glover as Mr. Chocolate in Atlanta
In “Work Ethic!,” Atlanta spins the tabloid mystique of Tyler Perry’s local studio fortress—on the site of the former U.S. Army base Fort McPherson, seriously—into a funny horror story about Van briefly losing her daughter, Lottie, to the dream of child stardom. The helpless assistants on various sets send Van stumbling through a maze of blocking rehearsals in search of Lottie, and the studio boss, Kirkwood Chocolate, a.k.a. Mr. Chocolate, taunts Van on the intercoms until she finally confronts the mad genius in his wood-paneled pigsty. Mr. Chocolate is Donald Glover in a fat suit and a robe, toiling at his “keyano” and sipping grits from a mug, deepening his voice to perform his most pointedly surreal caricature since Teddy Perkins. Mr. Chocolate is a delightfully strange take on Perry (and others, according to the episode’s main writer, Janine Nabers), made out to be a slave to his own overgrown studio machinery. He shrugs it off when Van flings hot grits in his face in perhaps the single funniest exchange—“I’m … fine!”—of the show’s fourth and final season. —Justin Charity
Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman/Gene Takovic in Better Call Saul
It’s a minor miracle that we even got a final season of Better Call Saul to begin with. In one of the rare occasions in which the entire internet rallied around a noble cause, we collectively prayed that Bob Odenkirk would survive an on-set heart attack—one that, as the actor later recounted, might have ended his life if not for some quick-thinking CPR and defibrillator access. That Odenkirk pulled through an ordeal in which his heart stopped beating for 18 minutes was worth celebrating in and of itself, but then he went out and delivered some of the finest acting you’ll ever see.
Better Call Saul featured a murderer’s row of gifted performers—your regular reminder that Rhea Seehorn should have multiple Emmys by now and the Television Academy is populated by cowards—but Odenkirk was essentially pulling triple duty this season. (Triples is best.) Between Jimmy McGill, Saul Goodman, and Gene Takovic, Odenkirk had to embody three distinct personalities across multiple timelines. In one moment, the chameleonic character is sympathetic and morally conflicted; in the next, he’s petulant and wounded. At one point, Jimmy-cum-Saul-cum-Gene even threatens Carol Burnett, a national treasure, with all the menace of a serial killer. By the time Better Call Saul reached its conclusion, there was no performer juggling more on their plate this year than Odenkirk, who more than did justice to an all-time great series. —Miles Surrey
Dylan Cumming as Himself in the Liberty University Baseball Team Jersey Reveal
Majesty. Grace. Pure, unadulterated stage presence. Those are all words and phrases that come to mind when watching the best performance of 2022.
No, I’m not talking about the chops of a Broadway actress, or Harry Styles blowing the roof off the Forum, or any number of the talented people who graced both the big and small screens this year. I’m talking about Dylan Cumming, a pitcher for the Liberty baseball team, who put on the show of a lifetime in a team jersey reveal video. Before you dismiss me out of hand, just … watch:
Some of the credit here, of course, has to go to Celine Dion. This video surely wouldn’t have reached the same heights had Cummings attempted to imitate someone with a less ridiculous vocal range. And there are plenty of background contributors who made this possible, too. The people hitting their lighting cues. The background dancers and flashlight operators. The person operating the leaf blower (seriously) who got wind flowing through Cummings’s hair at just the right moment. But the commitment, the desperation, the on-time flinging open of the jacket: That’s purely Cummings. And that’s the reason I’ve watched this video approximately 25,000 times this calendar year. —Megan Schuster
Diego Luna as Cassian Andor in Andor
At this point in my lifelong fandom, I’m rather exhausted by Star Wars, and yet I can’t heap enough praise on Andor, a wonderfully tense and grounded series, created by Rogue One writer Tony Gilroy. Starring Diego Luna as the reluctant Rebel hero Cassian Andor, Andor tracks the titular character as he stumbles fatefully into the power politics of Palpatine’s Galactic Empire. We already know Andor dies in Rogue One—really, everyone dies in Rogue One—and his namesake series, taking the form of a counterterrorism thriller, patiently stirs the groundswell of desperation that initially forges the Rebel Alliance in the interregnum between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. It’s been a long while since the Empire seemed genuinely menacing (rather than pointlessly ubiquitous and cartoonishly overpowered), and it’s also been a minute since a hero in this universe played the underdog so convincingly. —Charity
The Little Voice in SBF’s Head That Compels Him to Keep Speaking to the Press
Do you remember when Bernie Madoff went on The Tonight Show? How about when the Enron guys went on Meet the Press? No? Well, there’s a good reason for that: People at the center of white-collar criminal investigations are usually smart enough to lay low and avoid the spotlight, at least until the storm blows over. But not Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced crypto prince at the center of this year’s biggest financial bust. No, it seems that SBF is determined to talk his way out of this mess, and for anyone who’s looked at the blockchain with a healthy distrust, his semi-apology tour has been pure schadenfreude.
As a recap: The famously schlubby Bankman-Fried founded the crypto exchange FTX in early 2019 and quickly became the white knight of digital currency. He preached new-agey concepts like effective altruism and invited regulatory oversight for a notoriously unregulated industry. By the beginning of 2022 he was palling around with Tom and Giselle and giving endorsement deals to Steph Curry and Larry David. Things were going great—until suddenly last month, when they weren’t. An investigation by a crypto-news site revealed the way-too-cozy ties between FTX and a hedge fund SBF had founded. From there, the details get salacious, but too difficult to sum up in a blurb like this. Just know there was a savvy strike by one of his rivals, rumors of an in-house psychiatrist prescribing Adderall to FTX employees, and the curious case of around $2 billion in missing customer funds. And just like that, the most virtuous house of cards in cryptocurrency collapsed into a pile of shitcoins.
It must be noted that Bankman-Fried is no longer the CEO of the exchange, and he has yet to be charged with a crime. He has, however, stuck to his home in the Bahamas since shortly after FTX declared bankruptcy. But instead of laying low and conferring with his lawyers on how to avoid ending up in a minimum-security prison, he’s been doing the one thing any crisis-management PR specialist would tell him to avoid: He’s been trying to get his side of the story out there, by any means necessary.
First there was his bizarre tweeting behavior that may or may not have been some kind of coded message …
Then there was the Twitter DM interview with a Vox journalist, where he typed—seemingly earnestly—that “i feel bad for those who get fucked by it ... by this game we woke westeners play where we say all the right shiboleths [sic] and so everyone likes us” …
Hey guys, last night in Twitter DMs I asked Sam Bankman-Fried when Alameda first borrowed FTX customer funds, what he really thinks of the SEC, and a lot more. https://t.co/Yq8InqNPS4— Kelsey Piper (@KelseyTuoc) November 16, 2022
Lately, there have been more traditional interviews, like this one with Puck or another one with the podcast The Journal, which bears the title “Do You Expect to Go to Prison?” (Short answer: No. Long answer: shrug emoji.) But my favorite came as part of The New York Times’ DealBook Summit, which started like this:
A clearly very nervous SBF just spilled his La Croix on his shirt.— Kate Clark (@KateClarkTweets) November 30, 2022
Once he got done spilling fizzy water on himself, he subjected himself to a litany of questions from Andrew Ross Sorkin. At one point, Sorkin read a letter from an FTX customer aloud, who asked why Bankman-Fried thought it was OK to steal people’s life savings. To which he offered an extremely SBF answer: “Yeah. Um, I mean, I’m deeply sorry about what happened.”
Andrew Ross Sorkin reads a letter to SBF:— Greg Price (@greg_price11) November 30, 2022
Sorkin: "Can you please ask SBF why he decided to steal my life savings?"
SBF: "Yeah. Um, I mean, I’m deeply sorry about what happened." pic.twitter.com/p8ujlpD7sA
Sorkin went on to ask whether his lawyers advised him to do these interviews. Not surprisingly, they hadn’t. Rather, SBF is a man alone, determined to tweet through the biggest collapse in crypto history and give high-profile interviews while he’s under all sorts of investigations. It’s an act of public self-flagellation for the ages. Just wait till Michael Lewis puts his mark on it. —Sayles
Tramell Tillman as Seth Milchick in Severance
Severance is a tale of victims (the poor, hapless sods who’ve had their brains “severed” to increase their usefulness as office workers) and manipulators (most everyone else wise to what Lumon Industries is up to). Then there’s Milchick (Tramell Tillman), the central cast’s non-severed supervisor, who isn’t so much the series’ villain as it is its highly competent, gloriously mustachioed middleman. It’s Milchick who, through too-warm smiles, cheery platitudes, and ostentatiously bestowed waffle parties, keeps Severance from tipping entirely into horror; he infuses every scene he’s in with a delightful, if not entirely soothing, sense of gee willikers. No other scene in 2022 gave me quite as much joy as Milchick’s giddy, surreal dance party—the Ex Machina sequel I never knew I needed. —Claire McNear
Vanessa Lachey as Herself in the Love Is Blind Season 3 Reunion
It may have been her husband who earned a full-blown meme cycle for his “Obviously, I’m Nick Lachey” line the first time around, but three seasons later, Vanessa Lachey has emerged as the far more charismatic Love Is Blind cohost. This was especially apparent at the Season 3 reunion episode, where she channeled the over-invested reality TV fan to the point that people on the internet wondered whether she was on molly. We’re talking shrieking, clapping, arm-waving, puppy eyes, swiveling around in her chair, and occasionally slumping onto her husband for support. She even teared up as she recapped SK’s altar rejection of Raven. Besides just being fun to watch, her genuine interest in the contestants’ relationship arcs guided her questioning, and helped her drill down on some of the more uncomfortable truths that we viewers craved. Even more of a feat was that she somehow managed to channel real empathy for these people while doing it. I’ve grown accustomed to expect either bemused detachment (à la Andy Cohen) or faux-concern (à la Chris Harrison) from my reality TV reunion hosts, but with this season in particular, Lachey has blazed a new path forward for the art form: nosy empathy. Obviously, I’m a fan of her fandom. —Alyssa Bereznak
Daniel Kaluuya as Otis “OJ” Haywood Jr. in Nope
Roughly one week after the theatrical release of Jordan Peele’s 2022 spectacle Nope, Logan Paul took to Twitter to lambast Peele’s film, which, much like the blockbusters of Steven Spielberg, doubled as a scathing look at the Hollywood machine. It seems like Paul understood that, but he didn’t quite get Daniel Kaluuya’s stoic lead performance in the film, penning a tweet that promptly pissed me off.
“Way to strip all the life from a phenomenal actor, Daniel Kaluuya, by casting him as possibly the most mundane, vanilla character I’ve ever seen,” Paul wrote. OJ, a man who used the skills he picked up working with horses to understand, interact with, and defeat an extraterrestrial, is dull? A guy who had an intuitive read on every individual he encountered (aside from Jupe, who was literally feeding OJ’s loaned horses to said extraterrestrial)? Did Logan Paul even peep OJ’s vintage tee game?!
Maybe that’s on me; I related a lot with how OJ moved throughout the film, from his heightened anxiety whenever Emerald was around Jupe to his quick “nope” as he realizes that Jean Jacket has him pinned. It’s part of why I admire Peele’s ability to create characters who speak directly to me. The fact that Kaluuya could do so much in a role that required him to give so little is the real testament to his “phenomenal” acting. But maybe that’s my fault for giving a shit about what Logan Paul has to say about Nope in the first place. —khal
Drake as 21 Savage’s Hype Man
In a different timeline, we’re talking about Drake’s marathon verse on Jack Harlow’s “Churchill Downs,” a treatise on hollow luxury and pettiness that captures everything that made Aubrey Graham one of the biggest stars on the planet and the spirit guide for woebegone bros everywhere. It was a two-plus-minute exclamation point meant to make fans forget about Drake’s lackluster 2021, which was defined by the bloated, paint by numbers Certified Lover Boy and a tiresome beef with Ye better remembered for J. Prince photo shoots and Chris Paul jerseys than for any actual bars. But like most bits of supposedly dominant culture in 2022, the Jack Harlow album came with a bang and left with a whimper, mostly forgotten until the Grammy nominations were announced last month. (At this juncture, we must implore the Recording Academy to mackle less.)
Instead, as the calendar gets set to flip, we’re talking about how we’ll actually remember Drake in 2022: as a sidekick to one of the most exciting rappers alive, 21 Savage. You could technically date this development to last year, when 21 propped up “Knife Talk,” the most lasting cut on Drake’s latest monument to his own ego. But the discussion about Drake’s run as the most overpaid second banana this side of Kyrie begins in earnest with “Jimmy Cooks,” the only true rap song on Aubrey’s house record released in June. While Honestly, Nevermind is better than its haters would like to admit, “Jimmy Cooks”—a cowardly last-second cop-out, albeit a great one—remains its defining moment. That’s almost entirely off the strength of 21’s verse, a truly thrilling performance that opens with him calling us all pussies and gives Will Smith advice about pistol-whipping. Drake’s biggest contribution there is tossing 21 an alley-oop at the close of his verse.
Drake is nothing if not savvy, so he quickly sought to capitalize on the success of “Jimmy Cooks.” Last month, he returned with Her Loss, an undercooked EP’s worth of ideas spread out over 60 minutes. To make up for its shortcomings, he grafted 21 Savage onto the project, giving him less than a third of its run time but equal billing on the marquee. And 21 delivered. Her Loss—along with “Jimmy Cooks,” “Cash In Cash Out,” and a half dozen other show-stealing performances—solidified the 30-year-old ATLien as the defining rapper of 2022. Drake, meanwhile, has been memed into oblivion for his opening lines on the album—“21, can you do somethin’ for me? / Can you hit a li’l rich flex for me?”—a bit of hypermasculine flirting disguised as a setup for a collaborator. Ultimately, “Jimmy Cooks” and Her Loss salvaged what could’ve been another down year for Drake. He just had to simp for the homie to make it happen.
Maybe the lesson here is a simple one: If you don’t want to get reduced to being a hype man for one of the best rappers working today, stick to the Jack Harlow features. But if you want to get back on top, sometimes you gotta ride your guy’s coattails to get there. —Sayles
Ayo Edebiri as Sydney Adamu in The Bear
Seemingly out of nowhere, The Bear practically smashed through our TV screens this summer. The show’s frenetic energy mirrored that of its lead character, Carmy (Jeremy Allen White), who earned much of the initial attention as the series’ resident chef de bad boy. But in the end, as viewers would come to realize, it was Sydney, played expertly by Ayo Edebiri, who grounded the series, serving as an understated foil to Carmy’s masculine bravado. Sydney and Carmy are two sides of the same coin: Both are highly intelligent, ambitious, and passionate about their work. But only Sydney has to contend with the verbal abuse dished out by restaurant manager Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), line cook Tina (Liza Colón-Zayas), and Carmy himself. Edebiri effectively channels the complicated struggle of working for someone you admire but also kind of hate. It’s a special, if confusing, dynamic that takes real skill to sell on the screen. Sydney’s arc throughout The Bear was a real thrill to watch, and after the satisfying conclusion of the first season, we all can’t wait to see how she takes the new namesake restaurant to the next level. —Aric Jenkins
Misha Brooks as Creamcheese in Players
I don’t know whether anyone watched Players—months after its first season aired on Paramount+, it’s seemingly locked in renewal/cancellation limbo—but everyone who missed it still has the chance to check out one of the year’s strongest small-screen comedies. A mockumentary from the makers of American Vandal, Players gives the Last Dance treatment to a fictional League of Legends esports squad. Even as the series pulls off the difficult dance of respecting its very specific subject without alienating non-League fans, it also manages to deliver heart and hilarity in almost equal measure.
That Players achieves that balance is largely a testament to Brooks, who plays Trevor “Creamcheese” Polowski, the founder and, at age 27, old man of Fugitive Gaming. Creamcheese’s convincing combination of overconfidence and insecurity makes him maddening and endearing, and Brooks brings the pathos that elevates his camera-hogging character into much more than a caricature. He and Da’Jour Jones (who plays teammate Organizm, the Toby-esque bête noire to Creamcheese’s Michael Scott when the series starts) are the real-life wombo combo at the core of the show’s success. The Fugitive bot laners’ maturation as teammates and individuals is reason enough to root for a second season. —Lindbergh
Charlotte Nicdao as Poppy Li in Mythic Quest
Yes, another entry from a TV comedy about the video game industry. I guess I have a type. (Sorry, Stellan Skarsgard—you’re totally my type, too, but I didn’t want to double up on Andor.) Nicdao’s delivery of “because it’s fun” during an exchange about the supposed theft of her disappointing programming project in last week’s Mythic Quest might be the funniest reading I remember from this year. On paper, it’s a pretty humdrum line, but she sells it so hard, with her whole body and voice and hyper-expressive face, that it turns into a punch line. “Guffaw” is the only word for what my wife and I did when we watched it for the first time—and the second and third.
This season has seen Poppy continue to evolve—or devolve—from a plucky, unconfident underdog (to Rob McElhenney’s domineering Ian) into a workplace despot in her own right (albeit an awkward one). That transformation has empowered Nicdao to demonstrate her range, setting her up to steal scenes from McElhenney, the ostensible star. As she orders (and pleads) at the end of that clip, “Respect me!” I do. —Lindbergh
Angela Bassett as Queen Ramonda in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
How has Angela Bassett never won an Oscar? After Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Bassett’s performance as Queen Ramonda, that drought should end in a few months (though the Academy tends to ignore superhero movies, unfortunately). It’s rare to witness a performance with so much nuance, power, sadness, anger, and fear all rolled into one. T’Challa’s death was such a central theme of the Black Panther sequel, and Ramonda was the character who carried the movie for large stretches while ushering the audience along in a shared journey of grief. The “have I not given everything?” speech was incredibly moving; it’s already worthy of being deemed one of the best monologues in MCU history. Not only is Bassett’s Ramonda one of the best performances of 2022, but it’s also one of the best in the genre in a long, long time. —Arjuna Ramgopal