Claire Danes on “Fleishman Is in Trouble”, Billie Piper “I Hate Suzie”

THE ACTOR | Claire Danes

THE SHOW | Fleishman is in trouble

THE RESULT | “Me Time” (12/22/2022)

THE PERFORMANCE | So far this season, Hulu’s hilarious divorce-drama has focused mostly on Jesse Eisenberg’s gritty single father, Toby, and cast his ex-wife, Rachel, as a garish, status-obsessed villain. But this week we heard Rachel’s side of the story, which gave the Danes a spectacular showcase and reminded us that she’s one of the best television actresses of our time.

Rachel had vanished from Toby’s life with no explanation, basically abandoning their two children, and Libby found her on a park bench nibbling on a bagel while Danes was lost in dazed eyes. At first Rachel was confused and incoherent while Danes layered her tirades with tics and twitches. But then Rachel explained what had happened — “Everyone abandoned me” — and set off a swirling series of flashbacks that showed us why Rachel suddenly disappeared from the scene. (It didn’t excuse her actions, mind you, but it allowed us to understand them.) Danes exuded impressive cleverness as Rachel filmed and acted as a high-profile talent agent, but we also saw Rachel at her lowest point as she struggled through a traumatic one childbirth and postpartum depression. Yes, Danes broke out her signature cry face throughout the hour, and it even built into a pained howl of grief as Rachel vented her pent-up emotions in group therapy.

She later fell into an affair with her married boyfriend Sam, and Danes glowed with dizzying infatuation. But that went south during an impromptu yoga retreat outing, and Danes vented Rachel’s frustration with another haunting primal scream that seemed to shake even the trees outside. Rachel also broke down in apologetic sobs when her biggest client cut ties with her following her disappearance. Fleischman Deftly showed us that there are always two sides to every divorce story, and Danes told Rachel’s side in a loud, clear voice and with amazing clarity.

THE ACTOR | Billy Piper

THE SHOW | i hate suzie

THE RESULT | “Fear” (12/22/2022)

THE PERFORMANCE | We all knew things were going to get worse for Suzie Pickles before they got better, but we never thought her image-rehab ploy would have exploded on a celebrity dance show with such momentous fireworks.

In the season two finale, Suzie’s personal and professional lives collided as on-set drama Dance Crazee became intertwined with their messy divorce proceedings. At the grand finale of the show-within-the-show, we saw fear, panic and uncertainty paint Piper’s face as rumors of her character dating on set threatened to surface. But that wasn’t the only looming stressor. The results of her drug test (which would determine her custody) hung in the air, her friendship with Naomi fell apart again, and Suzie and Cob’s constant bickering upended their son’s well-being. And as the dominoes fell horribly one after the other, Piper’s body language and shaky energy gave us little by little just how much her character’s screw was tightening.

And then a breakdown turned into a total breakdown. Suzie didn’t mess up the dance routine like we half-expected. Rather, she won the show, grabbed the mic, and started babbling around AllShe rips off a wig to reveal a real shocker: her bald head. When she finally really broke down, it was a mental break that made us feel all the emotions. As Suzie broke away, a souped-up Piper pulled a 180, basked in the spotlight and galloped across the stage. But back to reality, the actress was teary-eyed and manic; her ice-cold, matter-of-fact ramblings sounded like a belligerent drunkard. It was an absolute catastrophe in the best sense. Watching Piper exert such physical prowess, such control — from her well-choreographed dance routines (which, no kidding, were fire) to her near-hyperventilating and shrieking, panicked delivery — shook us to the core. Claire Danes on “Fleishman Is in Trouble”, Billie Piper “I Hate Suzie”

Lindsay Lowe

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