Jesse Plemons — “Breaking Bad”: As fate would have it, I’m right in the middle of a “Friday Night Lights” rewatch. In fact, I’m just about finished with Season 4 in which Jesse Plemons as Landry “Lance” Clark achieves toxic-levels of cute. He’s all bashful and sweet and funny and, sure, he murdered that one dude with his car, but he’d probably never murder a kid. Probably. Enter Todd. He collects spiders in jars and cheerfully arranges mass murders. He may not be able to fire a gun with the same aplomb as his Nazi co-horts, but he’s plenty cold-blooded. Ever since “Friday Night Lights” ended two years ago I’ve been calling this kid “Landry.” As in, “aw that’s cute, Landry and Riggins are fighting aliens” or “hey, Landry does look like he could be Philip Seymour Hoffman’s son!” But that’s all done now. He’s not Landry anymore. He’s not even “f*cking Todd.” He’s Plemons, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
Taryn Manning — “Orange Is The New Black”: I mentioned a little ways back that Taryn Manning showed an impressive lack of vanity in portraying Pennsatucky. And that’s true. Ever since she burst on the scene in the early aughts, she has been sold to us as a lithe, lightly talented sexpot. But in the summer’s most enjoyable new show she took up the mantle of comedic villain with aplomb. That’s right, the depth of her zealotry was intensely scary but also unquestionably…funny. The girl’s got chops is what I’m saying. I’ll never think of her as eye candy again.
Marcia Gay Harden — “The Newsroom”: On the flip side, much as I’ve loved Marcia Gay Harden in the past, as much gravitas and brainy charm as she’s exhibited, I never thought of her as liquid sex. And I’m not sure she needed to tell us she was last night on “The Newsroom.” In fact, I think it would have been a whole lot better if she hadn’t. But suffice it to say that Aaron Sorkin’s patter absolutely works in her favor…as does that dress. They should keep her and ditch Maggie.
Linda Cardellini — “Mad Men”: SPOILERS FOR LAST SEASON. Wow, so, Don Draper banged the Freak right out of ol’ Lindsay Weir didn’t he? Leave it to the Hamm bone. I never let go of Lindsay. Not even after six seasons on “ER” or a dead-on Velma impression. But Sylvia Rosen? This is the first time I was really able to accept that the teenager is gone forever. Cardellini’s performance was mature and grounded in a way I’ve never seen from her. I’ll miss that Freak.
David Bradley — “Broadchurch”: You’ve probably been calling this distinguished actor “Filch” for a decade now. He certainly made quite the greasy-haired impression as the Hogwarts caretaker. More recently you may have taken to calling him something along the lines of “that bastard, Walder Frey” after his recent antics on “Game of Thrones.” Me too. Despite the fact that I know he’s a well-respected actor, despite that fact that I saw him on-stage with Michael Gambon in a (hideously boring) Pinter play, I still called him Finch and Frey alternatively. He was a dyed-in-the-wool villain type to me. But anyone who watched this week’s episode of “Broadchurch” knows that’s all over now. I think David Tennant in all his stubbly, pill-popping glory was meant to be the one to take us by surprise. He still may, who knows what other horrors this show has in store. But it’s Bradley with his heartbreaking pathos that has made the biggest impression on my so far. That man. I hope his seventies are his most prolific decade yet.