This Week’s Most Noteworthy Performance: Josh Dallas

March 12-18
“Murder Most Foul” | Once Upon A Time
Josh Dallas

This was without a doubt the toughest call I’ve had to make with performance reviews in the longest time. But because “Murder Most Foul” was Josh Dallas’ finest performance to date, it felt right that we’d give this to him.

Josh Dallas has tackled Charming’s vulnerabilities before, but everything he’s worked to achieve as the character has led to this very moment. We’ve seen Charming’s fears brought to life in the past. We’ve seen his frustrations. We’ve seen him fall. We’ve known from day one that the love he has for his family is deeper than the wide-open sea. “Murder Most Foul” took Dallas down a dark path forcing him to finally, once and for all, confront himself. And while Dallas has voiced his fears about not being enough before, he’s never fully broken down. That’s why his breakdown in this week’s episode is such a monumental moment for him.

When we find Dallas at the beginning of the episode, he’s cheerful in the usual, undeniably charming way making a toast and commending his daughter for her accomplishments. There’s nothing different on the surface, but when you look closely, the weariness in his eyes screams at you. Charming’s undoubtedly in a lot of pain, but in his attempt to conceal it, Dallas does a great job of revealing how difficult that task is becoming. The ever-present tinge of heartache in his eyes made it easy for the audience to be concerned for the character. So when he falls and throws his frustrations out on his (soon-to-be) son-in-law, the early stages of the forthcoming breakdown become painfully clear.

Leading up to that final moment, Josh Dallas’ physicality becomes more and more difficult to watch. As anger takes root and clouds the actual heartache, the expressiveness Dallas carries becomes even more difficult to witness. And in that final speech, the declaration that he’s terrified of never being enough, Dallas goes in full force. The sorrow and calamity in his voice cobbled with the exhaustion in his physicality did a prestigious job of reminding viewers of just how much he carries on his shoulders. As the town’s embodiment of noble and right, Charming’s often had too much on his plate, but this journey of self confrontation while at the same time learning the truth about what became of his father was everything he needed to build himself back up. He needed to fall, to confront himself, to open up about what’s been haunting him in order to come out stronger.

And in what was Dallas’ biggest moment to shine as an actor, he delivered beautifully with an organic display of a man at his wits. After six years of embodying the character, as an actor, he has undeniably mastered Charming perfectly, and thereby, this breakdown was Dallas reminding us of the very fact that even the strongest fall. A lesson that’s always dealt with wonderfully on Once Upon A Time. Now while the physical and emotional breakdown was Dallas’ display of his strengths as an actor, it’s the work he did all throughout the episode, which has essentially made our work easier. Charming went from an irritable, broken man to a vulnerable, elated hero. His apology to Killian was a great display of bravery as it showcases the fact that he isn’t intimidated by admitting he was wrong. And the choice to believe that a man has changed enough to be worthy of his daughter’s hand in marriage, followed by the exhibition of his gratitude gave Dallas the opportunity to play a full range of emotions — each of which he tackled with innate sincerity and acute embodiment of the character.

Honorable Mention
“Moonshadow” | This is Us
Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia 

At the end of every season, we’re left thoroughly impressed with a set of scene partners and right now, This is Us’ main couple is at the top of that list. Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia started out incredibly strong in their display of natural chemistry, but the amount of growth we’ve seen as the season began to wrap up has been nothing short of remarkable.

Moore and Ventmiglia’s work in “Moonshadow” was a captivating wreck we can’t seem to get out of our minds. To argue with such rage but to leave viewers with a sense of hope by reminding us of the fact that in spite of their separation, the two still care for one another was a beautifully profound display of marriage. And sometimes, marriage can be ugly. As mentioned in our review: “I had to hold my breath the entire time they yelled at one another because each spoken word was filled with so much anger cobbled with adoration, it was impossible not to feel punched every time. I can’t remember the last time a fight felt so real on TV. And I can’t remember the last time two performers brought their all in such a chaotic wormhole of the ugliest parts of human communication. Words can bite. Words can break. Words can taint. Words can tarnish. And in this moment, their words did a great amount of damage.”

Moore and Ventimiglia have established a marvelous partnership that’s paid off beautifully throughout the season, but most impeccably in this moment. If they could master a fight with such intensity and malice, then turn around to sincerely apologize, but come to a difficult decision as opposed to immediate reconciliation, there’s nothing they can’t do. And to accomplish the level of chemistry in their freshman season is a rare treat in the world of television. “Moonshadow” gave Moore and Ventimiglia ample opportunities to show off their gifts as an actor to which they delivered with a wide range of emotions. Individually they’re strong performers, but together, whatever story they’re meant to tell, they’ll do it embodying the characters to the t.

Who were your favorite performers this week?

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