This Week’s Most Noteworthy Performance: Skylar Astin

January 31-February 6
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Skylar Astin

Skyler Astin performing "Numb" in Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist
Source: NBC

This week was full of exceptional performances making this choice thankfully a difficult one. Frankly, we love it when this happens—the harder it is to choose, to more set we are on why we chose the one that we did. And on Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist especially the performances were extremely tough to choose from, between now Golden Globe nominee Jane Levy’s rollercoaster of a high to John Clarence Stewart’s crucial number and speech that Simon delivered, we were floored. (This was our close second.) But Linkin Park’s “Numb” is one heck of an evocative song, and if you had told us that a contemporary ballad of it would work, we’d put a big huge stop sign in front of you to ensure that never happens.

And yet, Skylar Astin brought the number to life masterfully forcing us to bite our tongues with the belief that yes, “Numb” can be reworked if it is done well. As much as the choreography worked in showcasing a myriad of built-up emotions, Astin’s expressiveness did the trick with spectacular ease. The lyrics are one thing, the vocals are another, the painstaking look of exhaustion and desperation that Astin brought to life with his expressions nailed the number best.

When you looked at Max, you understood just how deeply rooted his issues with his father are. You understood just how tired he is of taking risks and being shot down just because his dreams look different from his family’s. You understood the darkness that comes from knowing that once again, you have put yourself in front of somebody, and you have not been enough. You felt the aching tiredness in his physicality, which the choreography brought to life through a contemporary dance that (still can’t believe I’m saying this), surprisingly worked with this song.

Heart songs are fascinating because the person is going through things they are not physically doing, so to think Max could have jumped on the table and screamed about his numbness—how truly cathartic that would have been for him—how much of the darkness he would let out if these emotions were not actually being harbored but released. Which is partly what makes this show so riveting because while these characters are not actually exhibiting these emotions, it is a way for the audience to get inside their heads, along with Zoey, in order to understand so much more.

It’s this stunning number, and Skylar Astin brought to life a number of emotions impressively all throughout the episode. It’s the utter sincerity he wears as he tells Zoey he prefers it when she cares more. It’s the way in which he wears armor around his father that was evident through the changes in his physicality and the walls he carried around himself. It’s the fleeting moment of childlike joy when for a moment it seems like his father is giving him the money out of genuine belief. This is not the Max we saw last week, and Astin made sure we saw the differences in the character around those he is comfortable with, allowed to be himself with, and his father, who unfortunately has numbed him to no end with his disappointments.

Who was the most noteworthy performer you watched this week?

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