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Performers Of The Month - May Winner: Outstanding Actor - Michael Emerson


Every television season, our screens are inundated with hundreds of gifted performers. Unfortunately, some of those performers can go years before they become a household name. Then, suddenly, they land a breakout role and if they make the most of the opportunity they can, and usually will, garner legions of fans in the process. For Michael Emerson, that is the journey he took into the hearts of television fans everywhere. While Emerson has an impressive and immense resume of outstanding roles, it wasn't until his turn as Benjamin Linus on Lost that the world was given a front row seat to his incredible talent. He made Linus a fan favorite and, despite Linus' ever-changing loyalties, or perhaps because of them, he was fascinating to watch. The show knew how incredible of a performer they had in Emerson and gave him complicated and gritty storylines to sink his teeth into. Never once did he disappoint, even when the storylines became ridiculously wild. Because of his incredible talent, it was no surprise that he was immediately swept up by another project as soon as Lost came to an end. He seamlessly transitioned from the fantastical world of Lost to the procedural world of Person of Interest and for the past five seasons, he has masterfully brought to life yet another complicated character in Harold Finch. In every part, he takes incredible pains to pay attention to each and every detail of his character which makes his characters more relatable and easier for the audience to connect with when they see what makes the character tick. Because of these reasons, and a million others, it is no surprise that he was voted the most Outstanding Actor of May.

Emerson won this title primarily for his role in the 100th episode of Person Of Interest, entitled The Day The World Went Away. This was the episode where Finch had to deal with having his number come up and suddenly he was the one being chased - well, that part wasn't so unusual - and protected by his own team. For a man who has dedicated his life to trying to help others and better the world, this was a hard position for him to be in. Instead of guiding the team in protecting others, they were doing everything in their power to protect him and, in many ways, he had to take a backseat to his normal duties. Because of the threat to him, the team united with Carl Elias (played by Enrico Colantoni) in a valiant effort to protect Finch from Samaritan's henchmen. Finch and Elias got to spend a fair amount of time together as Elias tried to protect his friend. That allowed for Emerson and Colantoni to continue to delve into this uniquely complicated relationship between these two men.

This friendship gave Emerson some great scenes to play as Finch was thrust right into the middle of all the action. Emerson was given the chance to showcase the struggle within Finch to reconcile what humanity is becoming and how to deal with it. Finch's conversations with Elias showed the camaraderie Finch has developed with Elias over the years and it was through that bond that the audience got to better understand Finch's conflict. For years, Finch had tried to preserve human life but as things got worse with Samaritan, it became harder for him to justify saving some less than savory souls. In Finch's line of work, Elias was the perfect partner to spend time with to start to understand the choices that were ahead. Through Emerson's quiet observations of the moment, Finch could be seen soaking everything in and we got to see his journey to the other side of the proverbial moral line start to ramp up. It is Emerson's portrayal of this friendship that made the permanent loss of Colantoni's Elias all that much harder to deal with and accept. Emerson, as he always does, built up an amazing rapport with Colantoni that made the jobs of the writers all that much easier for one-on-one scenes like this one. Emerson really delivered impact to that friendship when he dropped to his knees and had Finch place a shaking hand on Elias' chest just after the man was fatally shot, and instantly killed, protecting him. He had just lost a friend, for good this time, and could do nothing to help him, especially with Samaritan's agents dragging him away. There was so much pain in Emerson's eyes that Finch's pain at the loss of a dear friend radiated off the screen.

Sadly, Elias wasn't the only one lost in the quest to protect Finch. As the battle neared its end, Finch was entrusted to Root (Amy Acker) as she raced to get him out of harm's way. It was during that chase that Root was shot and ultimately killed. But before that horrible incident occurred, Finch got to spend some quality time with Root. After the complicated relationship they've shared over the seasons, it was only fitting that it was Root who helped Finch understand what he must do next for the Machine and humanity as a whole. Her willingness to sacrifice everything for the mission, for him, really gave Finch a lot to contemplate after her passing. These scenes also gave Emerson some intense moments to play with as he and Acker were tasked with pulling off one of the best car chase scenes to ever grace the small screen. This was a dialogue-heavy sequence, though most of the dialogue was on Acker's side leaving Emerson to have to convey many conflicting emotions with nothing more than his face. Throughout the scene, it was clear that Finch was feeling confused, angry, and even a little defeated, which were all reasonable feelings given the day he was having. Root was giving him a pep talk of sorts and certain things she said fell on deaf ears but others clearly connected with him. All of this was conveyed with minimal dialogue from Emerson, but he made sure that what was going on inside Finch's head was clearly known, even if it wasn't verbally stated.

This was a big pivotal scene for Finch and Emerson had to perfectly sell the bond between him and Root as well as his complicated feelings for the Machine. Those relationships had to be clearly understood for the scene to carry the weight it was designed to burden Finch with. These actors were tasked with easing Root's primary story to an end while also ramping up Finch's story for the final burst of the series. If Emerson hadn't been able to fully connect with Acker and if he hadn't been able to absorb what she was throwing at him then the meaning of the scene could have been lost. Thankfully, and as expected, Emerson and Acker delivered and created a scene that was powerful and had incredible meaning for each of their characters. These two performers shared this scene in perfect partnership and it was a beautiful thing to watch.

One of Emerson's most outstanding displays of acting prowess came during the interrogation scene and the level of perfection delivered by Emerson is hard to even describe in words. This was another instance of Finch sitting back and just listening and observing and planning. He had just watched Root be critically wounded, had no idea of her status, and that was on top of knowing another friend was indeed dead. As the agent was talking, Emerson showed that Finch was nearing the point where he could take no more. Finch starts to challenge the agent and explain where the government's rules have gotten them. Emerson let his eyes go cold and his voice took on a firm and defiant tone. When Finch was really worked up, it was noticeable that Emerson's voice started to tremble, not from emotion but from anger that he was feeding that into his performance, with so much accuracy that it was shocking. That was acting at its very best and in its most pure form of realism. Acting at that level is something many top rated performers can't even pull off. Everything about how Emerson played the interrogation scene was just sheer perfection.

Immediately following that came the reveal of Root's death and the remorse that filled his eyes was just heartbreaking. Emerson opened up his heart and soul for the audience to see inside of so we could get a glimpse at what the members of the team mean to him. He didn't have to say a single word for everyone watching to know exactly what he had just found out. This singular moment didn't break Finch but, through Emerson, we could see that it forever changed him. Emerson is always on point in his performances but he took it to an entirely different level in this episode, and it was awe-inspiring to watch. He, once again, showed why he has earned so much respect in the industry as a true performer and top-notch person.

Harold Finch was the heart of the show and Emerson always made sure to portray the weight Finch felt because of that. He helped created the Machine and he gave her life; everything that has happened since, every life saved, every life lost, and every person brought together as a result was because of him. Finch had to sacrifice a lot, including his love for Grace (Carrie Preston), as a result of the responsibility placed on him. As was stated in the show, Grace was Harold's greatest weakness, and every time Emerson got to share the screen with Preston, who just happens to actually be his wife, you could see the love Finch felt for her. That relationship wasn't much of a stretch for him, because it's clearly obvious how much love Emerson has for his wife, but it was still beautiful to watch whenever Preston appeared on the show. Emerson was given a lot to do over the seasons and I can't think of a single time when he faltered or failed to deliver. An incredible feat, given that almost every other actor has at least one "off episode" per season.

Michael Emerson is a performer that we are destined to see on our screens for a very long time. Just like his rapid transition after Lost, I highly doubt he'll remain absent from our screens for long. He has a reputation of not only being extremely talented but he is also a reliable and giving actor. Those qualities will ensure he will land somewhere else soon and I cant wait to see what his next project will be.

Starting this month I will be giving my fellow SpoilerTV staff members a chance to weigh-in on the winners.

What Others Think:

Laurel Weibezahn:
When I show Person of Interest to a new viewer, chances are one of the first comments will be "Isn't that the guy from Lost?" Benjamin Linus cast a large shadow over Person of Interest going into the first season. While it may not have anything to do with a magical island, it was clear that Harold Finch had a secret. Well, he ended up having many secrets. The biggest twist for me was the simplest: Harold was a good man. He wanted to make the world a better place. There was no avarice or manipulation in Michael Emerson's performance. After the first few episodes of that first season, I stopped seeing Ben Linus at all. I think that there are some very good actors out there that essentially play the same character over and over. Emerson isn't one of them. The dignity and honesty he brings to the role have made Harold one of the most beloved characters on the show (and this is a show that includes an adorable dog).

Given the sheer number of episodes that CBS ran off in May, it was basically impossible to cover much more than the incredible performances he delivered in the 100th episode. Please feel free to discuss everything about his May performances that are not covered in this article down in the comments section.

Michael Emerson was your fan pick as the most Outstanding Actor Of May 2016. Hit the comments below to tell others why you think he earned this title and what you most enjoyed about his May performances.

PLEASE READ: This is an article to recognize Michael's work and to honor his performance in May on Person Of Interest. Shipper related bashing will not be tolerated in the comments even from Michael's fans. Honor the performer and his performance. Have fun and be kind to one another.

Note: This is a generic warning to avoid any issues in the comments section and to help keep this a fun and safe place to gush about the winners.


About the Author - Aimee Hicks
Aimee works for a newspaper in North Carolina and has a BA in Broadcasting and Cinema. She has been a TV lover since before she really understood what TV was. She has a long list of shows that she loves to watch and can be found on twitter (@ahicks83) live tweeting about each new episode whenever she can. If the show is sci-fi, fantasy, comic book based, drama, or action the odds are good she watches it or has at least watched a few episodes of it. She also has a love for comedies 2 Broke Girls and Mom. She was the original creator and co-founder of LOST Video Island (lostvideo.net) which is still operating under the management of the very capable and skilled group she turned it over to.
You can email her at aimee@spoilertv.com.
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