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Performers of the Month - December Winner: Outstanding Actor - Iain De Caestecker

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This article was contributed to by Lisa Macklem, Aimee Hicks and DJRiter. Editing by DJRiter.

There are two types of action/adventure or superhero shows on television these days. The first features a single strong lead around whom the stories revolve. They are often surrounded by a strong supporting cast. The second is the ensemble show, a group of talented actors portraying interesting characters with the focus of the stories being on the team. On the better examples of the latter, good writers will often give each character the chance to shine. Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is the perfect example of the second. In the episode Rewind (5x5), they give one performer just that opportunity. It is rare that you get to see so many layers and emotions of a character on display in a single episode, and the result is a tour de force from Iain De Caestecker (Leo Fitz). In this one episode his Leo Fitz was melancholy over the Framework, angry, sad, funny, self-reflective, lovelorn, brutal, and passionate. This showcase for his talent is the primary reason Iain De Caestecker was selected as December's Most Outstanding Actor.

This episode actually rewinds the first four episodes of the season to let us know what happened to Fitz after the rest of the team disappeared from the diner. It was really a brilliant way for the show to somewhat fast forward through Fitz having to deal with the aftermath of what happened in the Framework. That doesn't mean that De Caestecker didn't get a chance to deliver on all those intense emotions, however.

The episode opens in the diner and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) is worried because Fitz isn't eating. He's clearly consumed with guilt for what he did in the Framework. But when the team disappears and the military is suddenly there to arrest him, Fitz is catapulted out of those feelings, and of course, his primary feeling is panic and an all-consuming focus on getting back the team – and the love of his life.

He may still be dealing with the disorientation of being out of the Framework, but he's still one of the smartest people on the planet. He immediately suspects the military for what happened – maybe the rest of the team are also being interrogated in other rooms? But the scientist is also front and center as he also focuses on the missing two minutes. Fitz is also not completely protecting himself, either. He tries to explain to General Hale (Catherine Dent) that Aida was responsible for the robot that shot Talbot (Adrian Pasdar) – and that it was a robot and not Daisy (Chloe Bennet) – and for killing Radcliffe (John Hannah). But once again, his own guilt bleeds through as he takes responsibility for killing Mace (Jason O'Mara). Of course, Aida is the one truly responsible here too. De Caestecker captures Fitz's anguish and remorse here.

When Fitz passes their lie detector test with flying colors, he earnestly promises to do everything he can to help them find the team. Fitz isn't lying – that's the beauty of it. Fitz tells Gale "I wish I knew (where they were), cuz as much as you want to find them and bring them to justice, I want to find them so I know that they're ok." He's going to find the team – he's just not going to turn them over to Gale!

It was great watching De Caestecker use his natural boyish looks to full advantage in these scenes as he tricks his captors into letting him have books, watch soccer, though one could doubt he – or Fitz! – had to fake that passion for soccer. You could see the cunning wheels turning, as he tricked his captors into sending "fan" letters for him, proving how much smarter he was than they were. Don't let that baby face fool you, beneath those eyes and scruffy beard beat the heart of a warrior. Iain De Caestecker is stunningly brilliant at portraying the incredible depth of emotion and strength housed within this complex character.

One regret about this amazing De Caestecker showcase is that we miss that wonderful connection and interaction with Henstridge with whom he has such amazing chemistry. The two are clearly generous actors who make the most out of their scenes together. And although she was not there physically her presence was clearly felt. De Caestecker made you feel that connection so strongly with his longing looks at her photo in his files and later on his phone. It takes a special acting duo to be able to show the connection between their characters even when they aren’t even sharing the screen. De Caestecker has this certain longing way he often has Fitz look at Simmons and that same look appeared here. That look gave even more emotional weight to Fitz’s mission to reunite with Simmons and the team. He was a man driven by love and loyalty and remorse and nothing, not even time and space, were going to stand between him and getting back to them.

And speaking of chemistry, Nick Blood (Hunter) and De Caestecker also have it in abundant supply! The two play off each other delightfully throughout the episode. When Hunter arrives in the nick of time – just as General Hale (Catherine Dent) has had enough of what she sees as stalling by Fitz – she's ready to let him die in his cell. Hunter breezes in as Fitz's attorney, and at first, Fitz is furious that it's taken him so long to get there which then turns into a heated argument over soccer, and ultimately ends in a heart-warming hug between the two. It's clear that one is a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants action/fighter and one is a scientist/engineer, and they have very different approaches to how things need to be done. Fitz launching into an explanation of his complicated escape plan as Hunter simply blows a hole in the wall – and then the entire escape is pretty shaky at best! De Caestecker nails the comedy in this sequence as he questions Hunter's ability to actually affect the escape! These two had impeccable chemistry during Blood’s last stint on the show and these two effortlessly slipped back into the dynamic they once shared.

Later, in a quiet but effective scene, in their getaway vehicle – a pretty sketchy RV – they have a chance to catch up on what's been going on in their lives. Six months may have helped Fitz begin to deal with the Framework, but he still doesn't want to talk about Aida – though he does fill Hunter in on Ghostrider. Hunter tells the rather sad tale of his relationship with Bobbi – though he doesn't say they are actually broken up. This leads Fitz to muse that distance is his and Simmons' curse. They always seem to be pulled apart by something. The sadness in his eyes and softness of his voice as Fitz declares maybe the fates have kept him and Simmons apart is one of De Caestecker's most effective moments in the episode. It was a poignant moment and beautifully showed just how much control he has over his performance. His expressive eyes told almost as much a story as the actual words did.

The scene where Fitz makes the connection between the surveillance video of the beer truck at the diner and follows the clues to Enoch (Joel Stoffer) and later learns a monolith has taken them to 2091 required a subtle hand with all of the emotional nuances in the scene and De Caestecker nails them all. Fitz is distressed and dismayed at seeing what happened, distraught over why he was left behind, then channels Dark-Fitz from the Framework when Enoch resists taking him to see the Seer who made the prophecy that didn't include him going with his friends. Hunter is shocked as Fitz takes his gun and flings Enoch on the table, holding the gun to his head. Given Fitz's line of work, some aspects of Dark-Fitz can be useful – and help him to protect himself and the team. The pendulum swing of emotions in that sequence alone was award-worthy. De Caestecker outdid himself and the performance he delivered was stunning.

Later we see the softer side of Fitz, as he talks to the young seer, who turns out to be Robin (Lexy Kolker). De Caestecker keeps Fitz's growing frustration perfectly in check as he communicates with Robin, getting a reaction when he tells her that Daisy (Chloe Bennet) is his friend, but he isn't harsh or angry with her, instead displaying patience. It was a very touching scene, played perfectly. The way De Caestecker transitions between all the varying emotions in this episode is a powerful display of his phenomenal range.

Another perfectly played moment had him reaching as his character is filled with emotion for Simmons. As the group is hiding in the Lighthouse and tries to get some rest, Fitz looks at pictures of Simmons on his phone. Fitz tells Hunter that he and Simmons are together, but it seems like the universe doesn't want them to be. Hunter tells him it's nonsense and that they're perfect together. Fitz worries that the universe is trying to protect Simmons from him, from what he was in the Framework. At that moment, De Caestecker's voice and body language are filled with such defeat and despair your heart breaks thinking that for even one moment he would believe that. Hunter asks him if that's the side of him he saw at Enoch's – and says he kind of liked seeing that side of him. It was effective. Hunter tells him that he knows Fitz isn't a cold-blooded killer, that this "darkness" is simply a tool to be controlled and used when Fitz needs it. Fitz hates it though and continues to worry that that is why he was left behind – he's too much of a risk. Hunter calls him on it and tells him to ask Robin why he wasn't sent.

The final emotion that De Caestecker expertly conveys in this episode is the strongest one, love. Throughout four seasons of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., he's taken us on this journey of shy, quiet scientist, to warrior and lover willing to go to any lengths to be with the woman he loves. He's traveled across universes, and alternate realities to fight to be with Jemma Simmons. So, when faced with the prospect of being put into a cryo-freeze chamber to sleep for 74 years he does not hesitate, especially after learning, through another of Robin's prophecies that Jemma's and the other's lives are in danger and he is the only one who can save them. He makes it look like deciding to be put to sleep for over seven decades is as simple as a walk in the park.

Seventy-four years later and 365 million miles from the Lighthouse, Enoch is there when Fitz wakes up. Enoch has put a plan in motion while Fitz slept. Enoch is concerned that Fitz won't have what it takes to go up against the ruthless and brutal crowd that is waiting for him. Fitz looks at his disguise and assures Enoch that he has it in him. And from the steely resolve in De Caestecker's eyes, you totally believe it, because the Leo Fitz of 2091 is a man on a mission…. the woman he loves is in danger and he's here to save her!

Over the many seasons of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, in the skillful hands of Iain De Caestecker, Leo Fitz has become a man of many layers. Watching all of those layers on full display in this one single episode was a masterful piece of acting. He is an underrated performer who deserves far more recognition than he gets most of the time. It is the honor of the site to be able to honor him with this article as he is very deserving of the recognition. There should be no doubt it was a performance worthy of earning him the title of SpoilerTV’s Most Outstanding Actor of December.

Please feel free to use the comments to discuss all the amazing layers of his character that Iain De Caestecker has brought to life in this episode that this article couldn't cover.

PLEASE READ: Please keep comments on topic and just discussing the performances of the winner.

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