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Performers Of The Month - Staff Choice Performer of March - Iain De Caestecker

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Article lead by Donna Cromeans (@DJRiter) with contributions by Gina Kern, Luana Arturi, and Jamie Coudeville. Article edited by Donna Cromeans (@DJRiter). Article prepared for publication by Aimee Hicks.

As with the SpoilerTV Reader's Choice March Performer of the month, the Staff Choice Performer of the month for March also comes from an ensemble show filled with talented actors. However, this month's Staff selection, Iain De Castecker from ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, is making a strong bid to become the most valuable performer in his show's standout fifth and most ambitious season. He was named December Male Performer of the Month in 2017 prior to the column's change in format for his performance as Leo Fitz, a man determined to be reunited with his true love, Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), even crossing time to get to her. In The Devil Complex (5x14) he gives another powerful, bravura performance, filled with complicated emotions and pathos.

Yes, the writing is great in this episode, but it is truly Iain De Caestecker's spellbinding performance as both Fitz and his evil Mainframe doppelganger, The Doctor, that brings this episode to fruition. In many scenes, he is acting masterfully against himself and in others, he isn't just having monologues, it's also his interaction with Daisy (Chloe Bennet), Jemma Simmons (Henstridge) and Deke (Jeff Ward) that makes the delusion all the more real. For these reasons and more that will be explored in the following article, Iain De Caestecker was selected SpoilerTV Staff Choice Performer of March.

It is clear from the very beginning; this episode belongs to Iain De Caestecker. As evidence of that, he takes Fitz through a myriad of emotions in the episode's opening scene. Fitz complains about the lack of British junk food in their hideout. He's clearly growing frustrated with both being on the run and failing to complete his current task, failure is not an option for him, yet his failures seem to be haunting him. It has been a while since they've had a home. He went from the Framework to prison, to space and now hiding from the government. De Caestecker makes it perfectly clear that despite Fitz's frustrations, one person and one person alone, Jemma, is always the one who can pull him out of his funk. When she's attacked by the astronaut the fear is clear in his voice. They may be confronted by their biggest fears but Fitz's almost happened right in front of him: losing Jemma.

The way Iain De Caestecker played this scene, you can see and experience Fitz's frustration in knowing what needs to be done, but not knowing how to do something. All that frustration is on vivid display through his short temper, his pacing back and forth, and his not remembering certain things. De Caestecker reminds us that Fitz had brain damage, in minute ways. His pacing telegraphs Fitz's nervous energy, and this intense sense of dread that time is running out. The way he covers his face with his hand, the stress and uncertainty are all evident thanks to De Caestecker's performance. This is where if the audience had foresight, the cracks forming within Fitz would have been seen in their early stages.

It's truly a testament to De Caestecker's acting ability how Fitz and The Doctor come across as two completely different people. The Doctor is calm and calculated when he's working on Daisy, something Fitz would never be when working on a friend. He relies very heavily on science, using it as a way to justify what he's doing. This difference is obvious when Fitz interrupts him. His first instinct is to ask the Doctor to stop hurting his friend, but that doesn't mean his instincts always win.

As The Doctor, he was cold, precise and in control. Yet in the same scene, as Leo, De Caestecker was the complete opposite - emotional, afraid and confused. It was visceral in the way De Caestecker embodied both characters, making the audience believe there are two separate people in the scene. When it is revealed that Fitz is alone in the room, and he's been talking to himself the whole time, the audience is shocked. De Caestecker's conviction in his portrayal of both The Doctor and Fitz is so present and real, of course, the audience has to believe The Doctor is another anomaly. That is the physical manifestation of Fitz's biggest fear, becoming The Doctor again. The idea that Fitz is having a mental breakdown, in hindsight can be seen but is not even a possibility to contemplate as the episode unfolds.

When Fitz realizes that it was all him, the way De Caestecker acts the scene, so focused on the scalpel in his hand, like he is shell-shocked, one couldn't help but be pulled into his performance. The scene is intercut with what is now the obvious actions of one man, not an anomaly which makes his performance that much more powerful. How he says at first "All part of his plan", still staring at the scalpel to "my plan" causes chills to go down one's back now after seeing where this ends up. At that moment, one can see that Fitz and The Doctor are no longer two, but one. De Caestecker's performance at this moment was profound and powerful.

De Caestecker makes the audience a believer of whatever he is experiencing. It is how the viewer can believe that Fitz is really fighting with The Doctor, but then the next moment, when Fitz and by default the audience come to the shocking realization that it was all an illusion. Fitz, once timid, is now willing to do anything to save the world, including doing the unthinkable. When he says "No, there is no going back" to Jemma, and then responds to her "Of course there is," the audience is shocked to hear Fitz say "I've planned for that too." This is the true moment of a switch being turned with De Caestecker now playing the manifestation of everything Fitz has been terrified of since he exited the Mainframe, Fitz and The Doctor are actually two parts of his personality, and the cold scientist has finally come to the front. De Caestecker was brilliant in the subtle way he played that moment. No longer is it the Evil Doctor doing things, now it is Fitz doing what needs to be done - Daisy must have her powers back so they can close the breach, and Fitz will now do anything to make it happen.

There is a creepiness in De Caestecker's performance as he tells Jemma that the science is sound, and there are always risks. The way he says "You know that Jemma" has such emotion and condescension combined with the tilt of his head that it causes chills and shudders to run through one's body. Even the way he holds the scalpel in such a threatening but controlled way all plays into the power of his performance.

When he sits down, and a tear falls down his face, for a moment, you know this is truly Fitz. And after he pulls the device out of Daisy's head, she tells him she'll never forgive him. Fitz responds with an acknowledgement that she won't be the only one. The audience realizes that Fitz knows he has probably done something, though necessary, that will be unforgivable. From his whole physicality, to how he says certain lines, everything De Caestecker is trying to portray, in all its messed up, for the greater good, I don't want to but I have to actions way is totally believable.

After taking out the device Fitz almost can't believe he did it. He stares at it for a minute like he's realizing what this means for his relationship with the team. Afterward, he looks defeated, like he's giving up. His despondent face shows that he believes his teammates already hate him, so, he might as well finish what he started. After Daisy finishes with the gravitonium, he immediately and resolutely surrenders. He knows they won't trust him now, won't want to be around him. De Caesteckers brilliant controlled performance sold the heavy emotional implications of the moment.

After it all goes down, Fitz is locked up and reflecting on what he did. Despite Jemma's attempts to understand what has been going on with him, despite De Caestecker's defeated demeanor, his Fitz starts by explaining why he didn't tell anyone since his mind has been through a lot and perhaps hearing his Framework-self's voice in his head wasn't alarming enough. Scenes between De Caestecker and Henstridge are always standouts, and this one takes on an added poignancy. She tries to make excuses for him but he's not willing to do that, taking responsibility for this darker part of himself. He's heartbroken and on the edge of tears because he doesn't think he deserves to be forgiven and still knows he wouldn't do anything differently, but he's also calm because he has given up on denying it. He's surprised when Jemma agrees with him, but they always grow together and in sync, he confesses he doesn't know what's next and they just stand there silently fearing the unknown. There are so many conflicting thoughts going through Fitz's mind throughout this whole conversation and De Caestecker shows us all of them, little touches like having Fitz play with his wedding ring shows what is going on inside his head, it showed that Fitz was unsure about what the commitment he's made to his actions means for his marriage.

The fifth season of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has given fans many standout performers, Chloe Bennett's Daisy, Clark Gregg's Phil Coulson, Ming Na's Melinda May, Henry Simmon's Mack, Elizabeth Henstridge's Jemma Simmons, and Natalia Cordova-Buckley's Yo-Yo, have all had their moments to shine. The case can be made, however, that perhaps none have shone brighter this season than Iain De Caestecker's layered performances as Leo Fitz. This article has attempted to examine his stellar work in The Devil Complex, however, this was a big episode for Iain De Caestecker so there was no way to cover his every outstanding moment, so please use the comments to discuss every powerful brilliant moment of acting that he delivered in this episode and throughout the month of March.

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

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