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Performers of The Month - Staff Choice Most Outstanding Performer of December - Molly Parker

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The article was written by Donna Cromeans, Ellys Cartin, Zandarl, and Gina Kern. Article edited by Donna Cromeans (@DJRiter). Article prepared for publication by Aimee Hicks.

Two accomplished actresses have been given the honor of playing Maureen Robinson, the iconic matriarch of the space-traveling Robinson family of Lost in Space on television. While Molly Parker and June Lockhart (the original Maureen Robinson) each had their own unique take on the heart of the Robinsons, they shared the same drive, determination, sense of survival, and fierce mother-protector instincts the character possesses. In the Season Two standout episode Unknown (2x8) Parker shines as a determined Maureen leads a mutiny aboard the Resolute spaceship to save thousands that were going to be left behind. For her outstanding performance in this episode, Parker has been selected by the staff of Spoiler TV as Staff Choice Performer of the Month for December.

From the very start of Lost in Space, Maureen Robinson has had the makings of one of TV's most thrilling heroes. She's an unapologetically brilliant scientist, leader, and mother; she makes no distinctions among the three roles in her priorities. Parker too seamlessly blends these facets of Maureen into every scene. At the center of planning a mutiny, which Maureen is going to execute, Parker is a live wire. Every detail of the mission is being weighed, tested, countered, and approved; her eyes show these processes so vividly that she seems to buzz with energy despite the fact that she's sitting almost motionless in her chair. She also demonstrates with her attention and subtle acknowledgment that Maureen unconditionally trusts her family. Her confidence in what they are saying never wavers. This is a team she has complete faith in. Only once does she interrupt the flow of planning to question whether she can take down a person who could stop the mutiny. Using physical force against someone is a step beyond Maureen's tactics, and Parker demonstrates this with visible satisfaction when an alternative is presented.

Parker's performance continues to be stellar when she quietly and without force takes control of the bridge. She efficiently seeks to identify friends and foes, which leads to a tense interaction with Captain Kamal (Sakina Jaffrey). When Maureen has to quickly earn the support of the Head of Security Neil Kaird (Jarrett John), Parker conveyed a toughness and empathy needed for this situation. She gained Kaird's support by appealing to his sense of duty as a soldier by softly relating that the man who rescued him when he was injured was going to be one of those left behind. Over the scene, Parker’s performance evolved as Maureen’s conviction in the rightness of her actions grew. Her intellectual toughness grew outwards to reflect in how she carried herself. Parker was able to convey all this with her body language, creating a visual reminder that her character was not only highly intelligent but also naturally adept at leadership.

On the bridge, Maureen fits naturally into the aura of authority she presents. Parker plays Maureen as someone who is bold but not reckless. She is not inclined to take risks. Her confidence comes not from arrogance but from certainty she reinforces by thoroughly reviewing every angle of a problem. It would take something immense to knock her off balance. She isn't anxious but always on her guard. One of her first actions is to ensure the safety of her son Will (Maxwell Jenkins). She calmly communicates that he must be allowed to leave the engine room unhindered. It's a firm, quiet order, one that again demonstrates how Maureen doesn't have priorities because everything is her priority at the same time. She checks in briefly with her husband John (Toby Stephens), sharing a humorous exchange about it being her first mutiny. The way Parker casually drops that funny remark then cuts the conversation is a small, delightful reminder that Maureen isn't one to wait around for recognition. She goes on to explain most of her plan to Captain Kamal. There is nothing Maureen hasn't thought of, but again Parker ensures that she doesn't lord her wisdom or detailed planning over anyone else. She knows herself to be in the right, to be in full command of the material and the risk factors, and this reflects in her calm posture and voice. When Kamal points out they are doing something that hasn't been done, Parker fills Maureen's voice with excited warmth. She tells the other that in her line of work, one test is often all they get. "We're good at passing it." Maureen's love for her professional and academic field spills out here. Yes, this is a person who places the entire force of her will in opposition to what she believes to be wrong and risks her freedom to do so, but she's also someone who finds beauty and joy in the smallest scientific revelation. Parker's ability to fold all these traits into one character is work of the highest caliber.

In a thrilling midpoint scene, Maureen guides the Resolute into the gas planet's atmosphere. Everyone else is buckled up, but Parker stands at the helm. As the ship lurches forward, she delivers orders with confidence. She seems melded with the ship, anticipating every detail of the flight. This scene was likely filmed in a studio, but the awe on Parker's face, the power that makes her the master of the ship at this moment, utterly sells that this mighty ship, as formidable as the woman at the helm, is making this dangerous descent.

As the ship settles into a stable orbit, most everyone on the bridge breathes a sigh of relief that they survived the descent. Everyone that is except Maureen, she had no doubt they'd make it. Parker never let Maureen's body language show the first sign of hesitation or concern, she remained calm and in control during the entire dive. She steps to the front viewing area to admire the planet before them, a sense of accomplishment shining on her face as bright as the sunlight that bathed both the planet and her features with a warm glow. She never let Maureen's body language show the first sign of hesitation or concern. Captain Kamal (Sakina Jaffrey) breaks her reverie by telling her she was lucky. This was a beautifully shot moment, the two women illuminated by the sun, standing there together not as adversaries, just two confident women of authority. One driven by duty and honor, the other by science. Parker softens her voice, perhaps in a show of respect to the Captain by admitting that she'd made mistakes as a wife and mother, but her voice gathers strength and conviction when she continues that the one place she doesn't make mistakes was in her job, that their success wasn't luck, it was math. After a brief non-verbal exchange where the Captain shows Maureen a moment of respect with a slight nod of her head, Maureen confidently sets about completing what had driven her to take these radical actions by ordering the opening of the intake valves to begin cleansing the tanks.

Parker has the ability to play quietly strong characters with uncanny precision. This makes it more than believable that Maureen could peacefully gain control of the bridge with the least amount of conflict possible. However, viewers will know she struck a deal with an unknown buyer for her son Will’s passage onboard the Resolute. Not for the first time, the consequences of her actions rear their head, and she finds herself in hot water. The course of any mutiny never runs smooth, and Maureen’s comes to a halt when her own past actions are used against her by Hastings (Donald Hodge). At first, the news that the communications system is down barely affected Maureen. Parker applies her character’s pragmatic, problem-solving voice, indicating that this turn of events is not a true obstacle. Of course, the worst part is yet to come. When the bridge learns that about the airlock being opened, endangering lives, everything shifts. Parker has been powering every scene, but here she slows down her body movements and facial reactions, creating the effect that gravity has shifted around Maureen. She realizes that the access code she traded for her son’s spot on the ship, her greatest ethical violation by the program’s standards, has been weaponized against her. This is the only moment that a true flicker of fear appears on Parker’s face. The weight of the revelation freezes her in place. Then her expression shifts. Her face lights up with an instantaneous snap of recognition. Maureen didn’t have a plan before this, but Parker shows us the second one forms in Maureen’s brain. She relinquishes the helm back to Kamal, hurrying towards the exit. She pauses, however, and turns back to lock eyes with the other leader, to grasp at that mutual respect they have formed. Parker places an apology underneath Maureen’s request that Kamal let Maureen remedy the situation, a contradiction of all her previous actions that confuses Kamal. The clarity and urgency that Parker places on Maureen here ensures viewers are not similarly baffled. Maureen had already taken responsibility for the outcome of this mutiny, and this is just the next step in fulfilling that bargain. Maureen Robinson isn’t a person who leaves anyone behind.

The Maureen that runs to the maintenance pod without hesitation is the same one Parker has been portraying for this entire episode, but now she's fueled by adrenaline, moving with such speed that she is nearly ricocheting off the walls. In one quick gesture, she pulls her hair back into a ponytail, limiting distractions. To reach the external airlock controls, Maureen must take the tiny pod away into a dangerous sea of turbulent gasses. Parker makes you feel every buffet, every blow, as winds and scrap metal alike beat the small craft. She keeps Maureen laser-focused on controlling the ship, with a death grip on the controls. Once she cries out after an unexpectedly strong blast makes the pod lurch. Her response is to hold on tighter, leaning slightly forward as if it is solely up to her coiled strength to hold that pod on course. In a way, that is the case. And Parker holds our attention as tightly as Maureen grasps those controls. When she does finally make it to the airlock, it takes more than one try to latch on to be able to close it. Her intense concentration translates so forcefully through the screen that one can feel the tension in her forehead and the whiplash of relief when she is ultimately successful.

Returning to the Resolute, Maureen realizes that the Captain has followed through on her plan. The water will be cleaned. They won't be leaving behind the stranded colonists. Parker brings home the triumph that Maureen is feeling in the absolute happiness that shines on her face as she takes in the view of the ship and the golden gasses swirling around it. That glee is also shown by Parker to be Maureen's fuel. The lightning bolt solid set of her body has diminished, her incredible efforts starting to take their toll; Parker loosens up Maureen's posture accordingly, letting the controls support her while before she was practically pulling them upward. This isn't a redemption moment for Maureen, because she wasn't in need of one, but it's unmistakably celebratory that she has simply saved the day. Even this last-minute hurdle couldn't literally or figuratively slow her down. The grin that lights up her face is electrifying. Every bit of this victory has been earned by the grueling mental and physical work she has put in. Parker's performance creates both obstacles and solutions. She is the axis around which the entire episode spins, setting both the pace and the tone, and every second is thrilling.

From the woman driven to such a drastic action as mutiny to save lives, to the mother who made a deal with the devil to protect her child, and the warrior willing to sacrifice herself to rescue the crew, this Maureen Robinson is a character of strength, determination, and courage. In Unknown Molly Parker plays every side of the character to perfection in a performance that most certainly was worthy of accolades and her selection as Spoiler TV's Staff Choice Performer of the Month for December. What were your thoughts on her performance? Share them in the comments below.

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