RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES!
That is, if you live in a combo of every bad part of town, every Third World country with an ax to grind and Haiti. Soaps are taking bad news from the proverbial front page, and splashing it in every major Sweeps story. Good for misery junkies, but. . .?
Seems every soap out there is doing a perilous, tragic cliffhanger. Definitely every ABC Daytime soap. Last week, AMC saw Edmund die on the operating table, suspicion on Zach, OLTL kept Blair from Todd by making it look like she splattered her guts in the trunk of a car smashed flat, and GH, my favorite, prolonged the agony of Sonny and Carly by dangling the possibility of Michael’s murder over their heads.
Of all the perilous tragedies running, GENERAL HOSPITAL has me by the short hairs. Because even though I know little Michael is not dead, was never shot pointblank by Faith, there’s a part of me still wondering if the writers have got the balls to turn a twist before my very eyes anyway.
Spoilers notwithstanding, any GH fan who’s watched for any length of time, say, about three years, already can see the reveal coming, twist or no twist.
We’ve been trained not to believe our eyes (if we did, we’d lose all sense of logic and reality). If a character is mourned in a funeral, we wait a few weeks for the inevitable return (of the originator or a recast). There’s actually been talk of A.J. returning from the dead, in a PUNK’d to end all PUNK’d, despite the fact that millions of us (not me) saw him on a slab in a morgue.
Interestingly enough, rumors place A.J. as the head honcho of this kidnapping ring, with two purposes in mind: to torture his enemies, with Faith chiming in for her revenge against Alexis and Ric, and to retrieve his biological son. Never mind what that’s gonna do to the root-ability factor of the real anti-hero in this tale, but what the heck does Billy Warlock care? He’s off to DOOL to reprise his Emmy-winning role as Frankie. And, good for him. Just don’t be surprised if A.J. turns out to be a) alive, b) played by either Sean Kanan (ex-Deacon, B&B), the previous A.J., or Austin Peck (ex-Austin, DOOL), c) nearly castrated alive for his crimes against humanity, d) but redeemed at the 11th hour just in time to enjoy a lion’s share of story, and e) a prime example of how TPTB passive-aggressively screw with its slave labor.
The miracle is…I’m not focusing so much on my perceptions of backstage jockeying and casting politics, as I am enjoying the kidnapping story unfold. It’s exciting, action-packed stuff. Plus, it’s been showcasing the surprising work of several previously underrated (or downright ridiculed by me) actors, as their characters react to the action.
Part of the reason for my change of interest probably stems from my not participating on message boards. I’m too busy brooding about my two-month trip from Hades, staving off chores I must tackle since my two-month trip, trying out a new and improved me with healthier eating and more walking, and just not in the mood to fart around with lighter fare, or in the Courtney saga, pure crap.
I want gunfire, retribution, mental acrobatics, duplicity, courage, triumph. I want to see what I saw on March 1, a slow-mo ballet to opera, as Sonny and Reese enter the abandoned church, catch Faith, bullets and bodies flying, Jason charging in, Sonny tossing him his gun, Jason calmly walking toward Faith and her two goons aiming and shooting, nailing Faith finally, then, as she reaches for her piece, Sonny reaches his foot over to crush her hand, reaching back to Jason, without even looking, for his gun back, to point it at Faith and demand his kids back.
Those scenes were so brilliantly choreographed, I watched three more times on replay. Justus visiting Faith at the hospital later, suffocating her with a pillow, only to get a reverse-confession, Michael’s alive!, on tape, followed by Mac hearing a different version, just fulfills the Dirty Harry Law & Order urge I’ve had lately.
While I’m surprised and surprising myself, I must add my compliments to Tamara Braun (Carly). For the three or so years since she’s taken over where Sarah Brown left off, I have not been kind. But, I have not been a fan of her sneering, growling, bullying, entitled tough girl act; Braun could use a little restraint in her character’s Sonny obsession.
In this kidnapping story, however, her obsession has turned into steadfast loyalty, faith and – in the touching scene where she went to him to talk him down from a suicidal path – a living example of grace under fire. Moments earlier, Sonny had broken down, smashed barware, Reese steps in, notices in his hand a shard of glass, smartly goes to ask Carly to help.
Carly’s face literally changed into that of another person, dare I say, the person the actress really is inside. It was the face of a psychology major who tries to bask in the miracle of disabled people thriving in a Therapeutic Living Center in the middle of San Fernando Valley, just because doing so enriches her as a human being, not a soap star. So many stars in general use their famous collateral to show off for the public, the perfect mom, the generous philanthropist, the political activist, and it’s just for show.
One of Braun’s strengths is her capacity for giving, under the radar, and an undeniable strength of character. I saw some of that in her scene with Maurice Benard’s Sonny, hurting in a way he hadn’t since Brenda died in a plane crash, hurting worse.
Such poetry, almost romantic, Sonny wards her away, with a telling, “Let it bleed,” full of the self-loathing he used to mark his time with, before the mob became an excuse to glorify criminal power. Any one else would’ve flinched, or swooned.
Braun’s Carly, instead, approached cautiously, a picture of understanding, calm and keen intelligence, the therapist in her element, she would lift him up without condemning him, without coddling him, without condescending to him, to get him to drop the shard and shake the breakdown, for their children. In a voice low, quiet and confident, Carly reminded Sonny of his strengths and his responsibility to be a father, the father he always had been in the past when it counted. I could’ve been witnessing a therapy session between psychiatrist and patient. She’s that good.
I don’t know why I missed that good before. Maybe the right story never came along to give substantive context to Tamara Braun’s difference in Carly, a difference SoapTown USA’s “GH Chronicles” columnist Max referred to thusly: “[Sarah] Brown always played Carly with a coarse, unrefined edge that while seemed fitting at the time, sometimes bordered on the vulgar. From the moment Braun appeared, she softened Carly’s rough edges, allowing me to see the vulnerabilities that shaped the character more clearly.”
I’ll buy that. Now.
The only other time I caught a glimpse of the refined Carly with the backbone of steel was when a rival mobster held her, Alexis and some other character hostage at Sonny’s penthouse, shortly after Braun took on the recast role. I marveled then at how in control this Carly was compared to the frantic, panicky, hysterical Carly of old, whose plans always went off with several hitches purely due to dumb luck and puppy dog charm. No, this Carly would not screw up her plans; she’d pull ‘em off and yours too, and then, build the Eiffel Tower from scratch.
I’m glad to see the recast Carly doing well again, after over three years in the waiting, even if it is a bit late, since the actress has chosen to leave when her contract expires in April. Oh well.
In second place, ALL MY CHILDREN’S handling of John Callahan’s (Edmund) storyline-dictated exit, which I found loaded with much long-awaited and, in Julia Barr’s (Brooke) case, long-overdue impact.
Callahan himself disliked his character’s turn into darkness, before turning into a corpse after someone successfully knocked him out with a shovel (not Zach). The actor spoke to his fans, through the press, about it not being in character for Edmund to lie to his wife Maria, and to torture her intentionally. He said he had no idea why TPTB were going this route, but mused that maybe it had to do with storyline payoff, a huge murder mystery involved at the end. If he wrote his character’s ending, he’d have had Edmund, ever noble and true, ride off into the sunset with Maria – in six months.
Whether Edmund’s turn to the dark side (well, he did kidnap Erica once and tried to hurt Dimitri, and look how violent he was with Ryan not too long ago) was in keeping with the character or not, the only performance not wanting has been Julia Barr’s Brooke.
Brooke hasn’t enjoyed a love life, or much of a story, for years, not since she saw her obnoxious adoptive daughter Laura through to a successful heart transplant, which is a shame, because with the right story (the accidental death of biological daughter Laura, the spousal rape by Tom) that doesn’t demand instant waterworks, Brooke shines.
I might as well be honest in admitting that I have been trying to watch the Tuesday, March 1st episode alone for three days now. I just can’t bring myself to do it. I fall asleep, vaguely hearing Maria dry-heaving or screeching at, presumably, Zach, I’d rather zone out to a few Food Network shows (like Jeff Branson/Jonathan), watching GH’s kidnapping story unravel just about drains all the energy out of me.
I did not miss Brooke’s reaction, thank God, one Eva LaRue as Maria might want to take notes on. Less is more, true grief doesn’t always show itself in histrionics, not immediately.
Brooke slowly walked to the window, peering in at a dead Edmund, practically ignored by those more concerned with how Maria was taking it. Then, Brooke slips inside, as Maria and Zach go off in private to talk about how Edmund faked being stuck in the wheelchair for so long, more dry heaving and screeching, back to Brooke, who sits down on a chair close to the still-warm body, her face stunned, disappointed in herself, a lost, lonely little girl.
I saw in that one quiet scene alone – and the episode ended that way, with Brooke just gazing at Edmund, as if he could, even in death, somehow provide the answers – the heart and soul of the story, the part that will probably be ignored in favor of how Edmund’s death will affect Maria and her relationship with Zach.
I want to see Maria and Zach’s relationship blossom. But I also want to see Brooke do more than hold Maria’s hand and suffer in silence, nobly. I don’t see why there couldn’t be both stories as a result (better yet, why Edmund’s had to end with another tacky murder mystery, when Brooke’s right there).
Truth be told, I never liked Edmund after Brooke dumped him for Tad. He’s never been the same since. Now that he’s been killed, the only person around who’s made me care, is Brooke, the only woman who truly loved him and, if we’re being honest here, the only woman he truly loved. Oh well.
Oddly enough, I watched more of ONE LIFE TO LIVE the past week and a half than AMC, just to see the impactor crush the car with Blair in it, as well as how Dorian, Viki, Starr and Todd would take it. Yet, I didn’t care about Blair’s supposed death (she’s alive, ala GH’s Michael). I know I should’ve.
Trevor St. John as Todd actually made sounds of weeping at the scene, after almost touching the car metal painted with blood. And this guy never shows any weakness like crying. He’s more likely to smirk or play jazz drums on the coffee table. Todd had to break it to Starr, like he would break the news of the Yankees losing the Pennant, who made sounds of weeping, but no actual tears. Dorian fought against believing, almost crying; perhaps the best performance turned in by Robin Strasser while lying to sister Addie, facing up to it with David.
Otherwise, Asa’s glee gave the twist away. I doubt TPTB would allow any character to practically do a jig on a horribly violent death like Blair’s, if she were truly dead.
It’s hard to root for, much less care about, the life and times of Llanview residents, when the actors themselves can hardly be bothered, or are crippled beforehand with obvious plot devices designed solely to try to get us, the viewers, to believe so that they can pull the rug out and say, “Gotcha! That’ll be first place in the Nielsen’s, please.”
Besides, there are far too many mysteries unfolding on this show, including two involving murder. Enough’s enough.
The only story focusing on people and their emotional ties has been the ongoing triangle, voted by SOD readers as the best, of Natalie, John and Evangeline. Unfortunately, the triangle hasn’t been bringing out the best in the fan bases but, what are ya gonna do, sue ‘em? Heh heh.