This Week

The Tragedy of Nelle Benson & The Kidnapping That Wasn’t

Each week, I’m going to pick out the A story on General Hospital and break it down. Was it successful? Was it a flop? How did it effect the characters? What are the implications?

What Happened

Last Friday, Nelle slashed Brook Lynn ‘s throat while her reluctant husband kidnapped Wiley from his (apparently) unguarded bed at the Quartermaine Mansion. Cursed by second thoughts, Julian monologued while threatening to kill Nelle, giving the undead Taggert time to tackle him and get shot. Nelle got away with Wiley in tow, leading everyone on a chase to a cabin that apparently was well-known to Michael and his family. Nelle abandoned Wiley to Michael and took off, hoping to fight another day. Carly, having caught up with Nelle and Michael, went after her. They fought, verbally and physically (Carly got a caught to the kick we all enjoyed) before Nelle accidently fell off a cliff and slipped away to a likely (but probably not) death.  Jax caught up and attempted to talk Carly into not telling the authorities she fought with Nelle, hoping to save his ex-wife from the police and a murder charge.

Why It Bombed

I have never watched a show that was so capable of putting delicious ingredients into a pot, and then dumping a whole bunch of literal shit on top to ruin the meal.  Of all the soaps that returned this week, General Hospital should have been the most poised for success. Kidnappings, throat slashings, hostile company takeovers, the Nurse’s Ball — this August return should have been epic.

It was not.

The problem with this story is the pacing. At the end of the day, General Hospital kills its own momentum. We spent an entire day of Julian monologuing to Nelle, threatening to kill her and turn Wiley back over to his parents, slowing the story down. No one thought Julian was ever going to do this, so it was a waste of space.

We had Willow hanging out at the Q mansion so she could be visited by Nina and Lulu so we could what…? Make sure Cynthia Watros and Emme Rylan got those minimums? Willow should have been with Michael. This was the show’s chance to show this marriage of convenience in action. Why do I want Michael and Willow together? I don’t. Because they’re just boring. But show me them working together–understanding each other–comforting each other.

Instead of this being Michael and Willow’s story, this was Carly’s story. Michael was just hanging out in the background, like he always does.

Nelle went to the cabin that Michael had taken her to…? Why, exactly? Why not head straight for the airport or for the Canadian border? She had passports! She could have kept driving straight out of New York! When you write your characters as stupid all of the time, there’s never any threat. I knew Nelle wasn’t going to get away. Because she’s up against the almighty Corinthos clan, and they’re not allowed to lose.

Also — Carly and Sonny should never be allowed into the Quartermaine mansion unless they’re breaking in. Monica does not get to slap them enough for the bullshit with AJ, and when Carly took Monica to the hospital, I almost threw up.

People are too nice to each other on this show, and considering Carly drugged AJ, lied to him repeatedly, cheated on him, and had his parental rights terminated through violent threats, I really think it’s okay if Monica doesn’t like her. (And of course — COVERED UP HIS MURDER AND LIED ABOUT HIS FINAL WORDS). Michael should be torn between his Corinthos and Quartermaine families repeatedly but — everyone is happy?

So this story bombed because it focused on the wrong characters in the wrong settings, and wasted space with a Julian threat that was never going to work.

What Almost Worked

While I would have liked to see Michael finally taking charge of his own life (did anyone else have flashbacks to the Wiley reveal when Carly just yelled the whole time?), at the end of the day, he was always a pawn in Nelle’s plan. This was always a Nelle vs. Carly storyline, and I can live with that idea.

And that brings us to the tragedy of Nelle Benson who deserved so much better, and to the disaster of Carly Corinthos, who used to be so much more.

Nelle is supposed to be Carly’s adopted half-sister, raised by Carly’s adopted father, Frank Benson. She was supposed to be the second coming of Carly Roberts, the hellion who blew into town in 1996 and destroyed everyone she touched. Nelle did what she was supposed to do — and she even followed Carly’s playbook. She drugged a man to make him think a lie, she got pregnant in order to secure her position, she manipulated people into thinking she was something special, and did it all with a twinkle in her eye.

I’m sorry — is that not Carly’s origin story?

On Thursday, Nelle threw this story in Carly’s face, and Carly told her that she (Carly) had turned a corner and wasn’t that person anymore. And you know, there’s a time I would have believed that. Tamara Braun’s version of Carly? Still conniving, still scheming, but there was a heart underneath. Even early during Laura Wright’s tenure, they played that beat a few times. And Sarah Joy Brown pioneered the misunderstood vixen who manage to grab us while being completely insane.

After twenty-four years, yeah, I guess Carly should be redeemed.

And this brings me to my major problem with General Hospital: these writers fundamentally don’t understand the concept of redemption. Redemption might be a noun, but the act of redeeming is a verb that requires constant attention.

Redemption is not a one and done act. Carly does not get to be a nice person for five minutes out of every year, and all her crimes are swept under the rug. She does not get to blame Ava for Morgan’s downfall while never accepting her own accountability for AJ’s break in sobriety in 1997. AJ jumped off a cliff, yeah, but Carly and Sonny shoved him right to the edge over and over again (with a lot of help from Jason).

The show thinks a character can simply say I’m sorry and be done. That’s not how redemption works. And it’s why pretending Carly “turned” a corner rings hollow and false. Five years ago, she was actively covering up the murder of the man her son knew and loved as a father. She helped frame someone else to go to jail. And Michael was the one that had to forgive her. Carly and Sonny did nothing to earn his forgiveness — Michael offered it on his own.

And that’s the ultimate tragedy of Nelle Benson and all her failed attempts to bring accountability to Carly’s life. She should have been the mirror held up to Carly to show her that without Jason standing by her no matter what, she would be Nelle. Nelle never had a Jason. Imagine who she could have been with someone who always supported her, even when she didn’t deserve it?

This should have been a triumph for Carly. Instead, it was another reminder that this show does not understand the character of Carly Corinthos or why anyone ever liked her.

Where Do We Go From Here?

It’s hard to tell — because I used to be better at predicting what General Hospital would do. They never went with the messiest choice or the one I would make, but usually, the writers would pick something dramatic to do. Lately, the show decides to go with the choices that will give us the least interesting fall out.

What should happen is that Jax and Carly cover up Nelle’s death, hiding the truth from everyone including Sonny, Jason, and Michael. This drives a wedge between Sonny and Carly, brings Jax and Carly closer while paving the way for Nelle to come back one day and have her final revenge on the Corinthos family.

What will happen on Monday? Eh, Carly will probably tell Valerie the truth, Valerie may or may not believe her, and Sonny will give her a cookie for telling the truth. Who knows? I know what I want to happen, so so we’ll see.

 

Characters · General Hospital

Do I Like Sam?

I was having a Twitter back and forth a few days ago with a Jason/Sam fan about Kelly Monaco’s push to “clean up” the Sam character about a decade ago. I found myself writing a tweet that agreed with that poster that some of the things Sam did in 2006-08 were out of character, and then I started to wonder if I was being a hypocrite or trying to avoid an argument because I know I’ve written other tweets/comments regarding this time period being my favorite Sam stuff.

I found myself trying to figure out if I really do actually like the character of Sam or have I convinced myself to push my opinion above toleration because General Hospital has put her at the forefront for the better part of fifteen years? Am I gaslighting myself into liking a character I actually don’t?

I haven’t really done a lot of thinking about Sam. I don’t write a lot of fanfiction with her which means I haven’t had to break down her character. The one story where she plays a role is All We Are, and I’ll be the first to admit that that was not a story that did either Sam or the Jason/Sam relationship a lot of justice. But I have some stories in the pipeline where I include Sam and I have to do a better job of understanding her.

So do I like Sam? I don’t know. Maybe? Buckle up, this is a long one.

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General Hospital · If I Wrote The Show

If I Wrote GH: The Search for Faison

Originally posted June 27, 2018.

Picking up where last week ended, we are now in October. There are several pieces of the story happening at once.

To recap, Joss, Cam, and Oscar started the ball rolling by investigating  the possibility that Andrew Cain and Jason Morgan are related. They’ve brought in Spinelli to assist them. Once Spinelli confirms they went missing at the same time and that they are identical twins (a simple DNA test would prove that Jake and Oscar are brothers — they’re actually cousins, but Jason and Drew share identical DNA), they go up the food chain.

Carly and Sonny are eager to jump on this, while PC!Jason (who from now on will be referred to as Drew) is more mixed up about it. He believes that Andrew Cain exists, he just can’t understand how any of this is happening. Sam is in denial. Drew is not Jason. She’s married to Jason, end of story. Oscar’s mom, Kim, Drew’s wife, has gone to Jordan to start an investigation. Jordan and Carly both independently have turned to Anna at the WSB for more information.

Franco is involved because he’s been having strange memories all summer–memories of a little boy, memories of a lab, memories of pain, etc. He and Elizabeth have been drifting apart after the death of Audrey in June. He’s angry when Elizabeth talks to him about Andrew and Jason. He hates when Jason comes into their life. He’s already given into the urge once and killed someone. He learns from Betsy that up until about 2011, he always knew who Drew was. That his obsession with Jason began because Franco knew Drew was Jason’s twin brother.

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General Hospital · If I Wrote The Show

If I Wrote GH: Jason Really Has A Twin

Originally posted June 21, 2018

It’s no secret that Steve Burton’s hyped return to the show last fall has fizzled out. After a relatively promising start (there was about two weeks where it was can’t miss television for me) sometime in December/January, the story started to take a turn. It became a story about Franco’s past, about Anna’s past, about Nathan’s past.

What it hasn’t been is a story about Jason or Drew. I have lots of ways I would have written this story, some of which are in progress, but if I wanted to hit some of the same beats the show did — i.e. turn this into a major umbrella story that revisited the back stories of popular characters, here’s how I would have done it.

Story Assignment

It turns out that Jason isn’t really Jason — he’s Jason’s twin brother whom Heather gave to Betsy Frank to raise along with Heather’s son Franco. Jason has been kept in some sort of captivity for the last five years in a Russian clinic. He is freed by Ava, returns home to dig out the truth, learns about Danny and Jake. Meanwhile, the Jason in Port Charles finds out he’s a missing Navy S.E.A.L. named Andrew Cain. Their story should involve Andre, Anna, Faison, and Nathan along with the rest of Jason’s family. Franco should also play a role in this story. 

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Commentary · General Hospital

Introduction of New Characters

Originally Posted January 23, 2018

This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot over the last few months, and particularly the last few weeks as criticism of General Hospital’s casting methods has been highlighted.

In case you live under a rock on #soaptwitter, beloved icon of daytime, Genie Francis was unceremoniously dumped off contract and basically forced out, igniting the rage of pretty much everyone. Love or hate her, Laura was in the middle of an intense front burner storyline and running for mayor with her history as her platform. To lose her in the middle of this story without warning was simply stunning.  At the same time, new characters have been introduced with either questionable acting skills or little purpose in the story (Peter August and who ever the hell Greg Evigan is playing, I haven’t paid enough attention to care about his name).

Look, writing for soaps is hard, y’all, and I’m the first person to admit it. It’s easy to throw stones from our couches, but under the best of circumstances, juggling a huge canvas is ridiculous hard and it’s clear that many of these new characters are top-down decisions. I don’t see the writers going to management and saying hey we’re writing this story, we need someone — it’s clearly “Here’s someone. Fit him in.”

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Commentary · General Hospital

How Genie Francis Inspired My Life’s Work

Originally posted January 21, 2018.

If you know me in real life, the first thing you usually learn about me is I am obsessed with history. I study it in graduate school, I’m pursuing it as my teaching certification, and historical fiction and nonfiction are my favorite genres.

I can actually pinpoint the moment that I fell in love with history. It was July or August 1992, and I had just turned eight years old. I was at my grandmother’s house, and my uncle popped in a VHS of North and South. Not the amazing BBC production, but the fantastic 1980s miniseries with Patrick Swayze, James Read, Robert Mitchum…and Genie Francis.

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General Hospital · If I Wrote The Show

If I Wrote GH 1: Nelle Gaslights Carly

Originally posted June 6, 2018

Note: This is the inaugural entry in my new series: If I Wrote GH. I write fanfiction as almost a third job, haha, and I’m always thinking about what I would do differently. Even when GH was really good (my favorite years in the 1990s and the mid 2000s), I still think about that. I don’t have the time to write the fanfiction, they’re not hiring me to write GH, so here we are).


Let’s assume that my story assignment was the following:

Nelle gaslights Carly into thinking Morgan might be alive, making her appear to be unstable and fragile to those closest to her. This culminates in Nelle throwing herself down the stairs, framing Carly for her assault, and Carly being sent to Ferncliffe after being found not guilty due to insanity. 

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Characters · Commentary · General Hospital

The “Yes, But Your Boy Did This” Defense

Originally posted December 17, 2017.

Note: If you like Franco and don’t enjoy hearing criticism of his character, you’re gonna wanna turn away. I’m not in the mood on this subject. We can debate his redemption story all you want, but I just can’t anymore with this sexual assault crap.


The other day, General Hospital’s Twitter feed asked if Franco deserves Elizabeth’s love. I responded that no, he didn’t. He’s a sexual predator and I’ll never buy the tumor storyline.

I get it. The show wrote him a redemption storyline that worked for a lot of people. Good. That’s how fiction works. Something works for you. Doesn’t work for everyone. And for a lot of us, there was no redemption that could be written to make the Elizabeth and Franco pairing palatable. We don’t have to debate that. My reasons are my reasons, and I’m allowed to have them.

What absolutely drives me crazy is the response to the statement that Franco is a sexual predator, because it’s often a variation on the same theme. The “Yes, But Your Boy Did This” Defense. It exists in real life, and we’re seeing constantly to deflect from sexual misconduct accusations.

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