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.