I love General Hospital, and I've watched faithfully for decades -- even when things turned dark and bleak -- because when all is said and done, I adore the characters and the rich history of the show.
When someone references Stavros, he's more than a name to me. He's someone I watched wreak havoc on the lives of some of our most beloved characters.
I knew about Valentin long before he graced our screens, and I remember little Georgie's namesake. I vividly recall when Tom raped Elizabeth in the park following her high school Valentine's Day dance, and I tear up when I think about B.J.'s tragic death and Tony's heart-wrenching goodbye to his daughter.
I'm not nitpicky about storylines. I understand that time is a sketchy beast on soaps, that children are prone to the dreaded Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome (SORAS), and no one drives unless they are on a collision course with someone else. I don't have a problem with that or with suspending reality for the sake of drama, like when a character has brain surgery and wakes up with a full head of hair or they run through the woods in high heels without so much as twisting their ankle or breaking out in a sweat.
In the real world, someone like Heather would never escape the various prisons and asylums she's been locked up in over the years, but in the world of soaps, she's darn near invincible.
I enjoy visits from our resident psychopath, and I find Heather's periodic escapes and crime sprees a nice break from all the other drama. The various visits she gets tend to be a welcome bit of comic relief, or they yield interesting clues to some of the storylines unfolding.
The revelation that Naomi had been paying Heather a king's ransom for years to keep a secret buried eventually led to the discovery that Naomi had carried on a torrid affair with Jeff Webber and bore him a daughter -- whom she promptly passed off as her wealthy husband's child.
I'm delighted that Hayden is Elizabeth's half-sister because it gives Hayden one more reason to stick around Port Charles, and it provides Elizabeth with someone other than Invisible-Audrey to call family. Yes, Elizabeth has three sons, but children are rarely seen on soap operas, and they seldom get directly involved in their parents' shenanigans, which is probably for the best.
Hayden is the kind of character that I enjoy because she's flawed but willing to evolve and grow as a person. Characters with layers are far more interesting than straight-up good guys or bad guys, so I have high hopes for Hayden. I'm pleased that the writers are laying the groundwork for Hayden and Elizabeth to form a sisterly bond because they are each in desperate need of a bestie.
Overall, the show has been good this year, but regrettably not great. The pacing is all over the place with stories dragging out for months then suddenly everything is resolved in a handful of episodes. Patrick and Robin's reconciliation and move to Berkeley is a perfect example of this new phenomenon on GH.
If you blinked, you probably missed Patrick and Robin's speed-of-light wedding before they hopped on a plane and flew off into the sunset with their daughter to live happily ever after in sunny California. The only thing missing was a puppy and Robin finding out that she's pregnant.
I realize that much of the storyline was dictated by Jason Thompson's exit, but the story was too predictable and schmaltzy. Patrick and Robin have deep roots in Port Charles, and I wanted their goodbye to reflect that. Scratch that -- I wanted a longer goodbye with flashbacks and a party with their friends and family bidding them farewell.
That brings me to Nikolas' downfall and "death" when Tyler Christopher and the powers that be failed to reach an agreement during contract negotiations.
It started with Nikolas going dark, stealing everyone's shares of ELQ, and then trying to frame Jason for his murder. While traipsing through the English countryside with Ava, Nikolas changed -- literally -- overnight when the character was recast and promptly killed off.
The story was a hot mess from start to finish, made worse by a short, pointless recast to kill off the character. Adding to the vortex of suck were guest appearances by Diane Delano (Margarethe) and Trent Dawson (Huxley Lynch). The actors are great, but the characters served no purpose and didn't advance the storyline in the least.
The storyline could have done without all that stuff in England because the true mystery was on Cassadine Island, with the official introduction of Valentin Cassadine.
Valentin was the only saving grace in an otherwise uninspiring story because I've desperately wanted to know him ever since Helena first told Luke about him and admitted that Valentin was the only Cassadine she feared.
I don't give Valentin a pass on killing Nikolas, but it should be noted that I don't think Nikolas is really dead. No body always means room for a well-timed return on a soap opera. However, Valentin is supposed to be a bad guy, and bad guys do bad things, so while I didn't like that he shot Nikolas, it wasn't unexpected that Valentin would do something dastardly.
A delicious villain makes for great drama and allows for the good guys to actually look good. Valentin appears to be doing a pretty fine job of illustrating that point. That he's a Cassadine only makes it all the better because Cassadines are infamous for causing mayhem and shaking things up, which keeps things exciting and viewers on their toes.
Valentin's romance with Nina paves the way for love to make him vulnerable and to show us that he does have a softer side. Again, it's those layers that give a character depth and make them more fascinating to me.
However, if Valentin is indeed Charlotte's father, then I don't want him to be evil.
A part of me is still holding out hope that Helena switched Lulu and Dante's last frozen embryo with one that wasn't viable, and Charlotte is the result of those machinations. It makes more sense to me than the story Valentin spun for Lulu about Stavros being unable to father a child and Helena sending someone to retrieve a "contribution" from Valentin without him realizing what was going on until it was too late.
I know there were double-blind DNA tests by two independent labs, which confirmed that Valentin is Charlotte's father, but there are ways for diabolical masterminds to get around that.
That being said, I'm thrilled that Lulu gets her daughter.
This was a case where drawing out a storyline -- Lulu's desire to be a mother -- over an extended period of time worked because we've seen her long and winding journey to become a mother. My heart ached for Lulu when she was told that she couldn't have a child, but I was taken aback when, in her desperation to be a mother again, she decided to hunt down the frozen embryo that Stavros and Helena had whipped up in a Petri dish.
To me, it was like hearing a rape victim actively try to have her attacker's baby, since Stavros had kidnapped Lulu and taken her eggs without her consent. That is where the writers lost me, and as much as Lulu explained that she saw the embryo has her child, not Stavros', I couldn't shake the icky feeling I had in the pit of my stomach at the idea of a woman getting pregnant with her tormentor's child.
Ultimately learning that the embryo was SORASed and created with Valentin's donation made it somewhat less creepy.
The most gripping storyline of the year, I think, was Morgan's tragic demise when Ava switched out his medications with placebos that sent him into a full-blown manic episode and had him careening off the rails and stealing Julian's car within short order.
I got some flack when I suggested that Morgan should have fallen victim to Paul's deadly crime spree, but the fallout from Morgan's death in a horrific car explosion is exactly why I had hoped the writers would take advantage of Bryan Craig's exit.
Bryan Craig, Maurice Benard, and Laura Wright gave us powerful performances throughout the storyline, and the drama continues to unfold as the loss rocks Morgan's loved ones.
If there is one fly in the ointment, it was the writers' decision to back off from making Sonny responsible for the bomb in Julian's car.
I don't think Jean Passanante and Shelly Altman should have changed that because the guilt and regret that Sonny would have lived with if he'd been instrumental in his son's death would have been the perfect price for Sonny to pay for living the lifestyle that he does. Knowing his son was dead because of him might have been the catalyst that Sonny needed to turn his life around and for once put his family ahead of his own selfish desires.
Instead, the minute Jason cleared Sonny of Morgan's murder, everything began to revert to the way things were. Carly and Michael let go of their anger, and Carly began to gravitate back into Sonny's orbit despite how easily it could have been Sonny's fault.
I think that's why I enjoy Nelle's metamorphosis from goody two-shoes to vixen. I don't know what her story is, but I'm enjoying the ride as she runs circles around Sonny and sets him up to hurt Carly.
My least favorite storyline -- by far -- was the destruction of Julian Jerome and his marriage to Alexis. This storyline made everyone look bad -- even innocent bystanders like Sabrina who ended up on the run with Carlos when Carlos betrayed Julian.
What was the point of Julian's fall from grace? The only thing that changed was his relationship with Alexis, since everyone already despised him or was looking for an excuse to write him off. Sadly, his children were the first to defect.
I never expected Sam or Lucas to condone what Julian did to Alexis, but I did hope that they would have tried a little harder to find out what was really going on with him. Clearly, something was up, since the writers kept Julian around and have now indicated that someone in the wings has been pulling his strings.
Perhaps if Sam and Lucas had been willing to dig a little deeper instead of immediately turning their backs on their father, they might have learned that there was more to the story than met the eye.
I didn't see anyone treat Sonny the way they treated Julian when they believed that Sonny had killed Morgan. There was initial anger and a lot of "You're dead to me," but by the time the funeral rolled around, everyone was able to be civil to Sonny and even show him some compassion.
The most disappointing storyline was Paul's murder spree.
If you write a storyline like that, it's critical to know who the killer is in the beginning and then plant little clues along the way for the viewers to find and allow them to participate in the storyline by trying to figure out who the killer is.
If nothing else, knowing who the killer is before you pen the story helps keep you on track. Instead, the story was all over the place with random patients being killed, a few key characters being attacked, and several being falsely accused of the crimes.
The story wasn't a complete loss, though, because the scenes of Paul murdering Sabrina were intense, riveting, and unbelievably heartbreaking. Watching Sabrina beg for her life and valiantly try to fight off her attacker gave me chills and had me bawling like a baby when her lifeless body was found.
To my utter surprise, I also found myself feeling a smidgen of pity for Paul when he tearfully told Sabrina that he had to kill her.
If the rest of the murders had been like Sabrina's, the storyline would have been hands-down my favorite of the year, but alas, it failed to live up to its promise. One shining moment didn't make up for months of aimless writing, anticlimactic murders, and an almost comical climax.
It was as if once Paul was revealed as the killer, the writers couldn't get rid of him fast enough. Even Susan's pitiful appearance lacked the punch it should have had to garner understanding if not a bit of sympathy for Paul's heartbreak over his poor daughter's broken psyche.
Kevin Collins for sweeping Laura off her feet. Sometimes love does come softly, and Kevin and Laura have the heat and sparkle to make their relationship a lasting one.
Avery. What a natural she is. I love the scenes with her because she's lively, precious beyond words, and absolutely adorable. Everyone lights up around her, and it's a pleasure to see.
Griffin is a nice addition to the cast, but I wish they'd give him a good, meaty storyline and a love interest.
Maxie and Nathan are my current favorite couple. Nathan has been a wonderful influence on Maxie, and I credit him with a lot of Maxie's recent maturity. He brings out the best in her, and she is truly a better person for knowing him.
I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday. Stay safe, and I'll "see" everyone next year.
Until next time, take care.
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