The gifts are wrapped and under the tree, fresh-baked Christmas cookies are cooling in the kitchen, and a fire is crackling in the fireplace. Aah. It's the most wonderful time of the year -- when I get to dish about GH and the year that was.
Writing this column is a labor of love, which is why I kept notes on my laptop throughout the year of my thoughts and impressions about the show, things that I wanted to mention in my year-end column. I opened the file and promptly realized two things: I have a lot of thoughts (three pages worth), and none of them helped me with this column.
The truth is, time shifts your perspective. At least it does mine. For example, in my notes about the Nurses Ball, it was clear that I did not like Valentin one iota because I still saw him as the boogeyman that Helena claimed he was, and he proved to be when he shot Nikolas. Now, as 2017 draws to a close, having gained insight into what drives him, I see Valentin in a different light.
There's no denying that Valentin shot Nikolas, but the writers are creative, and perhaps one day we will learn that the scene of Valentin shooting Nikolas wasn't exactly what it seemed to be. Who knows, maybe it was staged and had to play out that way in order for Ava to definitively say that Nikolas was shot and killed. And maybe Valentin intended to kidnap Spencer with the intention of reuniting him with his father. Anything is possible, but my point is, I no longer despise Valentin.
Somewhere along the line, the writing changed my view of Valentin.
This time last year, things were pretty bleak. Alexis was a full-blown alcoholic whose life was careening to rock bottom at warp-speed; Elizabeth's rapist, Tom Baker, was on parole and pretending to be reformed; Finn was addicted to Zen-Zen; Nelle was wreaking havoc on Carly's marriage; and Anna was diagnosed with blood cancer. The writing was dark and depressing, and the anemic ratings reflected that.
There were days that I watched the show more out of habit than anything else. Overall, the writing was flat. And morose. And frustrating.
There were a few bright spots like when Maxie and Nathan got married (January 17, 2017), but that was soon ruined by Maxie's head-scratching decision to take a job across the country without so much as discussing it with her brand-new husband.
Nina, too, found happiness when she and Valentin exchanged vows on New Year's Eve, but it was hard for me to get behind the union because all we had was Valentin's word that he was reformed. He was also heavily tainted by the fact that he was actively trying to keep Lulu away from their daughter and likely would never have told Lulu about Charlotte if he hadn't been forced to.
The only happily married couple were Jason (now Drew) and Sam, but then Sam ended up kidnapped by crazy Aunt Olivia, gave birth to Scout in the snow, and picked up a brain-eating amoeba that triggered hallucinations, paranoia, and all manner of shenanigans that nearly cost Sonny his life and Sam her sanity.
The hits just kept coming, and by far, my least favorite storyline was Tracy's quest to unravel the mystery of a painting that Edward bequeathed her while he was living under an alias after faking his death a million years ago. The painting was a portrait of Tracy in a past century, and it was evidently priceless.
I kept wondering why, if Edward knew of this portrait's existence, including where it was, he never sent for it during the various times that ELQ was on the brink of financial ruin and in desperate need of a cash infusion. Edward was a practical man, and ELQ was, next to Lila, his great love, so for him not to fetch the painting from the Turkish monks didn't make sense. But that wasn't the worst part about this convoluted storyline. Suddenly, Edward had a mystery love child, and Lord Larry Ashton popped up out of nowhere and was revealed to be the mastermind behind the attempt to swindle Tracy out of her inheritance. By the time this confusing storyline reached its lackluster conclusion, it felt like the writers had thrown everything, including a few dead bodies, at the wall in the hopes that something would stick. Nothing did, and without warning, Tracy decided to travel the world and find herself.
It was sad because this storyline was Jane Elliot's swan song, and it was atrocious. The only saving grace was that, in the end, Tracy ran into Luke at a café in Amsterdam during the first leg of her journey, and since then, there has been a mention or two indicating that she's still with Luke.
Coming in a very close second for least favorite storyline was the ill-conceived Ask Man Landers vehicle they penned for Nurse Amy Driscoll and Detective Nathan West. I think the point of the storyline was to develop a friendship between the two characters, but nothing about this storyline worked, starting with the exceedingly annoying Amy and her endless giggling fits.
I want to be very clear, my issue is not with Risa Dorken. I think Risa is a lovely actress, and I feel bad that she's stuck with such a vapid character to portray, but I despise Amy. She's immature, manipulative, gossipy, annoying, and the list goes on and on. You get the idea.
The only thing redeeming about Amy is her brother Chet, whom we briefly met when the writers finally put us out of our collective misery by killing this storyline with the reveal that Amy was the real Man Landers, and the deception had been to raise money for Chet's mounting medical expenses that the Veteran's Administration didn't cover. Chet was the best part about this story, but he was there and gone in an instant.
Chet wasn't just the best part of the story, he was the story. Chet Driscoll, who was played by Chris Van Etten (not to be confused with head writer Chris Van Etten), is a real war vet and double amputee. His character mirrored that part of his life, but Chet also battled a drug addiction as a result of his war wounds and his long road to recovery. I wasn't interested in the nurse moonlighting as an advice blogger. I wanted to know about the guy who joined the service and faced so many personal challenges. There's so much more story to tell here, but instead, Chet vanished and left us with Amy.
I feel cheated.
I honestly can't pinpoint what my issue with the Man Landers story was because there were just so many cringe-worthy aspects. My overall impression of the storyline was that it was written to do something with a character (Nathan) who'd been sidelined because Kirsten Storms went on medical leave during an intensely difficult time in her life.
I suspect that it was all meant to be lighthearted fun, but somewhere from concept to execution, that fell horribly short because of Amy's obvious resentment and bitterness toward Maxie, Nathan's absent wife. I haven't always approved of the things that Maxie has done, and there were times that she definitely belonged on the Naughty list, but she's a legacy character that I watched grow up. I love her, and I will root for her when she deserves it, especially if the opposition is a giggling shrew who likes to create drama and stick her nose in other people's business.
I kept waiting for the storyline to take a Fatal Attraction turn, which might have been interesting, but it never did, so I'm thrilled that Chet put a blessed end to this torturous saga.
A story that held a lot of promise but fizzled out and faded away was the Chimera project. I have no idea what the point of all of it was other than to give Valentin a sympathetic backstory and to establish that Jason (Drew) had been held on Cassadine Island by the Queen of Mean herself, Helena, during the same period that Jake was there. So, while it wasn't necessarily one of my least favorite storylines, it was one of the most disappointing ones.
Now, on to my favorite portion of the column, the Nice list.
At the very top of the list is the new writing team of Shelly Altman and Chris Van Etten because they have been doing a stupendous job over the past few months, breathing new life into all the storylines, including a few dead ones. Things have gotten really good, and GH is now must-seeTV for me again. The stories are juicer and far more promising than they were in the beginning of the year because there's a renewed focus on relationships and a real investment in the characters.
As I said earlier, things were pretty dreary at the beginning of the year, and as we were heading into summer, it seemed to only get worse. I didn't rush home to watch every episode, and writing a balanced column with both good and bad was a struggle for me because there was quite a bit of bad to choose from, but very little good. That's completely flipped now, especially since the tale of two Jasons reached a climatic conclusion with the revelation that Patient 6 was the real Jason Morgan, and Jake Doe was his identical twin, Andrew Cain.
I recall when news first hit that Steve Burton was returning to General Hospital as a mystery character and Franco's discovery that Jason had had an identical twin brother. I rolled my eyes and pooh-poohed the unimaginative story. There was no doubt in my mind that Steve Burton would turn out to be the real Jason. Oh, I jokingly suggested that it would serve everyone right if Jake Doe was the real Jason Morgan, but in my heart of hearts, I knew that it wouldn't play out that way because Steve Burton made Jason Morgan the icon that he is.
Then Ava bumped into Patient 6 in the ultra-private Russian clinic, and suddenly I was intrigued. As the story unfolded, there were some surprising twists that put doubt even in my mind as to which way the writers would go. Fans had their theories, and each side dug in as we waited for the reveal.
Altman and Van Etten managed to make this story really interesting, and everyone became invested in how it would play out.
Every single performance throughout this story has been spot-on and flawless, starting with Billy Miller. My heart bled for Drew because I felt his struggle to hold onto what he firmly believed with every fiber of his being to be true, and his desperation to convince everyone around him that he was the real Jason Morgan. And why shouldn't he believe that he was Jason when he had the memories to back it up? Drew's anguish was palpable when Sonny then Carly admitted that they each believed that Patient 6 was the real Jason. I empathized with Drew's almost frantic need to hold onto his life as he repeatedly assured Sam each time he saw doubt in her eyes.
The fact that the whole premise of Jason's memories being transplanted into Drew's mind is based on a mad-science experiment is easy to overlook because the rest of it is just so riveting.
Kelly Monaco has also been compelling to watch as Sam grapples with her entire life being upended while everything she felt and believed in is suddenly being tested. I can't help but wonder if perhaps Helena's words about Sam never finding true happiness were because Helena knew about the plan to plug Drew into Jason's place. I have no doubt that Sam loved Drew as much as she says, and I have no doubt that she will also always love Jason as she told Carly that she would, but it's abundantly clear over the past few years that Sam has fundamentally changed, and the woman that Jason kissed goodbye back in 2012 is gone.
I applaud the writers for not doing the expected by reuniting Jason and Sam, and instead focusing on the characters and where they are at this time in their lives.
Life is messy and complicated, and that's being beautifully reflected in this tragic story because it doesn't matter who Sam chooses; one man will be left brokenhearted.
Another high point this year for me was Hayden Barnes. Not at first, because Hayden was a lying con artist when she first arrived, but I love Rebecca Budig and kept an open mind until finally the character turned a corner and won me over when she fell for Finn. Their romance and her budding relationship with her newfound sister, Elizabeth, showed Hayden in a different light, and she became quite likable.
Hayden's desire to be a better person and her reluctance to get hurt again spoke to me because I saw her vulnerability. It wasn't another scam; she really wanted to be a better person. I was looking forward to seeing Hayden and Liz bond; to watching Finn tackle fatherhood, which I suspect would have been hilarious; and to Hayden giving Liesl a little run for her money at the hospital.
Just when I became invested in Hayden, she pulled up stakes and hit the road, cruelly lying to Finn by claiming in a letter that she had miscarried. The letter was awful, but the scene of Hayden cradling her very pregnant belly before picking up her suitcase was a classic soap opera gotcha moment that took away the sting of Rebecca's departure.
There were several standout moments that will stick with me. Sam giving birth to Scout in the snow, our first view of Patient 6, and Jason crashing through the skylight at the Aurora Media launch party, but the one that stands above and beyond all the others was the showdown between Ava, Sonny, and Carly when Morgan's parents confronted Ava about replacing Morgan's lithium with placebos.
It. Was. Powerful.
Now, I don't agree that Ava is to blame for Morgan's death because she didn't plant the bomb in the car. Without that bomb, Morgan wouldn't have died. He pulled the car over, turned it off, and was in the process of getting out when it exploded. That makes Olivia Jerome, not Ava Jerome, responsible for his death.
However, that doesn't mean that I couldn't appreciate Sonny and Carly's pain when they finally had a place to direct all their grief, anger, and even feelings of guilt. The scenes were gut-wrenching, and the acting was superb. I was kept on the edge of my seat the whole time because I was certain that Sonny would take justice into his own hands and kill Ava. To my surprise, he didn't, but equally unexpected was Ava starting a fire, of all things, to distract Sonny and Carly while she made a failed attempt to escape.
I hope Laura Wright, Maurice Benard, and Maura West each submit those reels for consideration when the Emmys roll around because each performance was most definitely worthy of a statue.
Dr. Hamilton Finn and Anna Devane: What a refreshing surprise. I totally didn't expect to like them as much as I do, but I love where things are headed. The analytical scientist and his adventurous girlfriend the spy has a lot of potential. They challenge each other, and I can see them solving all manner of international crimes together.
Nathan West and Maxie Jones-West: From the moment that Maxie returned from her Eat, Pray, Love sojourn, and Nathan saw through Levi Knucklehead's (not his real name, but should have been) grift, Maxie and Nathan seemed destined for each other. I was right because soon baby will make three.
Julian Jerome and Alexis Davis: Speaking of destiny.
Drew Caine and Sam Morgan: Yes, Jason and Sam had a love of a lifetime, but that was another lifetime. Sam is in a much different place, while Jason is still in the same place he was when fate -- and Cesar Faison -- tore him away from his wife and son. Drew, on the other hand, gets the woman that Sam is today. More importantly, Drew was always willing to make the sacrifices for his family that Jason was never able to. Drew walked away from Sonny and a life of violence.
Sonny and Carly Corinthos: Love them or hate them, they are far less dysfunctional together than apart.
Franco Baldwin and Elizabeth Webber: I really like them because Liz finally has someone who loves her with his whole heart, but Franco is self-destructive and seems destined to sabotage his relationship with Liz because he just can't help himself. At some point, Liz is going to get tired of the secrets, and walk away -- likely straight into Jason's arms.
I love that the writers have touched on real-life issues, and they seem open to doing ripped-from-the-headlines stories. Go for it. I remember when that used to be a norm, and General Hospital was always particularly good at it.
While we are revisiting past storylines to tie up loose ends, will someone please remember that Shawn Butler is languishing in jail for a crime that he didn't commit? If nothing else, have the poor man paroled and take off for a long vacation far away from Port Charles.
Oh, and speaking of characters who were wronged, how about giving Liesl her job back. Yes, I know she tampered with Finn's drug tests, but has there ever, in the history of pregnancy, DNA, and paternity tests at General Hospital, been any test result that hasn't been tampered with? No, so why punish Liesl?
Romance. Romance. Romance. Seriously, I can't get enough of romance. Oh, and mysteries. It's been ages since we had a good whodunit. Nelle is an ideal candidate for a murder mystery, since everyone hates her and has reason to want her gone. Hey, perhaps a heroine could rescue Michael, who's wrongly accused of killing Nelle. See? Romance and mystery.
Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts. I love hearing from readers so please feel free to email me or leave a comment below.
Take care and happy viewing,
What are your thoughts on General Hospital? What did you think of this week's Two Scoops? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.