As I drown in the plethora of publicity surrounding the new Star Wars film, I find myself actually looking forward to the release of "Episode III." Granted, I'm not a gigantic Star Wars fanatic (surely, you will not find me waiting in line to see a movie more than 30 minutes much less 30 days before its release!), but I do think I will enjoy this film. Why? The presence of Darth Vader, perhaps the most recognizable villain of all time. And, admit it or not, viewers LOVE to HATE Lord Vader! This mindset got me thinking to the state of "One Life to Live" and the villains it has on the show. I've said it in a previous column, and I'll say it again: complex villains make stories richer and more exciting.
Think back to the most successfully-written villains of all-time in the world of soaps, and the list is pretty small. "General Hospital" has Helena Cassadine and Cesar Faison. "Days of Our Lives" has Stefano and Tony DiMera. "Port Charles" had Caleb Morley, and "Passions" has Alistair Crane. Every show, however, has created its own share of despicable characters with shady pasts, but the villains that are engraved in our memories are the ones with great characterization and complex personalities.
"One Life to Live" has definitely had its fair share of dastardly villains. I remember Jamie Sanders and Maria Roberts, both quite mentally unstable and capable of heinous crimes. The problem with both of them is that they were written in a one-dimensional, cartoonish manner. I'll never forget when Tina pushed Maria away from her as Maria was holding a vial of poison that killed on contact. That poison splattered all over Cord's mother as she choked and gagged and died as Tina looked over her. It was ridiculous and cartoonish, but I never really cared about Maria's fate one way or the other. More recently, the attempt to make Tico Santi a villain was just plan laughable, and R.J. never really really fit the "villain" mold completely nor has he ever been given enough airtime to really TRY to fit that mold. Today, we have Daniel, Margaret, and the soon-to-return Carlo Hesser.
First, I should clarify and say that Margaret doesn't really count as a villainess right now because she isn't even really on the canvas currently, even though her recent wrongdoings still resonate with Todd and Blair. I suspect when she returns with a baby Todd Manning, she will try to wreck more havoc on the citizens of Llanview. This character, however, lacks any sort of complex background. She's just plain looney! Again, a cartoonish figure like this who lacks the depth for viewers to really try to understand her doesn't make for a memorable villain.
Daniel, on the other hand, is a sly one. Here we have someone who is generally well-liked by the public and his friends and has even made a new family for himself by marrying Nora, everyone's favorite legal-eagle! The problem with Daniel is that he is impulsive and desperate. Killing Paul because he apparently knew something about Daniel's past and his background proves how desperate Daniel is willing to go to keep the secret that he's desperately trying to guard. Does that murder, though, justify calling Daniel a true "villain?" I'm not sure. Trying to frame Jen for the murder is typical behavior for someone like Daniel as he tries to cover up the crime he himself committed. But, going so far as to kill poor Jen with a plastic bag really presented Daniel is an entirely different light. But again, I can't figure out if I should call him a "villain" or just a "criminal"; there is a difference there. You'll have to help me decide that one. To me, a villain is unremorseful; I saw pain in Daniel's eyes on Friday as he choked the life out of Jen. I could see that this was simply a desperate man who lacked the ability to think rationally as he fought with HIMSELF to actually go through with the crime that he was committing. His hands were telling him to keep suffocating Jen, while his head was telling him to stop. That is a tough one to call.
SPOILER ALERT: In the upcoming week, we will all discover the very reason Daniel has become so murderous: his secret lover whom he has been hiding from Nora is none other than the Love Shack's Mark! You read that correctly, folks, Daniel is actually gay. With that secret out in the open for the viewers, it becomes difficult to understand Daniel's actions. I can't speak for someone like Daniel who has had a secret like this that has weighed on him so much, but it seems more than just "desperate" to kill two human beings to protect a truth dealing with his sexual preference! Daniel is an ambitious man, and his quest for the Lt. Governorship is one that perhaps is clouding his better judgment. Marrying a well-respected woman in Llanview, Nora, and then trying to solve a high-profile murder case (Paul Cramer's death, which he ironically committed) are keys for him to win that political office. We've seen so many characters like Daniel make rash, foolish decisions in the heat of the moment to protect themselves or ones they love, but does all of this make Daniel a true "villain?"
That brings me to the news that I've been anxiously awaiting for such a long time: Thom Christopher will be reprising his role as the infamous Carlo Hesser in June! Hallelujah! Of all the villains in "One Life to Live's" rich history, Carlo is the one who can send shivers down anyone's spine just by looking at that intimidating visage. Carlo is bad to the bone, but he does have an Achilles' Heel: Renee Buchanan, and that is one of the reasons I have always loved to hate Carlo. Carlo isn't just one-sided like Tico Santi was. Tico's vendetta and reason to live was simply to get rid of Antonio and become the true Santi heir; Carlo is a complex man who is a powerful crimelord. He is capable of bone-chilling crimes yet can also be seen as a charismatic lover (look at his relationship with Alex as proof). However, no matter what Carlo does, he always has that soft-spot for Renee, and that is what I love about Carlo...there is always a weakness to exploit in him. To know that he is playing a role in Asa's comeback makes me excited for the great possibilities that are to come. Whether or not Tonja Walker returns as the always-watchable Alex, Christopher's return will be one that is guaranteed to shake things up in Llanview. Carlo has affected so many characters on that show that his appearance is bound to make ripple effects in current stories.
Now, the teacher in me has a "homework assignment" for all of you loyal readers. We're trying something new here at Soap Central, and I want to encourage all of you to visit the message boards in order to do this. Think back to your favorite villains in the time you have been watching OLTL. What has made that person so villainous that you loved to hate him/her? Carlo, Daniel, Tico, Maria Roberts, Jamie Sanders---you must surely have your own picks to accompany mine in this column. To share your thoughts, please click here to visit a very special discussion thread on our message board where you can share your thoughts and ideas with me and other OLTL fans. I'll be sure to pop in myself to offer comments as well. Look for me as SOC_Ryan.
Enjoy your week,