The soap world was sent into a tizzy last month when The Bold and the Beautiful managed to legitimately shock viewers with the unexpected and jaw-dropping death of Ashlyn Pearce's Aly Forrester. There wasn't a single leak or backstage whisper to clue fans in on the TV tragedy to come. No warning, just BAM! Aly -- a legacy character, no less -- is dead. She wasn't a new character, she wasn't evil, she was the daughter of two beloved B&B characters, and there's been no indication that it was Pearce's decision to the leave the show. Not the typical circumstances surrounding a soap character death. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Meanwhile, General Hospital fans were shocked by the death of Michael Easton's Silas Clay last week (though shocked to a lesser degree than B&B fans, as news of the actor's exit came out days before the storyline twist). Again, no indication that Easton wanted to leave GH, meaning Silas' death was triggered solely by storyline needs.
And then there's the upcoming Days of our Lives anniversary storyline, which was recently revealed to be a huge murder mystery arc that will reportedly be taking out several of the show's characters. While we'd guess a few "throwaway characters" (newbies, baddies, and/or fan-hated characters) will end up being axed in the long-term murder plot, rumor has it some fan favorites -- maybe even former favorites who are returning for the anniversary -- will be slain.
Considering the circumstances surrounding all these recent and upcoming deaths, it's fair to say the losses were and will be for shock value only. But are a few moments of jaw-dropping material worth the loss of fan-loved characters? And do fans and the powers that be really want to see characters die?
Soap opera history says not a chance in hell. As soapcentral.com's DAYS Two Scoops columnists pointed out this week, ghostly visits, hallucinations, dream sequences, and sudden returns from the dead have become soap staples. Whether it's caused by writers' remorse, viewer pressure, or an excess/lack of imagination, deader than doorknob characters somehow find a way back to the canvas. Fans seem to rejoice when their former favorites return as blasts from the past -- even if it's in the form of new characters, like The Young and the Restless' Camryn Grimes, who was killed off as Cassie in 2000 and returned as Cassie's surprise twin sister in 2014. Or even when the same character dies and comes back from the dead multiple times, like Y&R's Victor [Eric Braeden] or DAYS' Stefano [Joe Mascolo], who've both been presumed dead more times than we can count. (Actually, we lied. We can count them. And we did. It's all in their soapcentral.com character profiles, which you can find here and here, respectively.)
"Back from the grave" ploys are used so much in the soap opera genre, it's a wonder anyone actually ever believes it when a soap character dies. The proverbial door is always left open, and therefore, the emotional impact of soap character deaths is lessened. How can it truly break your heart when so-and-so dies if you know that nine times out of ten (give or take), the character will somehow make his or her way back to the screen? On General Hospital, characters even acknowledged it when Anna Devane pointed out that nobody is ever actually dead in Port Charles.
With that in mind, we ask you: should the soap opera community (both viewers and the powers that be) finally "man up" and accept soap deaths with grace -- without the possibility of the character ever, ever returning to the canvas again? After all, primetime shows have the guts to do it (here's looking at you, Game of Thrones), and real life isn't full of happily ever afters where lost loved ones suddenly return from the dead. Death is a fact of life, and human beings permanently lose parents, grandparents, children, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, cousins, husbands, and wives every day. No, it's not fun. It's heartbreaking, actually. But it is the way it is. Should it be the way it is on DAYS, GH, B&B, and Y&R, as well?
How do you feel about writers killing off beloved characters for shock value and immediate story potential? Do you accept "return from the dead" storylines? Or do you think soap operas should have the guts to stand behind their decisions to kill characters and NOT bring them back to the canvas? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.