Soap opera Days of Our Lives has been adding a flare of Hitchcockian horror to its latest storylines, including a twisted serial killer tale. Here’s my second look at this blood thirsty venture.
Salem’s continued aura of Gothicism has continued these past two weeks with ghostly appearances, the mysterious re-entry of a smooth talking heir and another vicious murder.
Caroline Brady (Peggy McCay), the town’s beloved pub owner, found herself, face to face, with the spectral presence of her long dead husband, Shawn. Believed to be suffering from Alzheimer’s, Caroline is actually, unknowingly, the victim of a mysterious illness that is causing her to rapidly deteriorate and…well, see dead folks! Will that unknown serum that her doctor daughter Kayla has administered reverse the effects?
The killer’s second victim, Paige, also made some ephemeral contact with her grieving mother, Eve. Appearing to the distraught parent at her funeral, Paige urged the overwhelmed woman to release her anger and offered up forgiveness for the wrongs that had been committed against her. Instead of following her daughter’s tender advice, Eve, in some of portrayer Kassie DePaiva’s most anguished work, went after Paige’s errant boyfriend, JJ (Casey Moss) and his mother, Jennifer (Melissa Reeves), with flint-eyed intent. A tender talk with her sister, Theresa (Jen Lilley), afterwards, though, seemed to turn Eve towards a more even keeled path and, hopefully, major character adjustments during the months that she has left on the show.
Here, it was nice to see the luminous True O’Brien, Paige’s portrayer, once again, and the actress’s angelic beauty truly added potent warmth to the otherworldly atmosphere. Unfortunately, the current writers (Josh Griffith, Dena Higley) exhibit that, just like the previous regime, they don’t seem to know what to do with Eve and DePaiva, her multi-talented portrayer. Instead of applying a natural arc here – for example, having Eve attack JJ and Jennifer and then receive some spiritual guidance from Paige, resulting in some redemptory scenes with her enemies – the powers-that-be, instead, chose to, momentarily, alienate Eve further from the audience. DePaiva, a distinguished soap vet, truly deserves much better.
Meanwhile, Chad, the accused killer, went undercover. Looking like an extra from a low budget production of The Grapes of Wrath, this nervous lord-to-an-empire took to the docks of the city, looking for the homeless man who could give him an alibi for the crimes. Discovering that the man was mentally unprepared to offer him any sanctuary, Chad returned to the home of his all-powerful father, Stefano (Joseph Mascolo). There, he discovered Andre (Thaao Penghlis), his father’s former nephew, turned instant son by the current production staff. Bristling against the advice of his sudden brother, Chad seems to be heading to further unfortunate adventures until the true killer, Ben, is revealed.
Ben (Robert Scott Wilson), naturally, has been quite busy, himself. Reliving his violent misdeeds, in his mind, during tender exchanges with his pregnant fiancée, Abigail (Kate Mansi), this muscled hunk seems ready to crack. He, also, impulsively threw an errant red tie, evidence of his crimes, into a waste basket in his apartment. There, it was discovered by Will, Abigail’s cousin and best friend and, perhaps, soapdom’s only gay legacy character.
The grandson of Marlena and the son of Sami, two of Days’ most beloved divas, Will came out as gay, under the beloved watch of his former portrayer, multiple Emmy winner Chandler Massey. Current portrayer Guy Wilson has not been as embraced by the fans, but he provided viewers with some of Days‘ best moments in the past year or so. With Wilson on the job, Will married hIs true love, Sonny, and provided plenty of soapy awesomeness as he proved how close in nature he was to his impulsive, wrong doing mother. Cheating on Sonny with a former baseball pro named Paul (Christopher Sean), Will, ultimately, used various devious methods to hold onto his man. This naturally drove Sonny away – as in out of the country – and Will has been floundering, emotionally, ever since. The discovery of the necktie, also, made him Ben’s latest victim as the soap came to a close this previous week.
Apart from the hilariously odd impossibilities, which found Ben lugging Will’s body across town without detection and making it appear as if Will had been killed in a robbery attempt, there are more serious implications at work here with this murder – as in the subtle scent of (possibly unintended) homophobia.
In their (semi) defense, the writers seem to be trying to clean house in inventive and surprising ways. But the killing off one of daytime drama’s only homosexual characters is, ultimately, a poor choice on many levels. Even Allison Sweeney, Sami’s portrayer, has spoken out about her dissatisfaction with this twist, publically, and how it makes no sense to the show, historically or culturally. Indeed, previous writing teams insured Will’s importance by making him the unexpected father of a daughter before indulging in his full steps into homosexuality. Thus, right wing types were assured of Will’s virility – he had slept with a woman, after all – and familial type storylines, for decades, were set in place.
But, in recent weeks, Days has gone from one of the most progressive and queer friendly shows to one with increasingly diminishing turns. Granted, Freddy Smith, Sonny’s portrayer, left the show of his own accord. But Paul, who was revealed to be the son of John, another one of the show’s enduring characters, has been nowhere in sight, as of late, as well. It truly seems as if with the eradication of Will, the show is turning from the ethics of modernity to the “family values” of the past, a slap in the face to all of its queer and queer loving viewers.
Time will tell how things play out, but the removal of Will, who has grown up before the audience’s eyes, will be a hard fact to get over – especially as his absence, during this time period when the show claims to be concentrating more on its core families and characters, seems like such an inexplicable one.
Perhaps, at the very least, outcry over this issue may cause the head writers to examine the public ramifications of future decisions with other minority and out of the status quo characters. For In (supposed) equal times such as these, erasing a vital queer element can seem in line, even accidentally, with all those bigots who would, seemingly, like us all to disappear for good.
Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!