Not a soap fan? Then you have probably been conditioned to view the genre as the product of melodramatic plots made even sillier by scene chewing acting. If you watched daytime in its lean years (or lean decades), you wouldn’t be too far from wrong. I say that as a soap fan who still hangs her head in shame while recalling some of daytime’s very worst efforts.
If you are unfortunate enough to have never watched a soap but somehow managed to catch yesterday’s General Hospital (#GeneralHospital #GH), what you witnessed was daytime breaking the “soap ceiling”. The Luke’s Childhood reveal isn’t a “daytime plot”. It’s prime time, big screen, the theater, or all of the above. It was so well crafted and so beautifully executed that the writers have set an impossibly high standard for any genre that wants to use this same storyline to a similar effect. It also sets an incredibly high standard for the show, beyond this storyline. Where can you go after this reveal? I don’t know but if this storyline is the evidence for where daytime is headed, in general, and GH in particular, I am a happy viewer
Rarely have soap writers been as successful as Ron Carlivati and crew in reminding us that soaps are about drama, not melodrama. They are about human emotions and experiences, not special effects and outlandish plots. When soaps are at their best, they make you forget that you are suspending disbelief and instead leave you feeling as if you are surreptitiously watching people you know. You have become the nosy neighbor, peeking through your neighbors windows and learning far more than you ever believed was possible. You have learned more than you want to know, and still less than you should. It is the latter feeling that keeps you coming back.
General Hospital’s writers took all of daytime – past, present and future, along for a master class, yesterday. Tony Geary, as Luke Spencer, breathed life into a powerfully written script that made fictional Luke’s pain as real as any emotion the viewer has felt. In one beautifully crafted episode which was supported by more than a year of plot twists and turns, we understood more about Luke Spencer than we’ve been able to understand in decades of viewing him in action. Fans only thought they knew Luke Spencer. The Shakespearean act of Luke accidentally killing his mother, and intentionally killing his father on the same night, laid bare his soul:
Was it the boy who accidentally killed his helpless mother who:
— seemed unable to love his children in the way they needed to be loved? Luke has always taken a back seat to their daily care and was, at best, emotionally distant from his children. Yet, he was also the first one on the scene when they were in danger. He loved his children, but always seemed fearful of being too close to them. He was more friend than father. Was he afraid that a deeply emotional engagement would flip the switch and turn him into his father? Tim warned Luke that he would one day see his father’s face staring back at him in the mirror. He warned Luke that they were the same person. The horror!
— could not embrace Carly, long after Bobbie had forgiven her? Is it that Carly reminded him too much of the mother he loved? Was Carly’s behavior an affront to Lena’s memory, or had he wished that Lena was strong, like Carly, and able to fight back against a tyrant like Tim? Did Carly’s behavior make him wonder if his mother would be there with him, had she not been so afraid of her worthless husband?
— faulted Laura for her “weakness” in the presence of the Cassadines? Better than anyone else, Luke knew what it meant for a woman to be rendered powerless by a monster far less evil than the Cassadine clan. Was he angry at Laura for fearing him (as Lena feared Tim) and not being able / willing to tell him the truth about Nikolas? Did it remind him that he was, at least once in their shared history, the monster Tim said he would become?
— begin his relationship with Laura in a way that was nothing short of abusive and violent, resulting in him raping her?
— become an anti-hero who could never truly commit to standing on one side of the law because the circumstances of his parents’ deaths made it clear that he was neither hero nor villain? Luke has always had one foot on the right side of the law with the other far beyond the boundary.
— tolerate the likes of Sonny and other dark souls because he, at an unconscious level, knew his soul was darkened by this secret, as well?
— avoid romantic relationships all together? How could Luke truly commit to any woman without the specter of the family’s abuse tainting every moment of happiness? His relationship with Tracy has been the most serious relationship he has experienced since Laura. Is it the thought of being in a committed relationship too much for him? Was his happiness with Tracy the catalyst in triggering the D.I.D?
I am looking forward the writers addressing the impact of Luke’s secrets on how has lived his life. This one episode, decades in the making, more than a year in revealing, and 60 minutes in playing out, as moved me in a way I have rarely been moved by any soap. Today, this soap fan is hanging her head high!
All I want from the writers is MORE! Please!