Keep an Eye on those Ashes
Leave it to Days. After a few weeks of episodes that left me alternating between a comatose state and ripping out what’s left of my hair, Tuesday and Wednesday provided back-to-back episodes that were genuinely compelling and well done.
I was just waiting for my chance to gripe about how they never followed up on the Jennifer/Eric kiss, but when they did, they actually covered the time gap in a way that fed the story moving forward. I still don’t particularly buy Jen’s insta-addiction — though of course she’s doing that soap thing that pill addicts do, which is GOBBLING like four pills every time she’s left alone — but I find the dynamic between the characters surprisingly interesting, and I would totally invest in a pairing if there were an actual future and story there. (Sigh.) I also enjoyed the way the fallout of Ava’s murder played out, even though I stand by the belief that it was a huge mistake to have Joey do it in such a straightforward and cold-blooded way — as opposed to, say, accidentally shoving her down a flight of stairs after she tried to stop him from leaving with a piece of evidence or something. They’re playing Kayla’s reaction to everything in a nuanced way, and James Lastovic is doing surprisingly well with all the melodramatic, overwrought material (honestly, he’s better at that than he often is at the more casual stuff). There were lots of interesting character interactions, and at the risk of being struck down by lightning, I actually thought Belle worked for just about the first time in this entire stint as she played lawyer to both Eric and Steve.
Less surprisingly, Billy Flynn turned in a very strong performance as Chad grappled with his feelings over Stefano’s demise, as depicted through an interaction with Stefano’s ghost. They really needed to ground this Stefano story in things like this, and it was honest about the complex nature of Chad’s relationship with the DiMeras. I found myself riveted. Of course, it was also a treat to see Joe Mascolo one last (?) time.
And that leads us to Wednesday’s special episode.
I could’ve done with 50% more flashbacks, but I appreciated what we got. Loved seeing Lexie, the worst doctor ever to work at University Hospital, again. I’ve always been curious to know what they’d do when Stefano left us; he certainly doesn’t deserve, in story, an Alice Horton-style tribute, but I think they found the right balance. These characters should be toasting to the fact that this bastard is dead, even if they’re people who would never otherwise celebrate a person’s death. He has terrorized them, their children, their lovers, and pretty much everyone else almost for sport for decades. (I’m so pleased that they did this that I’m not even going to harp on how they specifically said it was 1982 when Stefano came to Salem, even though that means Sami and Eric have to be less than 34 years older, because… look, it doesn’t matter!) The conversation was both necessary and uproariously ridiculous. I cracked up at how Peggy McCay barely managed not to collapse under the weight of that clunky, “We didn’t even know at the time that there was a DiMera/Brady feud, all because Stefano’s father had an ill-fated love affair with Shawn’s sister, Colleen Brady!” They wisely used Kate, Abe, and even Victor to assert some of Stefano’s merits without whitewashing the fact that he was a madman. And they showed Marlena with her sultry 90s hair!
It was, all in all, a fitting and complex tribute to one of the most influential actors and characters in the history of Days of Our Lives — one who should be celebrated by his fellow actors and the audience, even though the onscreen characters should be dancing on his grave. And at the risk of sounding totally lame (which I am, because I maintain this blog), the final shot of Stefano conducting as “Ride of the Valkyries” played made me tear up.
Rest well, you lunatic. We’ll miss you.
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