Reflecting back on a month’s worth of General Hospital at a time gives me an interesting perspective. In the week-to-week viewing, the plots can feel like they’re moving too slow and my interest wanes, which was the case after Lulu and Dante learned Britt’s baby was theirs—I couldn’t bring myself to care about the kidnapping afterward at all. But then we get several shows in a row that all grab my interest, and this last week has been one of those, from the rock-music-backed sexing of Ava and Sonny to Carlos’s wide-eyed anger that Sabrina had (maybe) been targeted. But what had me most on edge is “Luke Spencer”. I use those quotes because he is assuredly not Luke Spencer.
I’m not going to keep up the quotation marks because I’m lazy, but this Luke has me fascinated. He’s so close to the Luke we’ve watched for thirty-five years, but he’s really the opposite, a Luke who embraces his demons to gain advantages over others rather than to punish himself. I was in the womb when Luke was first introduced as the bad boy who raped Laura, so my first memories of him begin with Luke and Laura’s return in the early 90s, flying Cadillac and all. I learned about what Luke did in the past when Laura brought it back into the open. I could see then that he still viewed himself as the scoundrel he had been before Laura gave him real love and faith. And once they broke apart in the late 90s, Luke slowly spiraled back into that man, as though he believed himself fated to it eons ago. He became a drunkard again, someone who didn’t believe he was worth anything except for the few shining moments in recent years when he remembered that family and love, even a second love with a woman who’s been as much of a scoundrel as himself, could be enough to make his existence mean something.
But even that guy, that shadow of the Luke of the early 80s and 90s, is the other side of the coin from the Luke we have now.
He’s lecherous, yet lecherous with a purpose or he wouldn’t focus as much energy on Kiki as he has. He’s scheming to overthrow one of his oldest friends, which isn’t Luke regardless of how much that friend is due a defeat. He’s playing Tracy for a power move, which Luke has been guilty of before, but this is different. This is purposefully mean, purposefully duplicitous, purposefully malevolent.
It’s not Luke. But he knows how to play Luke so well that I don’t think it’s another masked villain. He’s almost the actualization of every fear Luke has ever had of who he could be. And I am utterly intrigued. Though I am deeply disappointed that Tracy is once again being gamed.
Her alarm bells have sounded several times, to the point that I believed she was keeping her eye on Luke, convinced something was truly wrong. But her recent interactions with Ned (Yay, Ned! Stay forever!) have forced me to accept that she’s deluding herself, that she wants Luke’s affections to be real so badly, she’s willfully ignoring her own good senses. It makes me sad. Tracy’s done horrible, despicable things but I still want her to find happiness in her golden years and Luke has never given her that for long. But it’s not as though melancholia for Quartermaines is rare these days.
It makes me hurt to see Monica go through another loss. It really does. As much as Tracy’s desperate for love, Monica’s just desperate to have had one family member outlive her. One husband dead. Four children dead, and one of them twice. One grandchild dead. At least Tracy still has her own children. Monica has a grandson who has thankfully grown close to his biological relatives in recent years, but that’s it. She’s living a Greek tragedy all on her own. I truly hope there is something joyful due her way soon. It’s too much.
While it pains me to watch Monica, Sonny’s spiral feels cathartic. It’s been too long since I rooted for him, back during the Sonny and Brenda days, for me to have any compassion left. And he’s becoming aware that he deserves that sort of reaction. I wish AJ hadn’t been killed, but having his ghost torment an increasingly insane Sonny almost—almost—makes it worth it.
Nevermind how reprehensible Sonny’s life is on a day-to-day basis, he’s taken his deplorability to ever higher levels. He could not set aside his desire for vengeance to keep the promises he’d made to his son. Sonny didn’t pause for a second to worry about sleeping with his other son’s girlfriend, either. Sonny’s immediate needs always take priority, and his need in that moment was to feel good however fleeting it would be. I think we had the Day of Three Carlys to justify Carly’s decision to keep Sonny’s secret due to the history they’ve shared, not to give Sonny any leeway. He’s drowning in his own selfishness, and he’s taking Olivia with him rather than setting her free because she gives him comfort. It’s reprehensible. It’s been explicitly spelled that Sonny is a loathsome creature, and boy does that feel good to watch after all this time.
But he’s only one of many villains living it up in Port Charles these days, and that’s my only real beef with the show. From a monthly perspective, the pacing is fine and the episodes can buzz with excitement over plot reveals and sordid romances for a week straight. But the vast majority of people on my screen are ones I can’t root for. Sonny, Ava, Julian, Carlos, Shawn, Luke, Dr. Obrecht, Madeline West, Carly, Franco, Britt…that’s a lot of villains who’ve been receiving a lot of screentime on the show. You can argue that a few of them are meant to be tortured souls rather than explicitly bad, but I need more people to root for unequivocally. I’m not asking that they be perfect, though less of a screw-up than Carly would be nice. I’m asking for the ability to say, “Hey, I want that character to do well!” more often. I don’t need more scenes proving to me that Ava’s hopelessly deranged; I need Kiki dealing with how messed up her mother is. I don’t need more of Sonny degrading himself in a crypt; I need Michael mourning his father with the Quartermaines. It’s a soap opera. Nobody’s purely good, but I need to see more of the people who aren’t killing their family members’ loved ones. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
I should have another GH column up next week. Maybe I’ll be able to write about something happy in our characters’ lives by then? And no, Maxie getting a New Age boyfriend does not count.
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