O Great Redeemer

Based on today’s show (5/18), are we looking at a redemption story for EJ? On Monday (5/14) we saw EJ flashing back to Sami telling him the baby was his, looking sad. He told Kate with apparent sincerity that he loves Sami, “Always have, always will.” He said that he respected Lucas for standing by the woman he loves. And today we saw EJ apologizing for the rape, admitting it was rape, and attempting to explain why he is the way he is. Is he playing Sami? Is he sincere? Are these shades of grey I’m seeing?

The redemption story is a soap standard, and done well it can be fantastic. Soaps, to my mind, have cornered the market on redemption stories, because the time we get to spend with characters, coupled with the fluidity of storylines, is the perfect setting to turn a villain to a hero, or a hero to a villain.

But these days soaps too often take shortcuts. It has become a soap cliche that to redeem a bad girl, just have her get raped. To redeem a bad boy, give him a bad childhood. Both of these scenarios can be done well, and have been. But if the rape just wipes the slate clean, if the bad childhood is used as a get out of jail free card, then yawn.

Another shortcut, even worse than the clean-slate rape or the my-childhood-made-me-do-it excuse, is the show redeeming a character by suddenly having every other character on the show tell us, the audience, that this character is good now. We’ve all forgiven him or her—actually there’s nothing to forgive!—so you should too. In fact you must.

Back in the 80’s, we had two wonderful redemption stories, Steve’s and Jack’s. Both of their redemption arcs were wedded to falling-in-love stories, both took place over a couple of years, both were played by great actors. Both were earned. And both had the same problem: after you redeem the guy (or girl) and pair him with his true love, how do you keep him dynamic and interesting? This is where Days has fallen down over and over, stretching back to Anna Dimera, and probably earlier.

A character on the show today who is in the process of being redeemed is Chelsea. I can’t begin to say how much I love what Sheffer has done with Chelsea. From the coldblooded schemer who tried to cover up the accident that killed her brother, and then break up her father’s marriage on top of it, to the rootable, layered character she is today, what a distance she’s traveled! Though I’ve complained here about how quickly Chick’s story is moving, Chelsea’s redemption itself has been slow. Her two steps forward, one step back, zigzagging progress (with each step well-motivated and clear) wedded to her developing love story with the adorable Nick has been mostly well-handled and a joy to watch.

Sami, though, who also seems to be getting the redemption treatment, is different. Unlike Chelsea she was very well-liked by fans as she was. Chelsea had nowhere to go but up. Sami, though she was immature, selfish, shortsighted, and manipulative, was also strong and a survivor, with human insecurities that Alison Sweeney was very good at layering into her performance. She was also active. Is a redeemed Sami even interesting? This is where Days has fallen down in the past, and where I don’t want them to fall down now. I want the character to grow, but I don’t want her to turn into Belle. The trick is to maintain a few weak points, keep a few enemies, and have her use her manipulative powers to good ends, rather than selfish ones. An undercover operative in the plot against EJ and the Dimeras? A detective? An advertising executive?

So that brings us back to EJ. James Scott is so charming and sexy that he’s wasted as a Stefano-type ubervillain, so I would be very happy to see him move away from that. But a toothless romantic lead doesn’t appeal either (and that’s a pretty big distance to travel!). But a charismatic, layered villain would be just perfect. Let’s spend the next few months giving him enough layers to make him human: father issues, family issues, self-awareness, fallibility, true feelings for Sami, fatherly feelings for the baby. A complex villain can be paired romantically with other characters without being fully redeemed. Alex Marshall in his suave younger days comes to mind. Let’s not give EJ the Steve and Jack treatment. Let’s give him the Alex Marshall treatment, the Roger Thorpe treatment.

And no more rapes, hm? Let’s keep our options open this time.


7 thoughts on “O Great Redeemer

  1. Senses Chelsea/Nick + Steve talk

    ITA on your post! I have issues with them quickly redeeming EJ and it appears to me they only are doing it so he can be a viable candidate to Sami’s affection (something that no redemption can ever do unless they prove brainwashing or something; which I’m still not sure would convince me). In doing so, he’s apologized but only to Sami and again…..he’s done a lot of bad things. A true redemption story only works when the character makes atone for all his past misdeed which I believe is why Chelsea worked so well. EJ admitting to raping Sami is a great start but he’s still got a long way to go including shooting John, killing Eve, torturing Steve (hello!) and ordering him to kill Bo.

  2. Tripp, you’re right. That’s why I don’t want him to be redeemed to the level of a romantic lead, just to the level of villain-with-layers. As someone said on the TWoP boards once, it’s tough to see someone so hot and not want to pair him with someone. But I like him as a villain, just not a one-note, cartoonish villain (actually I can do without those altogether). A full redemption of EJ would just be too far to go, but add a few shadings and we can at least get him in the roguish manipulator category. That’s what I’d like to see.

    As a side note–it’s funny how murder and torture don’t stick in people’s craw as much as a rape does.

  3. I think the reason the rape sticks out so much with the EJ discussion is because of the potential Sami/EJ pairing. It’s not that murder and torture aren’t terrible things, but so much of the conversation about EJ’s redemption is centered on EJami and, therefore, the rape because the biggest obstacle because it is personal between the two of them (if that makes any sense).

    In any case, I’m with you. I want a layered, complex bad guy. I don’t want EJ fully redeemed. And, I’d like to see him pay in some way for his crimes (the problem being, of course, that if he pays in usual ways he’s offscreen).

  4. For awhile there back in the fall it looked they were going for EJ isolating Sami from her family and fostering her grudge against them, which I think would have been interesting. We could have seen her wreaking havoc for awhile (against Marlena, ::rubs hands together with glee::), and then waking up and realizing how limited that is. It could have been a redemption story for Sami in the end (and an eventual pairing with Lucas if that’s what they wanted), but with one last gasp of evil Sami and EJami.

    Anyway, no point in going over might-have-beens. I agree that EJ needs to pay but how to we keep him onscreen? Take away his money? Eh, no one seems to need any in Salem anyway. Turn all the other Dimeras against him? That might work.

    EJ being a brainwashed pawn, if they did it right, could do it (TM Paula). I also like the idea of making him not truly a Dimera. Then he could be all angstful about it.

  5. The reason I find an EJ redemption hard to swallow is not so much because of the crimes he’s committed but the way he’s committed them. We saw him brag about raping Sami, laugh while he was torturing Steve and generally have a ball while terrorising various Salemites.

    Loyalty to his father might explain the crimes themselves but they don’t explain the sadistic pleasure he took in hurting others. I don’t recall seeing a man “torn” between doing good and obeying his father and for the writers to portray it this way after the fact screams of a rewrite.

    I don’t think it’s impossible to redeem him but it would need to be executed very carefully. And it absolutely could NOT involve any kind of pairing with Sami, his victim. That would be offensive on so many levels and I’d hope TPTB wouldn’t be mad enough to attempt it.

  6. Oh, I completely agree, Ponz. I still remember his glee the night he raped Sami. He was turned on if anything by her reluctance and distress. I would still welcome the addition of layers, and a reworking of his character so he was a more Victor-like villain with understandable human motivations.

    I know there are still diehard EJami fans out there, but after the rape that ship sailed for me. Plus I like Lumi.

    Speaking of Lumi, off-topic perhaps, I loved their conversation on Friday about whether or not to get the amnio and test for paternity. You could see the argument on both sides, and it felt very real to me.

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