How was the summer for you?
There were two big stories this summer. One was Touch the Sky, which came to a climax the week of 9/3 with Jett getting shot, Jeremy running away, and Max and Stephanie forced off the plane. The best time to judge a story, of course, is after it has wrapped up. So, let’s judge!
I already discussed the problems with how this storyline was introduced, so I won’t repeat myself here. Let’s look at the end instead.
As I wrote in my postcard to Ed Scott (and felt a little silly for doing it), “Payoffs are important.” So what makes a good payoff? For an adventure story, the suspense builds until all the threads come together at the same time. Ideally there’s a twist or two, relationships change, the good guys look heroic, and new storylines are launched.
Before we look at Touch the Sky, there’s a very basic issue with the payoff for a story that Hogan and his team seem to have a problem with: matching the intensity of the payoff with the intensity (and duration) of the preceding story. He’s given us some great payoffs— like Steve getting his memory back—that the story preceding it didn’t support. He’s also had the opposite problem, setting up some intriguing stories that petered out, fizzled, or fell flat just when they should have been the most dynamic and interesting—Steve the assassin on Tinda Lau comes to mind. When I think back on this past year, the only big story where the buildup matched the payoff was the Sami’s secret/Lumi wedding story. There were other problems with that story (hysterical Sami, psychotic EJ), but the structure was sound. I would also say that Chick’s first two stories were generally well constructed—LonelySplicer, the Nick/Billie sex—though taken together I contend it was too much, too fast, with not enough resolution after the payoff.
So how was the payoff for Touch the Sky? First, the good:
1) I would argue that in this case, while far from perfect, the story climaxed in a satisfying way. Clues were sown along the way, there was an acceleration of tension as Max began to understand what was happening. Then eventually everything came together at the same time in a series of unfolding events. Jeremy asked Steph to run away with him, Jett organized the sting, Max tried to rescue the girls, Jett was shot.
2) There was a twist. I did not anticipate that the high class hookers were “Rawlings’ Angels” and did not want to be rescued.
3) New storylines were launched. Nick has his China Lee kids story, and presumably a Stephanie/Jeremy/Max triangle is in the offing.
4) Relationships changed. Nick and Chelsea broke up, Stephanie and Jeremy broke up. Max and Stephanie grew closer.
5) People learned from their mistakes. Stephanie’s eyes were opened (even if she isn’t ready to give up on him entirely), Max lost his garage.
Now, the bad:
1) The twist was not adequately explained. If Ilsa is a happy high class hooker paid to fleece her clients, what was she crying about at Bo and Hope’s house? Why did all the girls assemble on the plane if they didn’t want to be rescued?
2) Missed opportunities. The DiMera connection was woefully underused. Andre supposedly “hurt” (raped?) Ilsa, but this was never referred to again. An undercover ISA agent forced to betray his best friend should have yielded some soapy goodness. Stephanie should have had a moment of crisis about betraying Jeremy at the crucial moment.
3) Too much stupidity. Jett blew his cover with Chelsea, passed up an opportunity for Jeremy to turn on Rawlings and his other associates, and stood around talking about Chelsea instead of paying attention to the sting operation. Actually, Jett’s stupid actions are too numerous (and painful) to elaborate. Too many people were in on the plan, which lessened the drama considerably.
3) Whatever you may think about Stephanie and her uncle, Stephanie was way too happy in that cave. She was so in love with Jeremy that she ignored his abusive behavior and stood up for him against all reason. Now that her eyes have been opened, she should be suffering. The attempt to shag her uncle in the cave could have played out as a desperate woman on the rebound not sure if she’s going to live or die, instead of being played for romantic banter.
4) Jeremy’s character was all over the map. I like the amoral con man with abusive tendencies the best. I hope we see that Jeremy again. He could start stalking Stephanie, while pretending to repent his ways with the rest of Salem. A Horton who is a manipulative bastard should be a lot of fun. Please explore this!
Now Days is looking at the best story Hogan has yet had: the DiMera/Brady feud. This was, I believe, supposed to be the big summer storyline, but all signs now indicate that this story has been punted to the fall (which I heartily support.) This is the type of umbrella story that any soap writer should dream about, one that pulls on decades of history and involves practically every character on the canvas. Ideally it should have a payoff to end all payoffs. That might be asking too much, but … c’mon, Days, you can do it!