When John first came back from the dead a mere three months after he died, when we saw, in flashbacks, Stefano put all his memories on a little CD, when we were on day 37 of the nonstop John and Marlena juggernaut that was January and February’s Days, when this all was taking place at the same time there was a huge writing shakeup behind the scenes … well, I wasn’t feeling so great about this storyline, or about the show in general.
screencap courtesy nbc.com
But it has turned out to be, surprisingly, not bad. Last year, when Dee and Drake had nothing to do but gaze into one another’s eyes and think about how horny they were, it was hard to see what, exactly, they did to earn their big salaries. That might still be hard to see, but there have definitely been moments that have made John and Marlena more entertaining than they have been for a long, long time.
A lot of it is just the fun of John’s one liners. Drake will never be a great thespian, but on his best days he brings a certain panache to his scenes that can be a lot of fun. His sardonic distance from all of the emotional upheaval unfolding around him is a bracing tonic against sentimentality (which actually, I think, makes us care more). The show has had a little bit of a sense of humor about some of the more ludicrous elements of this plot, like when John tossed aside the memories-containing CD, saying, “Probably blank.” I also loved the nod to the ridiculousness of John’s return from the dead, when he came face to face with the man who signed his death certificate. Poor Dr. Berman.
I’m finding it strangely cathartic to think that this is more like the NickNotSteve storyline should have played out back when Steve and Kayla first came back to town. There’s the odd and uncomfortable “there and yet not there” dynamic of family scenes. There’s the pressure of living up to his old identity. Also, he is bonding with the one family member who has no real memory of the old him (in Nick/Steve’s case, I wanted that to be Stephanie). Best of all, John the Pawn has his own interests and motivations, and they are giving him an actual plot, not a love triangle. (Speaking of John’s plot, how excited am I by the idea of a DiMera/Kiriakis showdown?)
I must cop to a certain joy at seeing a tiny bit of the glitter scrubbed off Marlena. His near-total lack of interest in their Great Love, his disregard for her advice, the way he calls her “Blondie,” his willingness (but not eagerness) to sleep with her if she will, has been completely refreshing.
Of course, when the moment inevitably arrives when he falls back under her spell, when the true love soulmates are reunited, when that transcendent love scene unfolds across our screen, I reserve the right to take this all back.