An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind

Sorry about the long-time-no-post.  I’ve been obsessively watching Boardwalk Empire on DVD (no spoilers!  I just started season 3).  Just watched the episode where they killed off Jimmy Darmody (my favorite character … of course. Another bad boy with a tragic past), and it got me thinking about television shows and change.  How do you walk the line between keeping things fresh and yet not alienating what drew people to your show in the first place?

On soaps, characters and actors can come and go more freely, plots and relationships can change more drastically, than on a sitcom, or nighttime drama, or really any other kind of show I can think of.    But at heart I think soaps tend to be very conservative, very afraid to rock the boat.  You wouldn’t see Days kill off a major, extremely popular character … what am I saying, of course they would.

But, he wouldn’t stay dead.  That’s the difference.

When James E. Reilly did the Salem Serial Killer storyline in 2003 and 2004, I wasn’t watching Days, but my mom had just retired and picked up watching it again right in the middle of the storyline.  I actually got invested in it too, just from her telling me about it.  Here was a departure from the norm, where major characters are never really in danger, where no one stays dead, where you can predict the lines the show won’t go over.  James Reilly knew what he was doing (short term, anyway).  He got a lot of people talking about the show, got some mainstream press.  I remember having a conversation with my trainer at the gym, saying “I can’t believe they killed Alice!”  Neither of us had watched the show in years.

When they got to Melaswen, I lost interest, of course.  I’m sure a lot of people did.  That’s what happens when you pull your punches.  I’ve heard since about the back story to this, that James Reilly was committed to everyone staying dead, but such was the backlash that Ken Corday lost his nerve and insisted everyone be rehired and then turned around and said it was the plan all along.  (And Frances Reid, bless her heart, came right out and said he was full of shit.)   I’m no fan of James Reilly but having okayed the storyline to begin with you can’t just say “Never mind, erase that!”  Be very careful in being bold, but if you go for it, stick with it.

Anyway, none of this has much to do with the real subject of this post, which is the end of a very lovely plot arc for Kayla:

YouTube link

Actually, there is a slight connection.  If Days doesn’t get rid of major, popular characters (and it doesn’t), how do you move the story forward?  One of the problems on soaps that comes up again and again is how to make the bad guys “pay” when you can’t write them out.   You can’t send them to jail or kill them off, so what do you do?  This is a great example of how to do it.  Lawrence loses someone he loves, just like Kayla did. And maybe even more importantly, he breaks down in front of Kayla and Shane, losing his smooth, always-in-control demeanor.  That’s a perfect set-up for Kayla to realize that winning doesn’t bring Steve back. (If Lawrence were still smug and on top of everything, this wouldn’t work in the same way.)

This also refers back to Jack and Kayla’s conversations, that “no one gets off scot free” and that violence isn’t the answer.  Jack told her “I learned that from you,” but she forgot that, she forgot her own lesson, or her own philosophy, if you will.  That’s very human — I love that we saw Kayla consumed by anger and a desire for revenge.

Steve told Kayla once that “everyone says things like that” — things like, people are good deep down, that violence doesn’t solve anything — “but you really mean it.”  That’s why this scene works so well.  It’s Kayla rediscovering her own deeply held beliefs.

7 thoughts on “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind

  1. Oh my goodness, I so remember hearing that Days had killed off Alice and with one of her own donuts. I wasn’t watching regularly , at that time, but recall thinking I would never watch again (I didn’t either until the S&K return) due to the seemingly total disrespect for the cornerstone character of Alice. So taking such a risk can be a double sided sword, as James Riley found out. Between the possession of Marlena and the Salem stalker, it just got too over the top for me. And this coming from someone who enjoyed watching Luke and Laura save the world from the ice machine. But at least the Ice Princess story had a campy cartoon feel to it . But Marlena with glowing red eyes just seemed hokey . As for Days, there have been some bright spots since the golden 80’s, but I guess I got spoiled and wanted the same quality of writing and character driven story telling that I have gotten used to. I moved along, with a lot of he Days cast to GH in the 90s. It wasn’t perfect, but for me, the storytelling was better.

    As for Lawrence getting some Karmic justice, I couldn’t agree more. I haven’t viewed these scenes since the original run. Even if I ever saw it, as I watched only occasionally after Steve died, and them only for Jack and Jennifer. Then Shayla did me in. ( I like Shane/Charlie, love Kayla/MBE but not as a couple) Sorry got off the point there, Shayla does that to me.

    The character of Lawrence was completely despicable, but in the one moment you see some humanity and that there were some human feelings in him after all. Beautifully played by both MB and Micheal S. So when human justice or violent revenge can’t,won’t or don’t work, then in Soaps, just as in real life, we must give it over to Karma/God/high power/fate/universal law (whatever you want to call it) and let justice be served in ways we may never get to see. This story was wonderfully satisfying because we got to view our heroine see some of that justice, she has been working so hard for, get served.

    Thank you for posting these scenes, they are much more enjoyable the second time around. I think, my having more life experience, helps me to appreciate it more also.🙂

    • I hope I was clear that I hated the SSK storyline too, especially the Alice killing. But having done it, it hurts the show a lot to just say “oops! rewind!” And I must admit I’m curious about what JER’s actual plan was — I guess he said in a interview once (during the storyline) that it was “not the Dimeras” and of course it turned out it was, so there was definitely a change in plan.

      I agree that MS does really well in this scene showing another side to Lawrence.

      Oh, Shayla, AKA the-couple-who-must-not-be-named. I’m actually watching that storyline really start to heat up right now. Some posts on Jack and Jen coming up next, but I will definitely be posting about Shayla soon.

  2. It is a really great moment for Kayla here. As you point out, she’s the rare soap character who truly believes what she says. Since the beginning (well since MBE’s beginning) the character has consistently rejected revenge and violence. Early on, it often seemed more than a little naïve, but even as the “rose colored glasses” fell off, the essential goodness never left. She got more than her fair share of first hand experience about bad things happening to good people, but never lost her fundamental faith that violence and revenge only made things worse, not better.

    Steve’s death rocked Kayla to her core and, I believe, did cause a few fundamental changes, but this wasn’t one of them. She needed the anger and the desire to avenge him to protect her from the pain and, as she acknowledges, that led her to be blinded to what she knew to be true. Nothing good could come from pursuing vengeance (as opposed to justice). Not only did Leopold die, but little Stephanie could have well been left an orphan. So, I love seeing her come to that realization. She’s not letting Lawrence off the hook – she’s not forgetting and certainly not forgiving. But as long as her focus is on vengeance, he only hurts her and her family more. She wins by remembering her principles and living by them, and I love that.

    Of course, there’s another scene not to long from now that makes that point even more clearly.🙂

    And I, for one, am eagerly awaiting your Shayla posts.🙂

    • Great point about how her faith in goodness, early on, was partly naivete. That was partly how Steve could dismiss her. But as she got to know cruelty and pain up close (and Steve, regrettably, was a part of that process), her faith didn’t go away. It changed, certainly, but she didn’t lose it.

      I have a feeling we’ll have some good discussion here about Shayla.🙂

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