Fun and heartbreak may not seem like they go together, but every soap fan understands that sometimes a good cry can be the most entertaining part of the show. On this week’s trip back in time, we’re looking at General Hospital’s most heartbreaking moments — the ones that turned us into snotty, red-eyed, bawling messes.
(Yeah. Pack your tissues, kids. And don’t watch these clips at work. Trust us, it’s for your own good.)
Tenillypo: Dominique’s death was one of the very first stories I ever watched on General Hospital. Some scenes require context to make them moving; these had me in tears even though I knew nothing about the characters, their history, or their relationship. It was just that good.
There something about a slow death (as opposed to the random, bloody murder GH is so fond of these days) which really makes for quality melodrama. Dominique knew the end was coming, and the process of setting her affairs in order was almost as moving as her actual death. But what really set it apart was the sense of hope she had for the child Lucy would bring into world for her and Scott.
Nowadays, watching this clip makes me cry for a different reason. It reminds me how thoroughly the current regime has destroyed the character of Scott Baldwin, turning him from a scoundrel with a good heart into a moronic, blustering, one-dimensional, mustache-twirling villain. I defy anyone who watches these scenes to believe he spent the last 25 years obsessing over Laura rather than moving on with his life and finding a great love of his own. Or that anything in this world could possibly mean more to him now than his and Dominique’s daughter. Shove it, Guza.
The Death of Sam’s Baby
Incandescentflower: One thing this show overdoes is miscarriages. Honestly, I start to cringe when anyone gets pregnant on this show because the pregnancy seems to have a 50% survival rate. But in my opinion, this story was unique.
After Sam got pregnant with Sonny’s child, Jason agreed to lie and say the baby was his. Jason and Sam bonded over the pregnancy and started to truly care about one another. This was during a time when the writers seemed to want to build relationships and I appreciated that. Before getting pregnant, it felt like Sam was pretty one dimensional. But as her desire to be a mother grew, she felt much more real. Her pain after losing this child was so hard to experience, but the scene that really pierces my heart every time I watch it is the one when Jason says goodbye to the baby. The pain on his face was heartbreaking; the shadow of Jason holding the baby behind the curtain was perfect. The reactions of the other characters — Liz, Sonny and Carly — all completed the agony of that moment. It was such a resonating story that touched so many characters’ lives.
Tenillypo: I don’t like Sonny. I don’t like Carly. And frankly, the kid they raised together was a snotty little sociopath in the making. And he wasn’t even really dead. But none of that seems to matter when Tamara Braun turns on the waterworks in this clip. I start bawling every single time.
There’s just something so universal in a parent’s grief for a child. And when Carly’s voice starts to break, it touches something primal inside of me as well. I’m no longer looking at a woman who sold her children to the mob; I’m looking at a mother who has to face the fact that her son’s been murdered. When soaps are at their best, they allow you to empathize with even characters you normally loathe. This scene did that for me.
Tenillypo: As terrible as the death of a child is, the death of a parent is something that really hits me where I live — especially because I was only a little older than Emily when these scenes first aired.
Paige was a fairly insignificant character in and of herself. We barely knew her. But she brought a sense of gravitas to the story of Monica’s breast cancer. Through her, the threat of death became real. And through her, Emily came to the Quartermaines and eventually became one that family’s most important members.
As with Dominique, we all knew Paige’s death was coming. But it was really the performance of Amber Tamblyn that leant it so much grace and meaning.
Incandescentflower: Stone’s death was the culmination of an amazing story line. And in many ways, it was just the beginning of Robin’s story in terms of her dealing with HIV. As Stone and Robin went on their separate journeys of discovery regarding their illnesses, GH did an amazing job of showing the different ends of the spectrum of an HIV/AIDS diagnosis. My specific memories of this time period are fuzzy, but I don’t think anyone can forget Stone’s final moments. After going blind, he was able to miraculously see Robin again before his death.
Sometimes, when I think about this story, it boggles my mind that we’re still watching the same show.
Tenillypo: What can I say about BJ’s heart that hasn’t been said a thousand times before? When GH’s most powerful stories are listed, it comes up again and again — and for good reason: this story was a perfect storm of soapy goodness.
In one fell swoop, multiple story lines which had been building for months — Maxie’s illness, Mac and Felicia’s relationship, Frisco’s return, Lucy’s bet with Damien, Bobbie and Tony’s marriage troubles — were tied together and brought to a head. The shock of BJ’s completely unexpected death reverberated throughout the canvas, touching numerous lives. In the wake of her passing, Maxie was saved, Georgie conceived, and Bobby and Tony’s marriage, already teetering on the edge, was irrevocably damaged — creating the cracks through which Carly would later be able squirm.
What makes BJ’s heart such a uniquely soapy story, however, is the fact that characters are still dealing with the fall out from those events all these years later. Little Maxie Jones has grown into a troubled young woman. Her health is still periodically an issue (though not as consistently as it would be if the current writers weren’t hacks) and the combination of survivor’s guilt and parental abandonment has left her with low self-esteem which breeds constant self-destructive behavior. Because of soap longevity, this is the only medium where the audience could follow the impact of a childhood tragedy over the course of a character’s life. One single, carefully placed story bomb has provided years of drama.
Much has been made (and rightly so) of the scene where Tony lays his head on Maxie’s chest and hears his dead daughter’s heart beating again. But the moment that always sticks out in my memory is Felicia finding Bobbie in tears in the hallway. The look on her face as she realizes the terrible price that’s been paid for her daughter’s life never fails to reduce me to a complete blubbering mess. Not Barbara Jean, indeed.
BJ’s heart drew the entire canvas together in celebration and then grief. It was a death that truly did have meaning — both then and now — above shock value and a temporary ratings boost. Would that they could all be so good.
So what lessons should be taken from these scenes?
1) Death should never be taken lightly. Characters are murdered at the drop of a hat these days, and it’s completely lost its impact. What’s more, there are no long lasting consequences. What story lines did Georgie’s murder spark? Emily’s? How did Alan’s heart attack or the deaths of Tony, Alcazar, Sage, Logan, Coop, Stan, Diego, Trevor, Leyla — to name a few of the show’s more recent casualties — really benefit the canvas?
2) All but three of the deaths listed as examples in number one were violent murders. Enough with the carnage. People die of natural causes or freak accidents too. It’s more relatable. Also, if we could stop killing off the younger generation before they’re old enough to graduate college, that would be great too.
3) Characters’ deaths need to be earned. In the clips above, this lesson is clear. Each story included dramatic build up and story arcs that not only made these deaths resonate, but also made them feel inevitable — the only real ending to the story — instead of random death for shock value.