(We meant to post this yesterday, but once again, that pesky real life got in the way. What can you do?)
Shocking reveals are a good soap’s bread and butter. Since currently General Hospital is a very bad soap, it’s no wonder that most of the recent reveals have been less “shocking” and more “nonsensical and anti-climactic.” But it was not always so!
Take a look at a few of the dramatic revelations that really made us — and the characters — sit up and gasp:
Ned’s Has Two Wives!
Tenillypo: It’s hard out there for a bigamist, y’all. Poor Ned had his hands full juggling dual lives as Ned Ashton (aka Mr. Katherine Bell), respectable ELQ CEO, and Eddie Maine (aka Mr. Lois Cerullo), the hard rocking, leather pant wearing lead singer of The Idle Rich.
Of course, Ned was really in love with Lois, but had been blackmailed into also marrying bitchy, gold-digging Katherine for … reasons that I can no longer remember. I’m sure they were important at the time, though!
But after months of deception, he was finally ready to kick Katherine’s social climbing behind to the curb — right after her awkward, self-congratulatory birthday shindig, attended by the entire town. Loyal friend, Brenda (and the audience), could see this train wreck coming from a mile away. Which made it all the more awesome when Lois finally got wise to her beloved Eddie’s scam and decided to take matters into her own hands. She could have confronted him privately, of course, but where would the fun in that have been?
Jason is the father of Elizabeth’s baby!
Incandescentflower: It’s very rare that GH keeps secrets from the audience, so often the reveal is not to us, but to the characters. I was waiting for this one for MONTHS.
I had started to hate Liz for not telling anyone the truth. But despite the fact that I had waited for it for so long, this scene was truly satisfying and unexpected. Jason was able to show anger about her hiding the secret while still supporting Liz and expressing those feelings we all knew he had. The fact that they were stranded in an elevator alone was the perfect time for an extended heart-felt scene. Unfortunately, after this, Lucky was still not told the truth for ages and the satisfaction I got from this scene quickly went away, but in the moment it was very exciting.
Nikolas is Laura’s son!
Tenillypo: I’m not generally a huge fan of retcons. Especially ones that directly contradict things that the audience has seen. But for every rule, there’s an exception, and the revelation that Laura bore Stavros a secret son during their brief marriage and was forced to abandon him as a baby was one whopper of an exception.
I’m not going to judge Tyler Christopher for looking a little more … bulky … now than he did in back in 1996 (especially because pictures of me from 13 years ago would not lend themselves to flattering comparisons) but man, that kid was skinny and cute back then. And angry! So very, very angry! Nikolas has been the polite, noble prince for such a long time — it’s fun to look back and be reminded how volatile, snotty and just plain mean he was when he first came to town.
I chose two clips for this because while the moment when Nikolas introduces himself to Lucky at baby Lulu’s hospital bedside is a great reveal, I will always love Nik and Laura coming face to face for the first time. The music! The slow motion turn! The totally gobsmacked trepidation and longing on Genie Francis’ face! Pure, soapy awesomeness.
Robin tells AJ the truth about Michael!
Incandescentflower: Although this situation had been building for quite a while, it was still a shock when Robin broke down and told AJ that he, not Jason, was Michael’s father. Carly was continuing to push the boundaries with Jason and Robin was worried that he’d be pulled further and further into her life. What’s great about these scenes is the fact that you can sympathize with practically every person involved, but also see how they are rationalizing their own selfish desires. There was a time when the characters were allowed to have layers. They could have good and bad in them, and, in my opinion, that made them much more interesting.
Unfortunately, these days the writers often try to reenact this soap opera gold, but mistakenly believe it is the situation that’s worth replaying, not the dynamics and depths of the relationships.
Carly is Caroline!
Tenillypo: Trapped in a crowded, public space? Years of build up? Genuine emotion? Check, check, and check. This reveal hit all of the right notes.
The audience had known for a while that Carly was none other than Caroline, the vengeful daughter who teen hooker Bobbie had given for adoption all those years ago. Carly came to town for the express purpose of worming her way into her mother’s life — and then destroying it. And, boy, did she ever. So much so that when Luke finally discovered the truth, he thought it kinder to lie and tell his sister her daughter was dead. But after Bobbie helped Carly deal with her postpartum depression by sharing her own anguish over the baby daughter she’d given up, Carly finally spilled the beans — while trapped in the PC Grille with half the town during a blizzard, naturally.
It’s safe to say she didn’t get quite the reaction she was hoping for.
(Incidentally, I have no idea what’s going on with Bobbie’s red face here, but she looks positively demonic. I actually feel a little scared of her when she tells Jason to take Michael out of the room so she can rip Carly a new one. It’s nice to find something about Jackie Zeman’s face disturbing other than plastic surgery gone horribly awry for once.)
Robin has HIV!
Incandescentflower: The scene I first wanted to include was when Stone told Robin he had AIDS. As I recall, Stone told Robin after the Lullaby Massacre because he was bleeding and worried that Robin had been exposed. However, I could not find a YouTube clip to confirm or deny this. Feel free to comment if you have memory of this. The reveal that Robin tested HIV positive was also great, and included many smaller reveals to all the various characters.
For this clip, I included Mac, Sonny, and Brenda learning that Robin had tested HIV positive. All the revelations of Robin’s diagnosis and Stone’s illness were heartbreaking. It’s a testament to how well this show was written at the time, and how intertwined everyone was in each other’s lives, no matter where in life they found themselves. And although this clip is not shocking because the viewer already knows, I like it in particular because it shows the Police Commissioner and a mobster coming together for the people they care about. I remember when most of the characters on the show liked one another or at least respected one another. There was a community that made this situation have huge ripple effects. And I miss that.
Tenillypo: Soap characters fake their deaths so often we could easily have done an entire post of only “Best Fake Deaths.” Most of the time, however, the fakes are fairly easy to spot and not that surprising. But back in 1999, everyone knew that Jonathan Jackson was leaving the show, so when Lucky Spencer’s body was found in the wreckage of his burnt apartment, the whole town — and the audience — took it at face value.
We cried our eyes out as Elizabeth collapsed in Sonny’s arms, sympathized with Luke and Laura’s helpless rage, mourned with Nikolas, Emily and Bobbie. For days, I turned on General Hospital expecting to just bawl. Lucky (and Jonathan Jackson) got a nice funeral and a really excellent goodbye montage. We thought it was over and done with.
But then! The viewers were transported to a strange bunker where a mysterious figure was crouched with his back to us and– OMG, that’s Lucky! Being held captive by Helena and Faison! And he’s looking at pictures of all his loved ones mourning him! And they still have no idea!
The most shocking part of this reveal was the fact that it was really just a huge tease. Jonathan Jackson was still leaving — the sequence of clips linked above was the last time we’d ever be treated to his clever, street smart, computer savvy version of the character. And it would be an entire year before anyone else in Port Charles discovered the truth. Even though when we finally got to it, the Endgame story and Jacob Young’s recast version of Lucky were both hugely disappointing letdowns, this set up was pure soapy brilliance. A whole year of mourning and moving on for an entire town, while the audience knows that the character is really alive and well off screen? Now, that’s commitment to a story.
And THAT is a motherfucking reveal, bitches.
Lessons to be learned:
1) Never dole a big revelation out piecemeal when you can dump it on everyone at once. How many people in town knew that Jake was really Jason’s son before Lucky found out? How anti-climactic was it when he finally discovered the truth? Everyone in the room already knew.
2) Make sure that everyone who should know something is shown finding out about it. Luke finding out Jake isn’t actually his biological grandson deserved more than and off screen mention. Monica and the Qs still have no idea.
3) If you want it to be a shock, then make it a freaking shock, already! Even if I didn’t hate every single part of the Ethan/Luke/Holly retcon, I would still hate the way the “secret” of Ethan’s parentage was telegraphed in front of the audience and the characters for weeks before we actually got confirmation. By the time Holly told the truth, there was no longer any dramatic punch left in the revelation. Pop the balloon, don’t let the air out through a slow leak, guys. This is Soap 101, here.