When history is re-created to tell a new tale on a daytime soap opera some of us can’t help but groan at the mere thought, especially when history is mined by use of re-created flashback scenes. Sure, we love that stories continue day-to-day, but ultimately we don’t expect it to truly have much impact in today’s storied world. As “General Hospital” celebrated its 52nd anniversary earlier today, with re-created flashback scenes with several of its current cast playing yesterday’s important characters, one can’t help but be amazed at how far we’ve come in our quest for drama on screen, be it scripted or reality. The lack of shootouts, sex scenes, romantic triangles, catfights, or whatever passes for drama today, took a back seat to character driven story.
The death of Lena Spencer (played by current cast member Laura Wright) and the impact it had on her son, Luke (Anthony Geary), on paper doesn’t sound very interesting to be honest. It could have been a throwaway discussion between characters to explain away Luke’s current behavior as it relates to the Fluke storyline. It could have even been a very poorly done two-second flashback with barely any relevance. But to dedicate an entire episode to a story about the death of a character we barely knew much about, and how her passing affected one of the show’s most popular and viable characters, was a pleasure to watch. Yes, the purpose was to celebrate “GH’s” 52 years on television, but the story itself didn’t just honor the history of one of the greatest entertainment programs ever created, it pushed forward a story that many, myself included, felt should have ended sooner. I’m pleased that head writer Ron Carlivati and his team of writers kept the story going. It was well worth the long wait.
When it was announced last month that Dee Wallace had been cast as Luke’s oldest sister, Patricia, no one outside of the show’s inner circle had a clue as to how she’d be utilized. It could have gone either way. The direction the show went as it related to today’s episode as current story intertwined with re-created history worked beautifully. Wallace’s narration was a big reason for that. It felt like you were truly watching a classic episode that had aired in the earlier years of the daytime soap opera, aided of course by use of black and white. It also felt meaningful when you saw characters in colorful form throughout.
From beginning to end we saw Luke trying to piece together the details of one April 1, 1963, the day “GH” aired its very first episode on ABC, and the day Luke lost his mother.
The death of Tim Spencer (played by Geary), the father of Luke, Bobbie (Jacklyn Zeman) and Patricia, was gratifying. You cared about young Luke (played by Joey Luthman) as he dealt with the reality that he killed his father almost immediately after learning of the death of his mother, who had gone to the hospital earlier in the episode after a blow to the head. Viewers were initially shown that it was a blow from Tim that ultimately led Lena to her grave. It would soon be revealed, however, that a blow from a bat handled by Luke, who had planned to use it on his father, was what brought her to her maker.
As it finally sets in to what truly occurred on that April night, we are brought back to the present as an adult Luke collapses and bursts into a sea of tears surrounded by the one’s he loves, younger sister Bobbie, wife Tracy Quartermaine (Jane Elliot), and Patricia, saying, “I killed her! I didn’t mean to…she was only trying to help, and I killed her! I killed momma. I killed momma and daddy! I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry!”
Whether it be his portrayal of Luke, Tim, Fluke, Bill, or whoever else he’s tasked to play next, Geary consistently displays a talent unmatched in today’s television landscape. He jumps from one character to the next with ease and it’s an honor to witness his abilities each and everyday on “General Hospital.” He has already locked up his next nomination, and likely win, for next year’s Daytime Emmy Awards even though he only learned of his most recent nomination just yesterday. Likely to join Geary in next year’s nominees list, albeit in the Special Guest Performer category (of course, depending on how things go this year), will likely be daytime newcomer Chloe Lanier. Her emotional performance as a young Patricia was breathtaking. Such talent that one has. Almost makes you wonder who she could end up playing next on the show as she’s shown herself to be too good to let go. Let’s hope the powers that be listen!
Happy 52nd, “General Hospital.” Here’s to many more.