Charcter death, corporate takeover, paternity revelations - what more could you ask for?
It's not that the episodes are perfect -- I thought that the big payoff to months of storylines earlier this week, where Dorian strolls into the big shareholders meeting to reveal that a) Jared's not actually Asa's son and has been scamming everybody, and b) he's been sleeping with his ostensible-but-not-really neice Natalie behind the whole family's back, and c) oh by the way, Jared's real father is Charlie, who was only pretending to be Rex' father, and d) one more thing before I forget, I just took over your family company? Of course, Robin Strasser as Dorian was pretty awesome and in classic form, but the structure and directing of that episode was pretty weak overall and drained a lot of the power out of those revelations.
But when Nash accidentally fell through a skylight after scuffling with Jared, and was taken to the hospital, where they couldn't save him? That was a pretty awesome character death. Awesome because it wasn't just heartbreaking, it was painful and agonizing to watch Jessica (his wife) sobbing hysterically as she tried and failed to accept that he was dying and say good-bye to him. It felt very real -- there was no emotional closure, no reprieve, no consolation, no silver lining. It was just a senseless, horrific tragedy.
And Erica Slezak as Viki has been terrific lately, ever since Charlie confessed that he'd been lying to her -- the rawness of her hurt and anger and confusion has been mesmerizing. My favorite scene so far was when she chewed her brother Todd out when he turned to her for help with Blair, and said that she's no longer going to make excuses for his bad behavior, especially after so many times when he's promised to changed only to fall quickly back into his selfishness when he gets what he wants. And then there was Kathy Brier's perfomance as Marcy at the hearing to determine whether Todd's son Sam would be taken away from him, which revisited her excellent work last winter when she'd kidnapped Sam (it's a long story).
What's especially striking about all of these stories & performances is how good writing and acting on soap operas can do things that no other genres -- including prime-time dramas -- come close to achieving, just through tapping into the sheer accretion of histories and relationships that span decades. At various points in the past few weeks, Viki, Dorian, and others have referenced events and characters from 5, 10, 20 years ago on the show. Even the many references that I don't know give a certain weight and texture to the present-day events, and lend a seriousness and three-dimensionality to the characters & the narrative world.
I don't know if writer Ron Carlivati and company can keep up the quality of storytellling on One Life to Live over the long term -- but hasn't that always been the most pressing question for BSG's Ron Moore as well?