Inherit the Wind
MOTIVATION MAKES A COMEBACK: One of the keys to investing in any character, good or bad, is that the audience knows and understands that character's motivations whether they agree with them or not. In a nutshell, motivation involves two basic factors: what someone wants and why they want it. By answering those two questions, a good team of writers can establish practically any character they want, from a control freak high society dame determined to control her children's lives (Phoebe Tyler) to a whole ecosystem of hillbillies who made good (the Chandlers and Cortlandts nee Cooneys of Pigeon Hollow). Once established, the rest is just fill in the blanks. Once upon a time, AMC was the bastion of character motivation on daytime. In recent years, far too many head writers and producers dispensed with motivation altogether in favor of sensationalistic plots and endless guessing games of emotional roulette.
The tornado and its aftermath have provided the citizens of Pine Valley with motivation once again. Some are obvious, like David's rage-fueled revenge, Adam wanting Fusion (and Erica), Annie wanting her life with Ryan back, Pete wanting Colby and Randi wanting the respectability and self-esteem she never thought she could have. Taylor wants to serve her country, Erica still wants to be wanted, Natalia wants her father,and Amanda wants Jake (and to be taken seriously). Yes, Pratt has been laying this groundwork for months and clearly some elements of his grand design, like the Aiden/Greenlee/Ryan triangle, are still seriously fractured. Other characters still need work. Coming out of Friday's episode however, one would be hard pressed to make a case that Pratt has not left the majority of characters on the canvas in a more solid motivational space than Pine Valley has seen in years.
LESS IS MOST DEFINITELY MORE: The most striking observation about the sound and fury generated by this tornado event has been the stillness and quiet among the characters. When "Maddog" McTavish was writing AMC, actors were forced to deliver dialogue with an element of breathless babbling, spitting, repeating and stuttering lines like meth addicts chasing a bouncing ball down a dark alley. Brown and Essensten improved things somewhat, but characters still sounded "off." Pratt, on the other hand, has let characters express complete sentences and thoughts. More importantly, actors now seem to listen and react to their partners and when no reaction is necessary, no reaction is offered. It is what we used to call "feeling" and "heart."
The two characters who have benefited the most from this direction are Kendall and Greenlee, the pre-Pratt queens of excess breathless line delivery. Now, not only are the characters more clearly delineated by their ability to speak without tripping over their own tongues, both Alicia Minshew and Rebecca Budig are stronger actresses as a result. It helps that Greenlee also has had most of her brain restored.
GREAT ACTING: I've already cited Jacob Young, Bobbie Eakes, Darnell Williams, and several others for their great work this past week, but there are two actors who delivered some of the best work of their careers. The first is Debbi Morgan, topping her Wednesday performance with a bravura turn on Friday. Morgan delivered work of such quiet, often inscrutable intensity that it rivaled the late Beverlee McKinsey.
The other actor who was absolutely mesmerizing on Friday was Thorsten Kaye. For the last couple of years, Kaye has played Zach as an unusually bored, borderline dangerous control freak alternating with an unusually sullen, borderline psychotic control freak. Often mistaken for brooding masculinity, those two performances have been trapped behind Kaye's let's-cash-this-paycheck eyes and sometimes listless line delivery for longer than I care to remember. At long last, with the news of Kendall's coma, Kaye transformed Zach into a true force with which to be reckoned. In a carefully modulated turn worthy of castmate Morgan, Kaye's eyes were full of the kind of crazy, murderous fury in his character only hinted at in the past, including times when he'd actually done physical harm to others. Whatever was different this time, Kaye turned up the heat so high that one really believed that he would burn Pine Valley Hospital to the ground for revenge against Jake. Truly great, great work by Kaye. More...