Requiem for a Daytime Drama, Part Three
The third in a highly personal, non-objective series highlighting various aspects of the last episodes of Guiding Light, which will end its 72 year run on September 18th.
The third from the last episode of Guiding Light was all about reactions and coming to grips with the demise of Alan Spaulding, mirroring the mixed emotions of the show's fans as the series takes its final bows.
As news of Alan Spaulding's (Ron Raines) death rippled through town, we were treated to one of the most honest portrayals of how people react in such circumstances as has ever been seen on daytime. Over the last 30 years, Alan had committed any number of heinous crimes against most of the citizens of Springfield and yet his passing left many stunned (Ashlee, Blake, Reva, Jonathan, Frank), some confused (grandson Rafe), and others shocked & saddened (Lillian, Buzz).
There were moments that made it almost impossible to look away: the way Lizzie (Marcy Rylan) took a step backward, clasped her hands to her mouth and fell into her fathers arms; Olivia (Crystal Chappell) rendered nearly speechless before relaying the news to those gathered at Company; Reva's (Kim Zimmer) almost haunted expression after Jonathan (Tom Pelphrey) went to see Sarah & Lizzie. For my money, the scene that simply killed was when Emma (the sensational Jacqueline Tsirkin) came into Company and said very simply, "My grandpa died."
It took the death of the larger-than-life Alan to bring the larger-than-life Spauldings down to the realm of mere mortals. There cannot be enough said about how simply awesome Aleksander was as the shattered but stoic Phillip, being strong for his family while inwardly falling apart. One of the opening scenes where Phillip sat in disconsolation next to Alan's lifeless body and held his hand made me shake my head.
Conroy — who will go down in soap history as GL's last great young acting find — effortlessly conveyed James' crushing grief over the loss of his grandfather, to whom he was beginning to become as close as Elizabeth once had been when she was a little girl. The way James slumped over at the family meeting at the Spaulding mansion was a perfect counterpoint to how ramrod straight his father stood as Rick (Michael O'Leary) delivered the preliminary autopsy report. When James and Daisy (Bonnie Dennison) walked silently and he stopped and just put his head on the fence was a testament to profound anguish. However, it was James' shattered expression as he, like his sister, fell into his father's loving arms that caused tears to flow.
For her part, Dusay delivered the kind of performance that was untouchable. As one of daytime's most beloved character actresses, she has amassed a small arsenal of tics and affectations that are instantly recognizable and, sometimes, veer toward parody. During today's episode, Dusay's little acting mannerisms melted into Alexandra's gentle, halting unraveling and she was a sight to behold as she came to grips with Alan's death.
At first, Alex attempted to put up a good front and call the rest of the family, but once she was left alone, she threw the phone in anger & frustration. Later, she met with Hilda (Amy Bouril) and the chauffeur and tried to be all-business, but couldn't help but seek a little solace from them. Finally, at the hospital, alone with Alan's body, Alexandra tried to hold it together, but broke down, catching herself with each sob. For the first time in a long time, every one of Dusay's little odd hoots and coos served a larger purpose in accentuating Alexandra's sorrow at the loss of her beloved brother.