As the World Turns: The Death of Dr. Reid Oliver and Endgames
As for Reid Oliver’s fate (Eric Sheffer Stevens, daytime's breakout actor of the year), there was much gnashing of teeth across the internet about the literal sacrifice of his openly gay, bracing, in your face character on the altar of Chris and Katie and what seems to be the eventual “end game” of Luke and Noah (Jake Silbermann). Like many others, I had become a huge fan of Reid and Luke almost instantly and would have liked to have seen them have a happy ending (no pun intended) as a couple, but I wanted to defer judgement until Reid’s death played out. How glad I am that I did.
Extremely nitpicky, navel gazing details aside (Tom and Margo’s near instantaneous round trips to Springfield, just outside Bay City and back to Oakdale; the obvious cracks in the budgetary scenes in the hospital sets), today’s show in which Reid passed away from his injuries was, quite simply, extraordinary in every way. The writing, pacing and dialogue, as it was with both Barbara and Henry’s wedding and Nancy Hughes’ (the late Helen Wagner) memorial, was superb. Words like “heart wrenching” and “the gamut of emotions” are sometimes casually thrown around by fans and critics, but the sight of a badly damaged Reid barely able to, but determined to, convey his final request to a panicked Luke in one of the most moving death scenes to grace daytime in quite some time was, indeed, heart wrenching.
The acting could not have been better. Of particular note, Van Hansis was dazzling as a shell-shocked, grief-stricken Luke. In brief scenes, Holmes delivered as he has not been allowed to do so in years, keeping Tom’s tightly wound sense of urgency & desperation under wraps while pushing Luke to honor Reid’s wishes. Larry Brygmann, as he has been since Dr. John Dixon’s return, was outstanding in literally everything he did and said, including his dry and slightly sarcastic line reading “Would anyone like to offer a prayer?” while trying to wheel Reid’s body out for surgery as everyone said goodbye.
Finally, Don Hastings and Kathryn Hays were the epitome of sheer brilliance. Hays has been delivering one blistering, emotionally charged, high voltage performance after another these last episodes, starting in the immediate aftermath of Nancy’s (offscreen) memorial through to her takedown of Katie for not being there for Chris when he delivered the news about his heart to his family. Hastings’ task was less showy but no less affecting, showing us with every breath, increasingly burdened movements and disheveled look how Bob was simultaneously dealing with his mother’s passing, the possible death of his youngest son, and finally the tragic loss of a young colleague. The moment Bob learned of Reid’s wishes to donate his heart, there was a 2 or 3 second shot of Bob’s expression –full of fear mixed with hope – that no acting class can train and money can’t buy. There were times when one could feel through the the screen that the Hughes family — as well as Katie and Luke — were being tested to the limits of their endurance and yet they endured. Yes, Reid’s death was tragic, but not meaningless.
Today’s episode was the epitome of daytime family drama at its finest. Toward the end of the show, I posted the following on Twitter: “Tragedy, Pain, Heroism, Love, Sacrifice, Hope, Miracles. Is this not what Soap Opera is all about?”
I think that about sums it up.