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Camp and Skipped Emotional Beats Hurt ‘General Hospital’s Denise Story

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I love the new characters that head writer Ron Carlivanti has created for General Hospital, good guy Nathan West (Ryan Paevey), enduringly awkward Brad Cooper (Parry Shen) and heroine Jordan Ashford (Vinessa Antoine) to name a few. But arguably his best creation is femme fatale Ava Jerome, played to perfection by Emmy winner Maura West.

Recently, Ava has gone through a bit of a rough patch. Her young lover Morgan (Bryan Craig) betrayed her, the father of her child and mobster kingpin Sonny (Maurice Benard) tried to murder her, she went to prison, escaped only to get shot and fall off a bridge, then to top it all off she found out she had cancer. Viewers were given a well-acted but secluded “right to die” story and then were left hanging for months as to whether she lived or died. Meanwhile, when Ava was off-screen, her portrayer was winning another Emmy, making West the third lead actress to win an Emmy for GH ever. Fans were missing the villainous antagonist and anxiously awaiting her return. But Ava didn’t return, Denise did.

A Tangled Weave

“O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive!” Sir Walter Scott wasn’t talking about Denise and her weave when he said this but he might as well have been. The quote itself refers to how complicated life gets once one starts lying and that more than applies to this situation. Wanting to get close to her baby Avery and avoid prison, Ava created Denise. While decent explanations have been made for why people might believe Denise is real – no finger prints and different DNA thanks to a bone marrow transplant – it all just seems a bit much for everyone to buy into. The convenance of all the explanations alone should warrant cause for red flags. Ava got her mother Delia (Ilene Kristen) to back up her story that she was Ava’s twin, moved in with her brother Julian (William deVry), made out with her ex-boyfriend who is now dating his ex-wife who is also Ava’s daughter, and began trying to work her way into Avery’s life.

I have a love/hate relationship with the current story line that is playing out on my TV screen. I actually really dig it for the most part… just not Denise. A lot of what I wanted to see happen with the character of Ava is happening to a NYC hairdresser in a bad weave instead. That’s not to say that West can’t pull off this persona because she can. It’s just that Denise takes away many of the emotional beats that this story should be providing.

The fake twin act makes what should be an awesomely soapy character-driven story line just too campy. I like my camp from time to time, but in this situation I want drama. This is not the kind of storytelling to use for this particular character. It takes too much of the seriousness out of what could be really riveting materal. It’s an unneeded accessory to an already good outfit and just makes everything clash.

Screenshot 2015-06-09 20.51.32Let’s start with the “romance” between Denise and Morgan. West and Craig still have buckets of chemistry, but Morgan not being able to distinguish the first woman he ever loved from a cheap disguise isn’t romantic. Denise is a hinderance to having Ava and Morgan reconnect if we’re suppose to believe that he loved Ava the woman and not just the body. What we’re getting as a result just comes off as mere physical attraction.

Denise and Morgan aren’t even leaving off where Ava and Morgan did. They have some issues they need to address. Morgan was willing to let Sonny kill the woman he supposedly loved, there was no follow up regarding this, yet he’s all over Denise? Having Morgan and Ava deal with the issue of him turning her over to his father, a man who has mistreated both of them, would have been good drama and moved their story forward. Ignoring this just leaves a hole in the plot. It happened and fans of the May/December pairing had very strong feelings about it. This should be an obstacle for them to try to overcome.

Ava had no issue calling out Franco (Roger Howarth) for leaving her to get shot and tossed off a bridge so what’s the deal in this situation? Are we suppose to forget about it and just be glad these two are locking lips again? Maybe, but despite what the movie Love Story would have us to believe, love means having to say your sorry often and meaning it. Morgan should be guilt ridden and Ava should be furious. Of course, it’s hard to play that sort of romantic angst when one half of the couple is pretending to be someone else. But in theory, the characters could still show some of these emotions from the unresolved issues they have.

It might be safe to say that Morgan loves Ava just not enough to be a man for her. Maybe he’s not mature enough for Ava and Kiki (Hayley Erin) really is more his speed. Morgan either needs to realize this and make a change or Ava needs to accept this and move on.  So why isn’t this being examined? I would have liked to see Ava and Morgan struggle with whether or not to give up on the love they once and still feel for each other for Kiki’s sake. Issues stemming from their age difference could have been explored, leading Morgan to decide whether he should reconnect with Ava or move forward with Kiki. None of this can be done though because she’s Denise.

About the author

Jenn Bishop

Jenn Bishop is TVSource Magazine's Soap Editor. She's a thirty-something fan girl of soapy television and anything involving Joss Whedon. She began sharing her views on daytime soaps in 2012 with her blog Save Our Suds. A former philosophy major, she loves discussing different view points with fellow TV addicts and aficionados. When not watching television, she enjoys art, live music, exploring the Midwest food scene, and drinking too many lattes. Follow her on Twitter at @SourceJenn.

  • ctshar

    completely agree, but I think these problems are true for ALL the stories on GH these last few months. Stories aren’t being told with dialogue and progress that helps ‘make sense’ of character changes or plot changes. Just a series of scenes with great actors and inconsistent writing. Lotd

    personally, i’m not watching much these days, but kudos MW, RH, MS, RH and even BC try to give depth to these BADLY written, 1-dimensional stories. Except for a few duds, stellar GH cast. I never FF an ava/franco or scotty/franco scene, ALWAYS fun to watch.

    I can only imagine how fantastic the show would be if they had good stories with great dialogue to tell.

  • BabysBreath

    Thanks for addressing this. GH often seems to have trouble with Campiness, and in this case it is interfering with any real relationship. Ava/Denise and Morgan have very little actual dialogue that would give their relationship some depth, instead they end up groping each other guiltily every time they are alone, with Kiki standing outside the door “about to find out.” Time to shake this up, send Denise back to Queens and bring back Ava, who we love to hate because she is worthy it, instead of a ridiculous “Aunt DaNiece” whose reasons for wanting to see her niece make little sense. This set up also puts Kiki in position of defending an imposter, while her mother is sleeping w/her BF.