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Good Night to the World: Thoughts on the ATWT Finale

Good Night to the World: Thoughts on the ATWT Finale

When I began writing “A View of the World,” one of the first things I did was give a nod to the fact ATWT had been a constant in my life for as long as I could remember. Both my sister and I learned ATWT from our mother, who watched from the very first episode until her death in 2005, and part of our love for the show stemmed from the connection it still gave us to her. So it was with a very heavy heart that I sat down to watch the final episode of this classic show that has been a backdrop to my entire life.

When I began writing “A View of the World,” one of the first things I did was give a nod to the fact ATWT had been a constant in my life for as long as I could remember. Both my sister and I learned ATWT from our mother, who watched from the very first episode until her death in 2005, and part of our love for the show stemmed from the connection it still gave us to her. So it was with a very heavy heart that I sat down to watch the final episode of this classic show that has been a backdrop to my entire life.

In short, I found the final episode of ATWT to be a sweet love letter to us the fans, as we were treated to one more day in Oakdale. And in that last day, with the comforting voice of Dr. Bob Hughes (Don Hastings) narrating, we received some sort of resolution, or at least acknowledgment of, most every major character still on the canvas.

Was it perfectly done? Of course not. There were flaws, and there was a sense of rushing to the finish line (a flaw that ATWT has suffered with for years) that I found somewhat jarring. Moreover, Craig Montgomery (Jon Lindstrom) was absent (although we did get something of a wrap-up for him in the previous episode) and so was Emma Snyder (Kathleen Widdoes). I realize both Emma and Meg (Marie Wilson) had left the scene months earlier, but a nod to the legacy of Emma Snyder was definitely in order. Similarly, it was a shame that Lisa Grimaldi (Eileen Fulton) wasn’t given more presence on the final show. It would have been a lovely show of respect to a legendary character and actress.

Since I seem to be discussing the not-so-great aspects of the finale first, I’ll also mention that I wasn’t crazy about the Chris and Katie (Daniel Cosgrove and Terri Colombino) engagement capped off by Margo and Tom (Ellen Dolan and Scott Holmes) agreeing to swap houses with the newly engaged couple. It seemed even more rushed than any of the other scenes and it was a little hard to keep up. I’ve been less than a vocal proponent of Katie and Chris, so it’s probably no surprise I didn’t find their engagement particularly moving. That said, I thought the scene of them settling into life together was understatedly sweet and appropriate, considering both that Reid had recently died and Chris was recovering from getting that blasted heart. Similarly, I did appreciate Ellen Dolan’s emotion, particularly when she said goodbye to her son Casey and Ali (Billy Magnussen and Marnie Schulenburg) and I imagine a lot of empty nesters felt the same. I’m also grateful Tom and Margo, a legendary super couple, were given a respectful nod on the final episode.

And so I can now safely say that, overall, I’m more than happy with this last loving look at Oakdale. And the reason why is simple: It was true to its best self, the show that was a ratings powerhouse once upon a time. It focused, for the most part, on the core characters and their interactions with each other that ATWT fans have always cared about the most. (An aside: the background music was also really fitting. A bit sentimental perhaps, but perfect for this event.)

So while we can’t be happy it ended, we can at least close the book with some sense of where our favorites (and not-so-favorites) are. We know Carly and Jack (Maura West and Michael Park) are finally happy and pregnant. In fact, as Carly herself said, they’re almost “normal”. Maura West and Michael Park aren’t Emmy winners by accident and they’ve long been a huge draw for ATWT. As such, they more than deserved the screen time they received in the final week. And in their final moments together, the actors seemed to allow their true affection for each other to shine through and it was lovely.

It was also fitting to see Carly and Janet (Julie Pinson) reach a new understanding, as they realized that not only was their battle with each other truly over, but they’ll also both have children of a similar age. When Carly told Janet she thought their two little ones would “grow up to be great friends,” I felt comforted at that little peek of a future Oakdale, even though I can never see it happen. And for Dusty Donovan (Grayson McCouch) to finally get a happy ending and with a child he can finally call his own was just icing on the cake.

Also fitting were the endings given Barbara and Henry (Colleen Zenk and Trent Dawson) and Paul and Emily (Roger Howarth and Kelley Menighan Hensley). Barbara has always needed someone to help her lighten up and she’s found that in the delightfully strange and quirky Henry. I’m pleased with my final image of them dancing together and can happily imagine that continuing as Metro’s owners. Moreover, the new healthier understanding Barbara reached with Paul and Emily made me smile. I’ve always been a fan of Howarth’s Paul and I’m glad he and Emily (the completely underrated Menighan Hensley) also get a hopeful ending. Regardless of their past evil-doings, of which there are many, there’s always been a certain vulnerability to both characters and I’m glad they were somewhat redeemed in the end.

Luke’s (Van Hansis) ending, on the other hand, wasn’t a happy one and not by a long shot. But in the final episode, I did find some comfort. The final scenes of him were almost without dialogue, yet still packed an enormous emotional punch. In the first, little sister Natalie sits by him on the couch, while he wraps an arm around her and kisses the top of her head. No words, just the silent comfort that sometimes only family can bring. Later, Luke visits Chris and Katie, who give him Reid’s (Eric Sheffer Stevens) stethoscope. Before he leaves, Luke asks to listen to Chris’s heartbeat . Again, there are almost no words spoken, yet the look that passes between Luke and Chris said it all. It was a great piece of acting by Van Hansis and conveyed all the longing, loss and yes, hope, that no amount of words could. While still grieving, one could sense that someday Luke would find his way out of the grief and move forward.

Balancing the sadness we found light-hearted moments with Lucinda and John (Elizabeth Hubbard and Larry Bryggman), who can read the phone book and keep an audience riveted. Learning John would be the new acting Chief of Staff, and that Lucinda would be by his side, was a perfect ending for both of them, and was a nod to the long-term viewers who remember the glory days when Lucinda and John were king and queen.

Lucinda’s daughter, Lily (Noelle Beck) grew up some in the last week of the show, and finally drew a line in the sand with her mother. It was long overdue, and I actually liked Lily telling her mother she needed a “time-out”. I thought it was, finally, the act of a grown-up, learning to take care of herself. And along the way that last week in Oakdale, I found myself once again rooting for Holden (Jon Hensley) and Lily. And I must give a very special Bravo to Jon Hensley’s performances the entire last week of ATWT. On the second-to-last-day, when the normally contained and controlled Holden actually broke down in front of Lily, it was like someone punched me in the gut. The raw emotion he showed was shocking, moving and painful. I was blown away by Hensley’s swinging for the fences the entire final week. So I’m glad we’re given the inkling that these two will find their way back together again, and maybe have enough maturity to finally make it last.

Lastly, the final scenes between Bob and Kim Hughes (Don Hastings and Kathryn Hays) and Dr. Susan Stewart (Marie Masters) were, in a word, wonderful. It was just right that they should have the last moments, especially with the passing of Helen Wagner. And I found it equally fitting that as Bob packs up his office to start his retired life with Kim, he struggled with saying goodbye, until Kim tells him, “There shouldn’t be goodbyes. Just good night.”

And so, with those legendary words in all of our hearts, we all must say our own good night to As the World Turns. For all its flaws and for all the criticism levied against it recently (and some of that was decidedly unfair and unjust) I am not ashamed to say I loved As the World Turns. I loved the characters that I knew inside and out and I loved Oakdale, Illinois and all its landmarks. I will greatly miss my daily visits with all of them. And a final thought to the unbelievably talented cast and to the dedicated and hard-working crew: Just thank you. You will be missed.


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