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ATWT: The Agony of Reid Oliver's Demise

ATWT: The Agony of Reid Oliver's Demise

The “heroic twist” with Reid Oliver and the lack of resolution to the Noah/Luke/Reid triangle is a cowardly cop-out that gives the executive team an excuse from never resolving story that has been building for nine months.

It’s been an eventful couple of weeks in Oakdale. Some happenings were wonderfully joyous (Barbara and Henry got married) and some terribly heartbreaking (Reid met a Locomotive).  And while both deserve commentary, in journalism there’s an old saying: If it bleeds, it leads. So let’s discuss “The Train that Plowed into Reid Oliver,” shall we?

Unless you have been recuperating from a devastating train crash of your own, by now you certainly know that Dr. Oliver (Eric Sheffer Stevens) met his maker after stalling his car on a train track, in the path of an oncoming locomotive. He found himself on said track while driving to Bay City to convince their Hospital to release a donated heart to a gravely ill Chris Hughes (Daniel Cosgrove).

In what’s been described as a “heroic twist,” Reid survived long enough to convey his wishes that he be tested as a potential heart donor for Chris. And wouldn’t you know it, he was an ideal match. So after a hurried goodbye with his beloved Luke, our brash hero was conveniently declared brain dead and his “noble” heart was put into Chris Hughes’s chest.  Therefore, Katie (Terri Colombino) and Chris will get to live happily ever after, while Luke (Van Hansis) and Reid simply won’t.

Forget how ludicrous that paragraph is. It’s a soap opera, so outrageous scenarios come with the territory and I’m fine with them. Instead, I’ll cut right to the chase and disclose exactly what my beef is with the climax to this storyline.  It’s a mean-spirited, cowardly cop-out by an executive team that had no idea how to appease two fan bases:  the Nuke (Noah and Luke) rooters and the LuRe (Luke and Reid) supporters.  So instead, they contrived an ending that excused them from ever having to resolve what they’d been building towards for nine months.

Slow build-ups are good in soaps. I’m all for them, as they make the pay-off that much sweeter. But in this case, with this storyline, there was no pay-off, not for any of the characters involved. For months, TPTB had been alluding to this great love “triangle” involving Luke, Noah and Reid. The only problem was there never was a triangle, as the pairing of Luke and Dr. Reid immediately took off, and kept on gaining momentum, leaving the proposed triangle in the dust. As a result, Noah (Jake Silbermann) was left to make do with a few brief scenes, sparingly doled out over the course of many months, until Luke finally told him they had outgrown each other and he was in love with Reid.

But before any LuRe fans could rejoice, Chris Hughes became deathly ill and Luke and Reid spent most, if not all, of their time trying to help Chris, with little left for exploring their new relationship. Not physically, not emotionally, and not really much of any way.  The once unique and captivating love story of Luke and Reid effectively stalled as they became supporting players in the Chris-has- some -weird-heart-virus story. A bone was finally thrown during the height of this drama when, during coffee at Java, Luke blurted out he was in love with Reid.  And as Reid was climbing into his car to retrieve Chris’s blasted heart in Bay City, Reid finally replied in kind. Reid, the reticent, alone, solitary man finally told Luke he loved him!  Then promptly got run over by a speeding locomotive.  There were, perhaps, 20 seconds of happy for LuRe.

So now I’m left wondering why we were led down this path to absolutely nowhere.  The only conclusion I can come up with is fear.  Nobody was ready to take a stand and allow Luke happiness with either one of his suitors.  And so they chose no one. And to pour a whole lot of salt into the wound, they not only violently and gruesomely killed the wildly popular Dr. Oliver, but they also ripped his heart out of his chest and gave it to someone else.  I don’t know if even the impossible-to-kill James Stenbeck could come back from that one.

And in the aftermath, not one, not two, but all three characters in this storyline are left out in the cold.  For while Luke Snyder did indeed ‘choose’ Reid, Reid died. So that didn’t work out too well.  And while Noah is still breathing, Luke told him they could only be friends.  So as the World stops turning, Luke is grief-stricken, Noah is broken-hearted and Reid is deader than a doornail.

There’s been some fan speculation that the character of Luke was too emotionally immature to handle an adult relationship, and so being alone at the end of the show was somehow fitting. If emotional maturity is the measuring stick for having a relationship in Oakdale, then every single character better sign up for a life alone.  I’ve also heard the argument that there have been previous sad deaths on As the World Turns, and Reid’s is no more tragic or unfair than those. Maybe it isn’t any more tragic but it is undoubtedly more unfair and here’s why: the show will be over before we, the viewers, get to share in the healing and growth that comes to surviving characters after a shattering death. For instance, when Brad was shockingly killed last year, we grieved and we cried right along with Katie and Jack and Henry. That’s a luxury we’ll never have with Reid’s death. Even more importantly, all three of those anguished characters have now recovered enough to receive their own happily ever after, and have moved beyond the mourning of Brad’s untimely death.

But in this instance we’re left in a perpetual limbo of shocked sorrow as we’ll never see, and therefore share in, Luke’s grief, healing and eventual return to happiness.  In my mind, that seems an impossibly cold way for a show to close out one of its last major storylines.  It’s also an insult to two very loyal and vocal fan bases that have faithfully supported their favorite characters and couples, be it Luke and Noah or Luke and Reid.

And while it is true that not every character on ATWT has been given a happy ending, they are still breathing, and therefore still have the possibility of someday finding that happily ever after.  It’s going to be a lot more difficult for Reid to come back from the no-heart thing.

It must be explicitly and clearly noted that the acting in this storyline has been superb, from beginning to middle to end, and I have no fault with any of the principal performers.  In fact, it’s precisely because of the superior acting that I am so affected by how this all played out.  Watching Reid’s evolution (and Eric Sheffer Steven’s wonderful portrayal) from a distant, aloof stranger to a multi-dimensional character willing to trust in love and friendships has been a singular pleasure. And within this storyline, both Van Hansis and Jake Silbermann have also given some of their strongest work.  I have become a vocal member of the Eric Sheffer Stevens and Van Hansis fan clubs and can’t wait to see them in future roles.

These are, after all, fictional characters in a make-believe town, telling us made-up stories. But real life is sometimes very difficult and unbearably sad. Soap operas comfort us with their continuity and five-days-a-week presence.  The very fact we are losing our touchstone, ATWT, is more than enough sadness to deal with now. Piling on the brutal and needlessly cruel death of a vital, dynamic, young character seems, pardon the pun, like over-kill.


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