Days of our Lives has been one of the best soaps on television as of late. As the show heads into the post-Kristen DiMera era, can the show avoid mistakes of days past and maintain their momentum? I think so. The great November ‘days’ are here again…and here to stay.
Days of our Lives celebrated its 48th anniversary this month, a remarkable feat in itself, made even more impressive considering the soap was marked for a 2009 cancellation by former NBC Universal Television President, Jeff Zucker in 2007. 10 years ago, DAYS was one of ten soaps; now one of four – bouncing back in the ratings every time people think it’s down for the count. DAYS, more than any other soap, is a fighter.
Over the last five years, Days of our Lives has had been a frequent rider on the creative and ratings rollercoaster – reaching new highs (and bucking trends), but also hitting new lows in both capacities. The show is arguably at its best when building to the climax of big, umbrella storylines such as Sami (Alison Sweeney) and Nicole’s (Arianne Zucker) baby swap; the initial return of fan favorites Carly (Crystal Chappell) and Austin (Patrick Muldoon) and Carly (Christie Clark). Many times, once the big story comes to an end and/or the initial allure of returns wear off, the show becomes a boring mess. Typically to fight back from this, the show will build a new story slowly, make cast changes and bring back new groups of veterans.
This scenario played out earlier this year when, following the reveal that Will (Chandler Massey) was the father of Gabi’s (Camila Banus) baby during her wedding to Nick (Blake Berris), the show flat lined. Ten months later, another wedding was aborted, this time the result of the scandalous revelation that Kristen (Eileen Davidson) drugged and raped Father Eric (Greg Vaughan), the brother of her fiancée Brady (Eric Martsolf)! On top of that, the much heralded return of Davidson is come to an end with Kristen’s exit, leaving a huge void in the canvas. For the better part of a year, the villainous Kristen propelled story for many characters. So what will DAYS do to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past? For that answer, we must go back a few months.
After Kristen’s first wedding to Brady was derailed by Marlena (Deidre Hall), she became obsessed with wrecking Marlena’s life after Brady broke up with her. The only way she knew how to do that was to use hurt her through someone she loved – her son Eric. Kristen concocted a plan to make Marlena believe that Eric had gotten physical with her; the only snag to her plan was Eric was committed to a higher power – God. So Kristen did what women of soap past have done to get a man who doesn’t want her, by using rape.
Soaps haven’t told storylines involving rape particularly well for many years now, but stories involving male rape have been absolutely atrocious. It’s unfortunate that male rape in soaps, especially those committed by women, is usually minimized, perpetuating the idea that women cannot rape men. DAYS has been guilty of this as well when it originally told the story of Sami drugging, then having sex with Austin. This time around the show is doing it right, proving its learned from mistakes of the past.
Kristen donned a disguise and followed Eric out of town, sneaking into his hotel room and drugging him with something that would lower his inhibitions, render him unable to exercise free will and make him forget the events of the night before. Her plan worked, even filming her crime as part of her revenge. The drug used on Eric has a severe, adverse effect on him, making him severely ill and hovering near death. Nicole would find him and help save his life thanks to Daniel (Shawn Christian). Little did Kristen know that Eric’s memories would slowly start to return.
Her plan hit another snag when Brady decided to take Kristen back and re-propose. With all ‘right’ in her world, she embraced her love for Brady and abandoned quest for revenge – leaving her vendetta, and rape of Eric, behind her. However, by the time the wedding day came around, Marlena and Victor (John Aniston) had evidence of Kristen’s machinations (though neither would know she raped Eric); EJ found out exactly what his sister was up to, and Eric had finally remembered what happened to him – only he fingered Nicole, who was not-so-secretly in love with him, as his attacker.
The fallout from the climax is now playing out on-screen. Kristen left town; Nicole is unable to give Eric the forgiveness he seeks; Eric is dealing with processing that he was a victim of rape and his career as a priest is on the line as a result; Sami is furious with EJ for keeping Kristen’s secret from her (but decided not to tell her brother of EJ’s knowledge); Marlena’s relationship with Brady and possibly Eric is damaged beyond the point of reconciliation; Maggie (Suzanne Rogers) is confronting the realization that she’s always known the kind of man Victor was when she married him, their future hanging in the balance; Nicole’s growing closer to Daniel as she leans on him for support and Brady is about to fall off the wagon. That’s all great enough in itself, but there’s other good stories going on as well.
Jordan’s (Chrishell Stause) trying to keep her secrets secret as fights her growing attraction to Rafe (Galen Gering); Kate’s (Lauren Koslow) (Galen Gering) determined to expose Jordan at any cost due to her jealousy of Jordan and Rafe’s relationship; Nick’s obsession with reuniting with Gabi has resulted in a scheme to get her to move away from Salem, causing conflict with Will and Sonny (Freddie Smith); Jennifer (Melissa Reeves) is reeling from Daniel’s “betrayal” with Theresa (Jen Lilley) while also trying to repair her relationship with her son, JJ (Casey Moss); Theresa’s out of control behavior is finally catching up with her, as is her addition.
Featuring those stories in conjunction with the fallout from Kristen and Brady’s wedding is enough to keep Days of our Lives ‘must see’ for the foreseeable future. From the annual big November promo teasing the falling action from the umbrella storyline as well as what’s to come with Nick, and from what we learned from the stars in our Day of Days interviews, the next couple of months are shaping up to be very interesting.
Days of our Lives is once again in a period of transition, but unlike days past, the show seems to have a plan – and not a plan to “Save DAYS” – but an actual plan to keep firing on all cylinders. Why should there be a plan to save DAYS? The show is coming off its first Emmy win for Outstanding Drama series, the writing is as crisp as ever and the cast turnover isn’t having a dramatic impact on the canvas. For a show that wasn’t expected to exist past 2009, they’ve proven time and time again that they can save
The great November DAYS is about to become hot winter DAYS. So if you haven’t tuned into Days of our in a while, or you are looking for an exciting soap to pick up, now is the time to do so.