Hope: a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.
That is the one thing all soap fans have in common. The audacity to still hope. Hope for their favorite show to remain on air. Hope that their most hated villain finally gets their comeuppance. Hope that their favorite couple defies the odds and finds their way to each other. If you are a fan of The Young and the Restless’ Hilary Curtis (Mishael Morgan) and Devon Hamilton (Bryton James), hope is just about all you have nowadays.
Just a year ago, viewers of The Young and the Restless were watching quite the interesting maneuvering between these two characters. Moving seamlessly from foes to friends despite the sometimes contentious nature of their previous interactions. When Hilary came to town, she set her sights on destroying all things Winters as a way, in her mind, to avenge her mother’s death. Her target specifically, the patriarch of the family, Neil. Sure, she also tried to bust up Lily and Cane’s marriage in the process, but the focus of her antipathy was always Neil. Until it magically wasn’t.
Eventually, hell on wheels Hilary cooled her jets and began to make amends for her transgressions towards the Winters brood. Some were more forgiving than others, of course. Neil being the understanding, kind hearted saint the writers wanted him to be that year was the first to say bygones. Devon was soon to follow but in a direction much different than that of his father. For months, we watched as Devon defended Hilary, Hilary protected Devon and Lily seethed through clenched teeth. It had all the makings of a growing forbidden romance with an element of family angst a la Montague and Capulet. And family angst is exactly what we got. The problem was that it was not at all the angst anyone wanted or asked for.
When asked in an interview with TVSource about the direction of her character, Morgan admitted that the writers weren’t quite sure what to do and it was she who suggested a romance with Devon. Now at the time of this suggestion the head writer was Josh Griffith. In the middle of this arc, he would be replaced with Shelly Altman, Jean Passanante and Tracey Thomson and this change was felt swiftly. The new scribes decided that instead of going with the obvious and building on the chemistry and tension already brewing, they would instead gut it all. Not over time. Not reasonably or believably. They would have Hilary go from hiding her crush on Devon to kissing his father, sleeping with his father, moving in with his father, becoming engaged and marrying his father all in a span of 6 weeks. Fans watched dumbfounded as every single episode progressed their relationship at the speed of light.
The motivation for this rushed union seemed to be obvious from both characters at first. Neil (Kristoff St. John) was clearly on the rebound after being dumped by his fiancée Leslie (Angell Conwell) and his pride crushed after she pointlessly married an off screen character weeks later. Also his inability to define himself outside of relationship has been a continuous issue with this character for years. So his instant attraction to Hilary after encouraging a relationship with Devon not 2 months earlier wasn’t all that surprising. Neil Winters is nothing if not considered to be a romantic lead, right? Hilary’s incentive, however, was a little harder to pin point but there was an obvious element of rebellion on her part. Some may say she jumped at the attention she was getting from Neil that she wanted from Devon. Some may say it was daddy issues. Some may say it was out of gratitude for his forgiveness. Some may even say Hilary hooked up with Neil to get back at Devon for him throwing a dayplayer model in her face every day. But at the end of the day, we really don’t know because the writers have yet to give her a real voice.
Say something, I’m giving up on you
Hilary Curtis, or Anna Turner, came on to the scene with a long story that left a lot to be desired and since then she has been given nothing to really tell us more about herself. When she was driven by revenge, we had some idea. But then the writers gave her a conscious, stripped her of her claws and tried to force her in a heroine category which has done her no favors. The audience is now constantly left to assume the motivation behind her actions because she herself never actually says it. She has no voice, no friends or unit on canvas that isn’t somehow connected to the Winters family. She has a scene every three months friendship with Sharon (Sharon Case), a dear friend to Neil, which never seems to yield anything of substance. She also has a business friendship with Jack (Peter Bergman), a dear friend to Neil, that has gone from innocent, to silly (Delia fundraiser kiss) and now rarely shown. All of the decisions she makes are based on whatever rationale she comes up with that morning and they usually change by dinner. The only thing that keeps Hilary from being the most infuriating character on the show is the flawless portrayal from Morgan. We may not always know for sure what Hilary is thinking, but Morgan has this way of making sure that you always feel it.
I understand that we were told early on that Hilary really and truly was in love with Neil and Neil with her, but I feel like this was more of an attempt to sell them as a couple than it was a statement of fact because I never saw it. I saw Neil use his charms and Hilary succumb. I saw Hilary try to slow things down and Neil press on. One of the many reasons so many fans find themselves a bit “creeped out” by them as a couple is the underlining manipulation factor to it. Add in the age difference and the fact that Neil is constantly referring to her by her looks (or a “Dimepiece” as he so eloquently put it) and it’s just bad, real bad, Michael Jackson. And let’s be honest, Devon Hamilton is a catch. He’s always been a catch. The previous writer’s unwillingness to recognize this be damned. James has proven that along with the sometimes emotional storylines he’s been given, he can also be the romantic daytime hunk his fans knew he would be if given the chance. Maybe the writers didn’t see it that way at first. Maybe they thought Hevon wouldn’t be able to stand on their own without a proven lead like St John driving the story. Maybe they thought it made sense for a woman like Hilary to even choose Neil over Devon. If so, I am here to tell them they were wrong. Daytime has been desperate for a young gorgeous African American couple to finally be showcased equally and with the same consideration as their white counterparts. Y&R has that right in the palm of their hands and are doing everything they can to demolish it. And for what? So we can continue to throw love interests at Neil to see which one sticks? Ask Olivia, Alex, Serena, Carmen, Tyra, Sofia, Harmony and Leslie how that’s worked out for them.
Any other writing regime would have seen this, and the fan uproar, and fixed it by now. But not this regime, they instead dug in deeper. Blinding Neil has to be one of the most ridiculous things done on Y&R in 2014 (next to being told that Ray Wise’s Ian Ward was scary, but that’s a whole other article). Not because it kept Hilary and Devon apart, but because that was the SOLE purpose of the plot. The “emotionally complex journey” they tried to sell for Neil lasted the two episodes Malcolm Winters (Shemar Moore) was in town. And every last bit of the knowledge that Malcolm dropped on his big brother was promptly ignored the next week. We were told Neil was struggling. We were told he was learning to cope. We were told he was close to drinking. But none of that was ever actually shown on screen. The only thing we saw was the heavy handed guilt trip the writers laid on anyone who dared to prefer Hilary with the billionaire she always belonged with. The neon sign above Neil’s head flashing “FEEL SORRY FOR ME” is enough to make you want to tinker with the same electrical box that claimed his vision, common sense and likeability.
Since all of that, there has been plenty for Hevon fans to rejoice about. Hilary admitted the error of her ways, declared her love for Devon and him for her. Not to mention we have been given some of the most romantic, sexy and swoon worthy “dates” we have seen from any of the younger characters on this show. So the question is why is hope still all we have? Simple answer: Because we are now into 2015 and this is virtually the only storyline that still lingers. There was no movement during November sweeps, just the insertion of random characters and dialogue designed to render this storyline motionless. Neil is still blind, literally and figuratively. Both he and Lily still have amnesia to the feelings between Hilary and Devon that they themselves acknowledged a year ago. A blackmail from Colin, a roll in the hay with random newbie Gwen and the apparently ever so important birth control container have offered eye rolling plot points that are both unnecessary and lazy in their presentation. Simply put, Hilary and Devon have been reduced to a tawdry yet alluring affair meant to turn fans off of them as a viable and rootable couple. Has it worked? To an extent, yes. Viewers who didn’t like any of these characters prior to this really hate them now. Especially as it’s becoming more and more obvious that the powers that be would rather sacrifice an A+ pairing than admit the one they wanted is a royal flop.
But the fans who were there the first time Devon jumped to Hilary’s defense, the fans who were there the first time Hilary smiled at Devon as if he were the only person in the room, the fans who were there the first and second time Devon asked Hilary out… Those fans… They are going nowhere. At least not quietly. So still we hold on to that sliver of faith even as they have now been reduced to one (maybe two if we’re lucky) episode a week… every week… for the last few months. Left to assume that because the previous writers were either unable or unwilling to fix the mess they created, they instead knowingly chose to stall the story and leave it for the next guy to fix. And that’s where we are, faced with yet another head writing change. So will Chuck Pratt bring forth the change and movement we crave? And based on his reputation, if he does, will it be in the direction we want? We can always hope, right?