We’re few months into General Hospital’s Tale of Two Jason aka “The Jasoning”, and the heroes and villains are beginning to take shape as Jason, Patient 6, and their loved ones’ search for the truth. One person being cast as a villain in this story is undeserving of the role he’s being slotted into — Franco Baldwin. Franco should not be the villain in this story. If anything, until recently, he was a victim. It was a cruel twist of fate in a way, for someone who had become known for playing mind games with people, that he was an unwitting participant in another’s.
I’m sure I’m going to catch a lot of hell on social media for this, but I’m willing to deal with it in the hopes it sparks discussion. First, and most importantly, I don’t care to re-litigate the many, many, many crimes Franco’s committed over the years or the polarizing retcon upon his return in 2013. My issues with the character and the rewrite are well documented, and I don’t care to revisit that. Instead, I’m focusing on the character as he exists now, and the attempted growth in characterization under the pen of former co-head writer Jean Passanante.
Franco’s involvement began upon his return to Port Charles this summer. Determined to distance himself from the man he once was, Franco obtained his old artwork in the hopes of destroying it and starting anew. “This so-called art comes from the deepest and darkest parts of my soul. This is the product of a man that I have come to hate, a man that I am — I am no longer that man, but every time I see a brushstroke or a splash of color that may as well as be blood, I am reminded of who I was, and I didn’t go to New York to reclaim these paintings out of pride. I got them back so that I could obliterate them, erase that part of me forever!”
When convinced his work, even his dark past, can have a purpose, he convinces Ava to restore her gallery and let him do an exhibit. While going through pieces at his studio with Elizabeth, she comes across a painting of two boys that catches her eye. He explains the meaning of it, ” When I was a kid, I had an imaginary friend. And he lived in this… this imaginary world that mirrored my real world. And eventually I outgrew it, but…I always remembered him, and I missed him. So I, uh, I made a painting of him and of me, each of us in our own…respective, opposite realities. It’s ironic, isn’t it? Maybe the nicest thing I’ve ever painted is a manifestation of my childhood psychosis.”
Franco says he liked to believe his imaginary friend, “Drew” helped him as a kid. Whether it was with tying his shoe or climbing trees, he was there for him. Elizabeth, ever so insightful, then shared her artistic viewpoint. ” I think I understand why this painting is haunting. It’s an expression of loneliness. You felt isolated as a child, and so you made someone up who would understand you.” Later, while moving into Elizabeth’s, Franco discovered a picture of himself and a young child – one he would later learn is a dead ringer for a young Jason Morgan. That photo was a gasoline trail that would be sparked by a dark secret harbored by his adoptive mother Betsy, and one that would ultimately lead Franco to torch the foundations of his new life with Elizabeth.
In the midst searching for answers about the picture, and after getting none from biological mother Heather Webber, he seeks out Betsy and learns Drew, or Andrew, wasn’t imaginary, he was a real person; the twin Heather Webber once said existed, and Franco believed he was, was given to Betsy to keep out of the hands of the Quartermaines, but she died before she could reclaim Andrew. So, he was raised as Betsy’s son and Franco’s brother. Drew, someone he loved, was ripped out of his life when he, presumably died from a heart condition. In an effort to spare him from the trauma of death, a well-meaning Betsy tells him Drew didn’t exist. On some level that was traumatizing to Franco, and it was the first of what would become the first in series of things he would later endure. But true to form, Franco couldn’t shake his obsession or get out of his own head. When confronted again, Betsy reveals that Drew was given away after an incident between the children left Drew hospitalized.
Confronted with this reality, it shook Franco in his belief that his evil actions could be blamed on his brain tumor. After all, that happened before his tumor, so the evil must be within him, right? This causes Franco to spiral. No longer was his search for the truth about getting answers, but now keeping those answers from Elizabeth and others. He fears she would leave him if she learned he hurt Jason’s twin, so he keeps the news about the twin, his possible involvement in the accident that hurt Drew, and so much more a secret. I would be able to understand and rationalize Franco keeping this to himself to an extent, after all, he’s always feared his darkness wasn’t the result of his tumor, but GH took it a step further than they needed to.
Until now, Franco’s been a pawn in someone else’s games – Betsy lied to him, Heather’s lied and manipulated him for years. I was proud of Franco for opening up to his father Scotty about the twin situation, and even though Scotty has his own fragile relationship with the truth, urged his son to be honest. Franco was haunted by memories of Drew, someone he loved, someone he believed may have hurt and was haunted by what he may have done. He carried his feelings and guilt like an albatross. So when he goes to see Dr. Andre Maddox, a psychologist, like the well-adjusted adult he’s trying to be, it angered me to see Andre prey on him. Andre used his relationship with Franco as a co-worker and doctor to manipulate him just like his mothers. He convinced Franco to keep the twin a secret, even from Elizabeth, and produced a falsified document proving Drew “died”. It was a gross abuse of power, magnified greater when Andre abdicated his responsibility to come clean and left that in Franco’s hands. Why in the hell would GH arm Franco with truth ammunition to villainize him when he didn’t need to be?
The Franco/Jason rivalry drove conflict for years, and what better way to cement Steve Burton as the real Jason than to resurrect that, right? Only it’s undone the very progress the show has made in trying to grow the character, and repositioned Franco back into the role of a psychological terrorist. He’s the gatekeeper to the answers Jason, the man known as Patient 6, and all who love them seek. Yet he destroys the evidence that could help them because of self-preservation. In Franco’s mind, the thought of one Jason Morgan is bad enough, but two? The Jason who’s been town can tolerate being in the same room with him for the sake of Jake, the other still hates him with the fire of a thousand suns. One Jason remembers all the horrible things Franco did, but the other lived them. Both Jasons loved Elizabeth, and Franco fears whoever ultimately doesn’t end up with Sam will go back to Elizabeth, and because she will know what a terrible person Franco is, will leave him to be with one of them.
It’s absurd and infuriating, but also very much in character for Franco. “I love the world that you and I have created, and I’m a little terrified that I’m gonna mess it all up,” Franco told Liz over the summer. At his core, Franco believes he is undeserving of love, and as a result, is in constant fear of losing the love he does have. He’s terrified he’s going to ruin his relationship with Elizabeth, that he’ll blow up the life they’ve built together. The only love he’s known prior to hers was dark and manipulative and damaging. His relationship with ex-Nina showed him that he has the capacity for love, but his relationship with Elizabeth showed him that he can be worthy of it and have it if he works for it.
Earlier this week I tweeted that Franco’s motivation draws a parallel to the secret Elizabeth chose to keep about Jake Doe being Jason Morgan. Elizabeth believed if Jake Doe knew he was Jason Morgan, he would leave her and go back to Sam. Why? Because she didn’t believe their love would be strong enough to survive the truth. Franco is doing the same thing here. He believes he doesn’t deserve the love of a woman like Elizabeth, and in a twist of fate, his actions here could make a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Imagine how different all of this would be had Franco told the truth, showed Andre’s proof and let the chips fall where they may. The Jasons hate Franco, so anything he says would be met with suspicion. They would still have to find Dr. Maddox and those ultimately behind the project, but Franco wouldn’t be the target of their anger. Instead, they would have had to thank him for helping them reclaim their lives. It would be a huge pill to swallow for everyone who hates him, but he would have done the right thing. It would have cemented that Franco could be selfless and do what was right because it needed to be done. It would have endeared him in the eyes of Elizabeth, and those who love Jason would have to see that maybe Franco is a better person now.
My interest in the storyline is still high, and this is one of the few criticisms I have for it, but I don’t want to see Franco revert back to the awful person he once was. I enjoyed the journey he began with Nina, and have liked seeing him become the man he is with Elizabeth today. The man who wants to be better, the man who wants to move on from his past, the man who wants to someday believe he’s worthy of the love he’s shown. His actions since learning who the real Jason is contradictory to the person who was agonizing over doing the right thing, the one who wanted to keep the news of the believed dead twin a secret as to not inflict any pain. It is my hope that Elizabeth will stand by Franco, and not abandon him the way she was left alone after her secrets were exposed. After all, who better to understand your mistakes than one who’s made the same? That’s why Elizabeth and Franco, whatever your issues are with them being paired together, are so well matched. She understands him in a way no one ever has, and he wants to be better for her.
He’s been underserving of the role he’s been cast in, but it’s one he unfortunately now has to own. He’s hurting others on the slim chance he could be hurt himself. He’s victimizing again the people he apologized for hurting before — Sam, the wife of the Jasons, their children Jake, Danny and Scout, and the myriad of loved ones and friends who are invested in the outcome, including Elizabeth.
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