Darlings, when Amber Valetta opened her crystal-clear eyes and expressed puzzlement on her perfectly intact face after falling 5 stories in an evening gown and then revealed that she … dun dun DUN!!!! … has amnesia, we giggled and settled in for a perfectly delicious hour of classic soap opera tropes. Whether it’s amnesia or stolen identities or even a little bit of the ol’ Single White Female action, what makes this show so fun is not just that it dives right into the soap opera waters, but that it doesn’t attempt to do anything too clever with them or reveal itself to be too aware of the very conventions it’s using. In other words, there are no post-modern, deconstructive twists on these hoary old plot devices; it’s just straight-up soap opera standards, being given new life by some fun performances and sharp writing.
Although maybe they had a little fun with the whole “Single White Female” thing since it’s not about Real-Emily wanting Real-Amanda’s life. It’s about Real-Amanda paying Real-Emily off so she could take over her identity then having real-Emily show up years later wanting the life that Real-Amanda built for herself using Real-Emily’s name.
Okay, maybe that’s just a teeny bit post-modern and twisty.
But really, a huge part of the appeal of this show is that they’re not trying to be cute about it. They could have easily played all of the Lydia scenes as high camp (they could play almost ANY of Victoria’s scenes that way) and yet they mostly play it straight. It’s clear that the actors and writers are having a lot of fun with the plotting, but there’s never that feeling that we’re being winked at by the creators. In fact, if the show ever does get to that jokey, self-aware point, it’s going to lose a lot of its charm for us.
So, Real-Emily actually did kill Frank, it seems. Sure, we have yet to see a body and we’re a bit surprised that such a strong character has been removed from the cast (especially since Amber Valetta’s not going to be winning any Emmys any time soon), but the police are all acting like he’s dead and we can’t imagine how Frank would manage to fool them, so for now, we choose to believe it. But look! Real-Emily isn’t just a tough girl looking out for Real-Amanda, she’s a full-blown psycho who’s practically got “DANGEROUS” as her tramp stamp. Nolan, whatever other faults he might have, is a good judge of character and he had her pegged from the very second he saw her and knew that he didn’t want anything to do with her. Real-Amanda couldn’t be so naive as to think that a plane ticket and some extra money was going to solve this problem, could she? She bought out Real-Emily for a half-million little more than 6 or 7 years ago and somehow the girl wound up penniless and stripping. This is not someone who’s going to quietly cash the check and build a life for herself. Crazy girl wants more than that.
And it seems that one of the things she wants is Jack. She can have him, as far as we’re concerned, but we suspect Real-Amanda isn’t going to see it the same way. Not that we’re big fans of Daniel, who’s cute but the biggest wuss on the planet, but Jack’s whiny and annoying, so he’s not much better in our eyes. At least he’s not as bad as Declan, who makes us want to throw things at the TV every time he speaks. The point is, Real-Amanda’s man problems just got more complicated. Daniel quit the bar (thereby proving to Jack that he was never anything but a rich boy playing at working class), told dear old dad he wanted in on the family business (thereby prompting steam to shoot out of Tyler’s ears), flipped out on mom for spying on his girlfriend, and then moved out. The boy’s a mess. And to top it off, now he’s suspicious of Real-Amanda, because slipping out in the middle of the night to plant a dead guy’s phone on their property is not the kind of thing she can do freely anymore with him sleeping over.
But what’s up with Ashley? We like her turn towards grasping schemer (because perky party planner was only so interesting), but what’s with her sudden resentment of Emily? Then again, if Tyler’s your boyfriend, then it’s only a matter of time before you find yourself disliking Emily, we suppose.
And finally, Victoria Grayson continues to be the second-most fascinating character on the show. Emily/Amanda still takes the prize for being scarily cold and competent while managing the sweetest and blandest of facades, but what makes Victoria so interesting is that her facade, the one that she’s been maintaining for decades, is showing serious cracking and straining. Emily is a woman in total control, even when things around her are spiraling out of control, and that’s what makes her so much fun. But Victoria is a woman losing control after maintaining such a strict version of it for so long. Her friendships, marriage, and family relationships are all collapsing and the man she most loved and relied upon is dead. Right now she seems to be wracked with emotional pain (it’s evident in the way she walks and carries herself, as well as the perpetually strained look on her face), but never count an old bitch out of the game. We have no doubt she will soon rise up and smite whomever’s pissing her off the most at the moment. In fact, if we were Lydia, we’d get the hell out of that house as soon as it was physically possible because we wouldn’t want to be anywhere near Victoria when it all gets to be too much for her.
[Photo Credit: ABC]