Murders Most Foul
In stark contrast to AMC and in almost exactly the same time frame, Guiding Light has crafted an instantly engrossing whodunit that began with Remy (Lawrence Saint-Victor) and Christina's (Karla Mosely) sweet gazebo picnic. They heard muffled voices in the distance and, as Remy left, he discovered diabolical Edmund Winslow's body floating in the river while the audience slowly saw several people — Josh (Robert Newman) entering the church troubled and alone, Dinah (Gina Tognoni) taking a long and contemplative shower, Reva (Kim Zimmer) and Marina (Mandy Bruno) talking to their new babies about how safe they would now be, Shane (Jeff Branson) entering his motel room with a couple of cases of beer in hand — emerge as suspects.
Herein lies the beauty of GL's tale: nothing was obvious about what had happened or was going to happen or might happen next. Unlike the frequently hyperventilating folk of Pine Valley, the citizens of Springfield did not run around loudly declaring to anyone within earshot mortal vengeance against the literal dark ex-prince of San Cristobel. One minute everyone's lives are pretty much proceeding apace; two hours later, they have been mysteriously separated and Edmund is fish food.
Adding fuel to an already smoldering fire is that Edmund, who had been on the loose but completely unseen for a couple of weeks, really was a genuine danger to all of our primary suspects listed above but he had many, many more enemies that could emerge at any minute. That lengthy list includes but is not limited to Olivia (Crystal Chappell) coming back from her trip, who beat a hasty path to Jeffrey (Bradley Cole) with news of having seen Reva arguing with Edmund prior to his demise; Beth (Beth Chamberlain), Edmund's ex-wife whom Edmund had kidnapped and emotionally tortured for years; and even the investigating detective Mallet (Robert Bogue) himself, who has already been established as a hit man in his past and who would have been in the exact same boat as his wife Marina in protecting baby Henry from Edmund, Henry's grandfather! If that's the case, another three additional suspects emerge: Phillip (Grant Aleksander) could be added to the mix, having already killed Grady to protect Lizzie and would not be above doing it again if it were revealed Eddie Boy was threatening his family in some way again. What are the chances that Edmund was the person who might have assisted teen-aged James (Zack Conroy) launch his Ponzi scheme in the first place? What if Edmund was putting the screws to Alan (Ron Raines) to cover it up? The possibilities are awesome!
Where AMC's mystery has completely dispensed with subtext, GL's is drenched in it. One brilliant example: Mallet, improbably toting around baby Henry while investigating Edmund's death, saw suspect Shane and decided to question him. Mallet deftly mixed his interrogation with cooing about the joys of fatherhood, completely unaware that Shane is Henry's biological father....a fact that Shane himself knows and is keeping secret! The upshot: Shane acted incredibly jumpy, which made him look like he had something to hide. Was Shane's jumpiness, as the audience might infer from the scene, because of the fact that he's Henry's father or because Shane really knocked off Edmond? There were several scenes like this (was Reva really talking to Josh about going into remission from cancer or did she kill Edmond to protect baby Colin, whom Eddie Boy had tried to kidnap a few weeks ago?), that makes everything so much more intriguing.
Plus, there is one more thing: Having Remy find a small bag of diamonds on Edmond's body and keep them was an old-fashioned stroke of genius. Laid off from work, determined to help his father who has been ripped off in James' Ponzi-scheme and desperate to assist his wife in opening her new business, this not-so-little twist not only plays on Remy's existing story that has been building for a while now but also puts him square in the cross hairs of being one of the prime suspects in Edmund's death when the truth comes out.
The true difference between "Who Killed Stuart (Not Adam) Chandler?" and "Who Killed Edmund Winslow?" is the degree to which the writers and producers trust the intelligence of their audiences without beating them over the head with the obvious. As interesting as All My Children's mystery is turning out to be in a classical mystery sense, what is playing out on screen is more dated than classic. What is making the story palatable is an extremely clever use of split screens to recount the murder night's events. Guiding Light, on the other hand, went for what is turning out to be something more akin to the modern, understated brilliance of Veronica Mars, revealing an increasingly complicated web of suspects, motives and opportunities in subtle and sophisticated ways.
Upon reviewing this posting, I noticed that I wrote far more about the story onscreen for Guiding Light than All My Children. It struck me that the reason for this is very simple. All My Children presented a mystery and is basically telling us how things went down, essentially distilling its narrative to a whodunit. Guiding Light has taken a whodunit and is elevating it to a genuine mystery, full of suspects, motives and scenarios that are equal parts obvious and veiled but at this point completely unpredictable. Guiding Light is asking me to think; All My Children is telling me I don't have to.
I will be watching both shows over the coming weeks to see how their respective whodunits are resolved, but in these early days of this soap murder mystery cage match the clear winner is Guiding Light.