"You're maudlin and full of self-pity. You're magnificent." — Addison DeWitt, All About Eve, 1950
Jonathan Jackson is an arsonist.
How else can one describe the blazing inferno the actor set off on today's episode of General Hospital where Lucky (Jackson) directly confronted his lifelong love Elizabeth (Rebecca Herbst) and his brother Nikolas (Tyler Christopher) about sleeping with each other behind his back?
Jackson elevated his performance to epic proportions that might as well have been from the stage of a Greek tragedy, Tennessee Williams or August Wilson play in this episode. It wasn't just good; it was electrifying. After Monday's performance, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences should just put an Emmy for Jackson on layaway and call it a wrap.
From the moment Lucky caught Liz and Nik doing the funky chicken inflagrante delicto, GH's writers and Jackson ratcheted up the tension with a high wire act of jangling nerves, a virtual cat on a hot tin roof. Alone, Lucky was a hot mess, trashing the house he had shared with Elizabeth (formerly the home of his parents, Luke and Laura), oddly confiding both police secrets about the investigation into Claudia's death and his own emotional turmoil to Jason (Steve Burton), and generally was a emotional wreck, careening all over the place like a pinball.
On the other hand, whenever Lucky was with Elizabeth or Nikolas he was cold and detached, imbuing just enough of Jackson's trademark sincerity (some would say over-earnestness) to knock the two cheatin' hearts off-kilter. Whether prodding and poking Elizabeth about her feelings with not-so-subtle rage boiling beneath the surface, or asking Nikolas to stay in Port Charles instead of flying off to France, Lucky kept non-suspecting viewers guessing. What was he planning? How much revenge would he take and in what deliciously twisted form?
GH could have played this cat-and-mouse game for weeks or months on end to draw out (or diffuse) the tension, or they could have had Lucky concoct a cockamamie, convoluted scheme which would have likely threatened the patience of everyone involved. Instead, the writers wisely cut to the chase. On the Friday January 22 episode, Lucky walked in on Elizabeth andNikolas sharing a moment and detonated a cliffhanger bomb of epic proportions:
"You don't love me, Elizabeth. If you did, you wouldn't be screwing my brother behind my back."
In what can only be described as emotional brutality, Lucky ripped the two cheaters to shreds, Elizabeth being the target of his rage much more than Nikolas. Lucky called her everything but a child of God and effectively branded him a true Cassadine, Prince Cain to Lucky's betrayed Abel. Through it all, Jackson was magnificent in every conceivable way.
While Lucky didn't appear drunk, Jackson's bloodshot eyes made it impossible to tell the difference between Lucky's inebriation or his raging hurt and anger. Every choice word he said was practically (and sometimes literally) spat venomously. At any minute, Lucky looked like he could have beaten both Nikolas and Elizabeth half to death in that living room. As Lucky repeatedly called Liz out for "screwing" and "nailing" his brother (we ain't talking about carpentry, folks), Jackson looked like he was barely in control of himself in the same way that Kim Zimmer frequently has described how she lost herself in her legendary character Reva during the infamous "Slut of Springfield/Fountain Scene" on the late, departed Guiding Light.
As a viewer, I have some quibbles about how these scenes went down, however. While I am sure Elizabeth haters were jumping with glee over the verbal beat down Lucky gave her, I thought Lucky's wrath was far too skewed in her direction. Elizabeth is defined as a "slut" and a "whore" passing around her "candy," but Nikolas is just the brother who betrayed him? I understand this from a dramatic standpoint given that Liz is/has been/was the love of Lucky's life, but sleeping with someone else isn't the first time either one of them have been to this rodeo and it seems to me that — given that this time the betrayal was with his brother — Lucky should have dished out the pain far more evenly to both of them.
Much more troubling (to me) was how Lucky threw Elizabeth's rape in her face.
"Whatever happened to the girl I found crawling in the snow?"
On a basic level I found line repulsive, but from a dramatic angle it worked because it's the kind of thing someone in Lucky's position would say in real life, no matter how heinous.
On a lesser note, I can give Herbst and Christopher something of a pass in the acting department because their sole job was to basically be passive, although I wondered if Christopher was on the verge of snoring a couple of times. This lapse was more than made up by the terrific support given by Anthony Geary as Luke, who allowed the power of understatement and subtext to let Jackson shine in their heartbreaking scenes.
While I have read in some quarters that many fans feel "the real Lucky is back," I have to disagree. In my opinion, it has been in the post-revelation of the Nik/Liz affair and in Monday's episode particularly that Jackson accomplished a much harder task than simply reclaiming the Lucky mantle: he has bridged the gap between his previous run, Jacob Young's and most recently, Greg Vaughan's. Now Lucky seems like a whole person once again, as opposed to a fractured character sliced up over the years by the writers, and fractured by fan loyalties.