Here we are at Day 2 (or according to ABC's marketing, is it Day 3?) of The Great Pine Valley Tornado of 2008. Before giving my general impressions, this entry calls for a bit of a disclaimer. My initial "The Wind Done Gone" post about All My Children's epic event was a broad critique of the episodes aired to that date based on ABC's marketing machine regarding the special effects work vis a vis the show. This may have left an impression that I was conflating the CGI work with the dramatic aspects of the story. In an effort to streamline things a bit, I will henceforth treat several aspects of The Great Pine Valley Tornado separately.
THE DRAMA: At the end of Friday's episode, Erica and Adam were trapped in the secret passageways of the Chandler Mansion, having discovered that a mysterious stranger had been living there; a jealous Aiden found Ryan and Kendall at the gazebo moments before it was destroyed; the Comeback was demolished, leaving a hysterical Babe bleeding and trapped on top of a suffocating Little A and JR with a terrible choice to make; and Zach made a narrow escape from his overturned car and returned to the decimated beach house to find the boys alive, Kendall missing, and Bianca under a flipped over couch.
Today, the drama continued with a number of rock solid twists, shocks and surprises (mostly involving Bianca) that would have been more twisty, shocking and surprising if one hadn't read them in Soap Opera Weekly, Soap Opera Digest or watched any of ABC's promos over the weekend. And we're off!
Aiden/Ryan/Greenlee: We pick up with a torn Aiden in full Hitchcock mode trying to figure out what to do about Greenlee and Ryan after the ranger arrived. Greens was rescued, Ryan was trapped, and Aiden sulked. Not much more to say. It all played out rather predictably with SuperRyan saving Droopy Dog Aiden after the latter saved the former. The least successful of all the stories.
Adam/Erica: Whereas I thought these two legends were strangely flat and even a teensy bit sitcomish on Friday's episode, there was a welcome uptick in the dialogue and black humor today that felt more organic to their circumstances. Using the opportunity of their confinement to explore their feelings for one another was much more interesting than waiting for Godot...I mean, David Hayward.
Zach/Kendall/Bianca: Bianca's pregnancy was revealed. Shocking. As far as plot twists are concerned, that the child is Zach's was a revelation that fudges a bit of history yet was explained in a bit of between twisters exposition, made me kinda giggle. So, um, Zach donated his sperm to Bianca on the down low. Not much too say here; I'm merely waiting for Zach to hold up Baby Lesbianca to the heavens, Lion King-style!
Angie/Jessie/Natalia: Natalia's relationship to Jesse inched closer to the surface by just one look between her and her father and Angie caught it! I loved that bit!
JR/Babe: In what is becoming a sadly common occurrence on daytime, a miscast or unpopular actor gets some of the best writing of their tenure and does some of their best work as a result. Amanda Baker was very good today, not as "Babe" the Caricature despised by many fans, but Babe the Mother unselfishly and desperately trying to save her son. Bobbie Eakes and Jacob Young were heartbreaking communicating Krystal and JR's respective desperation for Babe. Even the kid playing Little A got into the act. When he rubbed Babe's hair as the second tornado approached while Krystal prayed just about tore me up!
Special Shout Out:Michael E. Knight was awesome conveying Tad's joy at discovering Kate healthy and then registering his shock at the destruction of the Comeback. Placing his hand over his mouth was an inspired touch, a gesture more common to female characters yet perfect in this context.Eden Riegel also gets special mention for effortlessly slipping into Bianca's skin and pregnancy pad.
Biggest Blunder: ABC Daytime's promo department. Are there any plot points they aren't willing to give away? I mean, really, why watch the show when you can pick everything up from a commercial?
SPECIAL EFFECTS: For the most part, the CGI work was much better today than on Friday's episode. Monday's five second tornado shot still looked shitty, but infinitely better than that mess that chased Zach's car on Friday! Shot blending between live action elements with CGI and green screen elements was far more effective, eliminating a lot of matte ghosting, i.e. the effect where thin black or white outlines shots of actors against the background. There were also some nice little touches of CGI shots of flying debris fragments in the background mixed with live action shots of flying detritus.
GENERAL PRODUCTION WORK: The destruction of the sets has been spectacular. The wind tunnel effects and camera work during the second tornado blowing Ryan, Greens and Aiden around was Grade A quality. Now that looked quite realistic! AMC's production team must be commended for this fantastic work, rivaling the greatest natural disaster ever to air on daytime, The Santa Barbara Earthquake of 1984!
OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Today's episode was much more focused than Friday's on almost all levels and much more satisfying overall. Take shelter! Another storm is brewing tomorrow....