Critical Diagnosis: Week of February 26, 2024 - March 1, 2024 by Jeff Giles

Well, folks, this is it — the calm before the Stone, er, storm. With new writers right around the corner (or allegedly already working their stuff into the mix) and the imminent return of one of the show's most mystifyingly popular characters, things on General Hospital seem likely to be altered significantly over the next couple of months — and last week's episodes saw a bunch of ducks being lined up in order to prepare for the first wave of change.

As I've been saying for the last couple of columns, any sense of anticipation I'd normally feel at a moment like this is harshly undercut by my extreme lack of enthusiasm for another round of Jason Morgan, but I also have to point out that in general, the show's been tighter lately, with episodes that break down into 4-5 character clusters and plot threads that do a fairly good job of justifying their visibility on the canvas. With a couple of minor exceptions, everything that happened last week felt like it served a purpose, and it was balanced pretty well between mob shenanigans and moments of genuine human connection. I wouldn't say I'm all that wrapped up in what's happening on GH these days, but I can at least appreciate these improvements, and allow myself some minimal level of hope that they're a positive sign for the future.

Damning with faint praise? Perhaps. Let's dive in.

Anvils, Anvils Everywhere

If Pee-wee's Playhouse was located in Port Charles, then the word of the day all last week would have been "stone," and every time someone said it, Pee-wee would have popped up on camera, screaming and giggling — and that still would have been just about as subtle as the way GH is telegraphing its intentions with this story. It feels like roughly a third of any given episode is being eaten up by people talking about some Stone or other, whether it's Stone Cates, Morgan Stone Corinthos, or Stone Cold. Again, I can see no good path for this story to follow, although I admit that I'd applaud the sheer audience-alienating chutzpah if the writers took a hard, nutty left turn and brought Stone Cates back from the dead and gave him an axe to grind with Sonny.

I kid, I kid. Anyway, Sonny spent last week plotting against his unseen enemy, tapping Spinelli to… do tech stuff? I guess? In conjunction with the bogus meeting he was planning to set up with Selina in order to draw their would-be assassin out of the shadows. Of course, Sonny and Spinelli can't have a conversation that doesn't revolve around Jason in some way, so a solid chunk of Monday's episode saw the two of them sharing their sadness or whatever.

Across town, Carly and Jagger bickered at Bobbie's after he told her who he is and why he's in town. You've seen this drill before: Carly lashed out at the hot new federal agent in Port Charles, accusing him of leveraging her for information he could use against Sonny; he pleaded innocent; rinse and repeat. And of course there was plenty of Stone talk, with Carly mentioning Morgan and Jagger pointing out that his son's name is Stone too. (Bonus Sad Jeff points for a Jason mention as well.) The whole thing culminated with Jagger stupidly letting it slip that the recent rash of mob killings is part of a plot against Sonny, leaving Carly visibly rattled.

"Sonny needs saving" was arguably the theme of the week, with various members of his family huddling together in assorted attempts to protect him from his own allegedly erratic behavior at a time when danger is everywhere and his circle of trust is shrinking fast. This included a rather hilarious series of scenes set at Sonny's gym, which was apparently open for business despite being completely empty except for Sonny, Dante, and Jagger. First, we saw a conversation between Very Concerned Michael and Somewhat Less Concerned Dante that was interrupted when Sonny arrived and basically told Michael to scram; when Michael stopped to grovel some more on his way out, Jagger arrived and got into a pissing match with Sonny that ended with Sonny baiting Jagger by mentioning Karen and accusing him of being a poor excuse for a husband and brother, and Jagger taking a swing at Sonny in retaliation. (He missed.)

Further alarmed by Sonny's antagonism, Michael called Joss, who'd just completed the world's briefest manhunt by finding Dex and celebrating with some afternoon delight. Unaware that our dumpster-diving star-crossed lovers were in the midst of an argument over whether he'd return to Port Charles with her, Michael told Joss that she needed to bring Dex back and not to take no for an answer; Joss, in turn, told Dex that he has to go back because Sonny needs him.

This is all laying it on pretty thick — you know GH is trying too hard when the show goes out of its way to present the utterly incompetent Dex as anybody's last, best hope — but there have been a few spoonfuls of sugar to help the medicine go down. For one thing, you can count me among the crowd that thinks Adam J. Harrington is doing a solid job as Jagger; although the way he tried to knock Sonny's painted block off was unintentionally funny, that's pretty much the only bum note I've seen him strike thus far. He's intense, but not in the enough-already way that a lot of actors tend to be when they're starting out on a soap, and he's successfully hitting a bunch of notes that strike at the real history behind the character. Thus far, this Jagger feels like a genuinely thought-out return rather than a stunt, and it has a lot to do with the time the writers are giving to portions of the past that fold fairly neatly into the present.

For example, Jagger went to Karen's grave last week to commemorate her birthday, where he bumped into Scott; my assumption was that their conversation would turn into a lot of woofing about how Jagger did Karen wrong, but instead, it turned into a fairly nuanced talk between a pair of grieving men who hate what happened to a woman they both loved. It made sense that Jagger would be tentative about approaching Scott in the graveyard; it also made sense that Scott would have made his peace with the messy dissolution of Jagger and Karen's marriage. And it made perfect sense that Scott would be disgusted by Jagger's admission that he's in Port Charles to try and keep Sonny from being killed — that he'd try and act as a devil on Jagger's shoulder, encouraging him to "let nature run its course." Much as I love Kin Shriner and I'm always happy to see Scott onscreen, he's too often used for quick bursts of cheap comic relief; it was a real pleasure to see the writers leverage history in comparatively thoughtful fashion.

Likewise, when Jagger burst into Anna's office following his run-in with Sonny at the gym and demanded that she do something about Corinthos, the conversation that followed was surprisingly satisfying. It's always irritating when Anna defends Sonny to anybody, but at least this time, there was thought behind it — Anna took pains to point out that she wouldn't describe Sonny as "one of the good guys," but she's willing to take into account the way he's changed since Jagger lived in Port Charles — and she also cautioned him that by not being able to see past the bullseye he's placed over Sonny's face, he could end up missing actual solid opportunities to take him down. Robin's friendship with Sonny has always been a flimsy reason for Anna to look past his criminal activities; here, for once, she managed to make some sort of sense out of her willingness to work with the guy.

The other reasons to celebrate this phase of the storyline? Selina and Ava. While I admit I do think Lydia Look plays the character just a touch too over the top, I really enjoy the way she slithers around town, and I continue to hold out hope for a Wu resurgence at some point in the future. Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of the Asian Quarter storyline, and although certain aspects of it have aged better than others, I still think it'd be fun to do something with a couple of black pearls and those pesky Port Charles catacombs.

Anyway. That's the future — what we have right now is Selina throwing in with Sonny by helping him hatch a plan to figure out who's picking off mob bosses. This plan is admittedly difficult to understand — something Spinelli something staged beating something fake meeting — but the details are rarely the most important part where stuff like this is concerned; really, it all comes down to character behavior and actor interactions. Last week paid dividends on that front, as Sonny teamed up with not only Selina, but Ava too; once she heard what Sonny was up to, Ava insisted on coming along, arguing that her presence at this "meeting" could help sell it even more to whoever might be watching.

It's an argument that makes sense, and it also gives Maura West a golden opportunity to vamp her heart out. I'm not sure how I feel about the Sonny/Ava redux that's being teased in the midst of all this, if only because it'd blow up one of the few solid female friendships on the canvas, but in terms of moment-to-moment goodness, I have no complaints. I'd much rather see Ava curl her upper lip and scheme than watch her cry over her dead daughter or some dude; I once tweeted that Maura should be given a special Emmy shaped like a rumpled pillow next to an ashtray with a lit cigarette in it, and I wasn't kidding. She's one of the best weapons in GH's arsenal, and she's had fuck-all to do for way too long.

Happily, it seems at least somewhat likely that Ava, Selina, and Sonny's dangerous game will continue for at least a little while longer. At the end of last week, Dante and Chase burst into Anna's office to tell her and Jagger about the decoy meeting, and all four of them resolved to put a stop to it so Sonny wouldn't be able to shut down the killer before they could make their case. Given that the week also ended with Maxie leaving a voicemail for Spinelli — and we know Jason will have blood on his hands early next week — I'm wondering whether the aborted "meeting" will end with a burst of chaos that leaves Spinelli near death.

Pipe Dream

In my last column, I briefly mentioned that Cody and Sasha schemed to get Maxie and Spinelli back together by getting them to show up at Charlie's for karaoke night — a ploy that ended with a kiss, followed by a flustered Maxie scurrying out of the bar. The show picked that thread right up again on Monday, when Maxie and Spinelli awkwardly started to discuss what happened and what it might mean; although they were interrupted by Sonny, they really got into it the following day, taking the long road from Maxie wishing they could just ignore it to both of them admitting they'd fallen in love with each other again. But just as soon as Spinelli heard the magic words from the woman of his dreams, he threw a spanner in the works by admitting that he'd moved into her place under false pretenses, and that the pipes in his place never really burst at all.

Maxie was predictably enraged by all this, and tossed Spinelli out on his ass without even letting him pack. Later in the week, she asked Felicia to babysit; when Felicia arrived, she asked why Spinelli wasn't available, which led to a conversation that started with Maxie pretending she didn't know about Felicia's role in Spinelli's deceit. Eventually, Felicia came clean, and was quickly forgiven — but Maxie insisted she couldn't afford Spinelli the same grace, admitting after some prodding that she was scared of what would happen if they gave their relationship another shot and it didn't work out. Encouraged by Felicia to act on her feelings, Maxie tried calling him, but had to leave a message because he was tied up with Sonny's "meeting."

I don't really care about Spinelli and I have nothing whatsoever invested in this couple, but I liked a lot of what happened here for a number of reasons. For starters, there isn't anyone else on the canvas for Maxie; as we saw via her disastrous pairings with Peter and Austin, the show hasn't had a viable romantic lead for the character since Nathan was killed off. If she's going to be paired with someone — and this is a soap, so she's going to be paired with someone — then it might as well be someone she has history with and who also has the added benefit of being in the same age group, even (or maybe especially) if he's a part-timer who's only sporadically seen. Also, it makes perfect sense for Maxie to be afraid of the fallout from an attempted reunion, and the way the writers handled her conversation with Felicia was impressively thoughtful. This is one of those times when whatever happens next doesn't really matter to me, but I'm still reasonably engaged by the steps along the way.

Yes to the Dress

Along similar lines, while I will cheerfully concede that a lot of the time spent on Chase and Brook Lynn's wedding prep last week was wasted on total piffle, these scenes deserve to be called out for containing at least a few compelling nuggets grounded in identifiable reality. On one hand, there was zero lead-in to the idea that Brook Lynn would be so desperate to wear Lila's wedding dress — yet so afraid to ask Tracy if she could borrow it — that she'd take the first one she tried on while being performatively grumpy about "settling." (Also, BLQ and Lois should have called the cops on Maxie for even bringing that dress over.) But on the other hand, we were treated to a delightful Lila flashback and, ultimately, a sweet scene between Brook Lynn and Tracy as Tracy tearfully offered the dress to her.

Also on one hand, the scenes showing Chase being emailed a prenup by the Quartermaine lawyers — and subsequently storming over to the Q mansion with Gregory in tow — felt like a bunch of hot air. The idea that Chase would be any kind of surprised or at all upset to be sent a prenup, even if it hadn't been discussed first, is semi-ludicrous; along similar lines, the argument that erupted when Tracy told Brook Lynn that the prenup not only existed, but had been accidentally sent to Chase, was just as tiresome as every other hubbub that happens on that set. Just as the writers seem to hurt themselves straining for reasons to write arguments between the Davis girls, they also appear to believe we need constant reminders of the Quartermaines' tendency toward bickering, and they'll never opt for a calm conversation when they can give us a bunch of barely plausible yelling instead.

All that being said, everything ended up in a sensible spot — specifically, a series of scenes that cut between Brook Lynn/Chase and Tracy/Gregory as the two pairs gently but clearly talked about the value of going into a marriage knowing it might not work out and doing what you can to prepare accordingly.

Blazin', Beggin', Vapin'

Close to last as well as least, we've got Blaze's long-awaited reckoning with at least one member of her deeply conservative family. Shortly after she and Kristina finished their canoodling and Blaze headed to the shower, her mom showed up and promptly pissed her off so bad that she ended up coming out by virtue of sheer annoyance.

Needless to say, Blaze's mom didn't take it well; in fact, she basically refused to engage with the very idea that her daughter might be anything other than heterosexual, eventually gathering up her stuff and stalking out rather than having an actual conversation about it. I tend to like Jacqueline Grace Lopez a lot, I have nothing against Eva LaRue, and there were some genuinely affecting moments during their confrontation — but none of that is anywhere near enough to overcome the extremely Afterschool Special nature of everything that transpired during these scenes. As I wrote way back when GH started making it clear they were headed this route, I'm disappointed that in 2024, this show's writers feel like a nominally front-burner gay love story needs an element of conflict with one partner's family. There are SO many other alternatives if the show is looking for a source of drama between Blaze and Kristina — and in fact, given that Blaze came out of it determined to go public about their relationship, it hasn't really led to much of any drama at all. If this is where Blaze's beef with her family begins and ends, it will have amounted to little more than a rather clumsily written public service announcement.

While Blaze and Kristina started stepping out and telling people they were dating, Sonny and Nina had their first conversation in a good long while, which started with Nina shaming him for serving her with divorce papers without talking to her about it first and ended with him admitting that while he still loves her, he can't be with her anymore. Nina once again insisted she isn't giving up on their marriage; going forward, I assume she'll take Valentin's advice and refuse to sign those divorce papers, at least until she finds out about the inevitable Sonny/Ava sexcapades.

On the other side of our PSA sandwich, we have the ongoing juviefication of Danny, who slipped out of Scout's birthday party to get his jacket, only to be caught by Jake while vaping on the Quartermaine docks. Jake took Danny's vape pen, and a brief tussle ensued when he wouldn't give it back, but they were interrupted by Willow; a lingering shot of Jake putting the pen in his back pocket made it clear that Elizabeth will absolutely find it and jump to the wrong conclusion. The show needs to find things for these characters to do so they're sketched out clearly enough to support adult storylines someday, and it's obvious that Jake and Danny are being given more screentime so the audience feels Jason's absence from their lives before he returns, but the basic bones of this story have been exhumed from the graves of a million Very Special sitcom episodes, most of which aired at least 30 years ago. As with Blaze and Kristina, there are plenty of more interesting options for drama. Again, I don't object to a story for Jake and Danny, I just wish I could believe it would lead to something that would lead to a lasting impact beyond their next bout of being relegated to multiple months of offscreen status.

Now for your bullet points!

  • Curtis wheeled himself over to Sonny's gym so he could spend an afternoon giving Drew advice

  • Carly and Drew made up

  • Chase asked Finn to be his best man

  • Donna played on the world's loneliest playground while Sonny and Carly bickered

  • Elizabeth and Finn decided neither of them are ready for marriage just yet

  • Alexis and Drew talked about Nina becoming publisher of the Invader, with Drew warning Alexis that Nina is capable of anything and she should watch her back

  • Taggert remains missing and unmentioned