‘All My Children’ Finale: Bittersweet, Brilliant, With a Bullet

by | September 23, 2011 at 4:28 PM | Deep Soap

All My Children (ABC)

All My Children (ABC)

It turns out that it is possible to deliver a satisfying finale to a show that has been on the air for 41 years. “All My Children‘s” writers, series creator Agnes Nixon, and headwriter Lorraine Broderick faced the nearly impossible task of concluding a soap that began during the Vietnam War, yet creating enough suspense to inspire fans to tune in months later when the show is reborn on the Internet. To complicate matters, they had no idea which cast members would be continuing with the show.

The last two soaps that ended, “As the World Turns” and “Guiding Light” slunk off the air with poorly produced, low budget episodes that delivered a rushed, unearned happily ever. They reeked of defeat. AMC went out on top creatively, thanks to the return of Broderick who turned the show around in a matter of months. It had heart and drama and suspense while returning to the show’s core values of friendship and family.

Watch: The Cast Of “All My Children” Says Farewell:

The finale aired after a strange farewell tribute episode of “The View” that was full of forced cheer and went out of the way not to use the word cancellation or address the show’s future. Co-host Susan Lucci spent the whole episode choking back tears. It was a nice gesture, but it was far less satisfying than the candid interviews that the cast have given other media outlets. On a related note, the promos for AMC”s replacement “The Chew” that aired throughout the finale were truly inappropriate.

The episode began with Angie’s (Debbi Morgan) voiceover: “From birth, life itself is miraculous,” over a montage of the show’s numerous birth scenes, and other classic scenes of parents and children. Then the show cleverly cut to the police station. Angie was mounting a spirited defense of David’s (Vincent Irizarry) Project Orpheus, his unauthorized experimentation on several presumed dead characters that led to the returns of Zach (Thorsten Kaye), Dixie (Cady McClain) and Stuart (David Canary) in the show’s final week. How funny that something that initially seemed so monstrous turned into something heartwarming and life-affirming. To  me, it was a metaphor for the show’s rapid transition from the depressing, misanthropic writing of Chuck Pratt and his successors David Kreizman and Donna Swajeski to Broderick’s joyful storytelling. “To have someone you love more than life brought back to you, that is the ultimate dream come true,” Angie said. Cut to Stuart and Marian’s (Jennifer Bassey) emotional reunion. Then there were words that directly addressed the audience: “One day our friends and family will be gone for good. What if that day were today?” These characters have become friends and family to AMC’s viewers. This could be the last time that we see many of them.

There show honored its history by having several of the young children recite Agnes Nixon’s famous lines,” In joy and sorrow, we are all your children.” But the episode was not all sentimental moments. J.R. (Jacob Young), whom the writers knew would not be staying with the show, did not emerge from his downward spiral .As he prepared to leave Pine Valley, first his brother Jamie (Justin Breuning) and his parents Tad (Michael Knight) and Dixie tried to get him to stay in town. Not even the news of Stuart’s miraculous resurrection could penetrate his rage and self-loathing. It was hilarious when he accused Jamie of sticking around town because he hoped to reunite with the resurrected corpse of Babe. No, J.R., the show finally stopped being centered around her.

Meanwhile, Opal (Jill Larson) finally got through to Erica (Susan Lucci) that she was going to lose Jack (Walt Willey) if she went to L.A. to work on a screenplay of her memoirs.

In a great moment, Brooke (Julia Barr) bought back the Chandler mansion for Adam! Finally, he is back where he belongs in Pine Valley. Then, in the episode’s most unexpected moment, Adam’s housekeeper Winnifred welcomes him home. What a great use of a dayplayer who was far from essential to the show but was part of the fabric of Pine Valley. The couple decides to invite everybody in town to a welcome home party for Stuart. That’s right. The show is going out with everybody dressed to the nines, as it should be.

Though it all took place in the second half of the episode, it was more action packed than most multi-day soap galas. J.R. lurked in the shadows, with a gun and bottle of liquor. Dixie confronted David, who managed to get out on bail, about the other patient he has stashed away in his labs. He cryptically tells her, “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you. That’s something you don’t need to know.” I think we’ve got our first Prospect Park storyline.

Then Tad delivers a beautiful toast that serves as an epilogue to the series saying, in part, “It’s been my home the best years of my life…. Then again there are all these amazing people that deserve to be here and aren’t… I bet my life on one thing. That if they were all here they would remind us what a miracle this place is.”

Erica strides into the party wearing an over-the-top sequins and fur ensemble that she is confident will instantly melt Jack’s heart. Instead, he dumps her, saying that after 24 years, multiple engagements, a marriage and a divorce, he is tired of coming in second to Erica’s ambitions. This was perfectly juxtaposed with Adam proposing to Erica’s lifelong rival Brooke. Erica has often been compared to Scarlett O’Hara. So it was a moment for the ages when Erica chased Jack into the party’s main room, begging him to stay with her because she needed him. “Frankly Erica, I don’t give a damn what you need,” he told her before storming out. Erica ended the series alone and defiant, saying, “This is not the ending I want.”  “Now you’ve done it,” Opal scolded.  “You’ll never get it back.” Erica, her head held high retorted, in the episode’s final line, “Just watch me.” Then, a drunk J.R. fired a bullet into the crowd. Fade to black. Did he hit someone? Stay tuned. What a great way to restore the show’s signature character to her core as a strong, fighter who ultimately gets in her own way. Prospect Park, please convince Susan to sign on to the online show. Please get the web version up and running quickly. We need to see what happens next.

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