How Helena Cassadine Can Save General Hospital

Thinking Fans Comment Update: James speculates, “My own preference for bringing back the vets would be a storyline where it is revealed that they all joined a witness protection program and are brought back to testify against Sonny” … while Melanie declares, “The good think about the outrageousness of soaps (and characters like Helena) is that anything is possible” … and more. See Comments below.  

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Constance TowersBy Ed Martin  

Constance Towers this week will reprise her recurring role as the murderous madwoman Helena Cassadine on General Hospital In happier times I would consider this to be unfortunate news, because I have never been a fan of this wildly inconsistent character, an all-powerful, unstoppable, bloodthirsty ghoul that would seem more at home in a comic book than a daytime drama (even though Constance Towers is sublime in the role, but more on her later).   

But this time I think I will welcome Helena back with open arms, because these are increasingly desperate days on mob-centric, violence-filled GH.  Helena’s return will be brief, and I suspect it won’t amount to very much. But allow me to suggest a scenario I’ve fantasized that might salvage this show, one that

I can’t wholly condemn Helena because, even though the show’s writers and producers don’t know what to do with her and haven’t a clue how to showcase her to maximum effect, her return appearances bring Ms. Towers back to daytime, and that is always a reason to celebrate.

would place Helena at the center of all the franchise-restoring action. I now believe she could be utilized in a story that would undo much of the seemingly irreversible damage that has been done to GH during this decade, especially where the show’s once energy-rich Quartermaine family is concerned.

It seems to me that GH has been losing fans at a rapid clip since it began killing off the Quartermaines (and other beloved characters) with madcap abandon a few years ago. It would take a drastic and outrageous story to fix the resultant mess, and that’s precisely what makes Helena uniquely qualified to ride to the rescue. The character and her family’s history, dating back almost thirty years, are so over the top that nothing she might do would surprise us. After all, it was the story of the Cassadine family’s plan to freeze Port Charles in mid-August (1981) by way of a weather-controlling machine hidden on a remote tropical island that propelled GH into the pop-culture pantheon even before Luke and Laura famously got hitched.

Here’s what GH should do with Helena, if not in April, then in the near future:

To begin, it should be revealed that A.J. Quartermaine did not die in 2005, when he was (pointlessly) murdered by an (already forgotten) A.J. Quartermainecharacter of no consequence. Rather, one of the Cassadine minions got to A.J. before his “lifeless” body was discovered and injected him with a drug that kept him alive with a barely perceptible heartbeat. He was later removed from the now-crowded Quartermaine crypt and whisked away to that secret lab Helena had built ages ago, way below the basement of General Hospital. In 2001, we were told that Helena’s son Stavros hadn’t really died when Luke seemingly killed him back in 1983 (after Stavros held Laura captive at the Cassadine compound for two years and forced her to marry him). He was actually in that same lab in a state of suspended animation awaiting the development of the treatment that would revive him almost two decades later.

We would learn that Cassadine medical personnel revived A.J. and slowly nursed him back to health, all the while programming him to be loyal to Helena, who had grown tired of her long-running conflict with the Spencers and decided instead to seek long-overdue revenge on the Quartermaines. Remember, it was a Quartermaine — the globe-trotting Alexandra — who first brought the Cassadines to Port Charles back in 1981 and touched off a series of events that eventually led to the deaths of Mikkos and his brother Tony. (Whatever happened to their brother Victor? Does anybody know?) It’s about time Helena made the Q’s suffer, too. She would eventually put A.J. to work taking over ELQ which, in turn, would be taken over by Helena, restoring her to a position of great power in the international financial community. Edward and Tracy versus A.J. and Helena: Imagine the fireworks that would follow!

We could then happily discover that, despite his loyalty to Helena, A.J. felt the need to make things right with his father Alan, whom A.J. (for reasons nobody can explain) shot in the back the last time the two were together. When Alan suffered that fatal heart attack in General Hospital after the (silly) Metro Court hostage crisis, A.J. secretly arranged to have him brought to the subterranean lab, where he has since been stabilized and remains in a coma. Helena was fine with this because she had nothing against Alan and thought that he, too, could be useful to her if he regained his health, perhaps as chief of staff at General Hospital after she takes control of it, too. Alan and Monica reunited after several years apart: Imagine the passion that would follow!

Further, it would be revealed that Helena had been having Emily followed at all times, since she despised the girl and could not abide the love her grandson Nikolas had for her. Unable to tolerate the thought of Emily and Nikolas Emily and Nikolassettling down together, Helena on the night of the Black and White Ball at Wyndemere planned to kidnap Emily and brainwash her into rejecting Nikolas once and for all. She had arranged for a double to replace Emily while the brainwashing took place. It wasn’t Emily whom Diego (stupidly) murdered on that fateful night. It was the double. (Remember, the actual murder occurred off-camera!)

The recently introduced Rebecca would turn out to be the brainwashed Emily (which we all think is true anyway), sent into action by Helena to forever end Nikolas’ love for her and to ingratiate herself with the Q’s. It’s all part of Helena’s master plan to take over ELQ and cripple the Quartermaines. Emily returns: Imagine the emotion that would flood every corner of the GH canvas!

I don’t remember the details of Justus Ward’s murder, but since he is a Quartermaine he, too, can be in the lab and undergo similar brainwashing. Helena will need a loyal attorney working inside ELQ. The show’s only veteran African American character could be restored to front-burner status: Imagine that!

Just for fun, Georgie Jones should be in that hidden lab as well, since she was once married to Dillon Hornsby, the son of Tracy Quartermaine. Helena has always been given to exciting excess, so why not? Georgie reunited with Mac, Maxie and Robin: Imagine the joy that would bring!

All things considered, I think Helena would have Stefan’s comatose body down there, as well, awaiting its own medical miracle, don’t you? But that’s another story for another day.

It’s not like any of this extreme science-fiction would be new to GH, or even to the Cassadines. After all, Stefan secretly kept Lesley Webber alive for twelve years after Helena attempted to kill her in 1984 and Helena held Lucky hostage for one year and brainwashed him while Luke and Laura grieved the “loss” of their son in a fire. And, as mentioned above, Helena kept a comatose Stavros alive for eighteen years until he returned to briefly wreak havoc on the residents of Port Charles in 2001 before falling into a bottomless pit in that same subterranean lab. The Cassadines are world-class experts at mischievously switching bodies, keeping the almost dead alive, creating convincing look-alikes and fooling everyone into thinking their loved ones are either lost or not. We need them to be restored to their full power, and we need that now!

Think of the excitement that would be generated by this wild and wacky storyline – one that would be very vintage GH — as so many much-missed characters returned to the narrative in the biggest Cassadine caper since the classic story of the Ice Princess. (And if some of them had to be recast, so what?) Would Helena be demonized for playing God with so many lives or heralded as a hero for saving so many people? (Something tells me she would manipulate the situation on her own behalf and come out totally on top.)

Best of all, the sublime Ms. Towers could act the hell out of all this as she became the shining salvation of daytime drama that she deserves to be. Further, Helena’s big-time return would give the currently marginalized Alexis Davis (played by the criminally underutilized Nancy Lee Grahn) something to do.

Helena was created way back in 1981 as the means by which Elizabeth TaylorElizabeth Taylor — then a self-declared GH super-fan — could attend the wedding of Luke and Laura. I don’t believe she was intended to be a permanent addition to the show’s canvas. As written at the time, Helena was a cool, demanding diva, very dangerous but not at all deranged, in some ways resembling Alexis Carrington Colby, the glamorous bitch supreme played by Joan Collins on Dynasty, which was just coming into its own in primetime as GH was hitting its peak in daytime. Helena secretly attended the wedding and, because she blamed them for the death of her beloved husband Mikkos, quietly cursed Laura and Luke “forever” as they celebrated their nuptials.

She was barely referenced during the decade that followed, except when Laura disappeared (in early 1982, when Genie Francis left the show) and reappeared (in late 1983) after being held captive at the Cassadine compound in Greece and forced to marry Helena’s oldest son Stavros. But throughout much of the Nineties and frequently during this decade Helena has returned to Port Charles time and again to cause all kinds of trouble.

As written for Ms. Taylor, Helena was the epitome of class and elegance, her malevolence measured by her place in international society. But as written for Constance Towers, theConstance Towers actress who has played her for the better part of two decades, Helena is just a mad, murderous meddler. If it were up to

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Photo by Tommy Garrett from TV Guide

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me, Helena would never have come back to Port Charles after the big wedding, or she would have been killed off years ago. Back in the days of the grand Gloria Monty, when stories on the show had distinct beginnings and endings and villains came and went, always paying for their crimes, a homicidal evildoer like Helena would have never been permitted to survive for as long as she has. At the very least she would have been locked away somewhere, allowing the rest of the characters on the canvas to move forward.

But I can’t wholly condemn Helena because, even though the show’s writers and producers don’t know what to do with her and haven’t a clue how to showcase her to maximum effect, her return appearances bring Ms. Towers back to daytime, and that is always a reason to celebrate. Full disclosure:  In 2003, when I appeared on GH as a victim of the Port Charles Hotel fire, I had the good fortune of meeting Ms. Towers backstage, and she so impressed me with her grace, style, intelligence and simple interest in the people around her (including me) that I decided right then and there that I want her to continue working on GH and elsewhere for as long as humanly possible. The storyline detailed above should ensure exactly that!

Comments

  1. horselover says:

    I love Helena and am glad she is back. Unfortunately there is NO WAY she can save GH. It’s too far gone. Sad, but true. But in the meantime, I will enjoy her limited screen presence!

  2. Michael says:

    This is scary. For many months, I’ve been thinking of a story similar to yours (but the details are different – yours are more grounded in reality – well, soap reality). In short, my story involved a cloning program that Helena had been working on to replace prominent and significant PC residents. In all, she would have kidnapped and kept on ice (in a Stavros like container) Stefan, AJ, Alan and Emily. Stefan would have been the first, imperfect replacement before he died (explaining away his personality shift there at the end), while AJ, Alan and Emily all met grim fates each time they were replaced (and done with a wink and a nod to the audience in recognition of the fact that the Q’s keep getting bumped off). I thought of Georgie but couldn’t come up with reason why Helena would even care about her. Also, I would have recast AJ – I like Billy Warlock but his version of AJ never stood on the same level as Carly, Jason and Sonny and I would want to start fresh so that THIS AJ could be a formidable foe for them.

    In my plans, AJ would have come back during a time that Sonny was off the canvas for a year (I had grand two – three year plans here in my fantasy world). He would have been distraught over Michael’s condition but once Michael recovered, would have bonded with him over time – softening Carly towards him (after she had separated from Jax over her grief over Sonny’s death). But is AJ playing her?

    Oh and there was the Jagger / Brenda / Jason triangle and the Ric / Elizabeth reconnection that spins into the Ric / Kate romance, and Jax / Carly reconciliation that is thrown off by the arrival of Sonny’s twin, a priest who DOES remain faithful to his vows (setting up some screen time for Mike) – leading up to the return of Sonny who discovers his life (business, friends, ex-wives) have moved on without him and he has to start from scratch (and no – that does not mean double the time for Maurice – it would actually mean somewhat reduced time shared between two brothers – the priest with morals, the mobster without). Oh, and there was Laura’s remarriage to Scott …

    I have a rich GH fantasy life … :)

  3. Melanie says:

    Oh Ed! Bless your soap lovin’ heart – you had me at “…A.J. Quartermaine did not die in 2005…”

    I’ve often fantasized that my favorite “dead” characters (those you mentioned, plus a few more) are actually Helena’s prisoners, trapped in a dungeon somewhere, lol.

    The good thing about the outrageousness of soaps (and characters like Helena) is that anything is possible. Your scenarios would right a lot of wrongs done to GH over the years, and would be immensely more entertaining than the drivel that’s on now.

    Thanks so much for this!!

  4. Scott says:

    I stopped watching GH years ago, but I always loved Helena’s appearances. While I thought the Stavros suspended animation storyline was too far fetched, even for GH, I always thought they could bring him back as well. What if the suspended in animation Stavros was actually one of his doubles, and the real Stavros was off living a Helena free life? What would the ramifications be to Helena, Nicholas and even Laura (please bring Genie back now) if the ‘real’ Stavros Cassadine suddenly appeared to wrest control of the Cassadine fortune back? What fun to see Constance Tower play those ramifications to perfection as Helena realizes her beloved son loved her not? He was her pride and joy, her favorite child, and he hid from her for twenty something years? Ah, the fireworks.

    Why not bring back Victor as well? Thaoo Penghalis is no longer on Days and he was sublime as Victor. Bring on the Cassadines and eliminate the mob. Make GH about the hospital once again.

  5. Matthew J. Cormier says:

    That would be an EXCELLENT story to do on “General Hospital” and wouldn’t be that far off from the shows past. Helena is capable of many things and this would not be all that different… I think it would work very well—the only problem: Frons would never allow such a well thought out and classy story on one of his shows. never. and you know Guza would never write that stuff because it wouldn’t be about Sonny or Jason or Carly!

    nice dream but we all know it will not happen ever.

  6. James says:

    You know, today as I watched the opening of the new hospital set and saw Monica there surveying things, I thought to myself, “Alan should be there. They should NEVER have killed him off.”

    And then when Helena appeared on the monitors, I realized, “Oh, Helena could have him frozen down in the basement just like she did Stavros.”

    So, imagine my surprise and delgiht, to read that others are having the same ideas!! Maybe Guza will have this same realization. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

    Oh, and one small correction to note above, the Cassadines tried to freeze Port Charles in summer 1981, not 1982.

  7. Bryon says:

    Oh Ed THANK YOU! We long-time GH Lover’s would buy Helena turning the Q’s into vampire’s if it meant we could have our show back.

  8. James says:

    Marlena, I think it is a good idea… GH definitely needs to undo their killings in order to salvage any semblance of what the show once was. As a relatively younger viewer (in the 18-24 demographic), the idea that “youth” only tune into the show to see the “teen set” or mob storylines is preposterous. The Quartermaines were the back-bone of the show (especially with Amber Tamblyn).

    My own preference for bringing back the vets would be a storyline where it is revealed that they all joined the witness protection program (Emily, Alan, AJ, even as remote as Alcazar, Lee-lee, Bennie), and are all brought back in a surprise twist to testify against Sonny, finally sending him to prison (and AWAY from the show). Really, it doesn’t matter how inconceivable the storyline is, as long as it results in the undoing of all the pointless deaths over the years.

  9. Ed – this is outstanding. I feel like the show itself has died and my relationship, along with it. It’s really sad and something I never thought possible. However, the Carly/Sonny/Jason/Jax/Sam, etc. scene makes me yawn profusely. Helena is THE most exciting character they have and this story would be absolutely phenomenal. Kind of similar to the Salem Stalker story but slightly more plausible and in true form to GH’s past with sci-fi. If this were to take place, I would happily tune back in. To see Carly have another high-risk pregnancy, though? Nope.

  10. Cyber says:

    I’ve given up on even the remote possibility of good story telling, I have only tuned back in to see Helena. I know the storyline will only serve to prop the heroes in the same storyline I’ve seen for years…but to see Helena I’ll suffer through it….
    eventhough “we don’t need another hero”
    I just need a “balanced” story from these folks…I know its not going to happen. I gave up hope years ago.

  11. MzSassyBoots says:

    I agree….it may be time for another “resurrection” of Stavros. Does anyone remember his last scene? He supposedly fell into a bottomless pit…right? We saw him dangling through a trap door. But, if you will remember, Luke’s last remarks were something to the effect of…”once again the last face you see is mine”….at which point Stavros gave a hearty laugh and then let go. Now picture this scenario….since Stavros knew the maze well, he also knew that the pit was not truly “bottomless” but had it’s own hidden escapes and Stavros is actually alive and well and plotting his next scheme to win at all costs?

  12. NLG_FF says:

    Believe it or not, myself and several other posters on one of my favorite GH boards have been speculating about this for years now. Helena has them all and one day she’ll get the storyline that will bring them all back.

    Anything to restore GH to any fraction of what it used to be!

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