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.
By 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) character 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 settling 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 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, the actress who has played her for the better part of two decades, Helena is just a mad, murderous meddler. If it were up to
Photo by Tommy Garrett from TV Guide
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!