[Jan. 17, 2014 — Follow-up and update: ‘Sonny Skies’ ...]
In the U.K., “to revise” means “to study” and in the U.S., “to revise” means “to reconsider or change.” In revising this post, I kept BOTH definitions in mind.
Plow through. You need to read the next couple of paragraphs before I get to the point.
THE PLOT — In a nutshell, here’s a front burner plotline from the NBC serial drama, Days of our Lives: Sonny Kiriakis and Will Horton meet and fall in love. Right before they get together, Will sleeps with his high school girlfriend, Gabi, and she becomes pregnant. Will and Sonny break up, then they get back together. Gabi meets and marries ex-con Nick Fallon. Nick conspires to blackmail Will into giving up his parental rights to Gabi’s baby. Nick is blatantly hostile to Will and Sonny and uses extremely homophobic language around them.
Will and Sonny follow Nick and Gabi and a suspicious third person to an island (off of the mythical shoreline of Salem?) and realize that they are being kidnapped. Creating a ruse, Sonny draws their kidnapper, Jensen, from a shack. Sonny and Will come back and Sonny leaves with a very pregnant Gabi. Will tries to untie Nick, fails, and is shot by the returning Jensen.
Sonny delivers Gabi’s baby (during scenes both poignant and hilarious — Smith is a gifted comedian). Hope Brady, a cop, bursts into the shack and kills Jensen. Gabi and Will are airlifted to the hospital in separate choppers. Will’s life is saved. Gabi’s baby lives. We learn that Jensen repeatedly beat up and raped Nick in prison. Nick is sorry for everything he did to Sonny and Will and makes the hospital put Will’s name on the birth certificate. Will meets his daughter. May sweeps ends.
How’s that for typical soap opera plotting?
THE POINT — But, here’s the thing: I have watched these scenes over and over again. Why? Because I think Chandler Massey (Will), Freddie Smith (Sonny) and Blake Berris (Nick) may just be the finest trio of young actors on television.
They are all powerhouse performers. Berris, who plays the often malevolent, borderline sociopathic and ultra-intelligent Nick Fallon, and Massey, who plays the tortured Will Horton, forever trying to overcome his upbringing at the hands of his manipulative and inept parents, get the majority of the attention, but for my two cents, it’s been Smith who has shone the brightest recently.
Massey, who won an Emmy for this role last year is a favorite to take it again this year, but two things may work to thwart him. One, the television Academy tends not to award the same performer in the same role in sequential years and two, this year Smith is nominated opposite him. It may be Smith’s time to shine, even though I do think Massey had the stronger reel. Still I’m rooting for Smith. If he doesn’t walk away with the statue this year, he certainly has the reel to submit for next season’s Emmys based on his recent performances.
It’s hard to play the “White Knight,” but Smith is astonishingly good at it. Since the character was SORASed and reintroduced in June 2011, Sonny has emerged as a genuine good guy. He’s intelligent, confident, loyal, has a conscious and just a touch of a swagger. He is also completely in love with the flawed Will Horton, whom he never doubted was the right choice, in spite of plenty of doubt seeded by his own mother, among others.
The thing that I find so refreshing about Smith’s characterization is that Sonny could very easily be portrayed as someone who is unbelievably too good, but Smith adds the right amount of self-deprication into his performance that it works.
Last week, as Will recovered from gunshot wounds, Smith delivered a series of soliloquies at Will’s bedside that were masterstrokes of both writing and acting. There’s a refreshing realism to Smith’s performance. He makes you believe that Sonny Kiriakis really exists. You can’t watch those scenes and not understand how much he loves Will Horton. That’s not only a breath of fresh air, it’s pretty much the definition of superlative acting.
In November, TV Guide noted, “While it took 45 years for the show [DOOL] to introduce it first openly gay character (Sonny) and another year and a half to find him a male partner (Will) the wait was well worth it. This steamy, star-crossed saga has had its drama to spare (Paranoia, Blackmail, Impossible Parents!), but its success lies in the fresh easy charm of these young men.”
I agree with that. I also stand by my original thesis, that this is a hackneyed plot, but the aftermath, with Nick, Gabi, Will and Sonny dealing with the aftereffects of Nick’s prison rape, may prove an interesting twist. I only hope the writing remains excellent for the duo and that Will and Sonny have plenty of screen time in the future.
[Update: This show surprised me. Bravo. See I Do…]