Post by André DiMera on Jul 19, 2022 14:13:31 GMT -5
Beyond Salem, Chapter 2 - A Short Essay, or: Lightning Strikes Twice
Part I: A (Re-)Introduction
The Peacock original series Beyond Salem was, by all accounts, a success. While I don’t know viewing figures, it seems to have enjoyed at least some popularity, with some people, this writer included, feeling that it was as good, if not better, than the show proper. It must have been somewhat popular, as it gained a quasi-follow-up in the form of A Very Salem Christmas, a one-off 90-minute special that was, essentially, Days meets Hallmark Christmas movies. It shared some continuity with Beyond Salem, in that the set up was Will having to write a Christmas special after his article on the hunt for the Alamainian Peacock was turned into a miniseries. On the whole, it was enjoyable. Then, a few months later, it was announced that Beyond Salem would receive a full-on sequel!
There’s a popular line of thought that says that lightning never strikes the same place twice. Could that be true with Beyond Salem? Could it be as successful as the first series? What would the sequel be about? Would it continue the story of its predecessor, or be something entirely new? As it turns out, it was something new, but also something old, and it continued a story nearly forty years in the making.
Part II: Nostalgia Sells
We humans are a nostalgic race. It’s always fun to look back fondly at good times gone by. It seems that nearly every decade, there’s some form of nostalgia. The ‘70s had a wave of ‘50s nostalgia, the ‘80s had ‘60s nostalgia. Today, there’s ‘90s and (to a lesser extent) ‘80s nostalgia. This is nowhere more evident than on the TV. Within the last decade, more than a few handfuls of shows have either had their original cast reunite for a continuation, or had a remake done with an entirely new cast. Nostalgia is everywhere, including Days.
The first series of Beyond Salem wasn’t what one could arguably call overly nostalgic. Yes, the main villain turned out to be a character from the ‘80s, but apart from that, it was mostly filled with new things that, at best, made reference to old storylines. This is not the case with Chapter 2. Here, nostalgia is in full force! Almost everything about it is filled with nostalgia. The storyline is a continuation of a seemingly dropped plot thread from the ‘80s, the main villain hadn’t been seen for nearly 40 years before returning, apart from Wendy Shin and the justice of the peace, every major character had been in the show before. From returns we knew about, such as a now-adult Andrew Donovan, to surprise twists, like Megan Hathaway and Thomas Banks, of all people.
But while heaped in nostalgia, Beyond Salem, Chapter 2’s central plot is focused on two things: the three magic prisms, and the relationship between Bo and Hope. Yes, at times, the story felt a bit cheesy, but even that was right out of the ‘80s. It’s the kind of campy, fun cheese that viewers used to love back in the golden age of the program! In my short essay on the first Beyond Salem, I referred to the series as a return to form for Days, of sorts. This second chapter is even more so. It’s a high-stakes drama filled with international espionage, double-crossing, and, at its heart, love.
Part III: Tonight I Celebrate My Love
Supercouples - they are a staple of soap operas. Each soap has their own supercouple, or supercouples, with their die-hard fanbases. While, arguably, the most popular supercouple on Days is John and Marlena, my earliest memories of the show involve one of my personal favorite supercouples: Bo and Hope. It’s often said, and sometimes proven, in the show that Bo and Hope have a deep, intense connection. So much so that it defies all obstacles, no matter how large. Nowhere is this more evident than in Beyond Salem, Chapter 2. When Hope is shot by Thomas Banks, she is finally reunited with Bo in Heaven. For the first three episodes, we watch along with Bo as Hope plays a cat-and-mouse game with Harris Michaels, but finally, in the fourth episode, one of my favorite couples was reunited after far too long apart.
I understand Peter Reckell’s reasons for leaving the show years ago, and I get that previous attempts to recast Bo haven’t gone over well. However, that didn’t help my disappointment when, in the 50th anniversary year of Days, the main plot was watching Bo be tortured for a month, spend a few days escaping, return to Salem, kill Hope’s new husband (who, though he had been up until this point a genuinely good person suddenly became evil because…reasons), then die in Hope’s arms two weeks later. I’m glad we got to see Bo again, but it just felt like a letdown after how heavily Bo’s return had been promoted. Beyond Salem, Chapter 2 rectifies that. Here, Bo and Hope are front and center, and though they’re only onscreen together for one episode, that was perfect. The whole of their scenes in Episode 4, Extra Life, are captivating. Peter Reckell and Kristian Alfonso still have the same chemistry they’ve always had, and it was amazing to see them together again. I must admit, I teared up when they danced to their song one last time.
The heart of this series is Bo and Hope. It reunites them, then separates them again, but this time with the promise that they will be reunited again, rather than just leaving things in limbo. As mentioned above, their love defies all obstacles, even, it would seem, death. When Bo sacrifices his second chance for Hope so she can return to the living world, she’s told that she won’t remember anything of her experiences in Heaven. Apparently, her and Bo’s love defies even that, because Hope does have an, albeit vague, memory of her heavenly dance with Bo. Love is a major theme in soap operas, but it’s not always romantic love. Sometimes, it’s about the love of family. Throughout the series, we’re told about Paul’s relationship with his father, John. We’ve seen that relationship on the show proper, and for much of the first episode of this series, and it is a great relationship! One of the many soap opera tropes is love conquering all, even brainwashing. Normally, though, that’s more of a romantic type of love. Here, however, we see how strong the bond between a father and son can be. When John is brainwashed to be the Pawn (he’s never called that, but he uses the same mannerisms he does whenever he plays the Pawn), despite protests to the contrary, he’s unable to cause Paul harm. While Steve is cured of his brainwashing through medication, John doesn’t appear to receive such treatment, and it’s heavily implied that his and Paul’s bond is so strong that it broke him of his brainwashing. It was beautiful to see.
Part IV: The Kristen (and others) Problem
Days of Our Lives has a bit of a Kristen problem. Through no fault of the actors who portray her, Kristen has become almost completely unlikeable. In her original one, Kristen was a nuanced, complex character. She was a character willing to do nearly anything to get her own way, but had a soft spot, as well. Though she wasn’t necessarily a good person, she wasn’t necessarily bad. She was like Vivian Alamain but less out there, you knew what she was doing was wrong, but she was so charming while doing evil that you couldn’t help but like her. However, with each of her subsequent returns, Kristen has devolved into a crazy person who does evil for the sake of being evil, and not in a fun way like her brother/cousin André. She has long crossed over the line of being redeemable. I use the André comparison for a very important reason: by and large, the show does not want us to side with André, whereas with Kristen, it kind of does. In more recent years, even when doing terrible things, the show almost wants us to have sympathy for Kristen, which is really hard to do when the only remorse she shows for the evil she’s done is hollow at best. Her sister Megan, also, never shows remorse, but again, we’re not being asked to side with Megan. André and Megan are fully committed to being evil, whereas Kristen waffles back and forth between being evil and making just barely halfhearted attempts at being good. You may be wondering, dear reader, why I’m bringing up Kristen in an essay about a miniseries that has nothing to do with Kristen. And you have a very good point. I bring her up because, for a hot minute, it looked as if she would play a major role in the series.
As it turns out, that was a red herring, and I have never been happier to be proven wrong. I audibly cheered when the disguise was taken off to reveal that “Kristen” was really Thomas Banks, Susan’s identical brother. I love Eileen Davidson, she is a fantastic actress, but I like her other characters a LOT more than Kristen. The Banks quadruplets are a fun set of characters; and seeing two of them in the space of five episodes was great! Thomas Banks is such a mysterious character. He’s implied to have mob connections, is clearly an assassin for hire, and just has a generally creepy vibe about him, which John and Steve pointed out on meeting him. He also has the least amount of screentime of any of the Banks quads, having been in (maybe) a week’s worth of episodes in the ‘90s, and now four episodes of Beyond Salem. But I think that helps add to the intrigue of the character. His other identical sister, Sister Mary Moira, is just hilarious! Be it smacking her brother’s hand with a ruler, dragging Sami away by the ear, or having Vivian and Ivan scrub the floors of the church as penance for their sins, Eileen Davidson always brings her all as Sister Mary Moira. After the fake-out of the first Beyond Salem, it’s nice to see the real Sister Mary Moira here!
The only other issue I really had with the series comes in the form of the one new main character: Angela, Bo’s guardian angel. Yes, she was a little helpful during the latter half of the series, but for the most part, she was just kind of annoying. I’m sure she was intended to be, and the actress did a great job of portraying her, but apart from her more helpful moments, most of her scenes really grated on me. I almost wondered at one point if she was going to end up being a secondary villain to try to stop Bo from leaving, but I’m glad they didn’t go that route. Honestly, though, if Angela is my biggest problem, I’d say the series is in pretty good shape.
Part V: To Be Continued?
And so we come to the end of Beyond Salem, Chapter 2. The original ended with the villains taken care of, the Alamanian Peacock restored, and everyone headed back their own ways. Chapter 2, however, ends on a major cliffhanger.
Megan has the three prisms, Hope is trying to track her down, Bo is alive again. There are so many unanswered questions! Where will this go from here? Personally, I can see two options. One, it’s continued in the main series. This would be my preferred solution, as it would be great for the fanbase at large to be able to see more Bo and Hope, plus Megan is a much more compelling villain than her stepsister. The other option would be either Beyond Salem, Chapter 3, or some other kind of miniseries. The fact that Beyond Salem even got a second season tells me that it’s been well-received. In many ways, Beyond Salem is almost better than the show proper. It’s full of interesting ideas, nods to history, great acting by all, great writing, and compelling stories. So maybe it would be better if the story of Bo, Hope and Megan were to continue in a miniseries.
What’s to come next? Who’s to say? Only time will tell. Until then, Beyond Salem, Chapter 2 was a great success! Possibly even more so than the first chapter. Lightning did strike twice! Here’s to many more!
Fantastic analysis, André DiMera. I love how you tied the past to the present and pointed out specific characters, like Kristen as played by the two different actresses. It was also very clever to name your sections in the same vein the episodes were named. Very impressive write-up!
Post by wildheartashley on Jul 28, 2022 15:34:56 GMT -5
Wonderful analysis. It was great to see your take on Beyond Salem. Reading your words makes me want to go back and rewatch it. I only wish that Peacock would implement video description as part of accessibility for their original programming. I know that I’ve missed many visuals from this series,and I know that it does not fully effect how I view the show, but I definitely would love to have a soap opera that is available on a streaming app to be audio described. Lack of audio description is the only down side, but that does not change my love for Beyond Salem,and how much I enjoyed watching it. I just wish that I could have some of those visual aspects explained to me. I do hope that we get a third installment.
Post by André DiMera on Mar 23, 2023 0:11:07 GMT -5
Following the returns of Megan, Bo, Hope, Harris, Paul and Andrew, I did the same, fluffysmom. It's great to see everyone again, and get a refresher on the storylines! I'm so glad it's finally been tied in with the show proper!