Murder, They TriedBy Michael Karol Posted: May 21, 2009
On May 20, ALL MY CHILDREN finally revealed that it wasn't the hated Adam Chandler who was killed in the library with a gun (and no, this isn't Clue). Beloved, gentle, identical Stuart was mistakenly shot in Adam's place. Murders are nothing new on soaps, but AMC has a storied history, going back as far as 1992's "Who killed Will Cortlandt?" (my all-time fave) and running through 2001's killing of the lovely Princess Andrassy and the ignominious end of Dixie Martin (death by pancakes, indeed!) in 2007.
So…it was a dark and stormy night in Pine Valley. Yes, it already sounds clichéd and done to death. But there were nice touches: the unsettling, dark atmosphere; JR getting blinded by a flashlight, then splashed in the face to sober him up; the stiletto heels clicking ominously through the house; the kids (Little A and Emma) scared and alone in the bedroom; the back-and-forth editing between potential shooters before the murder; and the use of moving multiple screens as each suspect recounted what happened that night. Jesse accidentally shooting his best friend, Tad, was unexpected and moving.
There was much sneaking around, a handful of different guns in the house waiting to be used, and, of course, no lack of suspects — all of whom converged on the mansion that fateful night. What kept this from being top-notch were several big plot holes: the lack of control Jesse and his meager police force had at the murder scene; and no one seemed to care that Adam was dead or bothered to inquire after Stuart, the "victim's" brother.
• The Pine Valley police department is in dire need of additional cops and detectives. (At the very least, they should be able to borrow some from Llanview!) Jesse arrived with two cops and wasn't able to keep anyone from disturbing the murder scene, or control all the comings and goings immediately following the murder.
• Not one person in all the commotion was concerned enough to care that Adam had died. Adam is one of soapdom's greatest villains, and his "death" should've brought more serious reactions than, "He's dead? I didn't do it!"
• Finally, if Adam was murdered, doesn't it make sense that everyone might be wondering whether Stuart was okay? Stuart being absent didn't arouse anyone's suspicions. Wouldn't his son, Scott, at least, try to find Stuart, to let him know what happened?
We last saw Stuart alive when he was talking to Annie at the gates to the mansion, wearing a striped sweater. The shooting victim wore a tuxedo, more of an Adam look, a ploy to make viewers think the dead body was Adam's. Coupled with Stuart absent but not missed or discussed during the events leading up to the murder, that can only mean one thing: The writers deliberately kept Stuart out of the way to make the final reveal a bigger surprise. It would have been more interesting to show Stuart and Adam, both in peril, but not letting the viewer know who was who. The show took the easy way out, and in the process, weakened the drama.
AMC's head writer Chuck Pratt admitted in the June 2 issue of Weekly that killing off Stuart was designed to take away the moral center of the Chandler family. Yet it seems the show's already replaced him by setting up Erica to become Adam's conscience.
Adam and Stuart were two of the longest running and most successful twin acts in soap-land. Thanks largely to their magnificent portrayer, multiple Emmy winner David Canary, they never became a soap cliché. Stuart will be missed, but Adam's still around to wreak havoc in Pine Valley.
The show didn't totally f—k it up. The bullet that hit Tad lodged in the front of his brain and affected his emotional responses and personality. Since this is a soap, we were treated to a glimpse of the "new" Tad waking up from surgery and immediately laughing hysterically and joking with everyone who came to visit. It's a welcome way of ending the sober side Tad's seen ever since Dixie's death. And the follow-up scenes with Scott (Adam Mayfield) mourning his father were more engrossing then the murder scenario itself.
On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the Will Cortlandt mystery, "Who killed Stuart while trying to kill Adam?" gets a slightly-above-average 5.5. Let's hope the "moral crises" Adam encounters prove worthy of the show having sacrificed his beloved brother.