Ode to Joy and Natalie Banks
As we wind down, I'd been planning to do some character sum-ups as we start to say goodbye to them as characters. As there are no perfect people on this show (thankfully!), I'll try to remember the bad along with good, but it's way more fun to focus on the good. Unfortunately the holidays happened and I broke my stupid foot and life got insane, so I don't know that I'm going to be able to do it justice. However, I'd already started on Natalie and today seemed a perfect day to go ahead and celebrate her anyway because OH MY GOD HOLY CRAP Y'ALL NATALIE WAS SO AWESOME TODAY.
Now, this year has not been my favorite Natalie year. I've admittedly been very critical of the way she's been written since her decision to conceal her child's paternity during her pregnancy because I don't think it's been consistent with her character. She's a girl who misbehaves, but never because she's acting pathetic. She's never been pathetic. I love my bad girls (obviously), but this bad act and the way she's handled it since has not been "bad" for the reasons I loved this bad-girl-with-a-heart-of-gold. And considering as little as John's been willing to give her over this whole arc, it made me angry that they had her sink into trite insecurity and desperation. She's just not that weak. That said, let's not pretend I hated everything about her in this storyline. She kicked ass in the battle scenes with Marty, especially in her boots and wedding dress with a shotgun. One of my favorite moments of the year.
And now that I've made my disclaimer about my endless frustrations this year (which, like everything else, are just my opinions -- many of you may have loved the ways she's been featured in the past year and a half, and I envy that, I do!), let's move on. Let's start with the actress herself.
I saw Natalie's spicy portrayer, Melissa Archer, in the Off-Broadway play My Big Fat Italian Wedding this past winter, and while she was really only there for a night to make a special appearance and therefore wasn't given much to do, I believe it was the first time I'd ever seen her in person and she took my breath away. I'd always thought she was super-hot and, as I've expressed in these "pages" many times, got annoyed when the show seemed to downplay her looks rather than emphasize them, I got even more burned up about it then. Because until I saw her in person and was a few seats away from her, I really clearly had no idea. She is stop-traffic stunning. And not just for the reasons we already knew, but she has got killer legs on top of all her other spectacular attributes. And no, I don't just mean the most obvious spectacular attributes. Those wouldn't mean that much without everything else backing them up.
When Natalie Balsom first came on the scene in the very first part of the century (don't you love how phrasing things that way makes them seem way more monumental?), she was a terrific shake-up and a breath of fresh air. The Buchanan-Lords had turned into somewhat milquetoast sanctimonious good guys, whether we loved them or not. Sure, we had the occasional bad apple and Asa was still up to no good, but the Llanfair gang needed a little injection of energy. Jessica was a sweetie, but to what end? She didn't have much as far as tendencies to misbehave (ever necessary to drive story in a soap, lest one become a bland damsel-in-distress) and she'd been brought up well with love and generosity (ahem, before the rewrite that resulted in Jess' D.I.D.). Viki had her brother Todd's never-ending drama to deal with, but she'd turned mostly into an advice-giver. The wise lady on the sidelines. Sure, she was married to Ben, but I'll confess that I never enjoyed that relationship at all, so I needed something new.
Now those of us, very much including myself, who remember Viki's entire pregnancy with Jessica as well as the birth itself might have been pissed off at this pretty egregious retroactive continuity. I had mixed feelings at first. I loved the possibility, but I hated the retcon. I remember the moment Viki played that guessing game with Clint to tell him she was pregnant like it was yesterday, it was one of the sweetest moments the soaps could offer up. How dare they taint that? But as I always say, no matter how ridiculous a soap story is, if the aftermath is excellent then the payoff can make the bad rewrite worth it. (Cases in point: Irene's alive! Plastic surgery! Todd and Victor are twins!...but that's okay because it gave us the Two Todds. Jessica was abused and molested! Viki was Niki, like all the time when Jess was a toddler even though we saw those years on screen and it didn't happen!...but that gave us Jessica's split personalities and.... nope, that didn't make it okay because it wasn't worth it. The list goes on under pros and cons.)
Natalie came to town to cause trouble and she did it. But once she saw what a family full of love really looked like and once she realized there may be enough love there for her too, everything turned around. She didn't know how to be loved unconditionally (which is why every time she screws up she's always certain her family will turn their backs on her even though they never do) and she didn't know how to stop acting out. But when Viki loves you? She won't let you reject it.
It was one hell of an introduction story that breathed new life into the show and into two of its core families. I've loved the evolution of her relationship with Roxy, too. And Clint! Remember when they first met? Such goodness.
Since then she's been part of two of my very favorite couples on this show. I totally dorked out about Natalie and Cristian. I'm still bitter that they split them up when he came back from the dead, really. (In fact, I still hadn't let go earlier this year. Oops!)
And then Natalie and Jared? I resisted them at first, in part because they just plain weren't Natalie and Cristian, but also in part because... well, the beginning was kind of incest-y. But then I got sucked in. Hook, line, and sinker. And then they just ripped our hearts out. Oof.
Now admittedly, John and Natalie somehow never worked for me. I know they're a massively popular pairing and so my commentary on the couple is... not everyone's favorite, shall we say? To me they always felt a little stiff (and considering the sparks she had with Cris and Jared, it irked), and when you add to that the fact that John is always passive in relationships, it put Natalie in a position of always being somehow too needy. A trait I just did not buy or like in her. But I'll say this now that we're near the end: they certainly have built the anticipation. It was a good move to finally have him pining away a bit. And for a pairing I was never crazy about? I can't wait for their reunion.
But today? Today she rocked. Mitch is probably my all-time favorite soap villain and I've always enjoyed that fiery, seething hate between Mitch and Nat (Mitch's "I love tangling with you, girl" today was so wrong and so damn right). And she got to be such a bad-ass today!
He had the nerve to disparage Jared. Mistake.
And then he had the nerve to threaten her child.
And really, kudos to both Melissa Archer and Roscoe Borne today because these were some seriously good fight scenes. Disturbing to watch. I felt kind of dirty at my own joy. But if that's wrong, I don't want to be right (not that that's new).
Now I know about three million other totally huge amazing awesome spectacular things happened in today's kickass episode (OMG Todd and Blair! Cole recast with adorable Broadway dude Van Hughes! Troy and Nora! Prison breakout! Clint being awesome!) and I'll get around to all that eventually, but today was Natalie Day here.
So what do you guys think? Did you love how bad-ass she was today? What was your favorite Natalie pairing? What do you see Melissa Archer doing next?
Eight episodes to go, y'all. It hurts like hell.