The Mystery Outsider: Dynasty's Favourite Trope

Discussion in 'Dynasty' started by Michael Torrance, May 3, 2019.

  1. Michael Torrance

    Michael Torrance Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    The outsider who comes into an established power structure is a trope as old as soap operas in any medium, going back to Jane Eyre walking into Rochester’s household. Dynasty used that first with Krystle, who was (as that outsider is frequently meant to function) the viewer’s perspective into that world. While the pattern was obviously borrowed from Pamela Barnes going into the Ewing pit of vipers, Dynasty upped the ante: Pam was at least in love and secure in the arms of her knight-in-boots-and-saddle Bobby. Krystle was still in love with another man, and Blake was anything but a knight: he was manipulative and passive aggressive and, in the end, outright aggressive when he raped her. When Krystle confronted Joseph or Fallon, we were identifying right with her since the haughty inhabitants of the majestic mansion were alien figures to the audience—much unlike the Ewings, who--other than J.R.--were not that different from common Texas folk. Krystle was an outsider in ethics as well, and for the first two seasons her status survived—Alexis was able to push her buttons exactly because Krystle knew how precarious her position was in the household. Her eventual ally, Steven, was himself pretty low on the Blake Carrington totem pole. Krystle’s mystery was the present: how would each day unfold in this tinderbox she called home?

    The next outsider was Alexis. She was cut from a different cloth: this time, it was she who was the snake who wanted to creep back into the garden. Her perspective was not our perspective--especially when she was shooting at pregnant women or slapping Cecil to kingdom come during a heart attack. Instead we were voyeurs, very much playing Joseph’s role which she herself deliciously described in their encounter in the studio. Alexis once upon a time belonged in the Denver high society—nay, she defined it—but her fall from grace also gave her a precarious position, not unlike Krystle. She needed someone to use as a social ladder: her children, or her ex-husband, or eventually (and successfully) her ex-husband’s business rival. Alexis’s mystery was the past: what was she doing all these years with her trust fund money in these hotels she name-dropped and having the social adventures whose clippings Joseph kept? The show initially used bits and pieces (like Rasheed Ahmed) to demonstrate that her past was quite the fertile field to explore and a ground for plots to sprout from.

    The third such successful mystery outsider was Michael Torrance: he came and claimed to be Adam Carrington, but he had too much fun at Fallon’s expense at their initial mutual attraction. Because the show had given us an objective POV when Kate Torrance told him he was Adam, we had no reason to doubt him. But what it meant to be Adam Carrington was an unknown: we knew Fallon and Steven right away. But Adam sided with Alexis against Blake on the basis on a single encounter with each, flashing his unpredictable nature. Alexis showed her dangerous side with the rifle, but then the writers decided they did not want to go to that well too often, yet with Adam it was one dastardly deed after another, from toxic compound mixing to raping the majordomo’s daughter to framing his mother for acts he committed. The mystery with Adam was not, like Alexis, the past, but the future: what else would he do? How far would he go and what would he be able to get away with?

    The show tried to mimic the success of this trio of mystery outsiders with other characters, most notably Dominique Deveraux, Amanda, Daniel Reece, Caress, and Ben. However, there was not as much of a rich story behind them or in their future, and so it was easy for all of them to eventually disappear. Even though some of them were promising, like Amanda, the mystery was shattered: her past was dealt in a single scene, and we learned quickly who she was, and what she could do (whine and lust after mommy’s husband). Amanda, as a Carrington offspring, had the most potential to recapture the essence of the first three mysterious outsiders, but by then the show was too focused on plot rather than character.

    Not so accidentally, the show returned successfully to this trope in season nine, with Sable. This time the mystery outsider was a trickster on the audience, playing with their supposed knowledge of the character and turning it on its head. Viewers thought they knew Sable from "The Colbys," yet early on in the show she started subverting expectations. Could she have been the one who hired the man who endangered Sammy Jo? Low and behold, she was. Was it possible for calculating Sable to really not have an agenda when she befriended Krystle? Turns out, she didn’t. Could she and Jeff ever be nice to one another? Thanks to Adam and Alexis (and a juicy paternity secret), the answer was, under circumstances, yes. In fact, Sable was a bit of every other mystery outsider we had met: like Krystle, she was trying to find her place in the Carrington and Denver structure. Like Alexis, she was an ex who had been exiled from a life and husband she still desired and with, as it turned out, a past we did not know. And like Adam, we knew who Sable was, but we couldn’t be sure what she would or would not do.
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2019
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  2. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    Was Claudia also an outsider inside the Carrington mansion?
     
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  3. Michael Torrance

    Michael Torrance Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    I was thinking of Claudia and Steven and what kind of outsiders they were, and I did consider them. They seem to me outsiders that threaten to destabilize the norms of the whole world the show was portraying, not just the Carringtons. How do you deal with a woman who defies the traditional representations of mental illness? How do you deal with a gay man in a very patriarchal, heteromacho universe? I do give Shapiro a lot of credit for creating them, but I understand why she eventually neutralized them by pairing them up. Suddenly Claudia had a very predictable script, the cheating wife, and so did Steven, with the guy in love with his employer's (and kinda friend's) wife. Before that was set in motion, the scene in the library with Emily Dickinson's poetry was not just novel for a soap or drama at the time, but frankly for any network programme.
     
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  4. Ked

    Ked Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    How about Sammy Jo, and Sean Rowan?
     
  5. Michael Torrance

    Michael Torrance Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    Do you consider them a mystery for the audience in their initial appearances?
     
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  6. Ked

    Ked Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    No, I was curious if you'd have something genius to say about them, much like how you did about Krystle, Alexis, Adam and Sable. :D
     
  7. Michael Torrance

    Michael Torrance Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    I feel this is a case where I should keep silent, and let Adriana's Tarot deck speak ;)

    [​IMG]
     
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  8. Ked

    Ked Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    Although, one might argue that Sammy Jo should have been like Adam, having her future be the mystery: what will she do next? There is that old complaint that those two never teamed up. It could have been, what will THEY do next?
     
  9. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    They tried to make Kirby as mysterious as possible. There was her past (her mother, her life in Europe), her present (what's going to happen now she's back) and the future (is there a future for the butler's daughter?).
    I'd say, on paper, she was soap heaven.
     
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  10. Ked

    Ked Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    Amanda's mystery could have been a combination of Adam's and Krystle's: while her past is made clear from the start, her present (how does she fit into her new family, especially since said family has lost an important member (Fallon). Will she try to fill Fallon's shoes? What will she do to accomplish that? And when Fallon returns, how will Amanda handle it? Will she try to get rid of her sister? Will she try to reach out? Could the two *ever* become friends?) and her future (becoming increasingly erratic in Season 6, with her pursuit of modeling, waiting naked for Dex in the La Mirage sauna, having a meltdown on the catwalk, sleeping with Dex only to be caught by Alexis, getting into a car accident with Clay Fallmont, getting drunk, doing drugs, until finally she attempts suicide) uncertain.

    They even could come up with another mystery for her: at the end of Season 8, she and Steven leave Denver, with her confiding in him that she's pregnant with Jeff's child. So now the mystery is, will she end up repeating her mother's mistake, will she try to win Jeff over, how will this effect her relationship with Fallon, etc?
     
  11. Ked

    Ked Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    That's why I like her so much - or rather, what she *could* have been... which sums up why I like Dynasty so much: for what it *could* have been. :lol:
     
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  12. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    And she would accidentally drop Krystina, from the top of the stairs.
     
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  13. Michael Torrance

    Michael Torrance Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    Amanda came at a time when the show had lost interest in exploring character and only wanted to move from plot to plot, and for a mystery to work, character is key. How did Amanda grow up in London? Then after Alexis moved to Denver AND became the CEO of Colbyco, how did she feel about her (supposed) aunt? Then her inclusion in the family was instantaneous rather than have her suffer some identity crisis. Why did she never run back to London after all these crises (Moldavia, sleeping with Dex)? And her rejection by Alexis, a woman she thought as an aunt a mere 18 months ago, could have turned her to Rosalind instead of a suicide attempt.
     
  14. Michael Torrance

    Michael Torrance Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    Then in her getaway car, run over Sarah Curtis
     
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  15. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    But since Alexis kept her from Blake I can understand why he was so eager to accept his daugther. It was the opposite of Adam's situation because Alexis claimed that Blake wasn't the father.
    Or Emily Fallmont.
     
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  16. Michael Torrance

    Michael Torrance Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    Yeah, I misspoke. I don't mean how others accepted her--that was believable. I meant that she did not find herself wondering how she fit in the family, who she was now, etc. It is the same kind of identity crisis they should also have explored with Adam, but at least with him they did have other venues to explore.
     
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  17. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    It's funny what grants a show a sense of grandeur, or a sense of character development -- and what doesn't.

    Sometimes it's as little as holding the master shot for a few extra seconds, and giving the dialogue just three or four extra lines.

    [​IMG]
     
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  18. Matthew Blaisdel

    Matthew Blaisdel Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    Yes. And TWICE. Please. Just to make sure ...
     
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