A Very Salem Christmas Manages to (Mostly) Walk the Line Between Feel-Good Holiday Fare and Over-the-Top Soap Drama
With today’s release of Peacock’s Days of Our Lives: A Very Salem Christmas, we thought we’d do a special soapbox just for the film. It’s framed as a movie that Will (with a little help from Sonny) is writing about a fictionalized version of their beloved Salem at Christmastime where everyone but them are “What if?” versions of their characters. At first, I rolled my eyes at the notion of the show telling a fictional story written by a fictional character — but it works. It lets them have some fun and freedom with relationships and mix Hallmark sweetness with over-the-top drama. Read on for more, but if you haven’t seen it and want to be surprised, beware of spoilers galore! If, however, you want to get a taste of the movie that’s spoiler-free, check out our interviews with Deidre Hall (Marlena), Eileen Davidson (Kristen) and Chandler Massey (Will) and Zach Tinker (Sonny)!
First off, I’ll admit it was interesting to see the different balances between Christmas fare and soap drama that various storylines got. Gabi tripping over herself for Brady only to discover bestie Nick was her true love was a Hallmarky plotline that felt done in a soapy way. But Sami slapping the hell out of Nicole after learning Sydney was actually her daughter was pure soap. And then there were the over-the-top moments like Paulina — who was trying to shut everyone’s businesses down to take over Salem because why not? — going full Cruella de Vil and uttering, “My plans foiled by a drag show, of all things!” Girl.
Marlena and John’s storyline was, I have to say, delightful. Watching the two of them exchange longing glances and act almost shy and uncertain around each other was a wonderful change I didn’t even know I needed. It was like watching them fall in love for the first time all over again. It all made their reunion by the fire at the end feel like something fresh and beautiful just about to bloom.
Less beautiful, though, was that partner swapping between Chanel, Allie, Tripp and Johnny. Yes, we know, Chanel and Tripp were clearly wrong for each other, but to just decide to trade off for another model felt kind of icky. Still, it gave them a happy ending, I guess, and that’s what Will gave everyone — even the villains.
Cheating Kristen — who was working with Paulina the whole time! — happily traded John for Brady. Chanel forgave Paulina for trying to destroy the whole town. And hateful mom Nicole realized the error of her ways only to run into (surprise!) Eric. He beat the real one to Salem! Personally, I would’ve put some more repercussions in place, but it’s Christmas, and Will has a kinder heart than I.
- Thank God for Sonny asking the tough questions like, “Why would you include Nick and Leo??” Because let’s face it, we were all thinking that when we saw the trailer.
- Sydney turned on Nicole fast after learning Sami was really her mom. She apparently had zero feelings for the woman who raised her for… how many years? Eight? Nine? How bad a mom was Nicole?
- The framing story mostly worked, but Will’s “Oh shoot, I forgot I was supposed to write a movie by midnight tonight for this network, let me bang one out” was a stretch for what was supposed to be the “realistic” part of the movie. From one writer to another… no.
- Can I just say that I like this Sami more than current Sami? This one shared a reunion with EJ that was sweet and felt earned. Regular-show Sami is stalking EJ, declaring she won’t ever let him go. Yikes.
- Paulina refusing to learn a new assistant’s name and calling Leo “Mary” the whole movie could have been cringeworthy, but I couldn’t help but laugh because it was clear everyone was in on the joke.
- That drag show/strip show was a blast. My first thought on realizing they were putting the boys in drag again was apprehension that they were just throwing the gays in the same situation as before. (Mind you, I do love my drag shows.) But you could tell they worked hard on the production, and everyone, including the cast in the audience, genuinely seemed to be having fun with it.
So what were your thoughts on A Very Salem Christmas? Did you love it or hate it? Let us know below, then as you bask in the glow of a kinder, Satan-free Marlena, keep those good feelings going as you take a look back at a gallery going through the life and loves of “Doc.”
<p>After Dr. Marlena Evans hung her shingle at Salem’s University Hospital in 1976, her romance with attorney Don Craig hit a snag when her jealous twin sister Samantha stole first her identity, then her man. Though Marlena eventually was able to reclaim both — <em>and</em> forgive Samantha — her subsequent marriage to Don couldn’t survive the death of their newborn, DJ.</p>
<p>Marlena was having a blast hosting her own radio show — that is, until she started receiving calls from the Salem Strangler. On the plus side, the danger in which she suddenly found herself introduced her to new love Roman Brady (then Wayne Northrop), the detective assigned to protect her. On the minus side, before the murderer was stopped, he mistook Samantha for Marlena and killed her!</p>
<p>Although the arrival in Salem of Roman’s estranged wife Anna briefly put a crimp in his and Marlena’s wedding plans, they finally managed to exchange vows in February of 1983. But the honeymoon was cut tragically short when, not a year later, the groom was (cough) fatally shot by the nefarious Stefano DiMera.</p>
<p>While trying to help an amnesiac going to the name John Black recover his memory, Marlena became convinced that he was Stefano… and then Roman… and then Samantha. Just kidding about that last one. Once she settled on Roman, the “widow” remarried the man that she believed was the husband that she’d promised to love until death did them part.</p>
<p>After “dying” with all the finality that Roman had, Marlena was reunited with the fellow that she still believed was her true love, only to have the real McCoy turn up alive and well courtesy of — who else? — Stefano. Torn, Marlena recommitted herself to Roman but had so much trouble resisting John that… Well, ladies and gentlemen, that’s how Belle came to be.</p>
<p>On the contrary, it went <em>down</em> in 1995, the year that Stefano’s messing with Marlena’s mind laid out an unintentional welcome mat for a demon to come on in and stay awhile. Thankfully, John was a priest at the time — what? It could happen! — and was able to prescribe the possessed an “exorcise” program that sent the devil packing straight back to hell.</p>
<p>In the late 1990s, everyone who was anyone tried to keep apart Marlena and John, from a “dying” Roman (as if) to John’s new squeeze, conniving Kristen DiMera, to his angsty teenage son, Brady. But, as it always does, love won, leading to the supercouple’s first marriage — with each of them knowing who the other was, anyway.</p>
<p>Marlena couldn’t have guessed when she once again took over her duties as the Frasier Crane of Salem radio how much she’d tick off her predecessor’s fans. One in particular, Hattie Adams, just happened to bear so striking a resemblance to the doc that a little plastic surgery was all it took for her to pull a Samantha and swipe her life.</p>
<p>Even more shocking than the way that the Salem Stalker laid waste to the town’s population was the reveal that Marlena, of all people, was the culprit. Except, of course, that she wasn’t really. She’d been brainwashed by Andre DiMera and, in fact, hadn’t killed anyone: Her friends and loved ones were still alive and well on Melaswen, the island replica of Salem (whose name was New Salem spelled backwards).</p>
<p>Over the years, Marlena fought to get past one roadblock (crazy Dr. Charlotte Taylor) after another (John’s paralysis) after another (his marriage to “Princess Gina”/Hope Brady) to build a life with the man she loves. But even <em>she</em> was ready to throw in the towel when she learned that he’d attempted to seduce old flame Kristen (then Eileen Davidson) in hopes of busting up her relationship with Brady.</p>
<p>Even after Stefano <em>died</em>-died, he wasn’t done with the object of his obsession. Henchman Wilhelm Rolf implanted in Steve Johnson his master’s “essence,” thereby allowing him — at least for a time — to continue to pursue Marlena from beyond the grave.</p>
<p>When the devil booked a return trip to Salem, he couldn’t resist making a pit stop in his favorite host body long enough to partake in some avant-garde tree-trimming on his way to possessing Ciara and Ben Weston’s baby, Bo. Because what demon’s endgame <em>isn’t</em> a plane full of creamed spinach headed for the hangar and a mild case of diaper rash?</p>
<p>No sooner had Satan been sent back to hell than Orpheus, partaking in every supervillain’s favorite pastime, sought revenge on John, Steve and Roman by kidnapping and drugging their lady loves, Marlena, Kayla Brady and Kate Roberts. Once they were rescued and cured, everyone thought that that was the end of it. But then Kate died. And so did Kayla. And… uh-oh.</p>
<p>Since Kristen withheld the orchid that would’ve saved Orpheus’ victims, Marlena was ushered by the bouncer at the pearly gates straight into the afterlife. Which, as has been well-documented, looked like a White Party that was attended by the cast of <em>The Walking Dead.</em></p>
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