franco liz GENERAL HOSPITAL - The Emmy-winning daytime drama "General Hospital" airs Monday-Friday (3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. GH19(ABC/Todd Wawrychuk)ROGER HOWARTH, REBECCA HERBST
Credit: ABC

With whom should Roger Howarth’s latest character be paired? 

Look, we’re soap opera fans, which makes us, by nature, matchmakers. The moment a new character appears on screen, we start speculating as to whom they’ll wind up with. Sometimes, it’s obvious from the start. In other cases, the writers opt to do a little bit of “chemistry testing” by playing the new arrival with various characters in order to figure out with whom they’ll work best.

So by the time Roger Howarth’s Austin had jogged out of the woods just in time to help Maxie deliver her baby, we‘d already been racing to figure out with whom he might be paired. Some viewers immediately went with the theory that the first character a newbie crosses path with is the one they’re destined to love.

But then, an injured Austin was taken to General Hospital, where he crossed paths with Franco’s widow, Elizabeth.

GH Liz austin first meet howarth herbst screenshot

Already, we assumed that Howarth’s new character is not a Franco lookalike. Were that the case, Maxie would at some point have commented on her rescuer’s uncanny resemblance to the reformed killer (and her onetime lover). And yet, for just a moment, when Liz and Austin locked eyes, we wondered if perhaps we sensed something, a spark, a flicker.

Which got us thinking… do we really want to see a romance between Austin and Elizabeth, or would that have a “been there/done that” feeling to it? After all, if the show simply intended to pair Rebecca Herbst and Roger Howarth’s characters again, what was the point in killing off Franco?

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The assumption is that Franco’s death helped set the stage for Peter’s long-overdue downfall. However, that same outcome could have been achieved had the men’s encounter left Franco critically as opposed to mortally wounded. Cameron and Elizabeth would still have plenty of motive to become murder suspects should Peter’s recent fall down the stairs prove fatal.

Therefore, it seems logical that Franco’s death was designed to clear the way for Austin, a new character who will presumably forge new relationships. Having him simply fall for Elizabeth would be like retelling a story they’ve already told. (The one big difference? Austin not having the serial-killer baggage Franco’s been lugging around might make it easier for some fans to accept him as a romantic lead.)

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Rather than simply hoping lightning will strike twice, we’re hoping that the writers will play Howarth’s latest alter ego around the canvas a bit to see with whom he sparks. There’s also the possibility that Austin’s life — about which we so far know very little — already contains a significant other.

What do you think, General Hospital fans? Do you already have an idea of with whom Austin should be paired, or are you waiting to find out more about the newbie before trying to find him a soulmate? Before defending your stance (or trashing ours) in the comments section, use the gallery below — in which we look back at the various characters and storylines Howarth has played in Port Charles — to refresh your memory of what came before.