Ashland victor adam nikki mashup
Credit: Howard Wise/JPI

This wasn’t manslaughter, murder or an accident. It was character assassination.

From the beginning, viewers probably sensed that something wasn’t quite right about The Young and the Restless‘ Ashland Locke. They’d been told for months that he was a ferocious man who was notorious for destroying his rivals. Frankly, we got chills as we anticipated the way he — and original portrayer Richard Burgi — would shake up Genoa City.

In particular, we looked forward to seeing Ashland lock (pun intended) horns with Victor, who hasn’t had a decent rival for years. (Sorry, Jack, but it’s true.) Better still, thanks to a backstory which found Kyle having secretly fathered Ashland’s supposed son, the new guy in town would clearly be gunning for both the Newman and Abbott families!

Ashland, Victor sign Y&R

Initially, we hoped Burgi’s Ashland would give Victor a run for his literal money.

Credit: CBS screenshot

This, we told ourselves, was gonna be good.

Better still, it would be exactly the kind of excitement that Young & Restless needed, having gotten bogged down in plots that went nowhere and storylines that seemed determined to skirt drama.

But somewhere along the lines, things went terribly awry.

Ultimately, it turned out that the so-called Locke-ness monster was more bark than bite… and heck, he didn’t even bark all that much. Instead of crafting some master plan to take down Victor and his company, the guy lied about having cancer (a tough road for any character to come back from). Rather than destroy Kyle  for having slept with his wife, Ashland wound up handing Harrison over to his biological father.

Every time it seemed as if the show might finally be taking Ashland in an interesting direction, they instead neutered the character. The situation wasn’t particularly helped when Burgi — having unintentionally violated the show’s COVID-related protocols — was let go and replaced with Robert Newman.

Though a much-loved vet thanks to his years as Guiding Light‘s Josh, Newman never felt like a solid fit here, perhaps because Ashland had, by this point, become so ill-defined. Was he a formerly bad man whose love for Victoria had transformed him? A good man who had used questionable tactics?

Ashland Victoria escalate Y&R

“You don’t even know how to do the hand jive? And you say I’m unworthy of love?!?”

Credit: CBS screenshot

More: Read Robert Newman’s farewell message

Time and again, the show seemed on the verge of making good use of Ashland only to backtrack. Might he team with Diane and together fight against the all-powerful Newmans? Would Adam, once again on the outside of the Newman family looking in, harness Ashland’s anger and unleash it upon the clan? Heck, might Victoria do what she and her siblings have long threatened and actually break free of Victor’s stranglehold

Adam, Ashland sign agreement Y&R

“Listen, Ashland, a little death never stopped anyone. Just ask Diane. Or Victor. Or me. Or… well, I think you probably get the point.”

Credit: CBS screenshot

More: The one thing Shemar Moore (ex-Malcolm) won’t do

Instead, it now appears that Ashland is simply… gone. Hopefully, the fact that Nick had a seemingly-fatal fight with the man who conveniently wound up in a fatal car crash only hours later will lead to an exciting storyline in the weeks to come. But having sat through one payoff-free storyline (Mariah’s kidnapping) after another (Amanda’s family drama), we’re skeptical.

What’s perhaps most frustrating is how many stories there were to tell with Ashland, a character the canvas badly needed. Even his exit could have been used to kick off a major murder mystery instead of what appears to be a rehash of the storyline in which J.T.’s death was covered up. Does this mean we should expect Ashland, like Victoria’s previous ex, to rise from the grave, go after the Newman’s and wind up dead again?

As we wrote earlier this week, Young & Restless is in desperate need of a strong villain who can both liven and shake things up. Ashland could — and, based on how he was sold, should — have been that. Hopefully next time, the writers will have a better idea where they’re going before allowing dialogue to make promises that the character, once introduced, can’t keep.

As we say farewell to Ashland, why not look back at his and Victoria’s epic — and, ultimately, tragic — love story.