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Sunday, October 30, 2016

Days of our Lives - Marlena Gets Possessed

Happy Halloween Eve!

I hope you've all gotten your costumes, bought all your candy, and stocked up on window cleaner - trust me, you might need it if you find yourself the victim of egg throwing maniacs.

This is the final Sunday in October, which means that we're going to have one final SOAP SUDS SUNDAY to talk about this month.  And believe me when I say that I've saved the creepiest, scariest - and campiest storyline for last.

And, unlike many of the shows that I have talked about in this space (with the exception of "General Hospital"), this is a show that is still on the air.  It has been for over fifty years!

It's also the only daytime drama currently airing on NBC.

Yes, the show we're going to look back at is "Days of our Lives".  At one point, the show was aired in a daytime drama block which once included shows like "The Doctors", "Santa Barbara", "Another World", "Sunset Beach", and "Passions", but as of 2016 it is the last one standing.  But I can see why that is.  It can be argued that the fan base for "Days of our Lives" is huge.  Many of the fans of the series are extremely loyal to it and each weekday they tune in to see what escapades the residents of Salem will face.

Over the last few years though, "Days of our Lives" has been one of the shows that forces its viewers to believe the unbelievable.  And certainly the storylines that have screened on the soap are anything but believable.  How can the victims of a serial killer storyline be alive and well and trapped on an island?  How many times can Stefano DiMera come back from the dead?  How the hell many characters can Eileen Davidson play on that series at the same time (and how did she not drop dead of a coronary during that time)?

I think the most controversial and most talked about storyline that took place on that show was the one that I'll be talking about today - one that is most definitely appropriate for Halloween.

Here's the kicker.  I didn't watch this show when this storyline aired, so I'm going to be using a lot of visual props for this one.  Truth be told, they could probably tell the story better than I ever could.

Back in the mid-1990s, the decision was made by then head writer James E. Reilly (the man behind "Passions") to create a story in which a main character was possessed by the devil, and did some very strange and evil things to everybody around them.  The show would borrow heavily from films like "The Exorcist", "The Omen", and other horror classics in order to tell the story.

Now, if a devil possession story seems bizarre - keep in mind that the man in charge of this storyline also created the show that featured a talking doll, a witch, and an orangutan as main characters.  Suddenly doesn't seem all that strange, does it?

The unlucky victim was Dr. Marlena Evans, a psychiatrist in Salem played by Deidre Hall off and on since 1976.  And the storyline began playing out in late 1994 when Marlena went to Louisiana to find John Black - a man whom she had been having a romantic relationship with and who was the father of her youngest child, Belle.  Unfortunately for Marlena, she also discovered trouble in the form of Stefano DiMera, who more or less was the personification of evil.  Think of him as the Victor Newman or Alan Spaulding of "Days of our Lives" if you will.

The plot had Marlena and John finding their way back to each other and leaving Salem together, but at the cost of Marlena's marriage to Roman Brady.  But what John and Marlena didn't realize was that Stefano had also arrived in Salem and he wasn't ready to leave them alone just yet.

He managed to slip Marlena some very powerful drugs that caused her mind to snap.  As the days went on, Marlena became more and more distant from everyone she was close to and she started to become more evil.

This was right around the time in which Marlena had become possessed by the devil.  In the clip below, you can see the exact moment when the possession takes place. 

And during the course of the storyline, nobody was safe - especially not Kristen DiMera, a popular target of Marlena's devilish side.  Marlena also caused a lot of damage while possessed by the devil, even going so far as torching an entire church!

It wasn't until Easter of 1995 that the possession storyline finally ended, and it would be John Black that would ultimately banish the devil from Marlena once and for all.  At the time of the storyline, John was a priest (it would be later proven that he in fact was not a priest, but back in 1995, everyone believed that he was), and John believed that he could perform an exorcism on Marlena to get the devil out of her so that Marlena could return to her life as she knew it. 

There was a risk though.  Marlena was weakened by the devil's influence on her, and the threat of Marlena losing her life was very much real.  But as you can see in this clip, John managed to do the exorcism successfully and Marlena was saved.

It was most definitely one of the weirdest and controversial storylines that a daytime drama ever featured.  And executive producer of the show, Ken Corday actually looks back on that period with some remorse, stating that he regretted greenlighting the devil possession storyline in the first place.  However, ratings for the show went up, Deidre Hall and Drake Hogestyn certainly did their best with an unbelievable storyline, and it remains one of the most memorable daytime storylines to screen on television.

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