Sunday, February 11, 2007

ER: Romance With a Side of Angst, Please

I'm an incredible sucker for all things angsty. Most of the time, I desperately wish that I could hate it like most other fangirls that I know. But I don't hate it. I practically thrive on it and go through painful withdrawals when everything has been perfect Skittles' rainbows and flappy, tropical rainforest butterflies with my any one of my OTPs for too long. It seems completely anti-fangirl, but most of the time I'd much rather see my OTP going through fights, emotional battles or even life & death situations. I'm a freak - I know. I just can't get enough of it. Any fangirl who's anything like me at all will surely agree that the angsty shit is what makes it all worthwhile. It keeps it interesting and provides new avenues for fluff and fuzz afterward.

Angst is quite possibly the greatest thing to hit storylines in the history of stories.

There is, of course, such a thing as too much angst. I do have a limit and a point at which it just gets either frustrating or downright fucking annoying. This is the exact reason why I never in a million years could have cared an ounce about Ryan/Marissa on The O.C. and also the reason why the first quarter of this season of Grey's Anatomy frustrated me to the point of almost turning off the TV. RyRissa was so melodramatic and every-single-week angsty that it just bored the life out of me. And the whole McDreamy/Meredith/McVet triangle went on for far too long when it was obvious to everyone who she would choose. The angst became frustrating.

But, generally speaking, I live for that stuff.

That stuff is what made me fall madly and passionately in love with ER's Carter and Abby. Everything about them screamed angst, and yet it was always (well, almost always) just the perfect amount of angst. In hindsight with all of the DVD's and TNT reruns that I've now memorized over the years, it was evident from day one; Valentine's Day of Season Six with two cups of coffee on a frozen hospital rooftop and perfectly timed banter about how to keep warm. Minutes later he was stabbed and nearly killed, which was later followed-up by Abby turning him in for abusing painkillers. Welcome to the land of star-crossed lovers and the angst that would forever haunt them. And entertain me.

Thy Will Be Done was one of their best episodes ever, yet it wasn't angsty in the least. The Letter was angsty, but only because of Mark's death - not because of Carter and Abby's feelings for one another, which were so marvelously displayed in coy stares and playful banter on the loading dock of a bar; four + minutes of conversation that are forever burned into my brain for being so damned perfect. Every time I watch that scene, a lonely tear slips down my cheek and I whisper into the wind just how desperately I love and miss Jack Orman. He created them as a couple, and no one could ever write them better. When he left, that fact became glaringly obvious.

But I digress, as I will surely find another day to talk about the wonder that was Orman. As far as Carby angst was concerned, the first moment that I truly and madly fell into fangirl love with them came not long into Season Nine after they had finally become a bonafide couple. It was the episode entitled Tell Me Where It Hurts - an episode that's title alone should have been a red flag of the angst to come - and Abby had just found out that her younger brother, Eric, was suffering from Bi-Polar disorder; the same disease that had crippled their mother throughout their lives and forever traumatized Abby's ability to believe in anything good.

Carter let himself into Abby's apartment and found her sitting on the couch, only to then walk into the kitchen where he saw an opened bottle of wine on alcoholic Abby's counter. She confessed to wanting to drink but that she hadn't. He wrapped her up in his arms and comforted her, telling her that everything would be okay in the end. Sitting down at her kitchen table, she confessed to Carter that Eric was the only person she ever had to lean on while they were growing up and dealing with this disease as it took their mother in and out of their lives. Now that Eric had the disease, too, she was terrified of being alone.

With tears in her eyes and her voice barely above a whisper, she admitted to her lover that she always felt like Eric was the only person she could ever count on. And even though it was a good five years ago or more, I still remember exactly what happened to me as I watched this scene go down.

Sitting cross-legged on my bed with a pillow hugged to my chest (routine OTP-watching placement), I saw the look in Abby's eyes as she whispered that line and I screamed at Carter through my TV, "Take the bait! She's begging for reassurance! TAKE THE BAIT!"

Carter stared her right in the eyes, never blinking, and told her that that wasn't true anymore. I smiled widely that he had listened to my advice. But then she did exactly what my own insecure ass would have done: chewed on a fingernail for a few seconds, then fragiley looked at her boy toy and said, "Promise?"

And when Carter simply continued to stare at her with this gaze of love and devotion, followed by his declaration of "I'm not going anywhere," I more or less was a goner for this thing that we all came to know as Carby. It was the beginning of a beautiful love affair with Carby angst, and I was happily along for the ride... until Africa, but I don't feel like discussing that at the moment.

I want to focus on what was so beautiful and addictive about the Carby relationship. Not only were they geniuses at banter - something I find very important in any of my couples - as well as adorably fuzzy when the opportunities to be so were present, but they were also beyond perfect at pulling off such realistic and empathetic angst. My heart always hurt along with them. I cried with them and for them every single time it was befitting.

His desperate fight to get past all of her invisible walls and finally gain the last drop of her trust was a battle I fought with him every single week. The love he had for her was so apparent, and it was heartbreaking to watch him fight so hard for what he knew was destined to be in the end. Everytime he comforted her or reassured her that she was safe with him, I fell more in love with him than ever before. Angst was what brought out the best in him as far as their romance was concerned. Abby being in trouble or being an emotional wreck was always an exciting thing for me, because it meant Carter would not be far behind with the perfect words of love and comfort. That, or an adorable post-fight make up moment was soon to come.

And as for Abby, I think I empathized with her more than anything else and found it so easy to get lost in her romance with Carter. The reason for that is quite simple: I am Abby Lockhart. I'm not an alcoholic (Yet. Technically.) and I don't have a Bi-Polar mother and brother. I don't even have a brother at all. But her emotional issues when it comes to trust and the fear of abandonment... in that sense, we are the same person. I pick fights with my boyfriends just to see how far I can push them before they give up on me and walk away. I make comments begging for reassurance veiled in either sarcasm or self-deprecation. I put them through endless psychological and emotional tests to see whether or not they'll stick around through thick and thin like they always say they will in the beginning. There was one point in Season Ten, right before I completely walked away from the show, when she had a little monologue about her inability to follow through on anything in her life because giving up is easier than failing or being disappointed. Listening to that speech, I felt like someone had ripped thoughts out of my own brain. So, needless to say, I felt very connected to her and it wasn't hard for me to see where she was coming from every time she pushed Carter's buttons.

It's possible that A Boy Falling Out Of The Sky is the most brilliant beyond brilliant example of why I love my angst so much. I'd go through a whole re-cap of it like I did for TMWIH but at this point I'm assuming you're all Carbies if you're still reading, therefore already know the basics of what happened. But anyway, the angst just built and built throughout the entire episode. I could have died in angsty heaven just in the beginning with that shadow-y hug in her hallway. However, my love affair with angst was just fed more and more as the hour went on, building up to the moment when he found her smoking her "I quit but I really didn't because I smoke when I'm stressed, just like Mae does" cigarette.

That scene alone quite possibly encompasses everything that I love about angst. It starts out calm and simple. Comforting and supportive words from him lead to self-deprecation and her trying to push his buttons yet again. He snaps, unable to deal with how much she doesn't believe in herself, and she jumps into this whole shpeal about how she's a train wreck and he's better off without her. She doesn't want him to settle for her when she feels like all she'll ever do is bring depression and trauma into his life. It's a loud, screaming battle. Most fangirls would have been terrified for their OTPs in moments like that.

I was loving every second of it.

And what did that angst get me? Why, a rooftop marriage proposal in the midst of that very same argument! How can anyone say that angst isn't the best part of any storyline? Look where it gets you!

In The Advocate, the episode that aired after Carter's aborted marriage proposal that followed the one on the roof, I was living on an angst high and was probably more in love with the show than ever before. My OTP was at a breaking point and yet they were still together, still deeply in love. The angst was thick I would have needed a Texas-sized chainsaw much like the one Leatherface used in the movie in order to cut through it all. Their fight on the street where she threw a pity-party and told him she would never be anything more than a disappointment to him? LOVE. Loved it even more because with it came the ever-expected fuzzy moment just minutes later as they came back together to embrace in an apologetic hug.

Angst was what began and, honestly, ended the life of Carby. But you can't really blame the angst for their demise. You have to blame John Wells, who I loathe and despise with every fiber of my being (and Caroline will readily agree), and you have to also blame the untimely loss of Jack Orman. I personally believe that Orman retired from the show because Wells was hell-bent on going ahead with the crazyass Congo storyline and Orman was sitting there going, "Um, dude? If you're going to do something this retarded and kill my supercouple in the process, I'm out." For that, I gotta have respect for the man. But still, you can't blame the angst. As far as the angst is concerned, it's only at fault because it carried on into the area of being so absolutely frustrating that I just couldn't even stand to watch it anymore. Knowing that Wells was at the helm didn't help either, since I was certain he would never find his brain cells and fix what he so idiotically broke.

That's why I choose to live in a world where ER ended as soon as the screen went black after Carter kissed Abby's sleeping head when he returned from Africa the first, stupid time. Although a lot of the early Season Ten angst was utterly enjoyable, it got old fast. Nothing will ever compare to what was so beautiful about them in their beginning.

I don't care what anyone says. I realize that it probably means there's something emotionally or mentally off-kilter about me that I get such great enjoyment out of depressing moments, and I assure you that my therapist would probably love to hear all about this. Still, there's just something about knowing the worst is coming that gets my blood pumping and my heart all excited for things to come.

Fuzz is all well and good, but it's meaningless without a good amount of angst thrown in from time to time to make you nervous.

That said, I'm ready to throw a party for next week's episode of Grey's Anatomy with all the angst and life/death situation issues it promises to give me. Thank Orman (or, really, Shonda) for Derek & Meredith. If I can't have my first medical-show OTP as a forever reality outside of my nostalgic mind, at least I have new replacements that are practically mirror-images of the originals when it comes to emotional angst issues.

Abby and Meredith could be sisters, ya know. They're that alike. And I couldn't possibly love it more.

One response to “ER: Romance With a Side of Angst, Please”

Anonymous said...

Every time I watch that scene, a lonely tear slips down my cheek and I whisper into the wind just how desperately I love and miss Jack Orman.

Listening to that speech, I felt like someone had ripped thoughts out of my own brain.

And that's exactly how I feel reading the above. Thank you for sharing your beautifully articulated thoughts. Sigh, they were so perfect...