Evil is Easy; Nuanced is Hard — Requiem to 666 Park Avenue

I just heard that ABC is cancelling my beloved show! I can’t say I’m surprised. I lowered my expectations when they cancelled All My Children in favor of The Chew and One Life to Live in favor of something which I don’t believe is still on the air. Still, it galls me a little to lose 666 Park Avenue because I love the Dorans. I’m really going to miss those two.

Gavin and Olivia Doran are the king and queen of the Drake at 666 Park Avenue. They’re a gorgeous couple, really – my hat is off to whoever put Terry O’Quinn and Vanessa Williams together. I’d have supported any interracial couple in such a high-profile position, but this particular couple is riding high at the helm of a very well-written show.

I’m not sure where I first picked up the suggestion that Gavin is supposed to be evil. It might have been at the beginning, in the first episode, where we see him collecting on various debts owed by tenants in a supernatural way we’ve seen in TV-land before. Someone’s promised him something in exchange for musical talent. Someone else has turned to murder in exchange for more time with a deceased spouse. We get it. Gavin’s the Devil. Olivia’s not innocent – she doesn’t shrink from plans for “how we get Henry” (who moved in with the new building manager) – but Olivia’s not evil, either.

As the stories unfolded, however, I had trouble accepting Gavin as evil. I couldn’t figure out where on the moral spectrum he lived until the Halloween episode. See, he and Olivia were walking around New York, preparing for their annual Halloween party and generally looking like the Absolute Cutest Interracial Couple EVER, when she had to take a phone call. She made him carry the shopping bags, which no evil character would do in a million years, but while they were separated, someone tried to run Olivia over with an SUV. He was unsettled by the close call, but evil characters can be unsettled when some person tries to damage their property.

That night, at the party, Olivia was playing Haunted High Rise with some friends when she was abducted by wrongdoers. Okay, I thought. Now we’ll see what our evil friend Gavin is made of. The wrongdoers called to announce that they had Olivia … and Gavin capitulated. He just wanted her back at any price.

“He loves her,” I said to the cat. “He loves Olivia.” No one who’s in love like that is really evil.

Now, don’t sleep on Gavin. He has no problem pushing you down an elevator shaft if you say no to him. He will trap you on the floor between dimensions if you try to avoid the consequences of your betrayal. He will give you the ultimate Gift with a Message: the Head in a Box. In this regard, Gavin is very like the Devil we know from theology, literature, and the Charlie Daniels Band. He won’t make you do anything, but he can make you choose to do things.

But it is too easy to dismiss Gavin as evil. The purity of the relief on his face when he found Olivia, safe and sound, is just not compatible with evil. Ultimately, the two of them teamed up against kidnapper and thief Victor Shaw and gave him the Head in a Box. Olivia picked out the gift wrap, and Gavin delivered the package.

This past week, Victor, who failed to get the message from Head in a Box, told Gavin that his daughter didn’t die in a car crash. Instead, said Victor, Gavin’s daughter killed herself. Victor went on to say that Gavin was at fault for the suicide and that Olivia knew all this but wasn’t talking.

An evil person would have taken this out on Victor – who has been talking out of turn for a while now – and then taken it out on an innocent person who had nothing to do with this before visiting his wrath on Olivia. We have all seen evil people do this sort of thing on TV. We’ve even seen not-so-evil people do it.

Instead, when Olivia finds him, Gavin looks devastated, just as we would expect someone to look when his enemy drops this kind of bomb on him. Indeed, I think the worst of it for Gavin was that Olivia was keeping this a secret.

That’s not evil. That’s normal. For her part, Olivia yelled at Gavin earlier this month for keeping a secret from her. He apologized to her then. This week, she was sorry. Both times, the two of them came together as a couple and teamed up against Victor Shaw. Not only is this not standard Evil Couple behavior, it’s not even standard Soap Opera Couple behavior. I almost feel bad for Victor, but you know, most people would have stopped when they got the Head in the Box at the dinner table. Now that he’s been beaten within an inch of his life by a figment of a dead person’s imagination (you had to be there), he’s been driven to an undisclosed location to have the last of the bejesus beaten out of him.

I come back every week, wondering what these two are going to do next, and now ABC is going to cancel it, no doubt to bring us season 854 of the Bachelor or the Bachelorette or some other variant of Desperate TwentySomethings Acting Like Small Children Over Someone They Met Twenty Minutes Ago. We will not be better off for this. But at least the show will have a proper finale when the time comes. That’s enough comfort for me, until I can share the true source of my joy with you.

In the meantime, I welcome Red Box theories below.

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