Death is one of the hardest things to deal with, in real life and on soap operas.
Days of Our Lives has always gotten a lot of mileage out of funerals, but sometimes it's hard to take seriously because so many people come back from the dead on this show.
But after the heartbreaking news that veteran actress Peggy McKay had passed away in her sleep, the writers and actors got to work on a send-off for Caroline, and we finally got to see these scenes on Day of Our Lives during the week of 6-17-19.
In many ways, Caroline's goodbye scenes showcased everything that keeps viewers loyal to Days of Our Lives after more than 50 years -- and some of the challenges NBC's only surviving soap faces today.
Days of Our Lives is at its best when it is about family relationships, and we certainly got a ton of that!
The Brady family's joy that Will survived his brain tumor and that the antidote seemed to be working quickly turned to devastation when Roman called Kim to share the good news and found out his beloved mother had passed away.
Josh Taylor and Mary Beth Evans did an extraordinary job of portraying Roman and Kayla's shock and grief. I got the sense that they -- and the rest of the cast -- were drawing on their real-life sadness over Peggy McKay's passing during these scenes.
The family was quickly assembled -- some of them, anyway -- and Caroline was given a beautiful memorial.
There were some problems, though, and many of them can be traced to the cuts in DAYS' budget over recent years.
She had a smile that could light up the room. In fact, I think it lit up the whole town.Roman
Despite Roman's statement that Caroline would have been touched by how many people attended her wake, the crowd was too small.
Some people, like Theresa and Kim, were missing because the actors were not available at the time of filming, while others were undoubtedly not there because of budget considerations.
Max and Frankie should have been there rather than sending a note, and Julie and Jennifer should have attended on the Horton side.
And certainly, if Abe was an honorary Brady, his family should have been with him at the funeral. Lani and Eli could have attended, Theo could have dialed in via video chat from South Africa, and Valerie might even have flown back for the service.
And while Theresa's absence was explained away as her needing to tend to her mother, who had just had surgery, there was no mention of her brother Andrew or why he wasn't there.
Nor was it explained why Philip stayed away when Caroline was so close to his father and Philip and Shawn Douglas were best friends growing up.
The other problem, of course, is that DAYS tapes six to eight months ahead as part of its plan to save production costs.
Caroline's death thus aired in June when the actress died the previous October, which meant fans grieved twice: once for the real-life death and once for the on-screen death eight months later.
Not only was that a long time to wait, but I had to wonder whether it would have been easier to work around the schedules of those actors who couldn't participate if the show didn't press forward at such a breakneck speed.
There are lots of reasons why this taping schedule hurts DAYS' overall quality, but this was a prime example of why it's a bad idea. I hope the producers find a different solution to the budget crunch.
Anyway, the only thing I could have done without at the wake itself was the tension between Claire and Ciara.
I was never a fan of this entire Claire as crazed killer story, but it definitely didn't need to be part of Caroline's funeral!
Besides it being a distraction from the otherwise beautiful tribute to Caroline, Ciara's reactions to Claire proved that her plan to trap her is doomed to failure.
Even though Ciara was a tough-as-nails little girl whose schemes rivaled Sami's, grown-up Ciara doesn't seem to be able to put on a poker face to save her life -- and that may be literal!
Every time Ciara got anywhere near Claire, she looked angry and made sarcastic comments that only someone as overconfident as Claire would mistake for genuinely believing her lies.
Hope and Shawn are both cops who know Ciara extremely well, so how they didn't pick up on this is beyond me!
This storyline interfered with the Will brain tumor scare storyline, too.
The day before Caroline's death was all about Will, except for Ciara and Tripp arguing about whether Claire set the fires. That was jarring and inappropriate given that the rest of the episode was entirely Will-focused.
Tripp was convinced Ben set the fires even though he questioned it when Eli said so. These scenes should have been entirely unnecessary because Tripp already knew something didn't add up about Ben getting blamed for this.
Between that and Tripp breaking up with Claire to try to catch her acting unhinged when they were already broken up, my head is spinning. Don't the writers pay attention to what's already happened when they plan each episode?
In any case, I agree with Ben that Ciara and Tripp's plan is terrible. Pushing Claire over the edge makes it highly likely she will lash out violently against Ciara and Tripp again, and nobody with any ability to stop her knows what's going on.
At the very least, why didn't Ciara bring her concerns to Rafe? She's always been close with him, he's an ex-FBI agent who is currently on the police force, and helping protect her from Claire would incidentally score some points for Rafe with Hope.
I have a bone to pick with Eve, too. She knows that Claire set the fires, but is so hellbent on revenge against Ben that she doesn't care. That is not only a bad look for the police department that she's been hired to run but is disrespectful to Paige's memory.
Eve is trying to get revenge against a man who killed her daughter and two other women...by covering for a woman who attempted to kill just as many people. How does that make sense?
And sorry, Eve, but accused criminals still have rights, though perhaps the Salem Constitution directly contradicts the U.S. one in that regard, considering how many other cases of abuse of police power are met with zero resistance.
Will's journey through the afterlife was better than I expected it to be. The spoiler that he would meet a newly-deceased Caroline in Heaven sounded silly and not respectful of Peggy McKay's death, but the opposite turned out to be true.
Using the Brady Pub as the setting for the afterlife scenes was brilliant. It was set up just foggily enough to believe it was in the clouds somewhere, and the Pub was important to both Will and Caroline.
Will was able to express his regrets about not being able to live out his happily ever after with Sonny and Ari, and using a body double to stand in for Peggy McKay so that Caroline could silently send Will home was a nice touch.
Everyone's fear and grief while waiting to see if Will was going to come out of his coma was well done, too. Especially Sami, who was at her most emotional and out-of-control because Will's fate was the one thing she could do nothing about.
Sami and Lucas looked so right together that I couldn't agree with Kate that Lucas wasn't the love of Sami's life. Lucas has a way of grounding Sami that no one else does, and Sami brings out the best in Lucas, too.
The major problem with the Will afterlife sequence is that we were treated to this less than a year ago when Marlena was the one in a seemingly irreversible coma but was really visiting Purgatory and getting encouragement from Tony to return to the world of the living.
It was fun the first time and emotional the second, but repeating the same thing over and over dilutes the strength of stories like this.
Sonny coming into Will's room with wedding cake, only to learn that Caroline had died, made up for that problem though. Those scenes were more realistic and the emotion came through more clearly.
Maggie, I love you, but Caroline was and always will be the love of my life.Victor
The best grief scenes belonged to Victor, though, as they should have.
Victor and Caroline had a long and sometimes rocky relationship. Victor had to accept her choice to raise a family with Shawn, not him, yet the two had a connection that far transcended the fact that they had a child together.
Bo learning that he was Victor's son was a major story back in the 1980s, and his eventual acceptance that he was part Kiriakis created a bond between the Kiriakis and Brady families that could not be broken.
And as Victor so eloquently stated, Caroline was always the love of his life. She was also the only person who could stand up to him and often got through to him when everyone else had failed.
Victor's reluctance to go to the wake was entirely in character, too, though I wish that Maggie had been around to talk him into it. And Hope seemed a lot more like her old self while comforting him.
Finally, we had another repeated storyline as Kristen knocked Ted out and demanded that Xander murder him to keep Ted quiet.
I've lost track of how many people have been knocked out and locked in the tunnels and how many have been presumed dead after a blow to the head, only to turn up alive later.
In fact, Ted once before disappeared thanks to Kate hiring Stefan to kidnap him, and the audience was made to think he was dead for quite some time.
So can we please stop repeating these kinds of stories?
The high point of all this nonsense was that Abe and Stefan both seemed to be on to "Nicole" not being who she claimed to be after her odd behavior in front of them. I suspect a major part of why Abe took a job with Dimera Enterprises -- he wants to investigate what's going on.
Some other strong developments here were Hope hearing Ted's phone ring from inside "Nicole's" room and Xander's seeming disinterest in helping Kristen.
Xander confronted Ted and said he was going to kill him, but it's anyone's guess whether he will go through with it. His interest in Sarah and gratitude towards Maggie for her kindness seems to have sparked his better nature and he is beginning to change.
Transformation stories are best when they're taken slowly like this and I'm interested to see how far Xander goes!
What'd you think, Days of Our Lives Fanatics? Was Caroline's send-off worthy of this legacy character or would you have liked to have seen something different? What was your favorite part of these special goodbye scenes? And on another note, do you think Xander will change?
Weigh in below, and don't forget to check back on Sunday for our Days of Our Lives Round Table discussion.
Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.