Given my fairly public “I hate them with a fiery passion” stance on rapists and rape stories in daytime, you’d think I wouldn’t be compelled by the tale of a serial rapist trying to reclaim “his” life from a sociopath. But OLTL’s “Tale of Two Todds” has been riveting. The truth is, I don’t have to like, or respect, a character to find their journey interesting. Over the past 18-19 years, Todd Manning has been a great example of that.
From his 1993 rape of Marty Saybrooke onward, Todd was a character to fear and to be disgusted by, but you could not take your eyes from him. How do you make a twisted asshole watchable? Between the writing and Roger Howarth‘s portrayal, OLTL was practically a blueprint. It actually worked too well, considering how popular Todd still is with the audience. When Trevor St. John brought Walker Laurence onto the OLTL canvas in 2003 and we learned that he was now Todd, I actually thought it was a great twist. There was angst, there was struggle. Despite the fact that, 90 percent of the time, I root for Todd to end up in a wood chipper, I rooted for him to reunite with Blair and Starr. I was on board with the recast, full-throttle, and convinced that Todd was getting a fresh start.
But in the eight years following that initial storyline, Todd has become a completely different entity. Instead of a broken soul who commanded attention because he was broken, what emerged from the chrysalis was a flirtatious, over-confident, arrogant jerk sauntering around Llanview like he was owed something. I didn’t love Todd Manning before, but I loathed this smug, suave guy walking around with his name. Particularly when he treated Blair like an afterthought, contemplated killing Margaret while she was pregnant with Sam, abused Starr and Cole and rape-manced Marty. Forget hating him, I couldn’t bear to sit through his antics!
The same can’t be said for “the man with Todd’s original face,” as OLTL’s been calling a newly returned Howarth. I watched him scream in a straitjacket. I watched him lurk in the bushes. I watched him bond with a little kid. I even watched him chat up a stereotypical Magical Negro homeless guy with a minimum of eye-rolling. (And it was worthy of a maximum eye-roll, OLTL!) Hell, I’d probably watch him eat green eggs and ham. Because the self-awareness and self-loathing, and the wounded animal “don’t screw with me” air, that imbued Todd before the 2000s is back.
And it’s not as simple as saying, “Roger Howarth is back, and all’s right with the world.” They’re writing him like Todd. They’re directing him like Todd. Can you imagine Howarth’s Todd shoving a pregnant Starr? Or romancing an amnesiac Marty and then mocking her descent into madness? I sure can’t. And it’s the very idea that someone at OLTL could imagine it that speaks to why Todd’s identity was questionable long before two men bearing the name faced off.
When DAYS did what could be considered the “original” version of this story in 1991, it hinged on the fact that John Black was the same wonderful, noble hero and loving husband/father as Roman Brady. So the plastic surgery, brainwashing and clueless family… it worked, because John had the same core of goodness. When the real Roman returned, their loved ones had to deal with these two decent men vying for the name “Roman Brady” and for Roman’s family. With OLTL… if this dual Todd reveal had been done eight years ago, when St. John’s Todd was still raw and desperate to prove his identity, they’d be a lot alike. But now? I think they couldn’t be more different. Original Recipe Todd was a raging, hot mess of a character who had issues with people, and with sex and self-worth… and likely still does! Todd 2.0 is a cold, calculating, arrogant man, prone to violent outbursts, who enjoys sex (and has a lot of it). I keep looking at them and thinking, “How could anyone ever mistake the second guy for Todd Manning?”
That, of course, is the very same question that Howarth’s Todd is asking onscreen. And, on both an in-story and meta level, the answers are bound to be as fascinating as everything else!