What’s Going On In Mary Worth? Why Is Everyone Rightly Mad At Mary Worth? August – October 2018

I have a content warning before going into Karen Moy and June Bridgman’s Mary Worth today. It features pet death, and handles it with spectacular incompetence. If you don’t want to read that, I don’t blame you. You might skip the whole thing. Around about January 2019 I should have another plot recap. I trust this storyline will be done before that point.

In non-warn-worthy content, I have comic strips based on mathematical topics discussed over here. I also have a fun series describing mathematical terms, which you might enjoy. Last week included mathematical jokes. And monkeys at typewriters.

Mary Worth.

6 August – 28 October 2018

The running story last time was about Tommy and Brandy’s relationship. Brandy’s father was alcoholic, and used drugs. Tommy’s been addicted to alcohol and painkillers. He’s quit for a year now, and hopes to stay clean. But he’s afraid when Brandy finds out about his past she’ll dump him.

Everybody Tommy knows gives him the same advice. So he takes it. He tells her about his painkiller addiction. That he’s not used anything in over a year. That he has a support group he feels confident in. That he’s found both God and Mary Worth. And she’s okay with that. She loves him, and trusts him. They stick together. So that’s sweet.

[ When Brandy learns of Tommy's past ] Brandy: 'You're not perfect, but neither am I! I love you and I want to be with you!' Tommy: 'I love you too!' Brandy: 'It feels right, being together! Let's keep going and see what happens!' Tommy: 'Only good things ... I promise!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 18th of August, 2018. Not going to be snarky here. I’m glad a couple characters are trying to hope in and trust each other at the end of a story I had no reason to hate.

There’s a week of Mary and Iris talking about how happy everything is and how great Mary is. And that leads to the current storyline. And this one, as I warn, includes pet death treated badly. So here’s one last chance to ditch if you need to.

There are many ways to make a great soap opera comic. I wouldn’t dare try to categorize them all. But I can tell you one way to win my heart: have a character be way too passionate for the scene. Mary and Toby’s absurd love of cruise ships set that storyline off to great effect. The singer Esme’s passionate love for Indiana’s most Derek-named man matched and even exceeded it. An outrageous emotional response may not make for realism. But it makes for fun stories. This story has several moments in which people display incongruous emotional reactions to things. They’re moments of wonder and joy in a story that takes a dark turn, has some sensitive moments, and then smashes into incredible wrongness.

The story began the 27th of August with a Chartersone Pool Party. And with Mary Worth’s muffins. And her Salmon Snacks. Pool party, muffins, and salmon-based alleged food items. It was a buffet of the things Mary Worth‘s ironic readers want. The guest star at the party, and this story, is Saul Wynter, and his dog Bella. Mary tries to ply them both with muffins. Bella’s “in guard dog mode”, growling. So is Wynter. Toby wants nothing to do with either. Mary refuses to give up on him. I admire her example in this regard.

Mary: 'As grumpy as Mr Wynter is, he obviously had a soft spot for Bella.' Toby: 'He should get over his loss. It's a known fact that dogs don't live a long time.' Mary: 'Their average lifespan is about 13 years. Enough for a person to become truly attached to them.'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 13th of September, 2018. So as Lynn Johnston was wrapping up For Better Or For Worse into a great bundle of ruined fandom, one of the things she did was have their pet rabbit Mister B die. Thing is the rabbit was only about four or five years old. A domestic rabbit should live around ten years. My love wrote a letter to Johnston as soon as it was obvious that’s where this plot was going. A four-year-old rabbit will not be showing signs of age. Didn’t get any satisfaction but did get back an in-character letter from Grandpa Jim, the voice for himself and animal characters, apparently, promising that … oh, who cares, the point is that Granthony was the worst.

Then comes tragedy. The plot’s barely started when Bella dies. And Toby spends a week not understanding how it is that Bella could have meant so much to Wynter. Mary has to explain to Toby, nominally an adult, that people can become attached to their pets. I’m still smarting from two rabbits and a dozen goldfish who died unexpectedly in the past year. But Toby not understanding how the hew-mons might care for a chihuahua that’s been dead for a whole day or more? That’s great. For a while I was loving this story.

A couple days later Mary brings some salmon spread appetizers to Wynter. He’s sad, yes. But he’s also grateful to Mary for visiting, and he brings her into his apartment. He’s got quite a few pictures of Bella. He buried Bella with some of her favorite things, and kept the rest. Mary asks if he’d like company going to the pet cemetery, and he accepts. And there he opens up. He married someone he didn’t really love. Family pressure. And his actual love died apart from him. Bella was his consolation and comfort. And he doesn’t know what he’ll do now. He goes into seclusion, and he’s not seen for several weeks.

Saul Wynter: 'Some angels choose fur instead of wings. Bella was my angel.' Mary: 'And now she's back in heaven! Let her go!' Wynter (seeing a man walking a small dog): 'Oy! How do I *do* that? There are reminders of her everywhere!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 4th of October, 2018. OK, so here’s where the story starts getting the tone all wrong: Mary’s “Let her go!” was delivered, in-story, at most two weeks after the dog died. Two weeks is not so much grief as to be dangerous.

Mary sees a crisis. Perhaps there is. But it’s not supported by what’s been on-screen. What we’ve seen is that Saul Wynter lost the dog who’d been his companion and comfort for 17 years. And he’s been sad and reclusive for weeks. “Months”, says Mary, on the 9th of October. But the thing is … that’s pretty normal. It could be trouble, yes. But all that we’re shown is that Wynter was sad. And he wasn’t socializing with the Charterstone crowd that he didn’t have much to do with before his dog died. This hasn’t made the case that emergency intervention is necessary.

That isn’t going to stop Mary. She goes to him with a story. She says she needs her tires replaced, and fears being talked into unnecessary services. She needs Wynter’s help, as a former car-repair-shop owner, to spot and avoid tricks. He concedes it’s not like Mary’s boyfriend Jeff can help. Mary talks up, during the drive, how important it is to stay open to love. And at this point I was cranky. Grief is a duty we owe our loves. Where does Mary Worth get off saying, that’s it, time for the replacement doggo?

Mary diverts from the car-tire story to go to the Animal Shelter. She claims she’s dropping off a donation but, you know, why not look around and see if there’s some nice dog or cat there? Wynter, who earlier had to hide from people walking their own dogs, wants nothing of this. I don’t blame him. But Mary keeps the pressure on, insisting that they could do some dog some good. Mary drags Wynters through the shelter over his clear protests made in front of staff. It offers some great moments of hilarious body language. But, still.

Animal Shelter worker: 'I'm about to give a tour of our shelter. You may meet someone you want to take home with you!' Saul Wynter: 'BAH! It's NOT my decision to be here!' Mary Worth: 'Mr Wynter and I would LOVE to meet your facility's occupants!' Wynter: 'Speak for YOURSELF, Mary!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 20th of October, 2018. All right, yes, it is funny how much Wynter doesn’t want go along with the story. I still want someone to squirt Mary with the water bottle.

So now you know why I’m so angry at this storyline. Not only me, either. Comics Kingdom has added a thing where people can note their reaction to strips. A typical response (for the 20th of October); 5 ‘upvotes’, 1 ‘Funny’, 4 ‘Sad’, 71 ‘Angry’. Let me compare to another strip that’s in a plot readers view skeptically, to be recapped in two weeks. Rex Morgan, M.D. that same day got 4 ‘upvotes’, 1 ‘funny’, 4 ‘surprised’, 5 ‘angry’, and 3 ‘sad’. And one of those upvotes was me casting a vote because you can’t see the totals until after you’ve voted. That Rex Morgan, M.D. strip drew 50 comments. That Mary Worth was at 241. There’s whole years I don’t get 241 comments.

Moy and Brigman attempt to reconcile with an audience on the brink of open rebellion. They introduce a dog so obviously needy (“we suspect she was abused … she’s been with us for almost a year and still hasn’t opened up”) that Wynter can’t help picking her up. And he’s so needy that the dog can’t help opening up. She’s available for adoption. This should be heartwarming. If you ignore the deceit. And the arrogance of setting a schedule for someone else’s grief.

Wynter, to a shy dog: 'It's okay, girl.' (She looks up to him.) 'You're safe now!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 25th of October, 2018. All right, so it is sweet. Also, for all that Wynter is set up as an impossible curmudgeon, he’s been at most grumpy this storyline. Worst he was at was at the original pool party, where he demanded to know if Mary’s offer of muffins was meant to get him fat.

Anyway, that’s about where we stand. I don’t know how many victory laps Mary will run for pushing a man to adopt an animal.

A Smile Makes The World A Little Brighter
And the car care place updated its sign just in time for this week’s Mary Worth plot recap. Thanks to them. And even I can’t think of a way this sign is quietly despairing. So I’m glad they’re having a good month.

Dubiously Sourced Quotes of Mary Worth Sunday Panels!

  • “Repentance means you change your mind so deeply that it changes you.” — Bruce Wilkinson, 5 August 2018.
  • “Love is when you give someone else the power to destroy you, and you trust them not to.” — E Lockhart, 12 August 2018.
  • “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” — Oscar Wilde, 19 August 2018.
  • “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances; if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” — Carl Jung, 26 August 2018.
  • “Be friendly to everyone. Those who deserve it the least need it the most.” — Bo Bennett, 2 September 2018.
  • “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” — Dalai Lama, 9 September 2018.
  • “Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really.” — Agnes Sligh Turnbull, 16 September 2018.
  • “Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” — Norman Cousins, 23 September 2018.
  • “Repentance means you change your mind so deeply that it changes you.” — Bruce Wilkinson, 30 September 2018.
  • “Anything that triggers good memories can’t be all bad.” — Adam West, 7 October 2018.
  • “A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down.” — Arnold H Glasgow, 14 October 2018.
  • “The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.” — Andy Rooney, 21 October 2018.
  • “The strongest principle of growth lies in the human choice.” — George Eliot, 28 October 2018.

Next Week!

So how’s that whole Rat Must Die project coming along? Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom, Sunday continuity, gets some time next week. We’ll see who’s dead and who isn’t. (Spoiler: I’m pretty sure the Ghost Who Walks isn’t dead.)


Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

13 thoughts on “What’s Going On In Mary Worth? Why Is Everyone Rightly Mad At Mary Worth? August – October 2018”

  1. This story arc would have been stronger if Mr. Wynter’s grief had actually been portrayed as unhealthy or self-destructive. The big problem IMHO is that Mary and Toby reacted to him as if he was suicidal, whereas he really just seemed melancholy and slightly more withdrawn than he was before. He was still cordial to his neighbors, was willing to speak with anyone who visited him, and did not shun Mary when she visited him or took him out to the cemetery. His grief was never portrayed as being unhealthy or toxic, so the over-the-top reactions from other characters came across as incomprehensible.

    I really wish that the story arc had concluded with Mary learning a lesson about not setting timetables for other people’s grief and about respecting other people’s boundaries. The build-up was all there.


    1. Yes. This is one of the major points of failure of this arc. Wynter’s response to the death of his dog is presented as quite appropriate. It’s even made more appropriate by learning the dog had been his comfort after the death of his true love. That Mary Worth was pushing him to move on when he was on the way back from his first visit to the pet cemetery is the point where I lost all trust in this story.

      Mary Worth learning about respecting other people’s boundaries would be great. For that matter, how great would it have been if Mary Worth had gotten ready for a full-scale meddlevention only to learn that Wynter had gotten his emotional balance back and didn’t need anything particular, thank you?

      Anyway this has been two Mary Worth stories this year that I’ve been honestly angry about. And three that have deserved content warnings, although touching on emotionally raw subjects is in line with what the comic ought to do. It just needs to do better.


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