For over 30 years, Stefano Dimera tormented Bradys and Hortons, played opera music between implementing diabolical plots, and obsessed over his "Queen of the Night" Marlena Evans.
He was suave, sophisticated, and evil, and fans adored him.
That's why there was so much excitement over the fact that actor Joe Mascolo had taped one last set of scenes prior to his death.
And it's why so many viewers feel like the show stabbed them in the back with the Friday reveal that Stefano hadn't escaped or even been locked up and that two more fan favorites could be added to the list of corrupt cops helping to cover up Hope's involvement in Stefano's murder.
This Prague storyline has been a waste of air time from the very beginning. For the past few weeks, we've had dubious Stefano sightings, top cops arguing about whether or not to stop for ice cream, and a silly and unnecessary fortune teller bothering Steve and Kayla.
And now, after a masquerade ball that consisted mainly of people in James Bond tuxedos wearing masks that looked like they were from the Dollar Store, the show gave us an anticlimactic end to Stefano's reign of terror, complete with an awful twist.
We got a situation. Dimera's escaped.Steve
The "capture" of Stefano was entirely off-screen, which in and of itself was poor storytelling. However, it was somewhat understandable given the fact that Joe Mascolo was probably too ill to work much.
Then, Stefano sat in a jail cell, not speaking as various characters told him how horrible he'd been to them. Anna reappeared with her urn just to gloat, Marlena had her say, and then Rafe had the last word.
Rafe's experiences with Stefano weren't great, to say the least, but he's only been on canvas since 2008! There was so much richer history that could have been tapped into with this so-called tribute.
Anyway, it was so clear from these last scenes how unwell Mascolo was. Stefano didn't appear to know what was going on, really, and seeing him in that jail cell was like visiting a relative with advanced Alzheimers in a nursing home.
It hurt to see the once-mighty Stefano have fallen so far because of the disease his portrayer was suffering from.
I had mixed feelings about Stefano escaping from custody for that reason, because it was obvious the Phoenix was not going to rise again, but in a way it would have been a fitting tribute. Stefano was the kind of guy who went out in a blaze of glory even if he was old and sick.
But then the next day came, and with it a plot twist that made the whole thing seem incredibly cruel.
Eduardo: Isn't the good news that your father's alive?
Andre: It's a mixed blessing.
While Andre was spewing anger that Stefano never seemed to really care about him and in fact let him languish in prison for his "murder", it was revealed that Stefano had never been in that cell at all.
It wasn't a doppleganger or a hologram. It was Shane in some sort of Halloween costume.
There are so many problems with this that I don't know where to begin.
First let's talk logistics. Shane is not nearly the same size or build as Stefano, and padding wouldn't do the trick. It is inconceivable that anyone would, for one second, think that Shane was Stefano.
More importantly, this really does a number of Shane's character. The character assassination of the beloved British spy and family man began with Theresa's exit arc, when Shane allowed Theresa to basically be held hostage by a drug lord because the guy wanted her. And it was completed this week.
Shane is now yet another person with no morals, another person who would use his position to help cover up Hope's murder of Stefano so that she doesn't have to answer for it.
He can't mention the fate of his wayward daughter once, but he can put on a mask and some padding and pretend to be a dead criminal to ensure Hope is released from her 25 year murder sentence.
And not only did Shane do this stupid, ridiculous, and horrible thing, but Steve fully co-signed it. Now, Steve has always been unconventional, but he would never in a million years co-sign something like this.
Steve has now covered up two murders, having pretended to have killed Ava so that Joey wouldn't face any consequences for having done so prior to this, and is busy lying to Kayla right before they're about to get remarried.
All of this makes the Prague trip a cruel, cruel waste of time, but nothing is worse than the fact that an old and dying actor was asked to come back one last time just so that they could film this horrific storyline.
If the actor had been in full possession of his faculties, would he even have agreed to do this storyline? Nobody can say for sure but Joe Mascolo was known for his integrity as an actor. So to ask him to film this "tribute" which ruined so many iconic characters all at once seems like taking advantage of his illness.
To add insult to injury, Mascolo is no longer alive and this truly is the last time we'll ever see him on screen. So it's no wonder that so many fans are outraged and heartbroken by this turn of events.
Marlena: There will be dancing in the streets when that bastard is where he belongs.
Kayla: I wish Bo could see this. You and Steve saved Hope's life.
Stupid lines about how Rafe saved Hope don't add anything to this ridiculous situation and make it clear that the writers' agenda was to prop Rafe/Hope.
First of all, a couple that works on screen does not need propping. Viewers don't need to be told who to root for; they can use their brains, eyes, and hearts to figure out for themselves who they want to see together.
Secondly, Rafe didn't do much but yell the entire trip. Hope was "saved", if you want to call it that, by Steve and Shane's plot, which Rafe didn't know anything about.
I was more a Hope/Aiden fan than a Bo/Hope fan by the end, but I too wish Bo were here because then there would be no Rafe/Hope and no ridiculous and insulting storyline of this nature.
I think it's telling, too, that Rafe is so volatile and unpredictable that Paul and Sonny made the decision not to tell him that Gabi's been kidnapped. That's more or less a declaration that Rafe is too hotheaded to be a cop.
Gabi's kidnapping is the storyline I could most do without this week. This is contrived nonsense that is clearly meant to push Chad and Gabi closer together.
It was only a few months ago that the pair got locked in a panic room and took off their clothes because it was hot, after which Gabi acted resentful that her then-boyfriend JJ dared rescue her and interrupt her attempt to cheat on him with Chad.
That storyline wasn't enjoyable the first time and doesn't need to be repeated.
To make matters worse, the writers chose to go with a bland rip-off of that time Eric and Nicole were trapped in a gas-filled basement. In the original story, Eric and Nicole had been fighting their attraction to one another and had been kidnapped and trapped in a gas-filled basement, causing them to declare their love for one another.
Nicole even expressed gratitude for being with Eric if she had to be in this situation.
If we're gonna die in here, at least I'm glad I'm gonna die with you.Gabi
The original situation worked because of the carefully built up history, chemistry and love between the characters. Plus, the conflict wasn't that Eric's wife and Nicole's best friend had come back after being presumed dead, nor was Nicole committed to that wife's younger brother when the relationship began.
The blatant ripoff of the original story without any of the heart that went into it just doesn't work. Viewers have long memories and they love characters, couples and stories for a reason.
This writing regime has constantly tried to recreate stories that worked before without any understanding of what made them work.
Joey's story has been a rehash of JJ's for a long time, without any of the genuine pain, guilt, and desire to be part of a family that made JJ rootable. Chad/Gabi has been a weak imitation of Eric/Nicole for a while. And Nicole/Deimos recently ripped off itself after ripping off Gabi's river misadventure of a few years earlier.
Copying previous stories is a good way to anger fanbases. Fans want to see their favorites in original, compelling stories, not weak imitations with characters they could care less about (or worse, actively hate!)
While Chad and Gabi were busy making eyes at each other after being kidnapped for a stupid reason, Nicole couldn't make up her mind whether Deimos' latest violence was a dealbreaker or not.
It's sad to see feisty, independent Nicole so watered down. The writers clearly see her as man crazy and unable to function without a partner no matter how horrible he is. Chloe's stupid claim that Nicole will always put a man above a baby totally misses the point of who Nicole is, but it's probably true of this badly written version of her.
Chloe also became the latest in a long line of people to put Nicole down for being a "porn star".
First of all, that has nothing to do with whether or not Nicole would be a good mother to baby Holly some 25 years later. The statute of limitations for shaming people for their sexual choices should be way shorter than that.
But even more importantly, Nicole was forced into porn when she was a teenager. Her abusive father drugged her and put her into the industry against her will.
And unlike JJ's rape-written-as-cheating, this was actually depicted as sexual abuse back when Nicole first debuted on the show.
She had major PTSD as a result of her father's abuse and her difficulties continued well into the early 2000s. And many of her problem behaviors -- including using underhanded tactics to hold onto a man and sabotaging herself in relationships -- come from having experienced that abuse.
For the last few years, the writers have consistently allowed other characters to shame Nicole for being a victim of abuse, but to suggest that not only was that abuse her choice but that her child should be removed from her care because of it is unconscionable.
The shaming of abuse victims on this show is disgusting and has to go, period. A large segment of the viewing audience, sadly, has probably experienced some sort of sexual assault, and they don't need to see people being shamed and derided for it on television.
It's irresponsible, it's offensive, and in Nicole's case it contradicts a powerful backstory that drives her character.
Abigail: Hey. How you doing?
Dario: Okay. Not great, but, okay.
Abigail: I don't think you look okay. I think you look like hell.
Dario: Thanks for the pep talk.
Abigail: Doctor says you're gonna make a full recovery.
Dario: Yeah. And when I do, Deimos is gonna know what it's like to be on the receiving end of a beating like this.
Abigail: Dario, no. God, please. No more violence.
The Orwell story continues to be a mess, with all the other characters affected by Deimos' violence planning to repay him in kind. I'm also not quite sure when Abby and Dario got to be such good friends.
Dario is a stereotypical hotheaded Latino male who is constantly bossing women around and using violence to get his way. Abby, who supposedly has PTSD as a result of Ben's psychotic abuse of her, should pick up on this and run the other way, not quietly encourage him to be peaceful.
Meanwhile, it's obvious some sort of coordinated attack on Deimos is coming up since about five characters said so in the course of 20 minutes. I'm not sure which is worse -- heavyhanded foreshadowing like this or flashbacks of things shown on air fifteen minutes previously. Both of these tactics inslut viewer intelligence and really need to go.
The best part of this storyline is Drew and Jennifer's relationship. These two have a natural comedic chemistry that is fun to watch. It's ironic that "evil" twin Drew may be the one to save Salem while his supposedly more moral brother is covering up murders.
What did you think of this week's Days of Our Lives? Is there a particular storyline you love or hate?
Weigh in below, and don't forget to check back in 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.