When Leo Stark first came back to Salem, I groaned.
He seemed like a one-note, pointless character who existed solely to mess with Will and Sonny. But then the writers gave Leo a compelling backstory and a sympathetic motivation for his bad behavior, and suddenly everything other fans said about being thrilled to have a gay villain on-screen made sense.
But just as things were getting interesting, Days of Our Lives abruptly ended Leo's story and sent the character off canvas without giving him a proper exit.
Writing Leo out this way was a huge mistake.
There was so much story still to be told!
Leo had displayed a softer side with John and was beginning to change.
He wasn't interested in Marlena's money as much as he was her acceptance of him as a stepson.
The rest of John's family didn't accept him, especially Brady, which made the two natural enemies.
When Diana suddenly ended the story by announcing that not only had she poisoned Marlena, but she'd also switched the DNA test to make it appear Leo was John's, it seemed rushed.
DAYS has a tendency to drag out DNA switch stories and let secrets come out in explosive ways.
This was the fastest wrap-up in DAYS history and it seemed like the writers had decided they didn't want to do this story after all.
The one good thing that can be said about that is that it was a fantastic set-up for further story that didn't happen.
Greg Rikaart delivered an Emmy-worthy performance as a heartbroken Leo rejected both John and Diana and stormed off stunned.
Later, he could barely hold back the emotion as he told Brady that Brady had won -- they weren't brothers and everyone in town still hated Leo.
I was looking forward to seeing what Leo was going to do next, but what he did next was...nothing.
After one last scene where he tried to use his former status as John's son to hold onto Sonny, Leo gave up, signed the annulment papers, and walked off-screen never to be seen again.
He didn't even get a throwaway line from someone else saying that he'd left town!
It's obvious that the writers only intended Leo to be a temporary obstacle for Will and Sonny, but that backfired because Leo was, quite frankly, more interesting than Will and Sonny, especially after his backstory came out.
Yes, Leo did horrible things to Will and Sonny, but that didn't make them a compelling couple.
Throughout the Leo storyline, they came off as entitled, believing that they were justified in hiding Leo's body after they thought they'd killed him instead of calling the police and that they should suffer no consequences for that.
Sonny certainly didn't deserve Leo trying to blackmail him into sex, but that doesn't mean Sonny and Will were a rootable couple either!
Will and Sonny brought Diana to town in the hopes that she would get Leo to back off them, and once they did Leo became a full-fledged character who was clearly acting out of deep pain.
Some of his actions were despicable, but it was hard not to sympathize with him anyway.
He'd killed his abusive father after years of being physically and emotionally tortured because he was gay, and his mother stood silently by and did nothing to stop it.
That backstory moved him firmly into the love-to-hate category, and his attempt to forge a relationship with John hinted at the chance of redemption.
Had Leo remained on canvas after learning the devastating news that John was not his father, there were several interesting directions the writers could have taken him.
Since it was so quickly established that Leo wasn't John's son, that could have been a red herring.
Leo could have wreaked havoc while acting out his heartbreak, messing with John's family further... only for it to turn out later that Diana was lying about having lied and Leo was John's son after all!
Leo also could have struggled to decide what kind of man he wanted to be while John fought to be his mentor and to guide him in a positive direction and the rest of the family doubted Leo could change.
As an added bonus, Diana might have sought revenge against John for taking her son away from him after Leo made it clear that this time he was serious about disowning her.
And since Leo and Brady had already been established as rivals, Leo interfering in Brady's plans to blackmail Eric might have been fun.
And that doesn't even consider what Leo might have got up to with other characters he never interacted with!
Instead, Leo left the same way he arrived: as a one-note joke who lives to torment Sonny and Will.
His final scene was ridiculous. If the writers had to write Leo out, why did our last glimpse of him have to be him claiming to be placing a curse on Will?
If Leo had told Brady he was leaving town since everyone hated him, that would have been a fine ending.
I'd still have been sad that Leo's future storylines weren't going to come to be, but at least it would have been a logical end to his story that left the door open for a more mature Leo to return later.
DAYS also left quite a bit unresolved in their rush to finish this story!
Diana supposedly had proof that Leo killed her husband, which John stole out of her safe and then gave to Leo without looking at it -- and enquiring minds want to know what that was all about!
Did Leo really kill Richard? Did Diana? What was in that envelope?
These are questions that viewers would have been excited to learn the answers to! But instead, the story evaporated.
And beyond all the stories that could have been told and weren't, there's the fact that Leo was supposed to be a different kind of gay character: a deeply flawed and sometimes evil person.
Many fans agreed with Greg Rikaart that allowing a gay character to be villainous was a step forward for media representation of LGBT+ characters, but writing him out so abruptly undoes that.
Plus, there's a shortage of gay characters in Salem.
Besides Sonny and Will, the only other gay people we ever see are men who serve the purpose of temporarily interfering in Sonny and Will's relationship.
Allowing Leo to have a story beyond his desire to force Sonny to marry him would have helped fix that.
And Sonny and Will shouldn't be the token gay couple who is together because there are no other gay people in town!
Will you miss Leo?
Days of Our Lives continues to air on NBC on weekdays. Check your local listings for airtimes.