"All will be revealed" is the promise of many a current television epic, but Wednesday night's "American Idol" featured enough curtain lifting to keep the online Idolsphere's collective head whirling for a year.
Not only did we, as expected, fill out the final slots in the Top 9 (with the predictable Scott MacIntyre, Lil Rounds and Jorge Nunez) but the most puzzled-over mystery of the season was finally cleared up: The identities of the wild-card contestants were unveiled.
Actually, this was the first truly suspenseful results show thus far. While the sudden-death element of each week of the semifinal rounds raised the stakes immensely, the contests ended up completely lopsided, with at least two of the three weekly chairs almost certain to go to the huge favorites (Danny Gokey, Alexis Grace, Adam Lambert, Allison Iraheta, MacIntyre, Rounds). Due to whatever quirk of fate, the distance between the favorites and the field each week has been a mile.
On the flip side, with each results show, we have been treated to the spectacle of those many, many who had fallen in their performance nights, trotted out to the death couch -- a grim march to certain execution. It was, for instance, beyond tragic to watch the once-effervescent but now utterly deflated 16-year-old Arianna Afsar, whose trembling lips and tear-stained eyes gave no doubt she knew what exactly Angel of Death Ryan Seacrest had in store for her, forced to tell the Reaper, "Obviously, I have regrets."
Thinking about what kind of Top 12 this season's altered format will produce, it can be said that the above favorites would likely have made it to the big stage in any season in which they appeared.
The fate of this season thus hangs in the balance Thursday in the wild-card night, and there is reason to be hopeful -- with lingering cause for concern. Because among the judges' choices, there was a shocking turn: They somehow could not resist giving perhaps the most hated contestant in "Idol" history, Tatiana Del Toro, one more moment in the sun, one more spotlight to flood with tears.
One must hand it to "Idol": It knows the value of negative attention.
As for the rest of the wild cards, some of the strongest candidates will fight to the death for those three slots Thursday night. Megan Corkrey, Matt Giraud, Jesse Langseth and Anoop Desai -- if three of those four make it through, the Top 12 could look very interesting indeed.
In the meantime, after three weeks in which the hope of a last redemption was dangled, that flame was finally and absolutely snuffed out for those dreamers of Hollywood week and the semifinals. A few months ago they were plucked from oblivion to be brought within a very breath of the greatest TV-spawned prize our society can offer, only now to find it was not to be. It does seem that, unlike in years past, a very large number of talented people leave us much too soon. Jackie Tohn, Kendall Beard, Ju'Not Joyner, Felicia Barton, Kai Kalama, Mishavonna Henson, Ann Marie Boskovich, Stephen Fowler and all the rest; it feels as if we are saying goodbye much too preemptively. But the Angel of Death demands a heavy price of we who would give our hearts on the "Idol" stage. This is only a taste of the heartache to come.