Fave or Fail? (23-27 Jan 2017)

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Every week I run through the best and worst bits of the week on Emmerdale. Tell me your faves and fails in the comments! Emmerdale made this history this week as they scooped “Best Serial Drama” at the National TV Awards for the first time ever! On screen, Debbie returned.

Faves

Chilling and Compelling

emmerdale-rhona-humiliates-herself-at-paddys-party-youtubeAs we know, Emmerdale is going from strength to strength -particularly when it comes to its challenging and societal issue storylines. I’ve already praised the subtleties of the Pierce and Rhona storyline but it just gets better and better, all the while being dreadful and uncomfortable to watch. It’s not an easy viewing experience to see Pierce’s games at work – to see him manipulate and dig at Rhona’s insecurities – from the slut-shaming to the humiliation in front of her friends, but it’s one that highlights a troubling relationship dynamic. As outsiders we are able to see what Rhona is going through, seeing how Pierce’s control and rape of her (a manifestation of his dangerous inferiority complex) is crushing her, but we’re also seeing how she’s made to doubt herself, how her friends are pushed out, how his actions are almost normalised. Rhona already feels isolated, now not just socially but in her own head – because Pierce is making her feel like he’s blameless. It’s complex and confusing for her – when their passion has now been tainted with his manipulation, degradation and non-consensual sex. It’s chilling and sickening – but a hugely important story to tell and I’d go as far to say it’s already shaping up to be one of the best stories in soap in the last six months.

Little Star

vlcsnap-2017-01-29-11h40m35s147This week Laurel referred to Gabby Thomas as a little star and I’d agree, but I’d go one further than that and extend the sentiment to actress Rosie Bentham. Gabby’s at the centre of her family’s heartbreak right now and Rosie continues to portray Gabby’s agonising predicament as daughter and care giver in such a relatable and beautiful way. It’s been lovely to see Gabby look after her father, but the scene on Monday when she broke down crying to reveal to Laurel that Ashley had wet himself and she had pretended everything was fine just to keep him in their lives, was such a tragic and fantastically portrayed moment, full of pathos. I can’t begin to imagine how Gabby’s reaction to the loss of Ashley will shatter our hearts.

Physical Comedy

vlcsnap-2017-01-29-11h44m17s145Comedy can be hit and miss in soaps, but there were plenty of laughs to be had in Charity’s winning impression of Chrissie White at the bank. When Emmerdale does their favourite disguise plot (an outfit, a wig and a foolproof plan) it can border on the farcical and this bank job certainly did but Emma Atkins just about pulled it off thanks to an amazing posh voice and a killer outfit. Throwing in a liberal amount of ‘super’ and ‘lovely’ you’d be forgiven for thinking you were watching Ab Fab but the nervy bank manager and his Home Farm enthusiasm was a good giggle too. The tranquiliser scenes in the street, with the shaky camera work and unicorn visions might have been a bit much, but it’s Charity so we’ll overlook it.

Bonus Fave: The return of the brilliant Lydia!!!

Fails

Paddy’s paddy

vlcsnap-2017-01-29-11h40m57s988When Paddy’s affair with Tess saw his popularity and likeability nosedive, it was great to see him back in the village as a fun and comedic character again. He played the fool, revisiting his hilarious relationship with Marlon and after some enjoyably silly attempts to get Rhona back, realised she’d moved on and so should he. This week he grew to be irritating again after being pushed out by Chas in favour of the very lovely DS Wise (who can blame her?). Rather than show concern for Aaron, or be supportive of Chas, he spent most of his time bitching and moaning about Jason Wise, seeming petty and jealous about the whole thing. Paddy’s best when he’s childish in a fun, cartoonish way, not childish in a bitter and immature way and it wasn’t enjoyable to revisit. He says he’s going to let Chas get on with things in her own way so let’s hope he sticks to it!

In Need of a New Path

emmerdale-debbie-gets-her-kids-back-from-hugos-goons-youtubeDebbie came back this week, on the run from a French gangster named Hugo and his henchmen. As you do. I’ll hold my hands up now and say I’m not Debbie’s biggest fan, mainly due to the life-sucking love triangle from 2015 where chemistry evaded both Debbie&Pete and Debbie&Ross (sorry, but it’s true), but with her hotly anticipated return on screen I was ready to give her a chance. Debbie as a mother and Debbie as a daughter, Debbie trying to hold everything together and be strong – that is the kind of Debbie I can get behind. Plastic gangsters, a railway track and a moodily lit warehouse – ticking every cliché in the straight-to-DVD mob movie book? Not a plot I ever enjoy in soap. There’s no real tension or drama in it. We don’t know these cardboard villains, but we do know Emmerdale won’t kill off the Sugden kids, so there’s zero jeopardy. In amongst this lack of threat we have Cain displaced from his spot of Top Dog (always disappointing) and Ross’s resurgence as a love-struck yet ultimately cowardly thug. Ross was a great character and his romance with Donna was beloved, but it’s hard to get past Emmerdale’s fixation on the Ross and Debbie romance when it was such a weak (yet dominant) part of 2015. Ross’s watery eyed declarations to “Debs” really take away from Debbie’s potential as an independent force when we know she’s still hung up on him. If I believed in their love, then it would be easier to buy that she might be tempted by the guy whose bedded her mother multiple times but as it stands, their good looks don’t make up for their lack of chemistry so I’m praying we see Debbie’s return take a new path, rather than watch Ross win her back.

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Scene of the Week (23-27 Jan 2017)

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Debbie returned from France this week, along with kids Jack and Sarah (with a new, more grown up head) and in true Dingle style was immediately thrown into drama. Once all the plastic gangster stuff was dealt with, she broke the heartbreaking news to her family that Sarah’s cancer had returned. It isn’t the heist style capers that made my Scene of the Week but the scene where mother and daughter sat outside Wishing Well and talked about Sarah’s future. Debbie battled her emotions as she told her daughter that she can’t afford the special treatment Sarah needs to make her better and the pair shared an emotional hug. New actress Katie Hill, who has taken on the role of Sarah, did a good job in the scenes and looks like she’ll be able to cope well with the challenging material ahead. Now, if only Ross hadn’t been lurking ready to make this all about his and Debbie’s relationship – rather than the focus on family – then the scene would have been even better!

Fave or Fail? (16-20 Jan 2017)

faveorfail

Every week I run through the best and worst bits of the week on Emmerdale. Tell me your faves and fails in the comments! In the heartbreaking week that saw Aaron and Robert consider calling an end to their engagement, Nicola was top boss, DS Wise returned and Finn went way too far.

Faves

Marriage and Strife

vlcsnap-2017-01-21-22h14m43s200When it comes to “power couples” – a staple in the soap world – Emmerdale have really lucked out when it comes to Aaron and Robert. Not only are they a fan favourite and brimming with palpable chemistry in everything from their fights to make ups, but their personalities and histories make for believable and complex conflict. Aaron’s insecurities and lack of trust stem from his tragic past and Robert’s history of cheating mean he’s never been Mr Trustworthy, but together the pair have forged an unbreakable love for each other. But this week they reached crisis point. With Aaron’s jealousy growing over the past few months it came to a head when Robert was caught out lying about his whereabouts. Whilst Aaron’s paranoia was unfounded it didn’t take long for the argument about trust to escalate and Robert temporarily called off the engagement. Heart crushing and beautifully acted! Like the fiery spats Cain and Moira have, Aaron and Robert’s scenes have that same undercurrent of temper as they both lashed out, hitting each other where it hurt. What was most engaging about these scenes was the level of depth explored in their arguments as they dealt with all the complicated issues surrounding trust, jealousy, insecurity and sexuality. Bisexuality is very rarely talked about on mainstream TV and the scripts seeing Robert defend his attraction to men and women again and challenge Aaron’s ignorance and insecurities, as well as display signs that he isn’t completely comfortable either were compelling. Scenes this week really dug into the psychology of both characters, giving Robron some of their best scenes since Super Soap Week.

Creeping Darkness

vlcsnap-2017-01-21-22h07m30s965The slow build of Rhona and Pierce’s story about control and abuse is one created with nuance and an undercurrent of dread that’s really serving to make it a success. Their story wasn’t a huge focus in the week, but as it operates in the background we’ve already begun to see Rhona making changes to her behaviour based on Pierce’s subtle hand of control. He dropped in comments about “the state” of her after the night out, offered to answer her phone and got it out of her bag, accused her of ridiculing him, avoided her and freezed her out to lower her self-esteem. And this is just the start of it. It’s chilling. This week saw Rhona be made to feel guilty for going out with her friends (something she hasn’t done a great deal of anyway) and she vowed not to go out and get drunk with them again like she had done at the Hunk Night and played exactly into his hands by isolating herself. I have a feeling this storyline is going to get even darker and more uncomfortable as time goes on.

Touching Scenes

vlcsnap-2017-01-21-22h12m45s465Gabby and Ashley’s relationship, just like his relationship with Arthur, has been a real highlight of the dementia plot – even if Gabby has been a challenge at times. The tragedy that the Thomas family face is a heartbreaking one, especially for someone like Gabby who is old enough to recognise her father’s deterioration but wants to cling onto him and keep him in her life. As she looked after him this week, she was offered a small glimmer of his former self when he told her what a wonderful young woman she was becoming, but this was only a fleeting moment as she began to realise his illness was progressing and getting much worse. The harsh realities of this story are told in such a realistic and emotional way that it’s hard not be moved and it benefits greatly from not having too heavy a focus every week so that it isn’t too much of a hard watch.

Wise Guy

vlcsnap-2017-01-21-21h51m42s296Returning to our screens this week was dashing detective Jason Wise who we last saw being a dreamboat to Chas, after she struggled with her PTSD following their date. This week he was back to offer her another friendly ear and the support she needed as she broke down after Aaron’s arrest. Despite DS Wise’s suggestion that he help change Aaron’s statement, he was soon scared off by Pierce in an attempt to push Paddy and Chas closer. And while the sitcom silliness of Paddy and Chas has been fun at times, it would be nice for Chas to have someone as grown up and lovely as the handsome DS Wise. I’m rooting for them, and I’m petitioning right here to make Jason our regular resident detective.

Unbroken

vlcsnap-2017-01-21-22h08m13s159I mentioned last week how much I enjoyed seeing Nicola get her business mojo back as she kicked Home James back into shape but this week she took it to another level as she got revenge on Rakesh and the Sharmas. Instead of going to the police about Rakesh’s arson (*grumble grumble*) she decided she’d rather be managing director of the sweet factory, lording it over the Sharmas and banning Rakesh from the premises. It was fun seeing Nicola screw over Jai, making him fetch her lunch and coffee, belittle Rishi and kick the workers into shape – especially the useless slacker Kerry. Not only was it great to see Nicola fighting strong, refusing to have the “broken” label attached to her, but it brought some much needed fun and a change of regime in the factory.

Fails

Like Mother Like Son?

vlcsnap-2017-01-21-22h09m45s238Finn’s obsession with Kasim peaked to its most worrying level as this week he hired escort Nathan to make Kasim jealous and then really upped his clingy behaviour by stalking him to his house and confronting his dad. Yikes! You know it’s a worry when even his mother (who isn’t exactly known for her reasoned and rational behaviour when it comes to love) was worried about him. Smitten Finn is pinning so much on his relationship, when it helped him with his dad’s death, that he’s just not reading the signs, even when Kasim is telling him that he’s going overboard and looking crazy. Despite this plot making Finn’s unhinged behaviour get worse and worse, I’ve enjoyed the way it’s blurred into other plots and characters and it’s been interesting to see a bit more to Finn’s character rather than sitting on the sidelines of his brothers’ plots. Just how similar he is to his mother, time will tell, but I can’t help but wonder just how far Finn will go in his quest for Kasim’s love. Surely Kasim should be googling restraining orders right about now? He always seemed a bit too okay with Finn’s bedside vigil in the first place!

Rak Off

vlcsnap-2017-01-21-22h07m44s043Rakesh’s arson secrets were exposed this week to Nicola, the woman whose life it has affected so greatly and while I’ve already mentioned how thrilled I was to see her fighting back in full authoritative power, I was mostly excited about the prospect of getting rid of Rakesh. I’ve long lamented Rakesh’s place in Emmerdale, the dead weight he is around Priya and the Sharmas’ neck, the personality vacuum he is, the boredom he brings to a variety of storylines. He’s dull, unengaging and I’ve reached the limit of patience with him. Really, what does he bring to the show? We even have Pierce now, bringing to the table the shady lawyer character, so we just don’t need him. Yet, instead of reporting Rakesh to the police and freeing us from his mundanity, Nicola decided to punish him in a different way. Gone now is my hope of getting rid of him and we’re not left with a slightly anticlimactic resolution to the underwhelming summer fire plot. Oh well, here’s hoping he just fades into the background this year.

 

Scene of the Week (16-20 Jan 2017)

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Emmerdale characters sitting down together for emotional heart-to-hearts are my weakness. There’s nothing better than a well written, well acted “quiet” scene like this. Combine this with one of soap’s most complex and gripping love stories and you’re onto a winner. With Aaron and Robert’s innermost flaws conflicting in an emotionally fraught way this week, they’d reached breaking point. But as Robert tried his hardest to reassure Aaron of his love and loyalty, Aaron’s personal insecurities blinded him from accepting that their love for each other was strong enough to overcome his doubts. We’re used to seeing Danny Miller and Ryan Hawley’s award winning partnership giving us burst of drama and romance, but this was a showcase of their enduring chemistry, one that keeps getting better and better, even when Aaron and Robert’s relationship is tested. Setting this scene at night, with a range of close-ups, gave an intimate feel to the heartbreak on show and let the actors really shine.

Fave or Fail? (9-13 Jan 2017)

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Every week I run through the best and worst bits of the week on Emmerdale. Tell me your faves and fails in the comments! It was a great week for the ladies of The Dales, with Bob’s appearance in Hunk Night being unmissable!

Faves

Hunk Night

vlcsnap-2017-01-14-21h57m02s833Hunk Night meant lots of great things in Friday’s episode (and no I’m not talking about the tacky and oily “hunks”). Firstly it gathered a big collection of the brilliant Emmerdale ladies looking glam and having a great time and who doesn’t love an excuse to see lots of characters on screen together having fun? It also created great little character moments like Ronnie ignoring Lisa’s important chat for a sneaky ogle and Zak backing out quickly in typical uncomfortable straight man fashion. It meant Bob got to shine (more on that below) and if was fun and loud – all the things we need on a Friday. It’s other purpose, dark and full of dread, was building the tension for Rhona’s story as Pierce grew more controlling. The tension was built and the juxtaposition between the party and Pierce’s mood made the after-party scenes difficult viewing

Party Bob

vlcsnap-2017-01-14-21h55m17s486I’m going to say it now to sort the wheat from the chaff – if you don’t love Bob Hope then we can’t be friends. For too long we’ve seen Bob stuck in the café like he was chained to his percolator, never to breathe fresh air again but the last few weeks he’s actually been around more and even being life and soul of the pub. On Monday we saw him serving behind the bar and dancing with the dream team of Charity and Chas (who were amazing this week too) but on Friday was where he really shined. We might be used to Bob giving friendly advice when he serves the lattes – and he was lovely with Rhona this week – but we learnt on Friday that Bob is definitely not shy and LOVES a bit of Hunk Night. You had to feel for poor mortified Carly but I loved Bob getting into the spirit of things and stripping to his boxers for a dance and happily talking about his stripper past with Chas. More of Bob getting his groove on and enjoying the party please! In fact, get him back in the pub working or otherwise!

Top Boss

vlcsnap-2017-01-14-21h57m23s455After Nicola’s accident at the Mill in the summer, her confidence took a real knock and after ups and downs with Jimmy we’ve seen her mojo take a kicking as she struggled to cope with the day-to-day activities at home. But this week we saw a positive change as Nicola regained her independence and her enthusiasm for work when she saw the state of the office Home James was operating out of and wanted to give it an overhaul. Is it any surprise when it’s home to four grubby blokes? Not only did this mean some fun comedy involving Jimmy and Robert, but it also meant Nicola is back to her organised and authoritative best. How long is that scrapyard going to look that neat and tidy though, really?

Great Performances

emmerdale-the-night-before-lachlans-trial-youtubeI’ve written before about my many issues with Lachlan White and Emmerdale’s missteps but despite this, Thomas Atkinson continues to deliver solid performances. Lachlan’s twisted to say the least and it’s in those scenes – when he’s trying to blag himself the family spoils, getting beaten up on purpose and showcasing his cruel plans to his mother – that his villainy is really watchable. Emmerdale’s characterisation is confused with it comes to the Whites but I can’t help but feel Lachlan on full-throttle bad – since they never made him remorseful – is the way forward, because with his history, eliciting sympathy cannot work. If Emmerdale went full on Joffrey Baratheon, then Thomas would ace it.

Fail

Courtroom Anti-climax

vlcsnap-2017-01-14-22h11m22s781This week was White drama heavy, centring on Lachlan’s court case over the shooting of Lawrence. It only happened in the summer, even though it feels about four years ago now due to the amount of time this story has dragged on, but with the court case done and dusted in a day the conclusion was finally approaching. It’s hard to sympathise with any member of the White family, often because when they’re not committing crimes (without punishment or much remorse) they’re not embracing their bad deeds but feeling sorry for themselves, in their privileged money pit. Boo and hoo. This trial was even more muddled than usual. Lachlan wasn’t guilty of attempted murder, but he did shoot Lawrence and the whole family conspired to frame Andy and they’ve all be remorseless about it. He might not be a gun-toting attempted murderer but he’s not an innocent young boy either, so hearing his family talk about him like that is bizarre. Therapy is what he needs, not enabling. All in all the drama surrounding Lachlan’s confession and verdict didn’t really seem to offer any sense of justice. The unfortunate problem with this long-running plot was that there’s a real lack of tension when you know Andy’s name being cleared is meaningless (actor Kelvin Fletcher has left seemingly for good) and the Whites won’t really be punished and will continue hovering between camp villains and victims. There seems like there’s a lot more potential there – particularly when it comes to a wealthy family protecting their psychopathic son against all odds, fully aware of and making no excuses for his behaviour – without trying to squeeze out sympathy for them.

Scene of the Week (9-13 Jan 2017)

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The Lachlan/White shooting saga has not been a highlight of the past six months of Emmerdale by any means, but there are some glimmers of good moments in the story thanks to some great performances and my scene of the week choice is one of those. When visiting her son in prison, Chrissie was devastated to realise that Lachlan’s beatings and bruises were all his own doing in a bid to elicit sympathy from her – and a Porsche. Chrissie had spent the week negotiating with Cain and worrying about Lucky’s welfare, so she was horrified to see him remorseless and gloating about his victim performance. Let’s be honest, she shouldn’t be surprised by now. The narrative surrounding the Whites has always been muddled but there’s potential in the Chrissie and Lachlan relationship and her enabling of his horrific behaviour and the impact this has on her as a mother. Thomas Atkinson’s performance in this scene, as twisted Lachlan threatened to betray his mother’s wishes and confess to a cold bloodied murder attempt – or worse, blame it all on her – were particularly well done. If only the story stopped portraying their morally black behaviour as the wrong turns of the hard-done by then their villainy could be a lot better.