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.
Chilling and Compelling
As 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.
This 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.
Comedy 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!!!
When 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
Debbie 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.