Every week I run through the best and worst bits of the week on Emmerdale. Tell me your faves and fails in the comments! Another week showcasing the full spectrum of soap – from the beautiful, honest and emotional to the cheap, tacky and unbelievable.
The Last Goodbye
For me the strengths of Ashley’s story were the far-reaching impact on his family and friends and the performances of the main actors involved and this week we had the best of these as the community gathered for his funeral. Everything from Harriet’s crisis of confidence, to Gabby’s heartbreak and grief that she didn’t get to say goodbye on her own, to Laurel’s strength, to Doug’s speech, to Arthur’s poem – the reactions showed a full spectrum of grief and it was full of heart and warmth. Emmerdale has been rightly praised for the sensitivity and believability it has told this story with, staying away from cheap twists and playing each character’s reaction with relatable honesty. The writing and performances have cemented this as soap best and shows what Emmerdale is capable of.
Faith has managed to establish herself as a lively and interesting character in the village and she’s only been here five minutes, but what I loved most this week is this kind of girl gang her Sarah and Debbie have formed at Moira’s. Debbie’s a hundred times better when she’s not tied up in gangster heists or moping over Ross and Sarah and Faith’s relationship is blossoming into something lovely. This week Debbie and Faith butted heads over Sarah’s health but Faith also managed to get Debs to lighten up and the scenes where she tried to bring the holiday vibes into Sarah’s world was funny and heartwarming. I loved their sunbathing, cocktail drinking role play and it was even better to see the usually dour Debbie getting involved in the dress up.
The Ashley and Laurel dream sequence was a controversial choice for a moment of closure for a story which has been grounded in so much reality from the start, but with John Middleton and Charlotte Bellamy’s emotional performances and so much history involved, I think Emmerdale made it work. It’s not the first time Emmerdale has done a dream sequence – Eric seeing Val and Marlon seeing Tricia spring to mind – and it’s a gimmick that maybe didn’t work for everyone but I’ll admit I thought it was very moving and a fitting end to the chapter. There’s a certain amount of comfort to be had in Ashley’s speech to Laurel about moving on and it’s not a luxury many of us have when losing a loved one, but fiction often gives us the wish-fulfilment real life can’t. It was a scene filled with history and continuity but at the heart of it a believable couple saying a heartfelt final goodbye when his decline had prevented them from doing so. Even more impressive was that this scene was done in one take, making those flawless performances even more impressive.
Readers of this blog will know I have a huge soft spot for comedic goofball Rishi but at this point I’m starting to feel like I’m cursed and it’s Emmerdale’s mission to make me hate all my favourite characters. This week saw Rishi and Faith go on a date but after some crass and uncalled for comments from Charity, Faith panicked and ended up confessing about her mastectomy to Rishi. Faith’s dilemma is one faced by other women going through the same insecurity after surgery but did this story really need to be rushed through with all the sensitivity of a hammer to the face? I know Charity isn’t the most understanding of women, but would she have really laid on the warning so thickly, making out as if Faith was some disfigured monster? Would Faith have really told him on date number one? Rishi ran out in a panic straight away and then mouthed off about it loudly in the pub for all to hear, including Faith. We know Rishi can be an idiot but this plot development was rushed when this story needs time and care to do it justice.
The Recipe of Success?
The perfect recipe for a terrible storyline? Take one beloved couple and destroy their re-built foundations of trust and loyalty. Add several backward steps for a complex and interesting character you spent eighteen months redeeming. Villainise said character by using a reconstructed history and new character whose personality changes depending on plot to make her the hapless victim and him the heartless bastard. No grey areas. Pretend condoms are 100% effective. Make a sensitive hero of your sleaziest male character to demonise said complex male. Remove female character’s agency. Add blackmail. Remove reactions of suspicion from the spouse and make them dote heavily on duplicitous male to up the stakes. Flee the country and pretend this all goes away. Wonder how the hell this is ever going to be salvageable for the beloved couple.