Every week I run through the best and worst bits of the week on Emmerdale. Tell me your faves and fails in the comments! After a week of the suspects vowing revenge on Graham, he was murdered by Pierce Harris.
It was a week of twists and mysteries but the biggest surprise of all was the return of Pierce Harris, one of the village’s most chilling and manipulative villains. Pierce’s return helped to answer a lot of Graham’s shady behaviour and was satisfying for those viewers who had speculated Pierce might be involved ever since we heard he was up for release from prison. This week showed Pierce is just as twisted as ever and he’s played brilliantly by Jonathan Wrather. Not only does Pierce’s murder of Graham set off a new chain of events for the characters who are within his circle, but it could also lead to some exciting scenes as Pierce homes in on his targets. The village has needed an engaging villain so I’m glad to have one, for a short while at least.
Every episode in the run up to Friday left us guessing, each ending with ominous scenes of our main suspects. There was Al standing over Graham’s leaf covered corpse as Kim sat at home pondering whether she did the right thing; Jai with bloodied knuckles falling over; Charity and Ryan lurking by the bridge talking about no regrets; a bloody and grief-stricken Andrea; a pensive Jamie in a car; and Marlon in the woods after arranging to meet Graham. All these scenes were well constructed and intriguing, giving us that must-see element. As the episodes played out, Andrea and Jamie’s motives were strongest and their chilling cliff-hanger was by far the most effective, so much so I almost wish they’d been the killers themselves! What the rest of these suspects did on that fateful night remains to be seen.
I’m not sure anyone started the week believing Marlon or Charity Dingle would go as far as killing Graham, but helped by some emotive heart-to-hearts with their loved ones and showdowns with Graham, you could see how they might be pushed. This week had some particularly impressive performances. Earlier in the week Charity was broken hearted to learn how her son Ryan had felt so trapped and vulnerable when Graham locked him in a shed. When she confronted Graham, her explosive fury transformed to something far quieter and deeper thanks to Emma Atkin’s performance, as Graham viscously insulted her in the street. Marlon too was tipped over the edge, paranoid about Graham’s involvement in his children’s lives, but it was his scenes with Rhona that were particularly impressive as he cried about his life being a mess. Mark Charnock and Zoe Henry delivered the scene beautifully with all their characters’ history before our eyes, until Rhona’s reveal that she was taking Leo to France meant their relationship imploded once more. Of the weeks more memorable moments, it’s these character reactions that really stood out as highlights.
Jai and Laurel’s Relationship Breakdown
Jai’s drug issues escalated this week to give him a (fairly implausible) reason for wanting Graham dead. The HOP opening day was an unbelievable shambles, however, the success of Jai’s episode came in the strength of his scenes with Laurel. Getting high to cope with his day, Jai took cocaine and then agreed to pick Dotty up, but crashed into Graham’s car before he had the chance. Seething Graham revealed all to Laurel and when Jai tried to evade the truth, she revealed her devastation that he would sink so low and might have endangered her child and was still prepared to lie about it. These were some nicely acted scenes and effective fall out, even if Jai’s relapse felt contrived. Now that Jai doesn’t need to be a suspect, hopefully this story will play to its strengths and stay character led.
Style Over Substance?
Even though everyone wanted Graham dead, the final episode of the week revealed they weren’t all as involved in his demise as it first appeared. With the week’s structure it might have been a little anti-climactic and even confusing to have all these timelines with unanswered questions, particularly when Graham and Pierce’s fight dragged on and edged towards a hammy action film finale rather than a thrilling conclusion. How many last breaths did Graham need? While there were plenty of moments where the “same week, different perspectives” paid off with fun moments of spotting things in the background and stories crossing over, as the week wore on, was it a bit repetitive and style over substance? When Emmerdale steps outside the box, it’s always going to be divisive, but this week seemed a bit overloaded with gimmicks, when really its cast of impressive performers are just as gripping if they tell a linear story.
The Bigger Picture
For some viewers, Pierce’s return to murder Graham has been a divisive decision. The experimental week which set up five suspects actually revealed none of them was responsible, but saw a return of Pierce Harris, Rhona’s ex-husband and rapist. Despite complaints that the stylistic decisions of the week ended up being gimmicky, perhaps there’s a deeper question about the purpose of Pierce. Bringing back a truly evil villain has its positives (see above) but when it diminishes the conclusion of a successful past storyline – is it worth it? Viewers who witnessed Pierce’s tenure first time round would have seen a sense of justice and closure for Rhona and her final scenes with him gave us a sense of her empowerment and strength to move on. But with this latest twist, all this has been undone and Rhona once again has her life in tatters thanks to Pierce. If his abuse and rape of her wasn’t enough torture, he returns to murder the man she loves. When we’ve recently seen Victoria, another of the village’s rape survivors, hassled, stalked and her life made a misery by her rapist and his mother, it feels a bit of a grim choice to be tormenting Rhona in a similar way. There’s no question that Pierce’s return is bound to end in a grisly way, but will it be worth turning the story into something sensationalist when his original story with Rhona told a relatable and real-life story with a fitting end? Time will tell…