Fave or Fail? (11-22 May 2020)

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Every week (every fortnight during the lockdown) I run through the best and worst bits of the week on Emmerdale. Tell me your faves and fails in the comments! Helpless Laurel called the police to scare Archie and Leyla slapped Leanna as their feud escalated.

Faves

A Family Dilemma

vlcsnap-2020-05-23-21h43m21s591As the fire blazed at Rishi’s birthday camp out, the Arthur and Archie situation continued to put a massive strain on Laurel’s life. Feeling scared about the escalation of Arthur’s behaviour, Laurel went to the extreme length of calling the police to help her make her boy see sense. With Archie aware that he’d made things worse by winding Arthur up, he confessed too, leading to even more frustration in the Thomas household. Arthur’s behaviour has been divisive among viewers, especially those missing him as a sweet little boy, however the performances and questions raised by this story have been well worth watching. It’s been great to see more of the consistently brilliant Charlotte Bellamy having something challenging to act and I’m sure there are parents watching who have faced similar struggles with their own kids and wondered helplessly how to make things right. It was also good to see Gabby get involved too as Rosie Bentham has been underused since Ashley died, and Kai Assi who plays Archie has been great too. But this story couldn’t be praised without mentioning Alfie Clarke who manages to make Arthur empathetic even when the writing doesn’t always paint him that way. Alfie’s done a great job of showing the psychological toll of Arthur’s behaviour, from the jealousy of Archie to the frustration and anger of not being believed. I hope we get to see more of Arthur’s journey moving forward.

A Glimmer of Hope?

vlcsnap-2020-05-23-21h41m56s779This fortnight saw Cain and Moira meet to sign their divorce papers and for Cain to collect his stuff. Despite 2019’s great trashing of what was one of Emmerdale’s most loved couples, it’s hard not to pine for the way it was between them. Arguably, Jeff Hordley and Natalie J Robb have the best chemistry in the show so even when things are tense between them, you still see those feelings brimming under the surface. After a moment of levity about a mixed tape Cain made, there was a frisson in the air and it was impossible not to wish things had thawed a little more. Sure, straight after they launched into another row, but it became obvious that the reason for the bitterness was the lingering feelings underneath. After Cain left, Moira’s pain was obvious, even though she put on a brave face in front of Rhona and with pining performances it just made me crave for the Coira back in their prime. It might be a long wait, but if Emmerdale know their strengths, surely they’ll reunite them.

Remembering History

vlcsnap-2020-05-23-21h42m17s463I was so glad to see Diane visit Vanessa this week and give her advice about dealing with chemotherapy. Newer viewers might not remember, but Diane also had bowel cancer in 2004 and then another cancer diagnosis in 2015, so it’s about time her paths crossed with Diane. It felt long overdue to involve these characters especially as Diane’s also Sarah’s gran (not that Emmerdale seems to remember that much either!) so it makes sense that Diane would be informed about Vanessa’s difficult time. Emmerdale’s at its very best when it remembers and uses character history in believable ways to contribute to current plots and with a new normal of filming episodes approaching where it seems likely episodes will be more character focused, we can only hope that we see more of these moments between characters who have shared ground.

Fails

Character Trashing

vlcsnap-2020-05-23-21h44m25s264I’ll openly admit I’ve never been a fan of Harriet’s character. Despite the ripped jeans and cool attitude, she’s been surprisingly boring for a woman who went from undercover cop to woman of the cloth. This fortnight she dumped boring Will, for his lies and putting their family in danger, but then almost immediately jumped into bed with the dodgiest man around – Malone. Sure, she took Will back, but then was spending the night in a hotel room with Malone but scowling about Will’s betrayal. You what, Harriet? I take no issue with Harriet being drawn to bad boys or even playing away in the vestry but with Malone? They might have history (another predictable turn of events) but this story is making Harriet look both stupid and hypocritical. Why dump Will and give him a hard time for his involvement in drugs and crooked cops when Malone is the ring leader? It makes no sense and it makes a mockery of Harriet’s principles. It was a hard enough stretch to believe Harriet could forgive the man who’d tried to crush her with a coffin, but we were told they had unresolved history. It seems lazy to do the same with Malone and frankly there isn’t enough chemistry in their scenes to believe she would be tempted enough to throw away so much for a man as dangerous as Malone. If there are any big Harriet fans left they might be wondering what just happened to the character they loved…

Scene of the Week (11-22 May 2020)

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There were some impressive scenes in the Arthur storyline in the past fortnight, but this scene, by Ashley’s grave between mother and son was one of the real stand outs. As Arthur dealt with a visit from the police and Laurel struggled to get a handle on the spiralling situation between Arthur and Archie, things came to an emotional head. With troubled young Arthur trying to explain his perspective, his feelings of being left out and not believed, Laurel too found it difficult to articulate the complexities of their family’s recent problems and the challenge of trying to do the right thing. Alfie Clarke has done a great job throughout this story, showing the frustrations and complicated emotions brewing under his awful actions and he acted brilliantly alongside the excellent Charlotte Bellamy in this moment. This moment felt particularly well done as it continued to focus on the impact of Ashley’s death and the pressure Arthur has been under to be a son Ashley would be proud of.

Fave or Fail? (27 April-8 May 2020)

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Every week (every fortnight during the lockdown) I run through the best and worst bits of the week on Emmerdale. Tell me your faves and fails in the comments! Andrea finally learnt what Jamie’s been getting up to and Rishi’s birthday had an explosive end.

Faves

Andrea Learns the Truth

vlcsnap-2020-05-09-10h35m26s467The scales fell from Andrea’s eyes this week as she discovered husband Jamie has been playing away with Belle and making plans to leave her. Having only recently reunited, Andrea was devastated by his betrayal and confided in Leyla who urged her to fight for her marriage. Anna Nightingale did a good job at showing Andrea’s pain and made her immediately sympathetic, even though her and Jamie’s marriage doesn’t seem worth saving. In later episodes it seems like Andrea’s plans to win Jamie’s affections back involved causing friction between him and Belle and despite her hurt she seemed almost gleeful in her plotting. Andrea showed she could be quite smart and devious, with barbed comments and sly plans she has potential to be the next big soap bitch. Could we see the next Kim Tate on our hands? Viewers have long felt Andrea has been a bit wasted and this felt like the start of something much more promising.

Chas Reaches Out to Paddy

vlcsnap-2020-05-09-10h34m16s364This fortnight was the culmination of Paddy’s struggles with baby Eve, after his unfortunate mistake of leaving her in the car alone. I’ve not been a fan of how Paddy is written in recent times, the bumbling and stuttering feeling more and more like a caricature, but when Chas finally found out what he was going through, the pair were able to sit and talk it through like grown-ups finally. It was a fitting call-back to their daughter Grace, to talk about why this might be impacting on his mental health and parenting, and it was a nicely scripted scene that dealt with those issues without being mawkish. Saying all this, I do hope now that they’ve reached a turning point, that Chas and Paddy’s characters have more to do than just be parents. It’s time, for Chas especially, to get her spark back and not just alternate between nappies and bar work.

More Manpreet – Please

vlcsnap-2020-05-09-10h34m53s907During this pandemic, with fewer episodes and Emmerdale not currently filming, now is the time when some viewers are reflecting on the stories they’re enjoying (and not) and the characters they’d like to see more of when filming resumes. If Emmerdale are taking stock then I’d like to see more of Manpreet. With current stories dominated by the Malone drug plot, Manpreet exemplifies the ‘everyday’ that works so successfully in soap. A “normal” relatable character with a naturalistic acting style and charisma. Manpreet has slotted successfully into the village as their GP and has added a bit of sanity to Rishi’s outlandish buffoonery. She wasn’t especially central to stories this week, though we did see her support Paddy, but she’s a reminder of how even the “mundane” characters are worth watching and utilising when filming resumes. Recently we’ve seen her be warm and caring to Vanessa’s plight, but she’s also fitted in well with the Sharmas – and I’d certainly much rather watch Manpreet than the two-bit gangster stories of late!

Fails

Wimpy Will

vlcsnap-2020-05-09-10h40m23s665According to Emmerdale history, Will Taylor was once the infamous drug lord. So shady and destructive were his dealings, Harriet was employed to infiltrate his life and go undercover as his girlfriend. Sounds like a character with depth and a real dark side. So where is that Will? What we have now is man unrecognisable from the bloke he was originally supposed to be. He’s such a sad sack that even when Malone’s cartoon goons beat him up this fortnight (to the sounds of Land of Make Believe in the world’s cringey-est montage) it was hard to even care. Do I care about his and Dawn’s relationship? Or even him and Harriet? No. I wouldn’t care if he left tomorrow leaving only a note behind. Gone is all the menace and intrigue of his early episodes, the interesting and complex background with him and Harriet and Dawn – all that conflict of betrayal and forbidden feelings with Harriet just erased. Their family with all its tragedy and dysfunction is as lifeless as they come. To sign a successful actor like Dean Andrews should have meant Emmerdale had exciting stories lined up, not to turn Will into a miserable loser under Malone’s thumb.

Dull and Dominating

vlcsnap-2020-05-09-10h43m09s412The Malone story continued to suck the life out of Emmerdale this week, in a plot that feels closer to a poor man’s rejected Line of Duty script than anything we can expect from our favourite soap. The concept of a charismatic bent cop pulling the strings of multiple characters, which in turn has consequences for multiple families has potential but the execution has been nothing short of dull, and when it dominates episodes it’s a real drag. I can’t help but picture the difference if Malone had been introduced slowly, had even had a family himself in the village, only to unravel his power and corruption slowly as he held his grip over the villagers. Instead he’s flat and feels so much like a guest character who will be easily despatched so where’s the investment. Add to this that most of his story is connected to Will – one of Emmerdale’s most bafflingly boring characters – would anyone care if he offed Will tomorrow? The stakes are low, the story is so far removed from the dramas of village life we’re used to, and Emmerdale’s a powerhouse when it centres on relatable stories and gripping tales of love, betrayal and revenge. But most of this story is blokes standing around discussing drugs and vague threats which bare no relation to anything we can care about. The sooner it’s over, the better.

Scene of the Week (27 April-8 May 2020)

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Andrea’s world was shattered this fortnight as during the Easter egg hunt she witnessed Jamie and Belle kissing and him promising her a future. This was a pivotal moment for Andrea and actress Anna Nightingale did a great job at showing how in the space of a minute, the rug was pulled from under her and gaining our sympathies. Even though Andrea and Jamie’s marriage has often felt an odd fit and a bit dry, it was impossible not to feel sorry for her here, but also feel a slight frisson of excitement about how she might get her revenge.

Fave or Fail? (13-24 April 2020)

faveorfail

Every week (every fortnight during the lockdown) I run through the best and worst bits of the week on Emmerdale. Tell me your faves and fails in the comments! This fortnight Lydia and Sam finally got married and Vinny’s father arrived.

Faves

Lydia and Sam Get Married

vlcsnap-2020-04-25-17h06m00s039In these bleak times it was fortuitous timing to have the feel-good joy of Sam and Lydia’s wedding to watch. We really needed it! From the fun mishaps of the stag and hen dos where even Cain received a massage from the hunky masseur, to Lydia’s mum flirting up a storm with the whiskey expert. On the big day itself Lydia looked beautiful and after some emotional words with Samson, Sam was ready to marry his perfect match. Sam’s vows – comparing finding Lydia to rabbit catching – were amusingly apt and the big dance to Cotton Eye Joe was lots of fun. This was a fun and touching wedding and a satisfying special day for this couple that are now at the heart of the Dingle brood. This was perfect and heartwarming. A great tonic. 

Mandy’s Blast From the Past

vlcsnap-2020-04-25-17h05m22s843Mandy’s experience of the big wedding was less than happy though as she had bumped into Vinny’s dad Paul in the morning when hitching a lift. We’d already learnt a little about Paul (conveniently) just a few weeks before and as Mandy’s face fell it was clear she was dead against his reappearance in Vinny’s life. Having lied to him that Vinny had gone, it was only a matter of time before Paul learnt the truth and is now working alongside his son in secret. We don’t quite know the full story yet or what will happen when Vinny learns about Paul but this story has already given Mandy some meatier emotional material which Lisa Riley has delivered with real heart. Although the nostalgic comedy Mandy brings has been fun in small doses, it’s these vulnerable moments like the ones she shares with Lydia where Mandy really shines. Looking forward to seeing how this story progresses. 

Vanity Divided

vlcsnap-2020-04-25-17h09m27s516Vanessa’s chemotherapy treatment began this fortnight, triggering an intense mood within a family already struggling to cope with Vanessa’s illness this story so far has presented many of the ups and downs, the symptoms, hospital visits and emotional tolls that cancer can do to a family and Emmerdale have done a great job at touching on these issues. Having Vanessa get drunk and go viral was a clunky and silly way to show the division of coping methods her and Charity are taking but aside from this, their personal struggles and inability to communicate feels authentic. As Charity fights for the stable family life she’s finally found, it’s made sense she’s swung to full and sometimes smothering domestic protector mode. Equally, it’s completely believable that Vanessa doesn’t always want to be in the role of victim and ill person. This divide has made their conflict and relationship dramas successful and it’s a sign of how well written it is that you can empathise with both characters. There is no right or wrong way to behave or react in a crisis this difficult and I’m glad the writing is showing how cracks can appear and feel overwhelming before they are mended. 

Fails

Neanderthal Nate

vlcsnap-2020-04-25-17h03m04s545Before Jamie and Belle confessed their love for each other, things were strained between them as paranoid and guilty Jamie reacted badly to Belle dumping Ellis. Feeling threatened that their secrets would come tumbling out, he confronted her coldly in the street and treated her cruelly. Then, in comes Nate after his supersonic hearing and sixth sense in the cafe meant he was the one to join the dots and work out their secret and I groaned. Sure, Nate might be Belle’s family now that the Dingles have overlooked his scheme to break Cain’s family apart, but was he really needed in this story? His neanderthal reaction reduced Belle to a little woman who needed saving when the reality was she was doing a good enough job on her own without his interference. Not only did this seem like another effort from Emmerdale to make Nate the good guy by shoe-horning him in, but his aggressive reaction came across as hypocritical considering his affair not even six months ago. I think Emmerdale are attempting to draw parallels between Nate and Cain with their fists first attitude but Cain has the charisma and convincing vulnerability that Nate hasn’t achieved yet. Granted, Jamie was a dick, but Nate sweeping in to be Belle’s hero felt unpleasantly caveman and hypocritical. Surely this isn’t the way to make Nate a likeable part of the village?

Kerry’s Redemption

vlcsnap-2020-04-25-17h02m21s386Vanessa received support from an unlikely source this week as Kerry sat with her during her chemotherapy and after a frosty start, the two came to some sort of understanding. This was a strange turn of events, as since it was revealed that Kerry and Amy were the reason for Frank’s death last year, Emmerdale have swept it all under the carpet, with Tracy and Vanessa barely bothered and Kerry and Amy carrying on as normal. Tracy and Amy were even seen side by side in the pub with no reaction. But this week there seemed to be a half-hearted stab at a redemption for Kerry, as though Emmerdale have just twigged that viewers still aren’t happy that Kerry and Amy have got away with their involvement with Frank’s death scott free. However, the scenes this week all felt a little hollow and disingenuous considering it’s been months since they were caught by Tracy and we’ve seen not even a flicker of remorse since. As Charity raged at Kerry (and I was Team Charity on this one) for her two faced behaviour, a nurse revealed that Kerry’s been volunteering at the hospital. Sorry, what? This was a laughable way to make Saint Kerry seem like she’d had some off-screen remorse for her behaviour. Surely something like that would have landed as much more convincingly if we’d seen it, or it had even been hinted at in other scenes? Kerry has been likeable and kind in the past but if her and Amy are never going to receive proper punishment or backlash from the village about what they did (and it does feel like that time has passed) her redemption needed a lot more care than a throwaway comment and offscreen volunteer work. Even Vanessa’s forgiveness didn’t feel authentic, but a plot device to start a rift with Charity. Instead of its desired effect, this reminder of Kerry and Frank served not to redeem Kerry but remind the audience that this story thread was left with a fair from satisfying conclusion.

Scene of the Week (13-24 April 2020)

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As Sam prepared for his big day there was time for this lovely scene between him and Samson. After Sam gave Samson his wedding ring, Samson pointed out what an amazing dad he’s been and how Alice would be looking down with pride at what a great job he’s done. There’s always been a heartwarming relationship between father and son that’s a testament to the performances of James Hooton and Sam Hall, but this scene particularly pulled on the heart strings, especially when Samson called Sam his own “Best Man”. Aww!