Every week I run through the best and worst bits of the week on Emmerdale. Tell me your faves and fails in the comments! This week Archie ran away from home after further bullying from Arthur and the villagers decided to put on a panto.
Community stories can often be thin on the ground in current Emmerdale so this week’s Christmas panto story was a joy. In a small village where everyone knows each other, this season is the perfect time for lots of characters to get together, even those who aren’t usually involved. This story gave Manpreet a chance to embed herself more in the village, beside her GP role, and we could also forget that Bob was involved with the show’s most hated character while he relished in his creative role. It was also a lot of fun to see the actors pretending to act on stage, some even doing a bad job. We haven’t seen a panto in the village for a while and so far it’s been everything warm and fun and Christmassy. Unlike the village nativity from two years ago, centred around Chas and Paddy’s forced humour, it’s been much more fun to see the rehearsals and preparation and not just rush straight to a costumed performance. It has shades of the community spirit from classic Emmerdale and that can only be a good thing.
Archie’s story escalated this week and really tugged at the heart strings. While the writing for this storyline feels rushed and extreme at times, little Kai Assi is doing a brilliant job at showing Archie’s absolute fear and hopelessness. It was impossible not to want to reach into the screens and hug him this week as he saw his only option was to run away. Feeling completely alone, Archie’s anguish was very emotive and is one of the reasons why this story is working.
Apart from my Scene of the Week choice, there was another scene which really stood out and was one of the highlights of the Archie and Arthur story. It was clear that Arthur attached a lot of significance to Christmas when it came to remembering his late dad. With that in mind Laurel organised a special festive gathering to decorate the tree, with Arthur ready to place the final decoration on the tree – a special decoration he once made for his dad. Arthur’s world shattered when Archie ran in and broke the decoration in the scuffle. You could feel Arthur’s pain and hurt and so much of that was in the brilliant performance from Alfie Clarke. There are times when the writing over-simplifies Arthur’s bullying as reasonless cruelty, but when we see Arthur’s perspective and a young boy still struggling with grief, the story is so much better for it.
Jimmy and Nicola United
The Archie plot isn’t perfect but it does have many elements that are successful. With the great performances from both the young children and the parents, it’s been great to see characters like Jai, Laurel, Jimmy and Nicola get something really meaty story-wise. There was a nice reminder this week about what a great couple Jimmy and Nicola are as Nicola was unflinching in her support of her husband. Solid couples are thin on the ground at the moment, but there’s something so genuine about Jimmy and Nicola that makes their scenes feel authentic.
When Jamie arrived it looked like Emmerdale were paving the pathway for another Dingle and Tate romance, as he and Belle flirted. All that changed with the arrival of Andrea and Millie and it was a struggle to buy into Jamie the family man. Even though that angle has improved in recent weeks with Andrea and Jamie’s loss and the Millie paternity saga giving us many scenes of doting dad Jamie, we saw the sparks return with Belle this week. Ellis is back on the scene with a new face and it’s too early to tell if he and Belle have chemistry – but does that even matter when Belle and Jamie’s chemistry is so palpable? With Jamie’s rather flustered comments at the Christmas party giving Belle something to smile about, there’s surely too much potential there to squander?
Escalating too Fast?
Despite the Archie and Arthur storyline having many positives and being one of Emmerdale’s strongest stories of the moment, it has some flaws in its execution. Perhaps its down to impatient viewers or the way modern TV drama has to compete with boxsets, but something is lost in the sensitivity and nuance of a challenging story like this when it escalates so quickly. Maybe viewers don’t want months of Arthur’s troubling behaviour building to bullying, but the whiplash from the kind boy who has a conscience, to the tough bully needs to be told carefully. Likewise Jai and Laurel turning against Jimmy, a man they’ve known in years and, in Laurel’s case, a close friend borders on unbelievable and hollow when it happens so fast. When Emmerdale’s airing six, sometimes seven, episodes a week, they have the luxury to take their time telling this, but the speed the situation has escalated feels like they’re anxious about viewers interest. Sometimes these stories don’t need extreme behaviour shifts and twists, they just need to unravel more slowly.
Befriending the Enemy
You have to feel for Bob. He’s just managed to shake off the memories of the hated Bob and Laurel affair and last year’s (all too brief) homelessness story did wonders in repairing fans’ love for Bob. But now, even in the midst of a fun panto plot, he’s taken Wendy’s side. Granted, he was telling her he couldn’t support her over Victoria, but surely even by empathising with her and comforting her, he was doing just that? The Wendy plot continues to be misguided and an unpleasant watch, but characters we know and like shouldn’t be dragged into it otherwise it means dragging them down with her.