Scene of the Week (4-8 Dec 2017)

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Sometimes the best scenes are the most unexpected moments between two characters who rarely share screentime together and that was the case this week as Bob reached out to Moira. Loss and death of loved ones is something no villager has escaped, but with Moira still feeling desperately low, Bob did his best to make her see that Holly’s death wasn’t her fault. Bob’s emotional chat with Moira really triggered the tear ducts as he talked about losing his daughter Dawn and how he struggled to cope with the guilt of not being there. I love a good slice of Emmerdale history in scenes! Bob was also able to relate to Moira’s difficulties with Isaac, as his twins arrived very shortly after Dawn’s death and he echoed what some of Moira’s emotions have been. Ultimately the biggest positive about this scene and story is Emmerdale’s attitude towards Holly’s death and the way it’s been told. It’s very different from the usual quick pace of grieving in soap, and that’s been a real strength to Moira’s story, allowing her PND to be more complex and real.

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Fave or Fail? (13-17 Nov 2017)

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Every week I run through the best and worst bits of the week on Emmerdale. Tell me your faves and fails in the comments! Isaac’s christening lead to a lot of heartache and soul searching this week.

Faves

Taking Risks

vlcsnap-2017-11-19-18h33m20s220Lately Emmerdale hasn’t been afraid to push the boundaries of the soap genre and the success of its efforts to tell stories in different and creative ways only confirm why it’s picking up awards regularly. Friday’s episode saw a tight focus on the story thread of Moira and Cain’s role in Isaac’s life and took us back in time to see the struggles Cain and Chas faced with their own parents, Faith and Shadrach. Like the Ashley special episode last year, the Emmerdale casting team were spectacular in their choice of perfect actors for the younger versions of Faith, Shadrach, Cain and Chas with the adults in particular bearing a striking and uncanny resemblance to their counterparts. Reflecting on Cain’s childhood, Jeff Hordley gave a hugely emotional performance, with Cain’s heartbreaking past helping to explain how much of a struggle he’s facing in the present day as a father to Isaac and Sally Dexter continues to be a brilliant on-screen presence, in both comedy and tragedy. Together they make a believable mother and son duo which made the scenes all the more poignant. Far from being gimmicky, the flashbacks helped to flesh out the backstories of characters we’ve known for a long time and gave more weight to the struggles they’ve suffered, which before now we’ve only known through being told rather than seeing it first-hand. When Emmerdale takes creative risks like this the quality feels heightened, like we’re watching something beyond the tag of ‘soap’ and makes the drama feel fresh and novel, showing that these new approaches really pay off.

Compassionate Love

vlcsnap-2017-11-19-18h35m54s669Eric and Faith’s relationship really became something special this week. For all their to-ing and fro-ing, with miscommunication and Rodney’s interference, the pair finally expressed the strength of their feelings for each other and slept together in some moving and beautiful scenes. The joy of Eric and Faith is that their connection feels real and their own private struggles – whether it’s a shared grief or Faith’s insecurities about her body – were told sensitively and poignantly. It feels like ages since we’ve seen a love story played out between an older couple, but the touching way Eric and Faith’s story has been told, it’s been almost impossible not to fall in love with them too. My heart melted with Faith said Eric made her feel special, and his calling her beautiful and saying she brought colour back to his existence was wonderful. Here’s hoping they go the distance – they deserve it.

Perfect Performance

vlcsnap-2017-11-19-18h33m39s784Almost every week I want to heap praise onto Natalie J Robb’s acting. As Moira continues to struggle with her post-natal depression Natalie plays the scenes with such an effective dazed disconnect. This week Moira’s difficulties became more apparent to her family as she even went as far as giving Isaac to Adam and Vic, telling them that she couldn’t keep him and couldn’t deal with being a mother again. Moira’s grief and guilt over Holly is tied so intensely to Isaac that Moira’s been unable to bond for fear that she might lose him too. Moira’s breakdown this week was a wake up call to her loved ones who’d been oblivious and almost dismissive of her distant behaviour and Natalie made that inner battle of Moira’s so vivid and raw. I’m glad they’re continuing to show the impact of Holly’s death on Moira’s life and that Isaac hasn’t been a quick fix to that grief or to her estranged marriage with Cain. It’s a difficult watch, but one Natalie sells so well.

Fails

Rhona’s Heartbreak

vlcsnap-2017-11-19-18h34m34s543It’s a testament to Zoe Henry’s acting that Rhona’s heartbreak was so effective this week, as she discovered Paddy had moved on and was with Chas. As if their slobbering PDAs weren’t bad enough! Granted, it was Rhona’s choice not to reunite with Paddy after the trial, but his and Chas’s sudden teenage fixation with each other does seem a little on the hasty side and is a bit of a hard watch – even more so for Rhona. So why the “Fail” category this week? Simply because it hurts to see Rhona crushed like that when she’s had a really tough year. Plus, it seems inevitable that the great Chas and Paddy love affair will crash and burn at some point (like it always does) so it seems even more unnecessary to put Rhona through this.

Baby Fever

vlcsnap-2017-11-19-18h37m09s905Victoria was right this week when she talked about cute baby overload in the village. But it’s not the squidgy little faces that are a problem, it’s that there feels like there are too many baby plots all at once. Moira’s post-natal depression has been wonderfully told so far, but it’s not just the parenting stories with Isaac we are watching – it’s Rebecca and Robert with Sebastian, Adam and Vic wanting to adopt too. Last week Robert had his moment of being a reluctant father and then this time it was Cain’s turn. And this heavy baby focus is without mentioning Jai and Megan’s concerns over Eliza. All the baby plots serve a purpose when it comes to explore issues with their parents, but did we really need so many baby plots all at once?

Scene of the Week (11-15 Sep 2017)

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Granted, the resolution of Nell’s storyline was something of a disappointment, but Moira’s furious reaction to her deception was a great scene this week. Having been taken in by Nell’s lies, Moira had gone as far as giving her a place to stay and even the use of her dead daughter’s clothes trusting her every word because she saw so many similarities between Nell and Holly. As Jai tried to make Nell own up in front of Moira, she was outraged that Nell lied about using drugs and as Nell stood there calling Holly a pathetic junkie, a fuming Moira threw her out. Considering how Nell’s whole story hinged on her assimilation of Holly’s character, it’s only right Moira’s discovery of the truth was a fiery one and as ever there are few others in Emmerdale who can deliver a verbal take down quite like Moira!

Fave or Fail? (4-8 Sep 2017)

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Every week I run through the best and worst bits of the week on Emmerdale. Tell me your faves and fails in the comments! It was a great week on and off screen as the Nell’s lies were uncovered AND Emmerdale cleaned up at the TV Choice awards.

Faves

Twists and Turns

vlcsnap-2017-09-09-20h34m57s790In the space of just one episode, the Nell and Jai plot went from being sluggish and a bit dull to completely gripping. I was hooked! Many suspected there was something not quite right about Nell the minute she arrived as Holly’s double and then created an increasingly tragic backstory for herself. This week the lies unravelled as Jai discovered her pregnancy, her addiction, her dead child were all inventions. Jai managed to uncover everything just like a twisty psychological thriller (complete with jump scares too!) but with Nell exposed, things were far too easy to end there. By the end of the week, implying Jai had hurt her to Moira, Nell managed to have Jai arrested and Moira completely fooled after staging a drug collapse just like Holly. In Nell Emmerdale have created a devious and frightening character, one who has terrifying potential. Now she has Moira fooled I seriously worry for Moira’s safety but at the same time – I can’t wait!

Leyla’s Showdown

Emmerdale - Leyla Confronts Pete About the Affair - YouTubeThursday’s epic 90 minutes of Emmerdale was well worth watching and not just for the Nell shocks. The Leyla/Pete/Priya story has been a bit of a let down, wedding episodes aside, in fact Leyla summed it up well when she called it the “world’s least funny sex comedy” but the big confrontation between Leyla and the two who betrayed her was fantastic. Roxy Shahidi gave a superb performance as she had it out with best friend Priya, saying everything we’d been dying for her to bring up. She was angry, unfiltered and devastated, but delivered key moments of this with her head held high. The writing too was effective in painting the women’s friendship as the biggest casualty of this betrayal and giving Leyla the strength and agency in this moment, rather than let her be the unfortunate ditz that she had been during other parts of the story. The scenes too also gave the opportunity for the characters to explain the often nonsensical developments between Pete and Priya and why they hurt Leyla so much. I hope the aftermath continues to be complex rather than falling into soapy catfights and with any luck Leyla might find some much deserved happiness!

Jai’s Turnaround

vlcsnap-2017-09-09-20h34m41s969I laughed out loud this week when Nell told Jai “Everyone likes you now and they couldn’t stand you before!” for its meta take on Jai Sharma’s redemption arc. It seemed to happen before Nell’s arrival, so she’s wrong about her impact on that, but I’m really impressed how Emmerdale transformed Jai from a cold and unlikeable villain to someone far more sympathetic and interesting. If this turnaround hadn’t happened then Jai’s discovery about Nell’s lies and his subsequent arrest on Friday wouldn’t have had the same devastating impact but I was right there with him this week – cheering him on and worried for him too. Chris Bisson did a great job in taking us through everything from Jai’s shock and horror to those quietly devastated scenes in the fallout, but with him only just having sorted his life out and Nell the expert liar, I wonder if enough people will believe his side of the story.

Fails

Out of Place?

vlcsnap-2017-09-09-20h35m35s466For me the two most tiresome aspects of Debbie’s plots are when she falls out with Charity (again) and when she gets herself mixed up in heist-style gangster stories – and unfortunately we had a bit of both this week. The new wealthy men soon to be village regulars have been well documented in the press and we met right-hand man Graham for the first time. First impressions are good, even if it did leave me wondering how Charity and Debbie have found themselves renting a car presumably to a man who could have whatever new car he wanted with the snap of his fingers! The problem, and probably one that’s always a sticking point with Debbie, is that I don’t really believe in her in this world. Charity has charm and wit – even when she can be full-on – and Debbie has brains, but she’s  serious and dour-faced, and feels out of place in these stories. I believe her as a mother struggling with what’s best for her kids, I believe her in those softer scenes with Moira. I can even buy her falling for a wrong un like Ross (even though their scenes are flat and lacking in spark). But these stories where she gets mixed up in a rich and dangerous underworld just don’t ring true. Some of Debbie’s stories and characteristics seem very real and believable but the moment she steps into this cartoon world of tycoons and gangsters it becomes more fantastical and far less enjoyable.

6 Perfect Reasons To Vote Emmerdale at the Soap Awards

Last year Emmerdale took home the big one – Best British Soap – at the British Soap Awards, for the first time in its history. The last twelve months in Emmerdale have been brilliant, so here are just a few reasons why Emmerdale is still the best soap and why you should vote for them at the Soap Awards.

Dealing with Tough Issues

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Emmerdale has been praised for its heartfelt stories about issues that have grounding in reality and deal with difficult subjects such as marital rape and dementia – and rightly so. Episodes like Holly’s tragic and shock death from a heroin overdose and Ashley’s passing were emotive and touching, particularly as they connected with an audience who had suffered similar tragedies in their own lives. These stories are soap at their finest and are especially effective when we have spent years watching these characters and their lives play out.

Super Soap Week

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It’s hard to imagine that Emmerdale’s Super Soap Week will ever be bettered. It had it all: a unique storytelling device, beautiful camera work, character focused episodes and then a blockbuster style stunt like nothing we’ve ever seen in soap before. It brought together a range of villagers in stories which covered multiple genres and saw their lives collide – literally. It was visually impressive, ambitious and a real treat for any Emmerdale or soap fan.

Complex Characters

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Emmerdale is blessed with a fantastic range of vibrant characters but it doesn’t make caricatures of them. Characters we think of as the fools can still face heartbreak; the bad guys can have a soft side. Bad deeds are done and bad decisions are made, but mostly the people we see onscreen feel human – like people we know and actions we can believe. Even some of its morally grey characters like Robert or Emma, have complicated emotional cores that are a joy to watch unfold. And even Emmerdale’s out-and-out villains like Pierce are more than just there for cackling and evil deeds – they showcase the dark side of human nature.

Flawless Performances

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There’s a reason why Emmerdale’s so full of great characters and hard-hitting storylines, why the cast is so beloved by all who watch and that’s simply down to how hugely talented the actors are. We’re moved to tears of sadness and laughter, we’re shocked and angered. We could hand out fifty awards and still feel like the cast deserve more. From the stunts to the quiet moments of pain and heartbreak, the Emmerdale actors nail it all. A vote for Emmerdale is a vote for this talented bunch and all the crew behind the scenes who make their performances even more powerful.

A Big Sense of Humour

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It’s not just emotional and hard-hitting issues Emmerdale tackles, but they often give us a great dollop of humour in its storylines. They might not all be rib-tickling but Emmerdale has enough brilliant comedy performers that there’s bound to be at least one villager that raises a laugh. Whether it’s the physical comedy, the one-liners or innuendo, Emmerdale isn’t short on laughs and it’s a warm and familiar comfort returning to these fun characters night after night.

Family Dynamic

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Family dynamics are a huge part of soap and Emmerdale’s use of family in the last year has helped to make its stories unbeatable. Soap families are notorious sprawling and unconventional, but there’s been no shortage of warmth and love between its family units, even those units which are forged through ties of friendship and loyalty rather than blood. We’ve had the BnB squad in Diane, Doug and Eric; we’ve seen the Thomas family facing a hard year, but the extended family brought humour and fun to Ashley’s bleak storyline; we’ve seen Aaron cement his new family with a wedding to Robert and a house for them and Liv; Tracy bonding with her birth father Frank and new-found sister in Vanessa, but her bond with Eric has been touching to see grow; The Dingles were severed last year with Zak’s betrayal but with Lisa taking him back and Debbie’s return, Faith’s arrival they’re as big and brash as ever. The Emmerdale families are so full of loveable relationships and surprising bonds that it makes deciding which family you’d join – if you could – an impossible choice!

Fave or Fail? (27-31 March 2017)

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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 saw Harriet and Cain snog and Faith reveal her cancer in a powerful moment.

Faves

Light and Shade

w51thWe all know Ashley’s story is ending very soon, but one of the strengths of this hard-hitting dementia plot has been Emmerdale’s handling of what could be quite a draining watch. With long running illness plots the danger is that the story gets bogged down in misery, but this hasn’t happened in Ashley’s story. The moments of grief and emotion have been used poignantly and amongst this has been heart-warming and fun family moments with a large group of characters. This week saw the Thomas collective and friends join together for a talent show to cheer up Laurel. Bernice’s Barry Manilow, Doug’s musical carrot (“I am some kind of tit!” – yes, we know), Nicola’s high spirited one-arm dance – all of this was juxtaposed with Ashley’s sing-a-long at the care home, ending in him coughing up blood. It’s because these moments of light, family warmth are shown alongside Ashley’s decline and brief moments of hope, that they’re so effective. Seeing all of Ashley’s family and friends together, all responding in different ways, all bringing their own histories and personalities into the story, makes this plot relatable to so many other families watching. Next week is going to be heartbreaking.

Genuine Shock

w51faithAdmittedly I’m the sort of Emmerdale fan who’s addicted to spoilers so there’s little that’s usually a surprise to me, but I was genuinely taken aback by the reveal of Faith’s mastectomy this week and found it to be a very powerful moment. After Chas and Faith’s turbulent heart to heart, Faith flinched when Chas went to hug her, prompting another emotional outburst from Chas with her believing that Faith thought she was toxic. What transpired was a scene alone in Faith’s bedroom and a silent shot as she stared at herself in the mirror, revealing her mastectomy scars. The moment was shocking, poignant and a brave move for a soap. Although Faith is a controversial figure both on-screen with her family and off-screen with viewers, she already feels like a complex and well draw character despite not having been on screen for very long and having already shared scenes with many characters, it seems like she is already finding her place in Emmerdale.

Bob’s Your Uncle

Emmerdale - Bob Is Shocked When Ashley Starts Coughing Up Blood - YouTubeI’m not convinced there’s enough love for Bob Hope on the internet. Not only does he make unforgettable Americanos and think of himself as a bit of a smooth mover but he’s got to be one of best shoulders to cry on right now. This week Carly opened up to him about losing Billy and his support was compassionate and tender – exactly what she needed from her dad. Later in the week, Bob was a great friend for Ashley and even entertained the other residents in the care home with his singing. Bob is one of those villagers who seems to brighten up the screen and this week proved more than ever that he’s more than just a coffee maker and we need to see him get stuck into as many stories as possible!

Fails

Something Missing?

Emmerdale - Did Harriet Enjoy Being Kissed by Bad Boy Cain - YouTubeOn paper, unconventional vicar hooks up with local bad boy sounds like the recipe for a red-hot affair story and when we all suspected that cool woman of the cloth Harriet was going to get frisky with Cain, there was definitely potential. Could ‘Charriet’ be the next big thing? Well…for me it was a bit of a let down if I’m honest. The build-up to their church aisle snog felt a little forced and their confrontational attitude the other week sprung up from nowhere for two characters who have barely interacted in their years onscreen. Understandably they wouldn’t get on and yet it all felt far too shoe-horned just to make their antagonism greater for a shock snog. And really, there’s no denying they’re both sexy but their chemistry didn’t quite translate as well as it could. That’s not to say this plot won’t heat up but there was just something missing. Might it be because it just feels like Cain is treading water until they reunite him with Moira?

Seeing Double

EmmerdaleIf you’ve been following this blog for a while you’ll have noticed my change of heart when it comes to Jai Sharma. I’m fickle, okay? Once I couldn’t stand the guy and I wouldn’t have minded if there was a fire at the sweet factory, but now? Now I love Jai. This week saw a return of a more Jai centred story as he attended an NA meeting at the village hall and talked about his struggle with addiction and the loss of Holly. All powerful and moving stuff, even if these issues – like Carly’s struggles – feel a bit disjointed seeing as they’ve not been touched on regularly enough. However what was less convincing was the arrival of Nell aka Holly Barton’s doppelganger. We understand quite clearly that she was meant to remind Jai of Holly and encourage him to reach out but did her look-a-like status need to be so embarrassingly blatant? The clothes, the age, the voice, the hair. It was all a bit much and had the subtly of a hammer to the face. We’re not idiots, Emmerdale, we can connect the dots without the need for a Holly clone! Less is more.

Emmerdale’s Top 20 Moments of 2016 – Part Two (#10-1)

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Winner of Britain’s Best Soap, Emmerdale is firing on all cylinders with some incredible storylines this year. I’ve already given a run down of the lowlights and my Top moments #20 to #11, but here’s my Top 10 moments in Emmerdale in 2016. Here’s to an ever better 2017!

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10. Andy’s exit

Everyone was shocked to hear that Kelvin Fletcher was leaving Emmerdale after twenty years of playing Andy Sugden and it still doesn’t feel quite right without him. With Chrissie on the warpath, Andy faced a bleak future of serving time for a crime he didn’t commit, made even worse when managed to break from his holding cell in court. Yikes. Sure, the whole escape fiasco was soapy and ridiculous but Andy’s emotional goodbyes with Bernice and brother Robert let Andy go out on a dramatic high. His final few episodes saw the Sugden brothers at their best – immature swipes at each other and a rocky history but ultimately full of love. Here’s hoping Andy doesn’t have to stay on the run forever!

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9. Remembering Edna Birch

Emmerdale legend Shirley Stelfox sadly passed away this year and Emmerdale honoured the iconic Edna Birch with a moving and fitting tribute. Ashley and Laurel returned with the upsetting news that Edna had passed, leading to a touching exploration of faith and friendship as Sandy in particular suffered with the news. The villagers gathered for her funeral and tried to find closure in their sad goodbye. There were some especially lovely scenes with Sandy and Ashley as they came to terms with her passing and left her infamous hat to float downstream on the river. Shirley and Edna will be sorely missed.

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8. Lawrence’s tragic past

We’d known since Lawrence’s arrival at the end of 2014 that he’d been imprisoned for homosexuality but it wasn’t until this year that the tragedy of his past had properly been explored. After marrying Bernice he seemed fairly content, even if he was unable and uninterested in being intimate with her, but that all changed when Chrissie’s paternity came into question and Ronnie Hale came on the scene. The scenes in which we learnt of Lawrence and Ronnie’s romantic past and Lawrence’s agonising prison torture were brilliant, giving us the insight into Lawrence background that had only been teased before. Hearing Lawrence talk about his love for Harold and the electric shock therapy he had suffered was a particularly poignant moment in this interesting story and one which reminded the audience of others who endured a similar background and was new ground for soap.

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7. Bernice’s doomed love life

This year saw Bernice cement herself as one of my favourite characters in the village with her glorious displays of laugh-out-loud comedy and tear jerking heartbreak. Having resigned herself to a sexless marriage last year, she battled with the reality of this when Lawrence wouldn’t admit to his past when former lover Ronnie returned to his life. The breakdown of her marriage and the pain of loneliness saw Bernice drunk drive a bulldozer into the Mill and later collapse in tears. Bernice had a horrible time of it and found comfort again in the arms of the man she pined for, Andy Sugden. It was an unlikely pairing but one with chemistry that had been bubbling for some time and besides, who doesn’t want to see Bernice happy? But with Andy on the run it couldn’t happen and Bernice was forced to let him go and team up with Robert to help bring down the Whites, giving us some hysterically memorable scenes of Bernice armed with clippers: “I WILL MAKE YOU BALD!!”

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6. Emma Barton

Love her or loathe her, Emma Barton has had one hell of a year on Emmerdale and we’ve finally seen her fulfil the potential that’s been brewing since day one. Earlier in the year, when Emma lied about having a life-threatening illness (but then quickly confessed) I had high hopes for what the year would bring, as long as they didn’t make her too cartoony. I’ve been thrilled with how things progressed and while there were real moments of OTT crazy in Super Soap Week (chicken blood on the wedding dress for one) all of Emma’s extreme behaviour comes from a very real place. Gillian Kearney stole the show in Super Soap Week as she made Emma’s psyche (all she wanted was for James to love her, jeez!) gripping viewing. Sure, viewers are frustrated and want the truth to come out, but seeing the cracks appear and the horrifying lengths she’ll go to in covering up the truth are just cementing Emma as a real favourite of mine.

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5. Aaron and Robert becoming a proper couple

For beloved couple Aaron and Robert, 2015 was all about sex, violence, murder attempts, more sex and misery, but by the end of the year the love between them was thin on the ground. This year, however, saw a huge turnaround for the characters and their relationship as Robert offered Aaron unwavering and unconditional support throughout his childhood abuse revelations and the trial. Aaron drew great strength and comfort from Robert’s presence and reassurance, and needed him in ways he couldn’t lean on his family. In Robert too, we saw a refreshing new side as Emmerdale toned down the panto and restrictive villainy (we don’t talk about the teeth incident) and let him become more human – showing a wealth of love and loyalty in Aaron’s plight. It’s a testament to Danny Miller and Ryan Hawley’s chemistry that they were able to rebuild Aaron and Robert’s rocky relationship into a love story rooted for by so many. As the year progressed and Robron reunited, it was a joy to see their mix of passion and affection grow into a family unit, becoming one of the show’s best couples and their romantic journey in Super Soap Week (leading to a proposal) was a massive highlight of the year. Bring on the wedding!

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4. Holly’s Death

I’ll admit I was filled with dread when I heard of Holly’s return and those first few months – as she got involved with lightweight gangsters, made a move on Cain and got involved with petty revenge on Charity – did little to endear her to me. However, as Holly fractured the Coira powerhouse and turned back to drugs, the performances from Sophie Powles and Natalie J Robb shone as some of the best in the show. It was gritty, brutal and showed how destructive drugs can be to a family. Sod’s law had it that just as I had begun to warm to Holly and was fond of her surprising relationship with Jai (JAI – I liked Jai!!!), Emmerdale pulled out the rug from under us and Moira found Holly dead in her bed. We’d all been expecting an exit, but none of us saw that coming so soon! There was something eerie and different about the episode’s opening that left everyone curious, but kudos to Emmerdale for pulling off a true shock. Once again viewers were treated to stunning performances and the weight of Holly’s death made a huge impact, not just in the fictional world, but also to viewers who saw the reality of drug addiction at its worst, even when a person appears to be happy and coping. This was another moment which saw Emmerdale soaring in 2016.

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3. Aaron’s childhood sexual abuse

Another incredibly powerful and emotive storyline of 2016 was the reveal that Aaron had been repeatedly raped as a child by his father, Gordon. Gordon’s arrival in December 2015 sent Aaron spiralling into self-harm, resulting in him collapsing from septicaemia and eventually confessing about his abuse to Robert. By then we’d already seen consistently impressive performances from Danny Miller, but this storyline surpassed all of those, as time and time again he delivered each heart-crushing moment with a rawness that sent shivers down spines. The storyline was grim, uncomfortable and sickening at times but the script and the actors never shied away from the horror of the story and offered outstanding performances from all the main actors involved. With justice being served in a satisfying way, and Aaron having hope for a happier future, it felt like an unnecessary twist to have Gordon commit suicide, but ultimately this storyline was tackled in a moving and truthful way and seemed a fitting backstory in light of Aaron’s adolescent struggles.

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2. Ashley’s dementia

Ashley’s dementia was an obvious highlight towards the end of 2015, but this year has really seen its progression and the deterioration, particularly in recent months, has been an affecting and ground breaking storyline. At the heart of this storyline, John Middleton has played every moment of heartbreak with nuance and a real understanding of the tragedy involved in dementia. Getting a long-term illness right in soap is a difficult business, when the realistic speed of illness can jar with a pacey need for dramatic twists but Emmerdale has struck the balance just right. At every turn, we’ve seen the wider impact on Ashley’s family (on his children and their behaviour, on Laurel’s alcoholism and struggle to hold everything together – with all of these featuring stellar acting), his identity and faith – as well as sitting alongside the soapier elements such as Emma’s big secret. Ashley’s special episode was a superb decision by the producers, giving the audience a ground-breaking insight into life from the perspective of someone with dementia and highlighted all the strengths of this hugely important storyline.

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1. Super Soap Week

Expectations were sky high for Emmerdale’s special week in October and as information and spoilers were drip-fed to us, excitement built. Surely it couldn’t be as good as we were hearing? Wrong! In breath-taking scenes, Emmerdale secured itself at the top of the soap game with a week that would be remembered as some of the best material in the soap genre. With each episode showing the same day from the perspective of different characters we had insight into characters in a way we’d never had before, allowing long scenes and meaty material showcasing the incredible talents of all the cast involved. For Emma Barton and Robert Sugden, these episodes offered real defining moments as the former reached her incredible and unnerving potential and the latter had his long awaited and important heart-to-heart about his bisexuality. The week had it all, like six blockbusters strung together – romance, comedy, horror, drama and action – and for the first time ever we got to see the Hotten Bypass! The episodes were shot with glossy film style cameras which gave the week a real movie feel and the epic stunts were jaw-dropping and awesome in the real sense of the word. The best thing about Super Soap Week is the way the stories interlinked and made everyone’s brains go into overdrive as we tried to piece the story together, meaning you had the urge to rewatch the episodes multiple times to pick up on all the details. It was truly unmissable and aside from the stunt (which was a huge spectacle in itself) the plot was driven by real character moments and a sense of jeopardy.

Scene of the Week (21-25 Nov 2016)

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“We’ve just got to live the best life ever and not waste a single second of it. Not just for them, but for us.” Who’d ever thought these wise words would come from the mouth of Adam Barton? Not me that’s for sure. The Barton family collective have had a hellish year after Holly and then James’ death and through all that this was a very welcome change of pace to see two of the Barton boys reflect on life and death and the process of grieving. As a miserable Pete struggled to see the point of life, dwelling on the things his father would miss out on, Adam reflected on how he was grateful to spend time with his sister again and the importance of family. It’s not often you see these scenes of quiet contemplation, particularly with these two characters, but in what’s been a patchy aftermath to the crash, it was needed.

Fave or Fail? (3-7 Oct 2016)

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Every week I run through the best and worst bits of the week on Emmerdale. Tell me your faves and fails in the comments! In the week where Emmerdale celebrated more soap victories, the Bartons coped with the loss of Holly.

Faves

Powerful Aftermath

133-adam-amp-victoria-3rd-october-2016-part-1-of-4-youtubeAfter last week’s emotional and shattering episodes surrounding Holly’s death, Emmerdale didn’t drop the ball in the aftermath. We saw a full spectrum of grief from the Bartons this week as Moira and Adam coped with their loss. Both of them sought answers and in Adam’s case – he wanted revenge and a sense of justice. But much like real life, both of them struggled through guilt, feelings of blame and confusion wishing they could have done more before realising that they had to stop taking out their tensions on each other. As the week progressed there was a brief feeling of resolution, that there is no sense or reason for tragedy such as this. It was a very truthful and heartfelt portrayal of the devastation death causes in a family and was a powerful aftermath to this storyline, showcasing what Emmerdale does best.

Human Again

135-adam-amp-victoria-3rd-october-2016-part-3-of-4-youtubeJai was another person who found it difficult to cope with everyday life after Holly’s death. When the police arrived he lied and we saw him put on a front. But alone, this broke and he too battled his own addictions, seeking help from a support group. We learnt a lot more about Jai and Holly’s relationship in these scenes and thankfully saw a much more human, likeable and empathetic man than we’d seen in a long time. Jai’s scenes with Moira were particular powerful as they discussed the realities of vulnerability and addiction and there were poignant moments of grieving as the two of them bonded over Jai’s stories about Holly’s strength and plans for the future. This was a great example of Emmerdale utilising two characters who rarely interact and giving Jai a more tolerable, sympathetic direction rather than the sneering villain routine of last year.

Paddy vs Pierce

emmerdale-tuesday-4th-october-2016-video-dailymotion-1There are elements of this Pierce storyline that are a little hard to buy, but overall you can feel the tensions brewing and Pierce’s grip on Rhona tightening by the week and that’s why this drip-feed of control is working well. Okay, Vanessa’s change of heart is possibly the hardest thing to believe seeing as she saw a flash of Pierce’s darker side, but she’s also seen Paddy’s desperation to win Rhona back, so maybe she would believe him capable of crossing a line. Pierce’s quiet control – a hand on Rhona’s shoulder, a suggestion here and there, planting the nightie to set Paddy up – these are all clever and devious subtleties that make a great slow burn. I expect as Pierce’s influence spreads wider we’ll be screaming at our TVs, wanting to rescue Rhona and hoping someone will believe Paddy and for that I can’t wait!

Compelling Performances

emmerdale-theres-nothing-left-in-emmerdale-for-charity-youtubeI have many mixed feelings when it comes to the Charity/Cain/Moira saga and at times I think both women would be better without him, but the performances between all three actors are undeniably compelling whether you’re a Chain, Coira or even a Choira fan! This week, with Moira struggling in grief, Charity was battling her own issues of insecurity and belonging and wanted to escape Emmerdale. Cain has his guilt issues to deal with and a complicated history around addiction, and he decided he too needed a fresh start. There’s nothing simple about this trio and their feelings. Moira is boiling with rage and resentment on the surface but crumbles when alone and Charity feels a complex mixture of envy and inadequacy but her moments of selfishness seem understandable even when she’s not especially sympathetic. Their histories are rich – Cain’s with Charity, frankly disastrous – and this adds weight to their performances. Ultimately it feels like there’s unfinished business with Coira, whereas Charity is clinging to the past and will break her own heart. Either way, the actors know their characters so well – it’ll hurt whatever happens.

Fail

Missing Something

emmerdale-6th-october-2016-part-1-video-dailymotionIs it just me or has Chrissie White lost her fun factor? Perhaps her superbitch ways were divisive but they were quite entertaining when she went all Gone Girl on us. Then there was the misjudged blackmail plot with Rakesh which I’ve tried to cleanse from my mind and now Chrissie seems to be buying up half the village. It’s no secret that the rich Whites are rather distant from the rest of the village but I can’t really understand why Chrissie would want to own a garage that makes no money, or a random cottage? She’s apparently not short of cash or businesses – what with her salons and the estate to run – so the big question is why? Is it to give the family more status or connections or a bigger purpose – good if so – or is it just to have her swan around sneering at others and holding all the cards? That’s a lot less fun that the camp ice queen routine. The only way I can imagine this being slightly more interesting is if she hooks up with Ross Barton, after all he’s the only man in town who she really has sparks with.

Scene of the Week (3-7 Oct 2016)

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Last year, guilt, regret and empathy weren’t words you could associate with Jai Sharma but we saw a much more human side to him this week as he struggled in the wake of Holly’s death. Although most of the drama centred on the Bartons, Jai’s perspective was an important one for the family’s closure. Jai’s heart breaking guilt was played out in a quiet and tragic way at Butler’s Farm as he opened up to Moira about the night before Holly’s death. As Jai explained his addiction triggers to Moira, he revealed that he felt responsible for Holly’s overdose because he’d had to leave her at the wedding alone. The writing in the scene felt crushingly real and a painful reminder that happiness and strength doesn’t prevent the temptation of drugs and that the battle is not easily fought. Another praise-worthy scene during this tough storyline – good job, Emmerdale. Watch it again here.