Fave or Fail? (2-6 Oct 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! The Bartons lost two of their own this week as Super Soap Week returned with comeuppance for Emma.

Faves

Emma Barton’s Breakdown

vlcsnap-2017-10-08-18h39m19s450Gillian Kearney took centre stage in Emmerdale’s Super Soap Week as Emma Barton’s story came to an end and I am really going to miss her. As Emma battled with her conscience and ghosts in the form of James and Finn, Gillian gave incredible performances proving once and for all that Emma wasn’t just a villain but a deeply troubled and complex woman. Emma’s story this week veered into dark territories again, but I liked that her actions often echoed elements of past behaviour (such as keeping Finn captive like she did with James) and were never cartoonish or “bad” in the name of soap villainy. Her guilt, her desperation, her love for her family and her religious convictions made her into a fascinating, sometimes even sympathetic, character and while I wasn’t totally satisfied with the resolution, I’ve loved the journey of watching a character as multi-layered as Emma.

The Big Showdown

vlcsnap-2017-10-08-18h37m22s680Monday and Tuesday’s big episodes were my favourite of the week as two powerful women came to blows when Emma revealed the truth about James’s death to her nemesis, Moira. Both Natalie J Robb and Gillian Kearney gave stellar performances during the confrontation which made the fire in the barn scenes all the more thrilling and intense. The claustrophobia and lighting in the barn added to the scenes of peril and also made the whole event feel more cinematic, much last like year’s big motorway crash. I almost wished the barn scenes could have played out longer as the big set piece of the week, and end on a pyrotechnic high.

Baby Shock

vlcsnap-2017-10-08-18h40m45s788Okay, so it’s probably the plot twist we all saw coming, but Moira got a huge shock this week as she gave birth to a baby boy right in the middle of Emma’s carnage. We’ve been waiting since before Christmas for this revelation and it didn’t disappoint, made even more exciting by the fact Moira’s waters broke right in the middle of the huge barn fire with only killer Emma on-hand to help. With the birth being totally unexpected and the father in question (though, if you read spoilers you’ll know who the daddy is!) then the fallout is sure to be long-lasting, giving Natalie J Robb a chance for some really gritty drama again. Hooray! She’s been far too underused this year as they attempted to keep the pregnancy a secret and I’m looking forward to seeing how the shock of this new child impacts upon her relationships too.

Finn Fallout

vlcsnap-2017-10-08-18h40m31s441Poor Finn Barton lost his life this week after being caught in the crossfire of his mother’s unhinged actions. While the Bartons were preoccupied by Emma’s worrying behaviour and Moira’s pregnancy, it was left to Finn’s friends to really mourn him. In comparison to the rest of his family, aside from a spot of ill-advised stalking, Finn had a fairly tame and good-intentioned life (just don’t ask Kasim) so it’s obvious that his death would be the event to cause the most upset in Emmerdale. While I felt the death itself was a little rushed, Tracy and Eric’s emotional response gave his death the impact and heart it warranted, particularly as they talked about Finn and Val living it up in the afterlife together. Finn’s a loss to the village and the show as his nerdy comedy was a welcome relief amongst his brothers’ testosterone aggression and Joe Gill proved himself to be a great actor when faced with the more challenging material of late. It’s hard to say how the Barton boys will move on now that their family has become so fractured but it’s sure to be a lot less fun now that Finn’s gone.

Fails

The Final Fall

vlcsnap-2017-10-08-18h40m39s456Sure Emma’s death was soap karma and echoed a very similar fate to her husband, James, but overall it was a disappointment for me. While it’s true we’re all in the dark about how exactly she came to die (fall, pushed, suicide?) the final scenes of her fall were choppy and marred by some slightly dubious special effects. Emmerdale can do arty now and again but Emma’s fall just looked a little amateurish and took away from what had been a thrilling and well-acted week for her. Perhaps when we get the full story of Emma’s final moments I’ll change my mind but for such a significant character, her death seemed like a bit of a non-event.

Jam Packed

vlcsnap-2017-10-08-18h38m47s702Last week’s Super Soap Week saw two days in real time stretched out over six episodes so perhaps it was only natural that this week’s events would feel chaotic. While the fast pace was high octane and thrilling in the first few episodes, later in the week characters began flitting from place to place in record time and it left certain aspects of the drama feeling rushed. Of course, there’s still an element of secrecy surrounding what really happened to Emma so some of the awkward pacing has reason but I can’t help but feel they tried to cram too much into the week’s events. Aspects such as Emma’s kidnap of the baby, Moira fleeing hospital and grabbing her gun, Adam getting arrested, all seemed like too much in a short space of time, and left some of the drama unable to breathe. Finn’s death was overshadowed by Emma’s disappearing act and because of this it felt like his brothers weren’t given ample screentime to let it have any impact. When we were losing two big characters – two from the same family too – in such a short space of time, it needed a less is more approach. Perhaps next year we need to extend this Super Soap Week to a fortnight, just to fit everything in!

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Fave or Fail? (25-29 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! Big stories for Emma and the Thomas kids and a week of no ‘Fails’ from me! 

Faves

Exposing Emma

vlcsnap-2017-10-01-12h38m43s348Thankfully with his sister Gabby back, little Arthur Thomas had someone else on his side this week and Gabby made it her mission to get payback. She began the week trying to “haunt” Emma with signs from above, wanting revenge on her cruelty to the family, but when she recovered the memory card and saw firsthand how Emma treated Ashley she wanted to expose Emma for her vile behaviour. I loved Gabby taking such a central role in this story alongside Arthur and the pair of them aren’t only adorable siblings but made gripping viewing as they attempted to take Emma down. Both Rosie and Alfie’s performances make us viewers want to reach into the TV and protect them as well as cheer them on for getting the evidence they needed to uncover Emma’s behaviour. They’ve done an amazing job with this story, putting everything in place for next week’s big showdown and Emma’s complete unravelling.

The End is Nigh

vlcsnap-2017-10-01-12h14m28s098If you haven’t seen the promotion of next week’s “Emmadale” then this week was the perfect build up for a huge week for Emma Barton. Gillian Kearney excelled once again as Emma lost her grip and ended up hallucinating James by the end of the week! With Gabby and Arthur on her case, Emma clung to her religious convictions to keep her feelings of guilt at bay but with the memory card uncovered, Finn saw through his mother’s earlier explanations for James’s death and warned her he’d have to tell Pete and Ross if she didn’t. It seems pretty likely that we haven’t got long left of Emma, but I have thoroughly enjoyed the way she can be really wicked one minute and still sympathetic at times too. Her moments of shocking behaviour hold even more impact when her motherly and pious front shatters, but she’s never been pantomime and her desperate behaviour feels like it comes from a place of unhinged heartbreak rather than pure villainy. I can’t wait for it all to explode next week!

Loner Laughs

vlcsnap-2017-10-01-11h56m01s353The exploits of Paddy Kirk are often laugh out loud funny and this week it was a particular highlight for me. Having been a bit of a loser in love, Paddy began the week on a surprise date – set up by Marlon – and with Bernice of all people. With their wires crossed, these two comedy heroes made for a winning scene, before eventually having a go at Marlon for his deception in getting them there. Paddy’s week picked up when he nicked Marlon’s internet date, though considering he ended up cuffed to a cage in the vets, making do with licking water from a bottle, it wasn’t a roaring success! Dominic Brunt is fantastic in the physical and bumbling comedy scenes and this got even better by the end of the week as he misunderstood Marlon’s hints about buying a puppy and ended up with Paddy as a houseguest instead. Even though Marlon might not be keen I think getting these two co-habiting will be a hilarious watch!

Cheeky Return

vlcsnap-2017-10-01-12h08m02s189This week saw the welcome return of Gerry Roberts, aka Lachlan’s grinning sidekick from young offenders. You have to commend actor Shaun Thomas for bringing so much cheeky-chappy charm to the role and making Gerry a fun character in amongst the fairly unlikeable Whites. Gerry’s puppy dog enthusiasm when it comes to flirting with Chrissie and trying to make a few hundred quid out of Robert means his oddball personality makes for entertaining viewing. Once the White family goes I’m not sure what place he’d have in the village, but I wouldn’t mind still seeing him every now and again!

Worthy Opponents

vlcsnap-2017-10-01-12h05m12s772Robert’s revenge against the Whites rumbled on for another week but the one silver lining is that finally his plans have faced real opposition, in the face of Lachlan and Chrissie. So far we’ve watched Robert make fools of embarrassingly easy targets Rebecca and Lawrence, but it’s Lachlan and Chrissie who are much wiser to his true colours and they’ve started to uncover his schemes. This week with the help of Gerry and a secret camera, Robert was able to blackmail Lachlan with his prostitute secret and it was fun to watch the two of them try and out-do each other. Let’s face it, Robert’s had it far too easy and it wasn’t just unbelievable but also a bit boring. And then there’s the return of Chrissie to the business, perhaps Robert’s biggest adversary and maybe the only member of that family to really unravel him. If mother and son work together that might be the only way to stop Robert from obtaining the keys to Home Farm.

Fave or Fail? (14-18 August 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! A great week of big moments – Moira kissed Cain, Finn learnt some of the truth about James’s death, and Leyla and Pete jilted each other!

Faves

Emma’s Confession

vlcsnap-2017-08-19-16h53m07s699We’re one step closer to Emma’s world crumbling as this week saw Finn put 2 + 2 together to make 5 and got the almost truth about how his dad died. With thrillingly tense scenes, Finn confronted his mum and managed to dig away at her panicked and unravelling lies until he got her to confess that she was there on the bridge and that it was an argument which lead to James’s death. Joe Gill gave the performance of his time on Emmerdale so far as his emotions switched from disbelief and anger to confusion and upset. Finn’s relationship with Emma has always been an interesting one, especially as in some ways they’re so similar, so it was only right he was the first to expose the truth. Gillian Kearney plays Emma’s emotional turmoil so well that you can almost believe her fabrications to hide the real extent of her involvement in James’s death. The scenes of Finn’s suspicion and Emma’s confession spanned an hour long episode but it was a testament to the performances that it didn’t drag at all. With Finn now sitting on the big secret it doesn’t feel like long before more of the truth will come out but I worry for his safety if Emma’s irrational behaviour gets out of hand. Exciting stuff!

Marriage Mayhem

vlcsnap-2017-08-19-16h53m49s487Pete and Leyla’s wedding was never going to go smoothly, was it? But who could’ve guessed the Carry On escapades that transpired?! With Pete and Priya’s betrayal stinking up the air, I think most of us expected the liaison to come out in dramatic effect but what we didn’t expect was a double jilting with both bride and groom trying to escape through the toilet windows! This storyline has been something of a damp squib, but the wedding two-parter was full of genuinely funny moments. From Doug and Eric’s bickering to the wedding goer’s aghast at the crazy events following the window rescue, there were some great laughs. It was nice too to see Jacob in a sweet and supportive role, and even Ross managed to look like the mature and non-sleazey one compared to Pete! But perhaps nothing will top the brilliant moment of Leyla’s open-mouthed reaction to see her groom making the same escape she was. Priceless.

Lingering Feelings

vlcsnap-2017-08-19-16h49m23s082I’ve long been a fan of Cain and Moira’s relationship so to see all those unresolved feelings rise to the surface again this week was a joy. Their chemistry makes these sorts of moments seem effortless and you can fully believe the multitude of unsaid emotions. Despite a bit of a sexist trope being used when Cain came to Moira’s rescue (this is Moira who’s used to farm machinery and independence here!) it stirred up lingering tension and Moira went in for a kiss. Over the next few days, with Harriet feeling like a spare part, Cain and Moira cemented themselves as the couple destined to be together as Moira tried to set Cain free again to move on, even though we all know deep down they both still love each other. It’s pretty obvious how this one’s going to play out but all that embittered love and tension is the right kind of romance angst!

Fails

Tired Laughs

vlcsnap-2017-08-19-16h43m41s833It’s not the worst comedy story ever seen – and god, remember last year’s endless pirate ship summer filler?! But Emmerdale really need to come up with something new for the rivalry between Nicola + Jimmy vs Kerry + Dan. Separately both couples can offer quite a lot of laughs, when it’s done right, but the petty competition between Kerry and Nicola – while their exasperated and hen-pecked spouses watch on – is getting old. Kerry’s loud-mouthed outrage and Nicola’s screechy need to rule are fine in small doses but after last year’s Dan and Nicola kiss moment, the two pairs did enough warring and now it’s lost its shine.

Mood Killer

vlcsnap-2017-08-19-16h41m52s608Much to my surprise I really enjoyed the Pete and Leyla near-wedding daftness. That was until Emmerdale decided to spoil it by having Pete and Priya go at it in the honeymoon suite. Ew, grubby! Since Pete and Priya began their hook ups, it’s been an out-of-nowhere mess, really lacking that key affair ingredient – chemistry. I can just about buy Priya’s loneliness, the way she feels out of place now that Rakesh has gone, but her betrayal of Leyla has always been hard to stomach or believe, especially for someone as charisma free as Pete. Pete spent the latter half of his wedding day tearing into Priya and being generally vile but her confronting him and standing up to him didn’t last long, and soon we had to grimace through truly uncomfortable scenes. I’m sure Priya’s thumping of Pete’s chest and his shouty grabbing of her was meant to get us going but it was awkward and pretty revolting behaviour to say the least. And about as far from sexy as you can get. End this now, please!

Scene of the Week (14-18 August 2017)

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In what was a great week of Emmerdale, there were many moments that could have made my Scene of the Week choice but ultimately Emma experiencing flashbacks from James’s final hours stole the show. Cleverly using those memorable scenes from Super Soap Week, we were able to relive Emma’s haunting thoughts – first beginning with just the eerie sounds surrounding her at Wylies, to her standing on and watching those fatal moments play out. We’re not used to these effects on Emmerdale, but used sparingly like this was hugely effective, making it powerful and chilling. It works for someone as unhinged as Emma and we were right there with her in the past. Gillian Kearney’s performances are always multi-layered and captivating so perhaps we could have experienced this scene without the cameos from Super Soap Week, however their inclusion gave it a special dimension and worked well in the lead up to her confession.

Fave or Fail? (20-24 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! Sorry for the little blog break last week (but hey when your favourite soap destroys your favourite character and couple it kinda takes away the fun!) but I’m back. This week saw Emma lose her grip and Faith communicate (ish) with the dead. 

Faves

Killing It

Emmerdale - Who Heard Emma Confess to Murder - YouTubeI’ve long championed the talents of the brilliant Gillian Kearney, who plays Emma Barton, and with a week like last, I won’t be stopping anytime soon. Although many Emmerdale viewers are champing at the bit, dying for Emma to be caught and punished for her crimes, I just can’t help but want her to stay in the village for as long as possible. Emma is fascinating. Part fragile and unhinged and the other part devious and wicked, Emma balances so many emotions. Gillian plays Emma walking this line so brilliantly that there are times when you feel her every jittered panic and yes, even feel sorry for her. She can be cutting with just a look, fiercely protective over her boys and so very guilty too. But other times, like when she comes up against an enemy like Faith she’s ruthless and dangerous and that’s what makes her so watchable. I’ve really enjoyed this slightly bonkers religious fixation she’s attained too because it just adds to her struggle of trying to deal with her terrible actions. Emma acts with conviction, despite her guilt, believing now that she can be forgiven and needs to be for the sake of her family. But ultimately the way Gillian Kearney plays Emma means she’s someone I want to watch for a long time.

Stepmother Struggles

vlcsnap-2017-03-26-19h21m26s474I really enjoyed Carly’s storyline this week as she struggled with the responsibility of being in a relationship with a single dad. We’ve not seen anywhere near enough material for Carly since she joined Emmerdale but every time Gemma Atkinson is given something emotional or difficult she really sells Carly’s pain. This week little April choked and Carly froze, unable to help and reminded of the way she lost her own son. After initially finding it hard to patch up their little family, Carly was swayed by Marlon’s affection and April’s emotional speech about how she wished Carly was her mummy. It was all pretty touching but most of all I liked Carly’s realistic difficulties with the responsibility it gave her. Getting together with Marlon has always seemed like a sweet but rather unlikely pairing and her dilemma of choosing between a “grown-up” life with him and his family versus a fun adventure abroad is one that feels believable. By the end of the week we’ve seen Marlon realise she’s gone abroad after all and if Carly returns this could spell the end for them. While she seems happy there with them as her family, there are times where it looks as if her heart isn’t really in it anymore. I’m interested to see what happens when she returns.

Story Surge

vlcsnap-2017-03-26-19h20m57s466I’m sure we saw more of Harriet this week than we saw in the whole of 2016. Okay, maybe a slight exaggeration but the local vicar was everywhere this week! First of all she had an awkward reunion with Ashley as she struggled to know what to say to him, similar to how his other friends felt. Then was her antagonistic involvement with Cain and his crimes (I think we can all see where this storyline is heading), her knocking down of Emma and then her comfort of Laurel in the church. It’s been great to see more of Harriet, because really you can’t go wrong with an ex-copper vicar who wears ripped jeans, can you? Harriet is definitely one of those forgotten characters whose long deserved a decent storyline and if the Cain situation transpires into some sort of unholy alliance then that should be interesting for a little while, before his inevitable return to Moira.

Fails

Calling My Bluff

Emmerdale - Faith and Emma Come to a Dark Arrangement - YouTubeOnce again we came tantalisingly close to Emma’s secrets being exposed this week, and it’s not like I really want her caught, but I can’t help but feel Friday’s twist was a bit of a cheat. All week Faith’s ungodly psychic night unnerved Emma, so much so she took solace in the church again. Unfortunately for her it looked as if Faith had heard her confession and was set ready to expose her in front of the whole pub. A fun Emma vs Faith rivalry had been set up all week and we were all under the impression that Faith knew that Emma was responsible for giving James a little shove over the bypass. But with Emma in hospital and panicked, she was ready to admit defeat and accept Faith’s blackmail requests believing that was the only way to keep her boys protected. Except the whole thing was a case of crossed wires as Faith revealed to Moira that she’d overheard Emma badmouthing her and had seen her attempts to bash her over the head – nothing to do with Emma’s James secret. When Emma found out at the end of Friday I couldn’t help but feel the whole thing was a fizzled out let down, a plot that served its purpose for a week only to reset. We haven’t progressed anywhere, nothing has changed with the Emma story, we only know that Faith’s guarding her own secret. I love Emma and I want to keep her on Emmerdale but this just feels like stalling.

Misery Business

vlcsnap-2017-03-26-19h24m40s837If surveyed, how many Emmerdale viewers would say, “Do you know what I’d really like to see? More misery for Aaron. I just haven’t had my fill.” I’m going to go out on a limb here and say zero. A grand total of zero viewers are interested in seeing Aaron’s life mangled into the kind of hellish parody we’re reaching on screen and yet here we are. It doesn’t matter just how prettily Danny Miller cries, we’ve been here so many times. Last year Emmerdale told viewers there was light, justice and love available in the future of child sex abuse survivors. They were given accolades and acclaim for this. The last few weeks though seemed to give this message the middle finger. Having spent a year building a redemption arc for Robert Sugden, developing his relationships, his heart and creating a love story championed by legions of fans, Emmerdale thought they’d erase all that for some much needed upset in Aaron’s life. Long gone is Aaron’s heartbreaking prison ordeal and attention on his mental health struggles, long gone is these hard-hitting prison issues, long gone is his hope on the outside world, long gone is Robert’s fun and bantering relationships with Aaron’s family. Now all the focus is on Emmerdale’s most overused and most hated trope, the one night stand. With Aaron being released so soon and all these contemporary prison issues swept aside, the whole prison storyline seems like a cynical attempt to pile more angst onto an already angst-ridden couple. It’s sure to set Aaron’s mental health and Robert’s much-love character development back years – and can anyone, Robron fan or not, honestly say this is something they want to watch?

Scene of the Week (13-17 Feb 2017)

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Admittedly Finn’s behaviour has bordered on the ludicrous, out of character at worst, but there was a real turning point this week, one sold by the acting talents of Joe Gill and Gillian Kearney. While Finn’s weirdness has made his popularity nosedive, the scenes this week where Emma confronted her son’s bad behaviour and obsession with Kasim were particularly strong. Finn admitted that he was projecting the grief of losing his dad onto Kasim, that he hoped in holding onto Kasim he could hold onto his father. Finn admitting that he went a bit insane might be a bit of an understatement considering the divisive nature of his plot, but even though he might not have won back his likeability, Joe Gill made Finn’s confession raw and vulnerable and there was a certain blissful dramatic irony watching Emma comfort her son knowing that her actions are the root of her son’s downfall.

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.

Fave or Fail? (21-25 Nov 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! Hooray – a fairly good week with some fantastic performances.

Faves

Forgive and Regret

emmerdale-emma-claims-that-james-commited-suicide-youtubeEmma is THE character to watch in Emmerdale right now, with Gillian Kearney’s captivating performances making for enthralling viewing as Emma’s convincing lies are woven with elements of truth. This week saw Emma unravelling further and steal sleeping tablets in order to make it through the inquest. Even with her boys around her Emma was a mess but she delivered cherry picked truths to weave a story about James wanting to commit suicide. Devious genius really! The best part about Emma is that she can simultaneously anger viewers wanting justice but when she’s at breaking point and destroying herself with guilt, she actually invokes sympathy. It’s incredible. Some of the best scenes of the week were when Harriet was offering Emma guidance and support at the cemetery and then later in the church where Emma almost seemed to have an epiphany and begin to turn to God and the church’s notions of forgiveness. It was an interesting twist to see Emma embracing forgiveness and perhaps follow a pious outlook. Are we going to see Emma turn to religion in a worrying way or is the fun new rivalry against Cain going to cause even more carnage?

Mission Baby Barton

emmerdale-adam-amp-victoria-22nd-november-2016-youtubeI’m not counting any chickens (we all know what happens to chickens in Emmerdale) because something’s got to make Adam take a temporary exit from The Dales with his spider-eating alter ego busy in the jungle, but loved up Victoria and Adam is exactly what we all need. When it comes to Victoria and Adam Emmerdale have it just right. They are cute together, well suited – they just work. Their rows seem to be concluded in a sensible, grown up way with talking and listening. They’re fun together and with Vic on a baby making mission, it couldn’t be cuter. Sure, I’m expecting it to get out of hand with the apps and the fertility diet but I’m hoping it’s not beyond repair because Emmerdale need happy, believable couples right now, ones that we can root for against all the sadness and drama. We all need it.

Home Truths

emmerdale-joanie-finds-out-zak-kissed-lisa-youtubeHow brilliant was Joanie this week dragging Zak for all he’s worth? And she didn’t hold back either – liar, coward, cheat, bad father. In fact, it’s almost like I gave her the list! Joanie found out all about Zak and Lisa’s illicit kiss this week and tried to be pro-active into getting Zak away from Emmerdale and its temptations. It was great to see Joanie really lay into Zak for his shitty behaviour and this is probably the first time I could ever say I enjoyed Joanie’s character – I was close to wearing a Team Joanie t-shirt tbh. Of course by the end of the week delusional Zak had convinced himself and her that moving away was what they all needed to have a proper fresh start. I mean, maybe you should have thought about that about a year ago, Zak. Just saying.

Pierce’s Problems

emmerdale-pierce-smashes-a-mirror-out-of-rage-and-anger-youtubeI still can’t get to grips with Pierce and I’m not sure exactly who he’s meant to be, but I can’t deny that Jonathan Wrather gave some great performances this week as Pierce’s past came to light. After Pierce’s over the top outburst the other day (triggered also by an over the top comment by Liv) where he scared Rhona and smashed the mirror, you’d think she’d be running for the hills. In fact, considering she lives with her young son and the level of Pierce’s volatile unpredictability is still fairly unknown to them both, she probably should still be running. However, putting those issues to one side, Pierce’s scenes with both Rhona and Paddy showcased an interesting dynamic yet still left plenty of questions. Some of those questions were picked at during the counselling session but long scenes of exposition and backstory don’t always work when you’re dealing with a slippery character such as Pierce who has had a very short history on the show. Luckily Jonathan Wrather gave it his all and Pierce’s backstory certainly carried more weight than the poor attempt given to Rakesh’s history the other week. Time will tell with what we can expect from Pierce. I’m still unsure.

Fail

Frankly Disappointing

emmerdale-bobby-punches-frank-in-the-gut-and-demands-his-money-youtubeWhen Frank’s panic eyes came out last week after bumping into old foe Bobby and we saw him get nervous it seemed like we were going to get some answers about Frank’s dark and shady past. However this week, when Bobby showed up in the village and got cosy with gullible Tracy to unnerve Frank, we learnt the real truth behind his tall-tale imprisonment story and it was pretty disappointing. Frank has had moments of real charm and edge so to learn that he’s just your bog-standard conman just seems pretty predictable and not as dark and devious as I’d hoped. Perhaps we’ll get lucky and he’ll have more deadly secrets lurking underneath his smooth charisma but so far it’s been a bit of a let down.

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.

Scene of the Week (31 Oct -4 Nov 2016)

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Possibly one of the most twisted and harrowing scenes to watch in a long time, Emmerdale made this an easy choice for Scene of the Week. Gillian Kearney and John Middleton are two of Emmerdale’s stand-out performers lately and to see their storylines come together in a dark and gripping way is compelling viewing. With Ashley as the only witness to Emma’s involvement in the crash and his memories hazy at best, Emma did everything in her power to confuse and distress Ashley to ensure her secrets are kept. The most deliciously evil thing about Emma as a character is that outwardly she is soft and the perfect angelic nurse, but her behaviour in this scene was truly shocking. Unnerved and upset by Emma’s continuous switch of the conversation, Ashley broke down in tears crying like a child only for Emma to hug him. Kudos to John Middleton for making Ashley’s upset so raw and uncomfortable that this scene was genuinely distressing.