Fave or Fail? (12-16 June 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! In a week that saw Rakesh leave (bye!), Rhona bravely reported Pierce to the police.

Faves

Master Manipulator

vlcsnap-2017-06-18-19h06m10s606You have to hand it to the brilliant Jonathan Wrather who manages to deliver such chilling performances as callous rapist, Pierce. His return this week was bizarrely orchestrated by a clueless Paddy (it’s a debatable that even Paddy would be that oblivious) and he began a tireless campaign of gaslighting and getting under Rhona’s skin. Every performance makes you want to scream, particularly as Rhona’s friends were initially drawn into his web, believing every charming word he said. He also managed to act his socks off under police questioning (that’s Pierce and Jonathan who gave unnerving performances) making his deception look like an art form. Pierce’s slippery character, under that perfect surface, is one of the things that makes this storyline so compelling.

Rhona’s Bravery

vlcsnap-2017-06-18-19h04m46s022Rhona returned from rehab this week and so did Emmerdale’s best plot at the moment – hooray! With the support of loyal best mate Vanessa, Rhona managed to stand up to Pierce and his remorseless reappearance and eventually Rhona braved another visit to the police station where she was able to name Pierce as her rapist. Once again Zoe Henry’s performances continue to be powerful and surely will pick up awards next year. I’m pleased that there hasn’t been a long and drawn out process of people being in the dark over Rhona’s horrific attack with her being increasingly isolated. It gives me hope that this story will continue to move in directions that showcase the bravery and strength of women like Rhona.

Doug’s Dancing

vlcsnap-2017-06-18-19h08m56s582If you follow me on Twitter you’ll have already seen me proclaim this little subplot as one of my favourite stories of the year so far. Warm, funny and not a beaver in sight. Worried he was too dull for Diane and he couldn’t even woo her with his dancing, a hapless Doug sought advice from lothario Frank and later an enthusiastic Lydia who was all too keen to give him dancing lessons. Doug is brilliant in his grumpy old man routine and Duncan Preston is effortlessly funny when playing Doug out of his comfort zone, while Diane is none the wiser. Even Frank, who hasn’t been the most engaging of newcomers, was fun in this plot and Lydia’s encouraging pep talks as she compared him to Michael Douglas and told him to believe in himself is exactly the good natured comedy Emmerdale does best.

Grinning Gerry

w62gThere’s so many things wrong with the uncomfortable plot that saw Lachlan (a convicted sex offender) prepare to lose his virginity to Belle, but the one positive from this story is the reintroduction of Gerry – Lachlan’s ex-cellmate. Sure, Gerry’s quite gross, considering that a) he’s pals with Lachlan and b) his readiness to order a prostitute for Lachlan doesn’t scream maturity or responsibility. But his cheeky sense of humour, willingness to flirt with every woman in sight, made a real impression in a short space of time. Plus, the benefit of Gerry is that there’s no white-washing or sugar-coating of his behaviour – like we see so frequently in Lachlan – Gerry is unashamedly a sleazebag and a lad up to no good.

Fails

Baby Mania

vlcsnap-2017-06-18-19h04m19s132They say pregnant women have something called ‘baby brain’ which makes them forgetful and act a bit off. But if anyone has baby mania then it’s Victoria who has the accolade this week of the strangest behaviour in the midst of the much-loathed Rebecca baby plot. Not content to let “free spirited” (I know, I know, no one is buying it) Rebecca do her own thing, Vic bombarded her with messages begging for her return and the pair reunited like they’d be separated by war rather than a fortnight. If their convenient BFFship didn’t pique your cringe levels then, Vic’s insistence that Rebecca move in with her and let her be her sole support might have done. Even Adam, who isn’t always the brightest spark, pointed out how bizarre this insta-friendship is and that’s without getting into what should be Vic’s resentment of that family. And so, while Vic mouthed off at her brother, despite having always been one of the few to empathise with him and champion his relationship with Aaron, I can’t help but wonder if this dire story might end with Vic standing between Rebecca’s legs ready to catch the sprog and run away with it.

Fave or Fail? (8-12 May 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! Rhona confided in Vanessa this week in outstanding scenes and the teen gang plot remained uninteresting.

Faves

Avoiding the Predictable

Emmerdale May 10 - YouTubeRhona’s story returned this week as she came back from her holiday with Leo and thankfully Pierce wasn’t anywhere to be seen. After Emmerdale’s fantastic and emotional portrayal of Rhona’s bravery in the aftermath of her rape I was concerned they might be tempted of going down a very soapy route of having her forgive him, or cope by being in denial over the attack and make her friends increasingly oblivious as Pierce continued to abuse her. After all he was very manipulative after the attack and warning her she had no chance in winning a trial against him. You could see how he’d chipped away at her and I worried that he might have destroyed all her resilience. But so far, and to my relief, this doesn’t seem to be the route they are taking this story. Rhona is being brave and strong, trying to cope with this alone despite the fear and the shame affecting her deeply. Even though she has returned to taking painkillers, Vanessa’s support is hugely important and I’m glad Emmerdale haven’t gone down a cliched route of her keeping quiet – right now this is not about any further evil deeds Pierce can do, this is about Rhona and the long-term impact his behaviour the rape has had on her.

Friendship

w56rvI got a reminder this week about how the long-term friendships on Emmerdale are something I love watching. There was a return to the Victoria and Finn friendship, that we haven’t seen in forever, one which feels far more heartfelt than the other pals the two of them have made. The actors have a nice chemistry and if Vic’s going to stay single for a bit then I hope we can return to having more scenes of these two together. And of course the biggest friendship factor this week was “Team Rhona”. Paddy, Marlon and Vanessa were all worried on her return and while they all took different and cautious approaches as the week went on, it was Vanessa who eventually got through to Rhona and allowed her to open up fully. The scenes following Rhona’s confession were beautifully acted and written with Vanessa saying all the things Rhona, and every other woman suffering in the same way, needed to and should hear. I was moved to tears as Vanessa offered to be there for talks or even a cuddle and her strong response to Rhona’s relapse was another fantastic moment in this story. Emmerdale characters and stories work best when they have a network of loved ones around them – family, spouses but also friends – and I hope we continue to see these believable friendships in all the on-going stories.

The Little Things

w56cTwo little moments in the week struck me as the perfect example of how well Emmerdale can squeeze in some great comedy. Take the tragic passing of Lydia’s cockatoo Steve and how this affected her interview up at Home Farm. Not only was the anecdote of his death as bonkers as Lydia herself, but the next day a spot of confusion had Chrissie assume Steve was Lydia’s dead friend rather than a bird. We don’t often get to see Chrissie in humorous scenes but her reaction to Steve being stuffed really tickled me and made me wish for more scenes where we get to see Chrissie as a bit more human rather than stuck with the White contingent. Then there was Sandy, technophobe and only two clicks away from a dodgy video. Laurel had to quickly cover Arthur’s eyes and then uncover them so he could get rid of the offending porn video. It was a throwaway scene but one with such warmth, humour and one that was very welcome after all the sadness in the Thomas’s household.

Fails

Underwhelming

Emmerdale - Adam Has Broken Victoria's Heart for the Last Time - YouTubeAdam and Victoria broke up (for good?) this week and after their previous “split” a few weeks ago, which while convoluted had some great performances, this week’s developments just felt underwhelming. Adam was in full on Neanderthal mode, blaming everyone but himself for kissing Vanessa– including his own mother – and these sorts of situations never put him in the best light. Vic took a hard line on the cheating (although it’s not been all that long since she forgave him worse) but it’s hard to know whether her resistance to forgiving him will last, particularly seeing as Emmerdale’s commitment to exploring Adam and Victoria’s relationship (good or bad) seems half-hearted at best. But perhaps the impact of this storyline has been significantly lessened by the oversaturation of cheating/mistake-kiss plots in the recent year. I’m SO tired of it and it doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon. Surely even the scriptwriters are bored writing the same apology and forgiveness scenes for their couples?

Teenage Terror

Emmerdale - The Robbers Return to Intimidate Eric - YouTubeWho wouldn’t be scared by a gang of teenage thugs, ones who use threats, intimidation, theft and knives to terrify their victims? Dan suffered that very ordeal this week and was faced with the dilemma of whether to go through with identifying them to police or not, a dilemma which was particularly troublesome when their threats included hurting his daughter, Amelia. Despite this, teenage gangs never really translate well on screen and while hypothetically I can believe these characters would be intimidated, there just doesn’t feel like there’s any real threat when we watch it on screen. Stories of intimidation and insecurity are ones which need a slow-burn build up to feel real, but these Waterloo Road rejects throwing a sandwich and circling round Kerry doesn’t really cut it. Unfortunately that hasn’t helped to served Dan’s repetitive story and it’s not keeping my interest.

Scene of the Week (8-12 May 2017)

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There was an unbearable amount of tension in scenes this week as Vanessa saw Rhona’s trashed house and confronted her about what had happened with Pierce. I wasn’t sure how the scenes or the story was going to play out so I braced ready for Rhona to shut her down or avoid telling her the truth, but when Rhona finally revealed to her best friend that Pierce had raped her, I got chills. Much of the reveal scene was silent from Rhona with us, the audience, silently begging her to say as Vanessa continued to push for answers. The characters’ friendship has been rocky of late but I was so glad Vanessa was the one for Rhona to confide in, particularly because she’s another woman but also because their onscreen dynamic is one that always feels believable. The performances from Zoe Henry and Michelle Hardwick gave me goosebumps as they delivered so much emotion in the understated scene, leaving the silence to play out between Rhona voicing what had happened to her.

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? (24-28 April 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! Rhona faced the horror of true colours and love sort of blossomed between Sam and quirky Lydia.

Powerful and Important

Emmerdale - Pierce Attacks Rhona - YouTubeWhen Pierce and Rhona’s relationship began last year, there were early warning signs that underneath their whirlwind romance Pierce had a much darker and controlling side. This week Rhona discovered the truth about him in the most horrific way when he raped her on their wedding day and was completely remorseless about his behaviour. This has been a slow burn, multi-layered storyline about how a charming professional man like Pierce can slowly destroy a woman’s life, leaving her vulnerable and victim to intense and horrifying behaviour and unable to speak out; how a woman like Rhona, independent and strong, can be ground down by the increasing coercive control of a man like Pierce. This storyline is an important one to tell and one Emmerdale has handled perfectly – from Rhona’s strength to take herself to the police station, to the procedure that followed and the subtle and poignant moments like Rhona going into protection mode when it came to her son. Rhona’s story is another story Emmerdale should be commended for – one with truth and poignancy that many will relate to and also an eye-opener for those ignorant to these types of abusive martial relationships. A worthy story and one which demands justice.

Outstanding Performances

vlcsnap-2017-04-30-17h37m03s263There were several moments in this week’s episodes where it was difficult to breathe. The scenes surrounding Rhona’s rape storyline were compulsive viewing – chilling, sickening, suffocating – held together by gripping and believable performances from Zoe Henry and Jonathan Wrather. Jonathan has always been great at walking Pierce’s fine line between charm and twisted manipulation and as his viciousness escalated this week, the scenes where he persuaded Rhona she’d have no chance in proving his guilt as a rapist were effective in their stomach-knotting horror. Zoe Henry has been consistently excellent in all her big storylines and this one has given her an even bigger chance to shine. We’re seeing this through Rhona’s eyes, a character we’ve loved and lived with for so long and been desperate for her to see Pierce’s true colours. Zoe played Rhona’s vulnerability in a heartbreaking and quiet way, but also the complexities in her situation as she deliberated over revealing Pierce’s role and her resistance to being looked at as a victim. As with so many of Emmerdale’s actors, they consistently give it their all and that makes these difficult subjects worth tackling when they do it with such heart and conviction.

Loves Young Dream

vlcsnap-2017-04-30-17h36m07s057Kooky guest character Lydia is by far one of my favourite things about Emmerdale right now. She’s the right side of barmy and quirky, with her beloved pet Steve and her general oddness – she makes for great comic relief in this dark time in the village. This week she saw an opportunity for work in the Sharma’s factory (and every interaction was a dream) and then in her mission to date every eligible man in Emmerdale, Lydia went on a date with Sam. They were a weird match and Sam’s nerves made for one of the most awkward first dates I’ve ever seen, but Lydia seemed quite taken by Sam’s unusual charm and bird noises. Sadly by the end of the week Sam made his excuses not to date her and she hid her disappointment by conceding he was right to back off as she didn’t have time to date, but these two are a match made in heaven, surely?

Fails

Wasted Potential

Emmerdale - Megan Will Pay for Neglecting Her Daughter - YouTubeThere are a number of characters, portrayed by great actors, who are really given a raw deal when it comes to storylines and one of those who always springs to mind is Megan. Gaynor Faye is an impressive actress but she’s been wasted in Emmerdale for ages. Right now she’s in a rather flat relationship with dull Frank and her previous relationship with Jai didn’t exactly set the world alight either. This week a lapse in concentration came at a cost as she totally forgot about Eliza and left her in the back of the car. Luckily for her, Nell (Holly’s dubious and dodgy doppelganger) rescued the little one and kept her safe, but it was only during her daughter’s disappearance that Megan found out about Nell’s history and began to panic. Even when Eliza turned up safe, Jai and Megan exchanged heated words and it looks like a custody battle is on the horizon. Treading very similar water to the Jai vs Megan situation in 2015, this already feels like old and worn ground. There wasn’t really any jeopardy with this not-quite-kidnap-nor-neglect storyline and I can’t help but think Megan deserves a much meatier storyline, rather than this snore.

Repetitive Mess

vlcsnap-2017-04-30-17h37m30s882I was already feeling a bit jaded by the rushed Vic and Adam storyline last week, trying to find some sense in their baby dramas through the gaping plot holes that appeared, but luckily their emotive break up was at least full of great performances. This week though took a bit of a nosedive as the pair had an immature public spat and break up, complete with games console smashing so similar to a previous break up that it almost seemed played for laughs. Not only did this bust up feel like it belonged to a teenage couple rather than adults who’d been married for nearly two years, but Adam’s ill advised pass at Vanessa was another yawnsome moment of history repeating itself. And yes, another stupid cheating/mistake plot that’s bound to blow up in spectacular fashion. Really? Another one? And with their relationship seemingly so easy to repair the next day, this relationship breakdown has all been an unsatisfying mess.

Scene of the Week (24-28 April 2017)

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My Scene of the Week choice was a haunting and chillingly realistic depiction of the aftermath of Rhona reporting her rape, as she was taken to be photographed and examined. The scene was almost completely wordless and Rhona had no dialogue at all, letting the scene play out in an extended and claustrophobic way with Zoe Henry’s exceptional performance taking us through every painful stage of the clinical and forensic process. Rhona had to remove her wedding dress, jewellery and finally her wedding ring before sobbing moments before her internal examination. This was a gripping yet horrible scene, one which really highlighted the continually violating and suffocating realities of coping with the aftermath of rape. Emmerdale should be commended for their honesty for this storyline as a whole, particularly scenes as affecting as this.

Fave or Fail? (17-21 April 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! In the week that saw Vadam implode, we saw Pierce continue his twisted control over Rhona.

Faves

Sibling Love

w54agWe’re used to sibling rivalry in Emmerdale. Sisters that hate each other and throw slaps, brothers who try and kill each other. So what a joy it is to have the lovely Arthur and Gabby relationship to showcase something touching among a grieving family and prove that siblings can love each other and get along. Poor Arthur was upset at the thought of losing his big sis Gabby to Australia and worried she wouldn’t come back and so tried to block out his pain in that classic kid combination of sulking and avoidance. But Gabby soon broke through his act and gave him her teddy Widget to look after and the pair had a heartwarming heart-to-heart. Honestly, it was like allergy season and my eyes were definitely leaking. The sadness and doubts soon turned into smiles as Arthur gave Gabby his best advice for dealing with sharks and they gave each other a goodbye hug. We’re so lucky to have these brilliant young actors and here’s hoping that when Gabby returns we’ll get to see more of these wonderful family moments.

Building the Mystery

Emmerdale - Who Keeps Calling Pierce - YouTubeAs the build up to Rhona and Pierce’s wedding edges nearer, so does the intensity of his manipulation and darkness. Vanessa fell into a familiar pattern of meddling this week (just after she’d begun repairing her friendship with Rhoan, d’oh!) as she managed to get Pierce’s mother, Martha into the village. Since meeting Pierce last year we’ve actually learnt very little about him, and most of it comes from his own mouth which we know can be deceptive at best. We knew from his late wife Tess that their marriage wasn’t a happy one, but this week there was a big dollop of intrigue when it came to Pierce’s past and we were left pondering. Just how much did friend Gavin know and why was he okay to pop up to manipulate Rhona into moving? Just what was Martha like as a mother? And if everything Pierce has revealed about his childhood is a warped story, then what was his past really like? And what about Pierce’s previous behaviour does she know, was Tess just as much of a victim as Rhona? The mystery surrounding Pierce is an interesting one. He’s slippery, good at putting on a performance and twisting situations to his advantage and all of this in a subtle, underhand way. There are layers of darkness we’ve only scratched the surface of and if you’ve seen any of the press surrounding next week’s episodes, this seems to be only the beginning of his monstrous behaviour.

Crash and Burn

w54adI’ve got to say I don’t like this Adam and Victoria story AT ALL but the reason it makes my Faves list is simply down to the performances from Adam Thomas and Isabel Hodgins. Adam and Vic might be on a collision course to destruction in record time but the actors have given the big emotional and challenging scenes their all, even as the plot creaks around them. Though rarely used, when we have seen Adam and Vic they’ve been strong, supportive and really loved up. They’ve been believable as a couple and out of everyone in Emmerdale, they’d be the ones you could imagine staying together for years to come, deserving of happiness and their own big brood. If the rumours are true and Adam is on his way out, something which seems ever more like the way this story is being hurtled through, then it’s a real shame. We’ve seen everything from Adam this week – the bravado and his nastiness, the comedic and the flirty, and the pain in his vulnerability. But both actors have shown they are great at the gritty stuff and getting more accomplished as the years have gone on, so why are we only seeing them get a big story now and why so clunky and rushed?

Fails

Same Old Stories

w54dtI’ll pin my colours to the mast right now and out myself as a huge Pearl fan, but ever since she was dropped from the sexy book plot, it’s lost a certain something. It’s no longer a best seller, no longer cheeky and fun, but at the bottom of the slush pile. I’ve flip-flopped when it comes to David and Tracy. They have their moments but they seem to be stuck in a rut of repetitive sitcom-style storylines which aren’t doing their relationship any favours. Tracy is dumbed down to squeeze out a forced (un)funny line, even if it stretches believability (sure, of course she has no idea who JK Rowling is or that it’s a novella not Nutella) but then is seen cleverly turning the tables on David to teach him a lesson. Tracy seems to have no belief in herself and yet David’s attempts to boost her always have the opposite effect and he comes across as patronising and insensitive. We’ve seen this story with them before and it’s getting tiresome, particularly when both actors can do more than silliness behind a shop counter.

Plot By Numbers

Emmerdale - Adam Says There's No Point in Trying for Kids - YouTubeMore of a general moan rather than plot specific, but a disappointing element to a few of the stories this week was how the plots seemed to be formulaic and rushed, following a dot-to-dot pattern. We have Cain and Harriet’s affair (a tepid stepping stone on the path back to Coira, surely?) which seems to be following an illicit liaison formula but lacking any real spark or originality – there’s push and pull, playing hard to get, sex in the garage – but even the on-the-nose dialogue about a vicar hooking up with the “local gangster” makes this ying and yang affair a bit too knowing and try-hard for me. Then there’s Vic and Adam’s struggles to find a solution to this baby making, with adoption and unconventional family set ups rejected despite the fact Vic’s brother is adopted and Adam was raised by a man who wasn’t his bio-dad. It just doesn’t ring true. Plus the fact that in the space of three days the whole thing exploded, ending a seemingly happy and secure marriage, when six months ago, babies weren’t even on the table. Not to mention Vanessa was rolled out to give Adam a supportive ear when they’ve barely spoken since the Johnny plot and all in time for him making a move next week. If these stories had been slowed down a little – if we’d had time to see Cain and Harriet’s sparking interactions play out for longer before giving in; if Vic and Adam’s fertility struggles had been developed over months rather than days, then these stories might have been stronger for it.

Fave or Fail? (3-7 April 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! In a week that proves Emmerdale can do emotional and sensitive drama alongside the tacky and predictable, we saw Ashley pass away and groaned at the beginning of a Who’s the Daddy? plot.

Faves

Time to Say Goodbye

Emmerdale - Ashley Passes Away - YouTube (1)Ashley’s story of dementia has been a long running and sensitively handled plot which has touched many viewers but this week saw the final part of his journey as he died at home surrounded by his family. John Middleton and Ashley have been such a huge part of Emmerdale that it’s hard to imagine him not being there, but this story will be remembered for years to come. It’s a testament to Ashley’s impact on the village that so many characters came to share their memories and say their goodbyes. The performances have been pitched perfectly at every turn, from the awkwardness of knowing what to say, to the denial and realisation. Each of Ashley’s loved ones has coped in their own way and this is another reflection on real life which has made this story all the more powerful. The simplicity, the sense of family and the sensitivity of this story has meant watching the Thomas family, particularly in these last few months, has felt like watching friends go through this pain rather than something fictional. It’s been emotional, moving and relatable and Emmerdale at its finest. Ashley (and John) are a huge loss for the show but it was a worthy story to tell and I’m sure the impact on the family will be a complex story to watch.

Bright Young Things

vlcsnap-2017-04-08-18h35m54s552There isn’t a more talented bunch of young and child actors than those in Emmerdale right now. I’m constantly blown away by how talented they are and how they can handle huge emotional plots and this week proved that more than ever. Since taking over the role of Gabby, Rosie Bentham has consistently shown a gamut of emotions during her dad’s illness. Her anxious and avoidant reaction to Ashley’s final days is so very relatable and her heart to heart at his bedside was incredibly powerful and moving. I’m sure she’ll continue to impress as she struggles in her grief. It was great to see young Jacob take a supportive role too in looking out for her. Obviously I couldn’t praise the young actors without mentioning little Alfie Clarke who plays Arthur and who continues to shatter hearts with his expressive face and fragile reactions to his dad’s demise. What a treasure he is and always making us get teary eyed. And though she wasn’t part of the Thomas collective this week, Amelia Flanagan (April) had superb comic timing as she tried to help dad Marlon with writing his piece in the memory book. We are lucky to have such a brilliant group of kids on screen.

Bittersweet Reunion

vlcsnap-2017-04-08-18h31m27s737Aaron was released from prison this week and while it should have been a happy time for the reunited husbands, Aaron was understandably still shaken from his ordeal and Robert struggled with his guilt. What began as an interesting and satisfyingly heartbreaking plot about a newlywed couple being torn apart and homophobia in prison, turned into torture porn as Aaron’s treatment and Robert’s betrayal are set to knock Aaron’s mental health and their relationship back by years. And as the misery takes more turns for the worst, you might be wondering why this is even in my Faves list. Simply it’s down to one thing alone and that is the forever captivating chemistry between actors Danny Miller and Ryan Hawley. The boys’ reunion outside the prison gates was wordless and still managed to get hearts thumping and recapture that magic. They alone seem to be able to salvage whatever gargantuan obstacle is thrown grenade-like into Robron’s path and make it a love story you want to see last. But even with this special dynamic this latest “twist” is one that’s going to be hard to overcome.

Fails

Lad Bants

vlcsnap-2017-04-08-11h52m45s003This week poor Rhona had a horrible time of it as her sex tape was leaked to the village thanks to Vanessa’s failed attempts to expose Pierce’s true colours. A clueless Pearl gave her phone to Ross in the pub and it wasn’t long before Rhona’s privacy was invaded in a way that left her mortified and violated. We all know that Ross is number one “lad” in the village and if there’s a piggish comment to be made, he isn’t far behind but it was seriously disappointing to see him and Adam pissing themselves over the video when Rhona was visibly upset in front of them. Seriously, I expected better from Adam at least. They were still making light of it the next day and the offhand “banter” which was probably just meant to be “lads being lads” was uncomfortable to watch and highlights a bigger problem that Emmerdale have with Ross as he veers from lovable swoony rogue to unchallenged sexist pig.

Unwanted Pregnancy

vlcsnap-2017-04-08-11h51m13s502It’s the tacky plot we could see coming from hundreds of miles away, the age-old knocked up by a one-night-stand Who’s the Daddy? plot. Giant sighs all round. Miraculously Rebecca must have magical pregnancy powers for conveniently poised new BFF Victoria to sense it so quickly and after one trip to the loo, she had her sussed and sent her away with a pregnancy test. (To make it even nicer, she placed her urine-soaked stick on the breakfast table of the man whose husband she might have been impregnated by). I’m tired of ranting about how cliché, how predictable, how tired, how frustrating this story is – I’ve tweeted about this A LOT lately – but there are countless reasons why this latest “twist” is one of the most disappointing in recent Emmerdale history. Rebecca, though her personality seems to be little more than “wears hats; is a thorn in Robron’s side”, was meant to be a fun free spirit and yet we’re meant to believe a woman like her wouldn’t think about taking precautions? I can’t imagine her gleefully pushing round a pram and if she’s supposed to be “good hearted” unlike the rest of her family, why would she choose to keep an unwanted child that would tear apart the marriage of her supposed friend? And as for what this will do for Emmerdale’s most loved, most tortured couple I can’t think of an outcome which won’t ruin what made them so beloved. An own goal of the worst kind – is this a story anyone wanted to watch?

Fave or Fail? (6-10 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! Dark times for many villagers, but we also saw the return of Lydia and Zak learnt about safe spaces – so not all bad times.

Faves

Dangerous Games

Emmerdale - Thursday 9 Mar 8pm - The ITV Hub (1)Vanessa and Pierce were thrown together for Minion cake making this week, the day after Pierce proposed properly with a ring to Rhona, but their bonding didn’t exactly go to plan and the week ended with Ness vowing to show Rhona Pierce’s true colours even if it killed her. Not the sort of thing you should be saying in a soap, Vanessa! But it wasn’t just the tense and bitter battle between Rhona’s best friend and fiancé that was such compelling viewing, but Pierce’s subtle control of Rhona that continues to be intense and unnerving. This week he convinced her to strip and have sex on camera, trying to make her feel boring for not wanting to go along with it initially. It’s that kind of scream-at-your-TV drama where you want to reach in and grab Rhona, show her what Pierce has been doing behind her back, shine a light on his subtle powers of persuasion as he drills away at her doubt and insecurities. It’s only going to get worse, where we’ll feel frustrated and worried all at once, but if it continues with this sort of nail-biting intensity then it’s going to be really and unbearably good.

Private Struggles

vlcsnap-2017-03-12-17h31m44s161I made my thoughts and concerns about Aaron’s prison hell storyline very clear earlier in the week, but one positive aspect to this storyline has been seeing the individual struggles of Robert and Liv as they try and cope without him. Monday saw a special episode divided between the three of them as we discovered Robert was unable to sleep in their bed and was struggling with the pressure of relying on short phonecalls with his husband to get him through the day. Liv was being picked on and felt isolated too, made even worse when she had to keep the secret of Aaron’s drug taking later in the week. Ryan Hawley and Isobel Steele managed to be quietly heartbreaking in their scenes but it’s also given a chance for the characters to grow closer in Aaron’s absence which has felt organic and heartwarming to watch. While my reservations about the long term implications of this storyline direction still stand, the impactful performances are worthy of praise.

Better Together

Emmerdale - Thursday 9 Mar 8pm - The ITV HubThe Metcalfe family contingent (and I’m including the wider circle of Eric, Leyla and co) were a highlight this week as Jacob’s anxiety issues came to light when he panicked about losing his lucky coin. Not only were these scenes touching, as the family (and even Emma Barton) rallied to help and reassure Jacob, we thankfully had this family to give us some much-needed lighter moments in another heavy and dark week of plots. Sure, seeing David’s bare bum is getting a bit repetitive but it’s always good to have Pearl and Tracy’s saucy book plot slipping into the week’s stories, especially with Tracy’s endearing enthusiasm and preppy outfits. I really hope Jakey’s anxiety issues don’t just disappear either, because it’s an interesting issue to explore in a young character, particularly one in the midst of a difficult family illness.

Some Self Awareness?

Emmerdale - Wednesday 8 Mar 7pm - The ITV HubI couldn’t help but notice that there appeared to be a change of heart this week from a few characters and displays of self-awareness which felt like an admission of storyline missteps. Take Chrissie, for example, who finally backed down over Ronnie (over the Home Farm family fall out #802) and decided to move out of the big house and stand on her own two feet. Whether she actually follows through with the drastic action is another matter but might we finally be seeing more to her than just Daddy’s spoilt little rich girl? I won’t hold my breath, but at least she admitted it. Then there was Finn whose acknowledgement of his crazy ways and escape to Australia feels like a way for the audience to wipe their memories clean of the disastrous “stalker Finn” plot than actually something he would choose to do. And with another appearance of the fantastically bonkers Lydia, maybe the powers that be at Emmerdale are actually aware of what is and isn’t working on screen – and this can only be a good thing.

Fails

Only Scratching the Surface

Emmerdale - Thursday 9 Mar 8pm - The ITV Hub (2)Ronnie and Lawrence almost broke up this week, then almost got engaged when Ronnie decided he didn’t like who he had become (the Whites have that effect on people) and Lawrence realised he couldn’t live without his silver fox odd-job man. Don’t get me wrong – I love their backstory of pain and pining and I love that Emmerdale is showing an older gay couple, but the handling of Lawrence’s sexuality since getting together with Ronnie has been such a disappointment. Last year when Ronnie returned to his life Lawrence was forced to confront the things he had been running from and him deciding he wanted to be with Ronnie properly it was a satisfying moment. Since then it’s sort of fizzled out. Despite living together and being in love, we’re still no closer to Lawrence dealing with his intimacy issues or even touching on his years of self-denial and self-hatred. Even though those elements are familiar ground (with Aaron and briefly with Robert) – are we meant to believe Lawrence’s journey of acceptance is over? Narratively it feels unsatisfying and half-finished – does Lawrence still have intimacy issues? Is he comfortable with being seen or labelled as a gay man? I can’t help but feel Lawrence and Ronnie’s story would be richer if their present was given the same depth and care as their past.

Off Balance

vlcsnap-2017-03-12-17h31m21s065Phew. Emmerdale has got really heavy and dark lately and it’s not a complaint, rather a concern. I’m all for dark and gritty storylines with an emotional truth at the centre, but right now the balance between this weighty drama and lighter fluff seems slightly off. This week saw: Aaron’s harrowing ordeal and his family’s grief, Pierce’s coercive control of Rhona and menace towards Vanessa, Jai’s drug struggle (as well as Aaron’s) alongside his and Moira’s grief, Jacob’s anxiety all alongside the deeply upsetting and ongoing story of Ashley’s dementia. While all these storylines are worthy issues to be explored and have fantastic performances and scenes – is Emmerdale becoming a bit too heavy and miserable of late? And this is just a glance at one week – we’re not even covering David or Sarah’s cancer to mention two other serious plots. Emmerdale does the lighter storylines – the comedy and the fluffier romance so well, but sometimes sitting down at 7pm does require a stiff drink! Maybe what I’m asking for is more Bob, more Bernice, more Pearl – more of the laughs and the fun. Bring on Gustav and the sexy book and the village choir – we could do with something to smile at.

Scene of the Week (6-10 March 2017)

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Kudos to the brilliant Michelle Hardwick and Jonathan Wrather for delivering so many blisteringly tense confrontations this week between Vanessa and Pierce, but it was this one, the first raw flash of Pierce’s menace in front of Vanessa, that stands out as my Scene of the Week. Vanessa has been cautious of Pierce for a long time, and Pierce characteristically suspicious of his fiancee’s BFF but after hearing Ness’s voicemail, Pierce went round to warn her off in this chilling moment. Pierce was quick to snap after playing civil, calling Vanessa a “gin-soaked closet case” and brought Johnny into the equation when she dared bite back with the home truths – that Pierce is controlling and manipulative. It was brilliant, though slightly unnerving to see Vanessa’s fighting spirit come up against the cold and calculating Pierce – who managed to be infuriatingly vile by twisting things and smirking – because we know just what he’s really capable of. This scene was only round one, but a gripping set-up for their later clashes and just a glimpse into the danger Vanessa (and Rhona) might face.