Fave or Fail? (24-28 July 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 big week for Rhona as she finally saw justice against Pierce.

Faves

Courtroom Dramas

vlcsnap-2017-07-30-12h08m09s085We waited with baited breath this week as the verdict of the rape trial reached its conclusion. I had a feeling of dread that Rhona wouldn’t get the justice she deserved and that she, like many who have survived marital rape, would be forced to watch her attacker go free. Emmerdale chose to go with the rare outcome of ‘guilty’ and the relief was felt by characters and audience alike. The performances of the main players alone have made this story a standout and although at times it has followed similar patterns of other soap stories, Rhona’s journey, her emotion, bravery and determination, is one which I hope will earn Zoe Henry awards. There were some powerful choices of direction in scenes this week too (like Rhona running into the open air after the verdict) and Lisa’s role in the conclusion was a fitting choice and an emotional call back to the past. I expect Rhona still has a long road ahead but I’m just glad Zoe has been given this powerful material.

Chilling Until the End

vlcsnap-2017-07-30-11h54m27s636I can’t say I’m sad to see the end of Pierce as such, but I’ll really miss what Jonathan Wrather gave to the role. As Pierce, Jonathan managed to keep us guessing a lot of the time but when Pierce’s darker sides were revealed he really owned those chilling moments. Pierce was cruel and charming, managing to manipulate in subtle but ultimately devastating ways, and in part I will miss that feeling of rage when watching him at work! To some extent his final week on the show seemed all too quick as I’d have liked to see more of his twisted relationship with his mother Martha, but there was something deeply satisfying to see his horror at being taken to his cell and being locked in.

A Broken Man

vlcsnap-2017-07-30-11h53m52s192It wasn’t long ago that we only got to see two modes of Robert Sugden: villainous or sexy. Sometimes both at once. But as time’s gone on a more layered character has emerged and his vulnerabilities explored. Last year during October’s Super Soap Week I praised Ryan Hawley’s performances as he showed us a more sensitive and emotional side to Robert, one we’d rarely seen, and this week he excelled again. With Aaron gone, Robert’s been a mess (emotionally and physically) but only when injured did he allow himself to fully break down in tears and admit to his mistakes and regret. Ryan really sells these more fragile moments of Robert’s psyche, giving him heart and making him far more rounded than simply just a devious villain.

Still Got It

vlcsnap-2017-07-30-12h06m32s695Sometimes onscreen partnerships just work, much like favourites Cain and Moira who haven’t been sharing much screentime together lately but had a moment this week, reminding us of their magic. Even though Cain’s been trying to move on and find some of that elusive spark with vicar Harriet, for me there’s just something missing between them, especially when you compare their chemistry to “Coira”. This week it was obvious. All Cain and Moira had to do was sit side by side in the pub and there was a palpable tension between them. Sure, she was advising him how to win over Harriet, but there’s still something between the pair simmering under the surface and I hope it won’t be much longer before they’re reunited.

Fails

Tracy’s Trust Issues

Emmerdale - Monday 24 Jul 7pm - The ITV HubThere are some Emmerdale stories that seem stuck on repeat, and this week it was the turn of Tracy to fall victim to the cyclical storytelling. Having lamented earlier this year that it would good to see something fresh for her, we were back to the “Tracy falls out with Frank” merry-go-round. It’s not surprising that she has trust issues with her dodgy dad but any development seems to go round in loops. This week she locked him in the shop (will she ever escape it herself?!) and told him to come clean or she was done with him “for good”. How many times have we heard that? We all know he’s a shady man and she struggles because his promises are always just a few empty words – but within moments he uses those same tricks with her and it’s all forgiven. Perhaps if I cared more about Frank this would feel like worthwhile drama for Tracy, but she seems to have far more potential than just policing her dull dad.

Getting Lucky

vlcsnap-2017-07-30-12h22m24s031I’ve gone into my issues with how Emmerdale handled the aftermath of Lachlan’s assault of Alicia countless times, but I’m still clueless as to how we’re meant to see him now. It’s a hard sell that a smart young woman like Belle could be so blasé about his past, even in light of her past – accidental – crime, especially when her mother is a rape survivor. That aspect of the story just doesn’t work for me. She’s always been unbelievably sympathetic and kind towards him but starting a sexual relationship has made the whole thing even more uncomfortable. This week Lachlan expressed some sort of remorse for his actions but it was all too brief and long overdue, especially in the past where he’s seemed to dismiss the crime. So is he genuine? Are we meant to believe that? Or is he still just as twisted? Was he using it just to gain sympathy from Belle? It’s like Emmerdale can never make up their mind. With Gerry in the frame Lachlan is probably meant to look the reformed and decent guy, but his warped behaviour from the past is hard to forget, especially playing alongside Rhona’s story.

5 Longterm Ways to Fix Robron

Last week Emmerdale super couple Aaron and Robert split up, with Aaron unable to cope with the pressures of his marriage, in light of Rebecca’s pregnancy. It seems only five minutes ago their engagement sealed off a perfect movie-style romance in Super Soap Week and their wedding was an unconventional TV treat. Now their marriage is broken, fans are fed up and it seems like everyone’s tired of their endless angsty storylines. What went wrong?

Aside from the Danny Miller and Ryan Hawley magic, here’s just a few ways I think Emmerdale can attempt to fix one of their most popular couples and make viewers start caring again.

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Back to Basics

It’s never been smooth sailing for Robron and their relationship was always unconventional, but it seems like The Powers That Be have really lost sight of what made the pair so popular. Part of the pleasure in watching a soap is seeing characters and relationships develop. With Robron it was the interest in watching someone as angst ridden as Aaron fall for someone with their own troubles, like Robert, hoping that one day they’d make a go of it. As the story progressed fans didn’t just like watching their two personalities clash and challenge each other, they liked their passion for each other and the fleeting shot at happiness. That they understood each other and supported each other. But lately there’s been a real drought in hope and happiness and we rarely get to see them enjoy each other’s company. Aaron’s history of tragedy made fans long for his happiness and despite Robert’s bad boy instability, he gave him that. It was never going to be easy; part of the enjoyment was watching them work for that. We fell in love with their sexy and tumultuous romance, but their bond and happiness at being together has taken a real knock in the quest to give them more obstacles.

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Give The Misery a Rest!

Arguments, angst, fighting and tears. It’s been the story since day one, but after Aaron’s horrible abuse trial ordeal I think everyone hoped it was about time for a break from the misery. Danny Miller’s tears are award-winning but there comes a point where the heartache reaches saturation point and people are desensitised by Aaron’s latest pain. Soaps don’t really do happiness, unless you’re a comedy couple, but everyone needs light and shade. Even Robron’s wedding was doused in sadness knowing Aaron was heading to prison a day later. Emmerdale couldn’t even give him a day! So this one’s a pretty simple fix really – give them some happier times! We’ve had the same old arguments for well over six months now and it’s time Emmerdale figured out how to find a better balance. We know they’re meant to be, but we’ve stopped seeing that side of them – unless we’re due a four episode argument and another break up, of course!

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Explore New Ground

Their Super Soap Week special showed us that Aaron and Robert are a lot more than angst machines – they’ve got a great comedic partnership too. Not only would a bit of humour give the actors something fun to do, it would be the “light” we’re crying out for. It doesn’t always have to be violence, cheating, drugs and death, you know! But not only that, Aaron and Robert have slipped into a pattern, and a bad habit of behaviours that form many of their stories. It goes something like this: Robert does something bad or something Aaron doesn’t like (intentionally or not), Aaron gets angry and upset, they argue and Robert begs for forgiveness. Sound familiar? How about something different to watch, eh? Test the characters in different ways, explore sides to the lads and their relationship we haven’t seen before. Both of them are complex – there’s a lot to delve into rather than the same old ground.

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Break The Bubble

This is a problem shared by many of the characters in Emmerdale, but one – if fixed – could lift Aaron and Robert out of their rut. Often characters stay in their “bubble” – take David and Tracey, for example, who often seem superglued to the shop, but the last few months, with most of their drama revolving around their marriage and personal issues Aaron and Robert have only interacted with a select few characters. Friendship and family should be the central factor in Emmerdale, but with Chas and Liv gone, Paddy busy, Aaron’s a bit of a forgotten Dingle and the Sugdens are even more fractured – Robron seem stuck in the same conversations with the same few characters. Again and again. So this rescue remedy is all about variety. Some of their more surprising interactions (Aaron’s awkward friendship with Finn, Robert allying with Bernice) have been a welcome change from the angst, but we could really do with more integration into village life and less rehashing of the same issues without resolution.

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The Rebecca Problem

Since her arrival last October, when she tried to tempt Robert back to bed, Rebecca White’s sole purpose in Emmerdale seems to be just to trigger repetitive and tiresome problems between Aaron and Robert. And let’s face it, it hasn’t exactly made her popular with fans of Emmerdale’s super couple. But if you thought we might one day see the end of their age-old arguments about Aaron’s insecurities and Robert’s cheating past, Rebecca’s pregnancy doesn’t offer much hope of that! So does this mean we’re destined to watch a future of her being the third wheel, rolled out whenever they need a bit of drama (read: argument they’ve had a hundred times before)? Well let’s hope not, eh? Because then we’ll never get the above fixes. There are a number of ways this story could go – but one thing’s for sure, Rebecca’s continued presence as a convenient thorn in their side isn’t doing any character favours and I’m longing for change, however that may be.

Fave or Fail? (19-23 June 2017)

faveorfail

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 War of the Rs this week as Robron took on Ross and Harriet got stabbed.

Faves

Back in Action

vlcsnap-2017-06-25-18h03m40s668Cain was back properly this week and it feels like we haven’t seen him in ages. I really appreciated how many different stories converged, as the Barton money woes and war with Robert led to Harriet being stabbed, her fling with Cain being exposed and him seeking revenge. Cain’s revenge missions – usually involving car boots – are often enjoyable viewing but it’s a long time since we’ve seen him take the violent approach and he wasn’t holding back with Ross. It came as a bit of a shock and with Moira involved (Coira tension ahoy) we were guaranteed good scenes as awkwardness bristled at the hospital. Cain might have mellowed as he’s aged, but it’s entertaining to see his reckless side now and again.

Pot Pranks

vlcsnap-2017-06-25-18h02m33s935It was testosterone o’clock this week as Ross and Robron started a war. Having blackmailed Robert not long ago, Ross had the upper hand until Robert and Aaron decided to crush his last remaining taxi and only source of income. After some brilliant tag-team one liners, Ross sought payback and stole Robert’s pride and joy – his Porsche. The rivalry rumbled on as Robron discovered Ross and Finn’s weed stash and held it hostage in a woodchipper until Ross returned the car. Unlucky for Ross, Robert wasn’t in a forgiving mood and all the Barton’s cash hopes were sprayed to dust as Finn was captured by the dealers. Oops. With some great sparky dialogue and schoolboy rivalries this was a fun plot to start the week and cause bigger drama later on, plus it was a very welcome break from the tedium of the dreaded baby plot.

A Welcome Presence

vlcsnap-2017-06-25-18h00m42s441There was a great community feel this week as Doug’s attempts to be less boring led him to the brilliant village hall dance lessons with Lydia and co. But I want to talk about another comedic star of the village – the consistently funny Bernice. Since her return Bernice has found herself working a number of jobs in the village (Kerry’s driven away customers at the salon unsurprisingly) and it’s been fantastic to see her get stuck into gossip in the café, butting her nose in where she really shouldn’t. From getting Cain’s sandwich order wrong to her tea tray throwing, she’s been amazing in this role. But even later in the week, when she went back to the salon and massaged Pete, she was hilariously pervy (she never could resist a young buff male) and ended up giving him severe burns with chilli oil. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of her antics, whether it’s her ill judged comments or the physical comedy, she just brings such warmth and fun to the whole show.

Finding Her Place

vlcsnap-2017-06-25-18h02m08s776Chrissie White has been in Emmerdale for almost three years now but it seems like finally finally the writers have figured out how best to characterise her. Fingers crossed it seems like the days of being a daddy’s girl victim or – on the other end of the spectrum – the uber camp soap bitch are behind her. She feels settled. Ruthless, cutting, snobby, lording it over the other villagers, holding court at Home Farm – she seems powerful and bitchy without the cartoon one-liners. She’s always had this potential and I even enjoyed some of her really cold-hearted moments in the past, but it used to seem like they weren’t really sure what to do with her. Now the balance is just right. Here’s hoping that she stays like this!

Fails

The Exposition Family

vlcsnap-2017-06-25-18h01m05s107It’s common knowledge that Lawrence is on his way out of Emmerdale but this week we were given seemingly never-ending scenes of exposition as Lawrence sat the family down to explain about Chrissie’s biological father. As we all listened to story time with Lawrence again it struck me how much this family has relied on exposition heavy backstory to make them more interesting. What with Lawrence’s prison story, his romance with Ronnie, Rebecca’s past with Robert, Chrissie’s true paternity and now the story of her father – they’re all tragic backstories intended to give the family depth but in reality they’re just lengthy, heavy and unengaging scenes of exposition. It’s hard to care when it’s all happened in the past and we didn’t get to see it. These kinds of stories are much more involving when a newcomer forces them to confront the past (like when Ronnie rocked up) but with shady Lawrence seemingly lying about Chrissie’s biological family, things might get more interesting!

 

Fave or Fail? (22-26 May 2017)

faveorfail

Every week I run through the best and worst bits of the week on Emmerdale. Tell me your faves and fails in the comments! Robert confessed his betrayal to Aaron this week and we enter another stretch of Emmerdale’s Worse Storyline Ever™

Faves

Rollercoaster of Emotions

vlcsnap-2017-05-28-17h47m43s531Let’s not get into this Aaron/Robert/Rebecca baby plot, which has to be one of my most loathed soap plots of all time, but let’s talk about the one saving grace of this story and that’s Thursday’s reveal. It’s been a ticking time bomb for months but finally this week, torn apart by guilt, Robert confessed his betrayal to a devastated Aaron. The Robron relationship has had more ups and downs (and to be honest, more downs) than Space Mountain but if anything this set of episodes proved why they continue to drag Aaron and Robert from one torturous story to the next and that’s how well the actors sell the heartbreak and the passion in their character’s relationship. With a script that dug right into their deepest flaws and issues, the intense argument saw Aaron and Robert communicate like never before as they got to the heart of why Aaron’s prison spell and Robert’s huge mistake had caused such a colossal impact on both characters. It was an honest, intimate and powerful display of their complex relationship one that owes a great deal to the long-standing chemistry between Danny Miller and Ryan Hawley and a partnership which I hope doesn’t suffer too much in this unpopular storyline.

Light Touch

vlcsnap-2017-05-28-17h38m02s763Lydia continues to be an injection of fun into Emmerdale and her budding romance with Sam Dingle has been a joy to watch. In just a few weeks she’s managed to integrate with lots of different characters with her cleaning job, but her comedic role in the Thomas household has worked surprisingly well to lift them after the serious and rather bleak Ashley plot. Away from Lydia was the stained-glass window mix up on Friday which saw Kerry’s creative unicorn and Adonis Ashley contribution be installed instead of Arthur’s intended window, thanks to an email error by Sandy. Bernice arrived during the chaos and of course made my GIF of the week. Far from making light of Ashley’s passing, these lighter moments have shown that laughs are possible after a death and he definitely would have seen the funny side. I’m glad that Emmerdale are able to remember Ashley, that the Thomases are allowed to grieve and but that life goes on, with smiles and even with a stuffed cockatoo in tow.

Moira Mystery

vlcsnap-2017-05-28-17h29m58s379Maybe I’m reading into things with Moira this week but I definitely felt like there was more to her exhaustion collapse and jumpy behaviour around Faith. It might not be the pregnancy plot we all predicted would happen when she slept with Pete and then Cain back in December, but it does make you wonder. Still, mystery aside, I love seeing Moira in farming mode and her interactions with Faith (like berating her for flirting with Adam) are really good fun. But what was also nice this week was the reminder of Holly and the realism of her presence continuing to impact upon Moira when in soaps death is so quickly forgotten. The scenes between Adam and Moira as they came together again after their fallout was a touching moment and part of the family warmth I’ve come to expect from Emmerdale at its best.

Fails

Carry On Car Theft

vlcsnap-2017-05-28-17h30m52s257It was only last week Debbie made my ‘Faves’ list as I praised the new and more light-hearted direction her character was going through, but this week the fun turned farce as Charity got on board for some carry-on capers. The Charity and Debbie relationship is one which has a natural spark and their bickering in a crisis is much more enjoyable than when they’re feuding about Charity’s wrong doings, but this week’s scenes crossed the line into just plain stupid. Charity can be a great comedy character and she’s proved she can work well as pub landlady but surely there’s got to be a better story for her than an “oops we’ve knocked a man out cold let’s shove him in the boot” episode filler. I love the Debbie and Charity interactions but these scenes dragged on, thinning out the humour in them, but if it keeps Debbie away from mopey love-life stories then I won’t complain too much.

A Massive Failure

vlcsnap-2017-05-28-17h40m02s250Where to start? I hate this storyline and to be honest I don’t know any Emmerdale fan that doesn’t. Granted, throwing a one-night-stand into the mix a mere three weeks after your most popular couple get hitched was never going to be received with open arms but the progression of this story has only got worse from then on. Putting aside the repetitive and tired clichés of this story, the unrelenting torture of Aaron and the tiring on/off conflict between Aaron and Robert, which is testing even to the most ardent of fan, we come to the biggest problem of all in the writing of Rebecca White. Introduced as the “good” White sister willing to take down her family and seduce Robert in the process, we’ve seen her turn from independent go-getter and vixen to saintly victim throughout this storyline. Not a day goes by when she hasn’t had a dramatic change of heart and this week we had the full spectrum. From wanting Rob to not wanting him, from not wanting the baby to desperately wanting to be a mother, to staying out of Robron’s way to actively telling Aaron to leave Robert. Her motives are all over the place and I don’t think it’s hormones. Her character makes no sense and her flaky lack of coherency and agency screams of a character who is written on the spot, bowing slavishly to the plot and because of this she’s not a character I believe, let alone like. Her weepy protestations of her innocence are thin and insincere and not like any woman I know (thank god). Sorry Emmerdale, there’s no getting round this, this is a massive failure for all characters involved.

 

 

Scene of the Week (22-26 May 2017)

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It’s a testament to the performances of actors Danny Miller and Ryan Hawley that they can still make a scene special and touching, even in the midst of a storyline almost universally hated like this cheating/baby plot is. Lets call it magic. Falling at the end of Thursday’s dramatic two-parter, this poignant moment was more like a patch of blue sky in between downpours rather than the calm after the storm, but the pair have a chemistry that means it’s just about worth suffering through this predictable plot for. After Robert’s disastrous one-night stand secret came to light, this final scene saw them reunited, trying to move on from their individual issues. It was a welcome change to see Robert as the vulnerable one, clinging onto Aaron who had made the difficult decision to forgive rather than fight his husband. It’s easy to see in scenes like this why they’re such a popular couple, but also why moments of tenderness are a nice reprieve in the never-ending misery fest of their lives in Emmerdale.

Fave or Fail? (10-14 April 2017)

faveorfail

Every week I run through the best and worst bits of the week on Emmerdale. Tell me your faves and fails in the comments! Another week showcasing the full spectrum of soap – from the beautiful, honest and emotional to the cheap, tacky and unbelievable.

Faves

The Last Goodbye

vlcsnap-2017-04-16-17h08m49s721For me the strengths of Ashley’s story were the far-reaching impact on his family and friends and the performances of the main actors involved and this week we had the best of these as the community gathered for his funeral. Everything from Harriet’s crisis of confidence, to Gabby’s heartbreak and grief that she didn’t get to say goodbye on her own, to Laurel’s strength, to Doug’s speech, to Arthur’s poem – the reactions showed a full spectrum of grief and it was full of heart and warmth. Emmerdale has been rightly praised for the sensitivity and believability it has told this story with, staying away from cheap twists and playing each character’s reaction with relatable honesty. The writing and performances have cemented this as soap best and shows what Emmerdale is capable of.

Girl Gang

vlcsnap-2017-04-16-18h50m46s743Faith has managed to establish herself as a lively and interesting character in the village and she’s only been here five minutes, but what I loved most this week is this kind of girl gang her Sarah and Debbie have formed at Moira’s. Debbie’s a hundred times better when she’s not tied up in gangster heists or moping over Ross and Sarah and Faith’s relationship is blossoming into something lovely. This week Debbie and Faith butted heads over Sarah’s health but Faith also managed to get Debs to lighten up and the scenes where she tried to bring the holiday vibes into Sarah’s world was funny and heartwarming. I loved their sunbathing, cocktail drinking role play and it was even better to see the usually dour Debbie getting involved in the dress up.

Sweet Dreams

vlcsnap-2017-04-16-17h07m25s177The Ashley and Laurel dream sequence was a controversial choice for a moment of closure for a story which has been grounded in so much reality from the start, but with John Middleton and Charlotte Bellamy’s emotional performances and so much history involved, I think Emmerdale made it work. It’s not the first time Emmerdale has done a dream sequence – Eric seeing Val and Marlon seeing Tricia spring to mind – and it’s a gimmick that maybe didn’t work for everyone but I’ll admit I thought it was very moving and a fitting end to the chapter. There’s a certain amount of comfort to be had in Ashley’s speech to Laurel about moving on and it’s not a luxury many of us have when losing a loved one, but fiction often gives us the wish-fulfilment real life can’t. It was a scene filled with history and continuity but at the heart of it a believable couple saying a heartfelt final goodbye when his decline had prevented them from doing so. Even more impressive was that this scene was done in one take, making those flawless performances even more impressive.

Fails

Insensitivity

vlcsnap-2017-04-16-18h52m02s139Readers of this blog will know I have a huge soft spot for comedic goofball Rishi but at this point I’m starting to feel like I’m cursed and it’s Emmerdale’s mission to make me hate all my favourite characters. This week saw Rishi and Faith go on a date but after some crass and uncalled for comments from Charity, Faith panicked and ended up confessing about her mastectomy to Rishi. Faith’s dilemma is one faced by other women going through the same insecurity after surgery but did this story really need to be rushed through with all the sensitivity of a hammer to the face? I know Charity isn’t the most understanding of women, but would she have really laid on the warning so thickly, making out as if Faith was some disfigured monster? Would Faith have really told him on date number one? Rishi ran out in a panic straight away and then mouthed off about it loudly in the pub for all to hear, including Faith. We know Rishi can be an idiot but this plot development was rushed when this story needs time and care to do it justice.

The Recipe of Success?

vlcsnap-2017-04-16-17h14m25s464The perfect recipe for a terrible storyline? Take one beloved couple and destroy their re-built foundations of trust and loyalty. Add several backward steps for a complex and interesting character you spent eighteen months redeeming. Villainise said character by using a reconstructed history and new character whose personality changes depending on plot to make her the hapless victim and him the heartless bastard. No grey areas. Pretend condoms are 100% effective. Make a sensitive hero of your sleaziest male character to demonise said complex male. Remove female character’s agency. Add blackmail. Remove reactions of suspicion from the spouse and make them dote heavily on duplicitous male to up the stakes. Flee the country and pretend this all goes away. Wonder how the hell this is ever going to be salvageable for the beloved couple.

Fave or Fail? (3-7 April 2017)

faveorfail

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? (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?

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.

We Need To Talk About: Aaron Dingle

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Given Emmerdale’s history, I shouldn’t be surprised by how close they’re pushing Aaron Dingle to the brink but Monday night’s special episode took things to a new low. One that, despite its acting and merits of raising awareness, is hard to fully defend or understand.

To say Aaron’s always been a troubled character is something of an understatement. After all, this is the same lad that tried to commit suicide when he couldn’t cope with his sexuality, only for his very first romantic experience to culminate in his boyfriend being hit by a train and become paraplegic.

That wasn’t anywhere near the end of it and after years of hard-hitting plots, Aaron left for France and had a two year break from his miserable life. On his return in 2014 Emmerdale seemed to have struck a better balance between the extreme angst we’re used to in Aaron’s stories, and character development. He was much more sure of himself as a person, experienced lust, love and had escaped the shackles of his succession of torture storylines to find happiness.

There’s no denying that Aaron being put through the emotional wringer is down to Danny Miller’s exceptional performances which resonate so deeply with the audience and make Aaron a beloved character. But there comes a point where enough is enough, before this becomes too heavy to burden one character with and before you exhaust an audience into the worst possible outcome: apathy.

The prison storyline began as a heartbreaking split of two newlyweds and the freshness of Aaron’s short-lived happiness served to make this tragedy TV gold. Tearing apart your much-loved couple moments after they wed? It’s a classic story and one that gets the tear ducts going in the right way. Aaron’s happiness (and particularly with new husband Robert) is something viewers are hugely invested in and have waited for after – yes – even more years of character torture.

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What followed was a tough and claustrophobic display of the impact of homophobia in prison. A worthy and well-acted story and one which hasn’t been done before. It was especially poignant in light of how far Aaron has come in accepting his sexuality. The emotional impact of this alone would have served as an effective story, particularly combined with showing the effect on his loved ones in the outside world.

Unfortunately this is where the storyline began to spiral into a needlessly cruel territory, as prison top dog Jason discovered Aaron was the son and victim of paedophile Gordon and the sickeningly extreme torment drove Aaron to take the drug Spice. Why deal effectively with one topical prison issue when you can do three at once, eh?

There is a defence that argues it’s good that Emmerdale is highlighting these very real and very brutal realities in the prison system and while this might be true – the biggest question I have is why?

Not even a year ago, Aaron battled for justice against his father and reopened old wounds as he revealed he had been repeatedly raped as a child by him. On the whole the story was handled sensitively and despite dealing with horrifying issues, gave the audience a sense of hope for Aaron’s future. All along we saw Aaron’s support network come together, the arrival of his sister and a fresh start with Robert were huge beacons of light in a dark time. The storyline didn’t feel exploitative, particularly when it offered believable insight into Aaron’s lifelong struggles with identity and self-harm. But with this storyline came the opportunity to explore new directions with Aaron. Aaron was on a path of justice and recovery, with the audience optimistic that he would survive this fresh trauma, not as a new person, but a healthier and happier one.

And he was getting there (even without much-needed therapy), whilst still being a damaged man with multiple issues that continued to impact upon his relationships and mental health. As you’d expect for a character who had been abused as a child, he struggled with trust, insecurity and expressing emotion. But these were all believable facets to his character, all part of his character’s development – ones Emmerdale could use for conflict and drama when needed.

In a soap, where there is no end point in sight for a character unless an actor chooses to leave or the axe falls, characters need to develop, to grow. The best characters are ones that experience a diverse range of storylines and emotions. We all expect unhappiness, torment and conflict – it’s a soap after all – but in Aaron’s latest plot, it’s starting to feel that any progress and development made has been set back years as the torment mounts in prison.

Once more, Aaron has become Emmerdale’s tortured voodoo doll in a relentless and cruel way that veers between leaving many uncomfortable and some completely desensitised.

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It doesn’t just feel like Aaron’s character progression is being undone (when he had merely begun to recover from his traumatic past and not even a year since Gordon’s trial) but that the good work of the abuse storyline has been tarnished by effectively punishing and destroying the fragile psyche of a childhood rape survivor.

To me, it’s irresponsible and insensitive.

What makes matters worse is that is this only the beginning. Even when Aaron leaves prison, the ramifications of this story will last for many months. Believable? Yes. Watchable? Debatable.

Last night saw Aaron begin drug use and if you’re aware of spoilers you’ll know that Robert’s breakdown on the outside leads him to make a pass at Rebecca, a nightmare situation which would destroy an already broken Aaron. When part of Aaron’s only strength comes from his marriage, just how far are they going to push Aaron? And to what end? There comes a point where enough is enough, where unfortunately it begins to become a parody and lose all resonance.

It might be true to life, but TV is not just about the important tragedies of life, but entertainment, an escape. With Aaron’s light and happiness so rare and so fleeting, the balance is tipped and this stops being entertainment.

Aaron Dingle (and Danny Miller’s performances) are worth more than just a factory line of issue-based misery plots and I just hope Emmerdale haven’t fallen into a trap of exhausting and breaking the character beyond hope.