Emmerdale’s latest disaster saw the Sharma’s Factory on fire, leading to Frank Clayton’s death and the collapse of the Sharma’s confectionary empire. This leaves its fair share of burning questions according to The Emmerdaily contributor All in the Name of Emmerdale
When it comes to high pay-off drama and massive stunts that send shockwaves around soap, Emmerdale is one of the best in the business. The latest disaster to hit the village is the Sharma Factory fire, which lead to Frank Clayton’s (Michael Praed) death and the collapse of the Sharma’s confectionary empire, leaving its fair share of burning questions and devastation in its wake…
This year we have seen the ‘Big Night Out’ promising to change multiple characters lives, and whilst it did for some, it felt a little underwhelming in some narrative arcs. This latest high impact incident seems as if it has the potential to unleash more life changing events for our favourite villagers and forge new villains.
The fire caused the death of Frank after rescuing his daughter Tracy Metcalfe (Amy Walsh), who was trapped in the stock cupboard. Frank’s demise opens up a huge set of critical arcs for a number of characters, breathing new life and offering fresh perspectives to a number of them.
With many of the villagers apportioning blame for the fire on Frank, setting Tracy on a trajectory to try and clear his name, it offers viewers a greater insight into the depth that Tracy holds.
Going beyond her grief, she has always had a fractious relationship with her father and it shows the reconciliation between them that she fundamentally knows he wasn’t responsible. Notwithstanding the impact Amy Walsh’s performances have already rewarded the viewer with. For the past year we have not seen Amy been given the material to really showcase her inordinately expansive range. The quest to clear Frank’s name gives not only Tracy the drive as a character again but Amy the chance to delve deeper into her character, which can only be a hugely positive step.
It has also opened up the prospect of a difference of opinion between Tracy and her sister Vanessa Woodfield (Michelle Hardwick) with Vanessa part believing the narrative that her father stole the charity money from the hospital given his past form.
Intertwined with grief and trying to clear his name, it adds further complexity to the relationship between Tracy and Vanessa. Alike on so many issues but prone to the odd clash, seeing a divergence of opinion regarding Frank’s involvement is a powerful powder keg waiting to explode. It refreshes the narrative of the sisterly bond once more and proves in death, families react differently which is vitally important to portray.
This also adds additional layers to Vanessa’s character in the process and sees her struggle to cope with her own deep personal trauma, something we’ve rarely seen since she suffered post-natal depression after her son’s birth. It was felt that the aftermath of her stabbing attack by Donny Cairn (Alan Convey) was poorly constructed and acted as a plot device to facilitate Vanessa’s engagement with Charity Dingle (Emma Atkins). This feels more grounded and well-rounded as we finally see how grief and trauma would affect one of the most stoic characters in the Dales.
Hot on the heels of this arc of families bonded by this tragedy are Kerry Wyatt (Laura Norton) and Amy Wyatt (Natalie Ann Jamieson) whose theft and subsequent destruction of CCTV evidence of them stealing the charity money taken to pay off Amy’s debt.
Kerry Wyatt pinning the blame of the fire onto Frank with the police to cover their tracks makes her potentially one of the Emmerdale’s most hated of characters right now!
However, it offers Natalie her first big Emmerdale storyline and sets in motion a high stakes game. Should they get found out they face a significant stretch behind bars and for Amy destroying perhaps the last chance of ever having meaningful contact with her son Kyle Winchester (Huey Quinn) just when it looked like she would forge relationship with him. Natalie and Laura have both shone in the storyline so far, grappling with Amy and Kerry’s guilt.
Secrets in soap-land always invariably come out and when they do, like the fire it’s explosive. It not only would destroy Kerry and Amy not that it’s not doing so at the moment, but offers a tantalising prospect of Kerry taking the fall to protect the interests of her daughter. Would she though?
What will Vanessa and Tracy do when they find out Kerry and Amy’s recent support was all to ease their own sense of guilt that will be a bitter pill to swallow. Creating a further devastating blow to an already loaded set of circumstances, this story-lining feels well woven and compelling and for the viewer, rewarding to watch.
Adding to the overall sense of devastation is the end of the Sharma’s business empire, something a past Emmerdaily piece covered could offer a fresh outlook for the under-utilised family. It also has set in motion the return of Kim Tate’s (Claire King) devious and calculating side, briefly and uncharacteristically on hiatus after trying to become a reformed character to get her son Jamie Tate (Alexander Lincoln) back on side.
At the end of Friday’s episode we saw her on the phone to an unknown business partner, setting up Jai Sharma (Chris Bisson) to become her ‘lackey’ in creating a new outdoor pursuit centre on the very ground his families once proud factory stood.
This feels as if it marks the full return of the ever meticulous and calculating Kim, although did it ever really leave? It gives the Sharmas and in particularly Jai a leading role in this new arc which has been way overdue!
The creation of a new business in the Dales changes the tone of the programme offering a new perspective. It also sends an impact onto numerous characters including Dawn Taylor (Olivia Bromley) of losing their jobs but for Jai a stress test on his new relationship with Laurel Thomas (Charlotte Bellamy) which is undoubtedly set to come under pressure!
As he finds out that his role in the new business isn’t as it seems, the decision he took comes home to roost with the rest of his family. Jai is a proud and assured man, always in control. What happens when his life spirals and can he find that ruthless streak to fight back?
It’s been ages since it truly felt the Sharmas were given a major storyline and it seemed inevitable it would be at the demise of their confectionary empire. A very seizable shift in the familiar dynamic but it comes at the cost of not perhaps exploring Priya Kotecha’s (Fiona Wade) eating disorder arc which is bitterly disappointing as Priya has been another of the soaps under-utilised characters. However the detrimental impact of Jai’s decision will have on his already faltering relationship with his father Rishi Sharma (Bhasker Patel) could be devastating.
And that’s the buzz word, Devastation! Emmerdale is adept at crafting explosive moments and events like the The Hotten Bypass crash or the iconic storm and plane crash.
Whilst it may not be as marquee of those revered episodes, the factory fire continues in the serial drama’s rich tradition of a disaster unleashing multiple narrative arc’s that surprise and captivate. It has seen shockwaves already causing families to fragment, lies exposed, trust betrayed and treachery rearing it’s ugly head. That’s the best of soap and why viewers come back to them, for the factory fire and it’s aftermath is soap at its finest with many characters picking up the pieces from its burning embers.
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