Coronation Street – Double Episode Review – Friday 11 April – 7.30pm and 8.30pm
It isn’t very often I have cause to describe Coronation Street as difficult to watch, but tonight’s drama most certainly was, which is a testament to its quality. Phelan continues to treat Owen with contempt, but their latest conversation has an even more sinister tone. As he prepares to spend the afternoon with Anna, he tells Owen he has a hot date lined up. Faithful Owen makes the inevitable all the more tragic by declaring that he’d never play away, but Phelan reckons he’d have second thoughts if he saw the “bit” that is waiting for him. “You’d like her” he assures Owen, securing his place as one of the most deplorable villains ever to appear on the Street.
Alone, afraid and completely torn, Anna gets ready for the sordid appointment. Seeing her tremble as she puts lipstick on before rubbing it off is a powerful indication of her inner turmoil. Mirrors appear on her compact, in the lift, and in the hotel room, and faced with her own image, she appears to be both searching and confronting her very self about what she is about to do.
As her family prepare a surprise dinner for her, Owen remarks that Phelan’s date would “have to be someone desperate”, which is exactly what poor Anna is. It is taking full advantage of this desperation that makes Phelan truly villainous. While Anna has certainly been a target of his desire from the off, I think he is similarly determined to destroy Owen, to ruin and dominate every aspect of his life, to own every piece of him utterly and entirely down to his very partner.
The scenes in the hotel room are slow and uncomfortable. The fact that the hotel lift, corridor and room itself are cramped adds to the claustrophobia of the situation, and conveys the perceived lack of a way out or an alternative for Anna. Shoelaces being slowly undone, the hesitant way she puts her handbag down and removes her coat make you recoil at the inevitability of it, and feel you can nearly hear her heartbeat.
“Put the contract where I can see it” she says as she moves over to the bed, knuckles visibly taut as she steels herself for what she’s about to do. Hers is an impossible decision which surely has any viewer asking if it’s something they could ever be capable of.
Once it’s over, in one final twist of the knife, Phelan grabs the contract and makes Anna beg for it before laughing as she leaves. There is nothing remotely redeeming about Pat Phelan and the fact that he is capable of anything is what makes him so frightening and dangerous. Even having gone through with it, Anna still cannot be truly certain that he will keep his word, contract or no contract.
As she returns to Weatherfield on the bus, we see the Street from her perspective, conveying the notion that it no longer appears quite the same to her. As she arrives home, things similarly appear alien, as if nothing can ever be the same again. Her family’s efforts on her behalf make her feel worse, and we completely identify with her as we encounter a close up of her panicked face while their voices can be heard telling her she deserves it. Far from being a source of consolation, the family dinner painfully reduces her to tears. As Owen praises her strength and tells her he loves her, she can’t bear it, and breaks down after he goes to bed.
There was no indication when this storyline commenced that it would go to such a dark place. When I heard of the indecent proposal I wasn’t sure how it would play out, but it provided some exceptional and well executed drama. The acting, script and direction have been outstanding, particularly as the family entered the downward spiral which has culminated in this pair of very difficult episodes. Debbie Rush’s performance was fantastic tonight and together with Connor McIntyre, Ian Puleston-Davies and Mikey North, has been consistently brilliant throughout.
Elsewhere, Tyrone receives a call from the police to say Kirsty has been released. Fiz panics at the news and is in no mood to make up with Maria. Tyrone tries to compensate for Fiz’s behaviour by assuring his ex-fiancee that she’ll have no problem finding a new man.
Maddie refuses help from her social worker and walks out of her accommodation leaving herself and Sophie sleeping rough.
When Peter confirms to Tina that he loves her, she interprets this as a sign and decides to “get him back”. After struggling to resist alcohol in the pub, Peter hits the bottle at home as he receives a text from Tina saying “I love you too”.
Steve and Andrea make up and are engaging in some intense studying in the back room of the Rovers when Steve decides to get kebabs. On his return, a dozing Andrea pulls him on to the sofa and calls him Lloyd in her sleep. This last detail goes unheard by Michelle and Lloyd who enter to find the pair in a questionable clinch. Both assure their respective partners that nothing is going on, and add that they have in fact been a victim of unreciprocated love. But as the two stories collide in Streetcars, Jenna and Lloyd send Steve and Andrea packing. As soon as Michelle and Liz get wind of this latest development, I fear “The Laugh at Steve Show”, as the legend himself aptly describes it, won’t have a shortage of plotlines for the foreseeable future.
By Emma Hynes