Murderers in soaps should never tempt fate by saying lines like, “I don’t want to hurt anyone anymore.” Having already brought about the demise of two people in less than 12 months, Cameron’s vow to make a fresh start with Debbie appeared naively optimistic. And sure enough, just 30 minutes later, there he was, crouched over a bloodied Gennie with his hand clamped over her nose and mouth.
It was doubtful that Gennie was going to survive, having just plunged down a ravine in her car after being chased around hairpin bends by Debs and Cam. But Cameron does like to be belt-and-braces when it comes to killing people: Carl King not quite dead? Whack him with a brick! Gennie struggling for breath? Cut off her air supply!
Unfortunately, this latest murder came after Cameron had made what passes in his world for a clean breast of things. This involved confessing to Debbie (while being secretly recorded on Dictaphone by Gennie) that he’d been the one to kill Carl last October. But notice that he said nothing about that Christmas Eve trip with Alex to the woods. You remember the one? It ended with a chorus of Silent Night on the soundtrack, a shovel and a hastily dug grave.
Now Cameron has yet another secret to keep from Debbie, who was busy phoning for an ambulance as Gennie lay injured. But at least Debbie can rest assured that Cameron really does love her because, basically, he wouldn’t dream of making her stand trial for murder like he did with Chas. Aw! Surely, it’s whispered sweet nothings like this that every girl wants to hear?
As for words of comfort for poor Gennie, there really wasn’t much that Cameron could offer. “Is she gonna be all right?” yelled Debbie from the top of the ravine. “No, I don’t think she is,” rumbled Cameron, as Gennie breathlessly said her goodbyes to mum, daughter and Nikhil. They weren’t there of course – in fact, just to ramp up the poignancy levels, Nikhil was back in the village staring at a wedding snap. But Gennie knew that with bones broken and a maniac for a paramedic, the future wasn’t looking bright.
When her murder was shown, it was genuinely chilling and a scene that felt like it was toying with the boundaries of its pre-watershed scheduling. All too often soap villains become pantomime turns who start bumping off characters of whom we’ve grown weary. But not so here. Cameron’s tortured soul (and Dominic Power’s permanently rheumy eyes) have fuelled plotlines for the best part of a year and what we’ve seen so far hasn’t seemed overly convoluted. Of course, it could all change – by 2014 he might have become so blase that he’ll be seen casually pulling pints while crushing someone’s windpipe behind the bar with his foot.
But, at the moment, Cameron’s prodigious talent for homicide has us gripped. And having the much-loved Gennie be his latest victim is a masterstroke on the part of the writers: this was a woman who, after all, was recently seen emotionally shaving the head of her brain-tumour-battling mum. Gennie’s relationship with Nikhil has also become a fan favourite – one measure of having made it in a soap being whether you get awarded an online nickname. So, ‘Genhil’ lovers, it’s definitely going to be a dark night of the soul for you guys.
But what tonight’s Emmerdale proves, above all else, is that it’s the quiet but far-reaching human moments that make for the best drama. Car crashes are a well-worn soap standby and even though this one was particularly visceral, it was the repercussions that resonated the most. Flipped vehicles offer an immediate shock, but a life expiring in lonely silence and in the worst possible circumstances is always going to pack the greater punch.