He’s the Coronation Street character we love to hate – the psychopath whose evil ways have seen him humiliate Anna, con his neighbours and bring about the demise of Michael Rodwell. Yes, I am of course referring to that chilling Weatherfield narcissist Pat Phelan. Such is Phelan’s notoriety that I feel he’s now the gold standard when it comes to soap villainy. Here’s why…
1. He hasn’t actually killed anyone – yet!
An important point, this. Once psychopaths start pulling out intubation tubes or whacking victims with crowbars, then they must inevitably face soap justice. Our continuing dramas exist in a very moral universe and transgressors need to get punished. But Phelan hasn’t yet committed homicide. Sure, he’s coerced and degraded Anna, while last Friday’s episodes saw him let Michael Rodwell die. But, as Pat would readily admit, he hasn’t actually set out to bump anyone off. And in a way we don’t want him to: murder immediately puts a sell-by date on a character and we don’t want to imagine Corrie without Phelan just yet.
2. He’s genuinely scary
Psycopathy is always chilling, so Phelan’s egomania and impaired empathy always makes him a danger. But it’s Connor McIntyre’s edgy performance that sends a chill up the spine. Just think about the way Phelan taunts Anna – pinning her against the cafe wall before springing away when interrupted by Kevin. Or his dead-eyed delivery of “I’ll make it quick” when it looked like he might have to do away with Michael. You just know that Pat – if pushed – is capable of carrying out the darkest of deeds.
3. You ALMOST believe him yourself
Go on, admit it – there are times when Phelan is sweet-talking Eileen or trying to smooth things over with Todd, that you actually believe he’s being sincere. Then, of course, you give yourself a swift kick for being so naive. But – fleetingly, temporarily, passingly – Pat does seem like he’s levelling with those around him. And the fact that we briefly believe him demonstrates how susceptible we could all be to Phelan at his most manipulative.
4. He’s not a panto baddie
Coronation Street has traditionally had a streak of theatricality and camp about it. It’s one of the reasons why we love it so much. But, on the odd occasion, it has undermined the brutality of its baddies. Just consider for a moment Richard Hillman’s leather glove or Callum Logan’s affected swagger. But the reason why Phelan is in another league is because there’s nothing self-referential about him. He sees no need to twirl a moustache or come up with a pithy putdown because that would only get in the way of his number one goal: the advancement of one Pat Phelan. The only villain who comes close would be Jez Quigley, but his reign of terror hasn’t lasted nearly long as Phelan’s…
5. He’s completely unpredictable
So what next for Pat? That’s the big question. Following Vinny’s double cross, it seems that Phelan is now on the back foot. But you’d be a fool to count him out. And the fact that the character could now go in any number of directions is what makes him so compelling. Will he show a flash of conscience and start to genuinely care for Eileen? Will he take drastic action to rid himself of the threat of Anna and Gary? Or try something else even more cunning? That’s the beauty of Phelan – you just can’t second guess the man. But we all look forward to finding out.
You can watch a 60-second rundown of next week’s episodes of Coronation Street below.