Nobody wants to see Roy Cropper left lonely, but I honestly believe that his break-up with Cathy Matthews in tonight’s Coronation Street is the best thing that can have happened to his character.
This evening’s double bill saw Cathy call off their wedding after realising that the groom-to-be had big concerns about their future. But, to be honest, I’ve been doubtful about their pairing from the off.
Now, I’ve nothing against Cathy. If written for with enough skill and subtlety, she could have the same everywoman appeal as an Eileen or an Anna. But putting her with Roy was always a mistake. For the main reason that nobody should now be a love interest for Roy.
Following the death of Roy’s soulmate Hayley, there was talk from Corrie bosses that the café owner wouldn’t be rushing into another relationship. That Roy was a one-woman man who would be forever faithful to Hayley, the woman who it had taken him all his life to find.
And yet, after little more than a year, he’d met up with fellow allotment owner Cathy, a grieving widow with whom he began a friendship and – very soon after – a relationship.
It felt that Corrie had bottled it when it came to Roy’s future. Instead of taking the opportunity to explore Roy’s ‘otherness’ and inability to connect with those around him, the show instead set him on the all-too-typical path of soap romance.
The storyliners chose plotline over characterisation and – in the process – stretched our credulity to breaking point.
Once Roy became invested in Cathy, we had no end of mediocre cliffhangers: the discovery of the extra-marital affair of her late husband Alan, Cathy getting trapped under clutter in her living room, plus a road accident outside the corner shop.
None of it rang true. Because what we should have been seeing were Roy’s struggles as a bereaved man trying to cope without the love of his life.
Just think about the potential that was lost. Roy Cropper – a man who was originally introduced as a rather scary loner. But who eventually found happiness with the similarly socially naïve Hayley. And who – even in the face of her death – rarely lost that closed-off, emotionally controlled demeanour.
By putting Roy with Cathy, a lot of what made him so singular ended up becoming conventional. He morphed into something almost cosy, his idiosyncrasies in danger of being ironed away. The type of melodrama being handed to Roy could have been served up to any number of lesser Weatherfield residents we could all name.
At times, I honestly began to think, ‘They just don’t know how to write for Roy anymore’.
If you recall, Corrie was very quick to have Roy do his suffering off screen following the death of Hayley. The character went missing for a number of weeks, presumably to give actor David Neilson a break following months of heavy storylines. And it was around this time that the rot originally set in.
Once Roy returned, it soon became apparent that Corrie didn’t really know how to handle a man who determinedly refuses to bare his soul, no matter how extreme the misfortune he suffers. ‘Quick – give him a new love interest’, the soap’s chiefs must have thought, ‘it’s the only possible way that we can have Roy move on.’
But it was a betrayal of all that had gone before. Roy is defined by being a loner, as was Hayley. And the fact that they were together so many years doesn’t make him any less of a loner. They were just two loners against the world.
So by hurrying Roy into this union with Cathy, it was almost as if Coronation Street was minimising the momentousness of him getting together with Hayley in the first place. The generous view is that Hayley gave Roy the confidence to embark on a fresh relationship. But my feeling is that Corrie just didn’t know where else to go with him.
Until now, that is. Because Coronation Street has at last recognised that Roy and Cathy should always have been a non-starter. Tonight’s final shot of him picking up the wedding ring under Hayley’s photograph and putting it back on his finger was a sure sign that Roy wants to remain true to his late wife’s memory. And I couldn’t be happier.
But the big question still remains: what do you do now with Roy Cropper? If you can’t give him a partner (and my feeling is that you definitely shouldn’t), then where does he go next?
Well, for me, Roy is always at his best when he has a waif or stray to care for. He needs someone in the mould of Fiz, Wayne, Chesney and Becky to influence.
And even though he’s never been the most demonstrative of men, more time needs to be invested in Roy’s friendships. Thankfully, the reappearance of Brian Packham (his one-time axing being another mistake that Corrie has chosen to unpick) has the potential to fuel many a future Roy-centric storyline.
He could also do with a good cause to rally round. Nothing becomes Roy more than the sight of him with a placard in his hand surrounded by a pack of unlikely demonstrators. Perhaps when Toyah Battersby resurfaces, that could also be addressed.
But for now, I’m just glad that Corrie has extricated him from a relationship to which he was never really suited. Romantic entanglements are ten-a-penny in soapland, but a character as unique as Roy Cropper – well, that’s priceless. Let’s not cheapen him again.
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