As Coronation Street – and most of the nation – process their grief for Sinead Osbourne (Katie McGlynn), all eyes are on widowed husband Daniel (Rob Mallard) as he contemplates life as a single dad to baby son Bertie.
The brooding, youngest offspring of Street stalwart Ken Barlow watched his young wife die from cervical cancer on Friday night, and now faces the difficult adjustment to an upsetting new normal. He’s got his family around him, many of whom may offer comfort having been through similar situations. Worryingly similar, in fact.
Not wanting to be an alarmist, but there is strong evidence of a curse that has tragically robbed a large proportion of the Barlow men of their mothers – just think about how many male members of Weatherfield’s most famous clan have endured the same kind of terrible loss. Should this coincidence be pointed out to the characters?
Corrie producer Iain MacLeod doesn’t think so. “It won’t be directly referenced, no,” he said. “The risk in soap is that because we’ve been going for 60 years, if every character referenced that they had been through something similar to someone else, you’d have nothing other than people saying: ‘That reminds me of the time when…’
“We have the same dilemma with Gail any time anybody loses a spouse. In the real world she’d probably seek them out and tell them she empathises, but she’s been through it five or six times so you probably don’t want to mention it.
“As Sinead was dying the Barlows discussed various losses within the family over the years. Those resonances across the decades will certainly be felt in the aftermath of Sinead’s death, and the Barlows and Tinkers will be drawn together for Daniel and Bertie, but we won’t be talking about it explicitly in ‘Barlow curse’ type language.”
We’re not convinced.
One-year-old Bertie is the fourth generation of Barlow blokes to lose his mummy far too young.
Peter Barlow was only five years old when Ken’s first wife Valerie was electrocuted in 1971; twin sister Susan’s fatal car crash in 2001 left her son Adam Barlow bereft before his teens (and completely orphaned five years later when dad Mike Baldwin died); Peter’s ex-wife Lucy died of cancer when their little boy Simon was just five, and Daniel himself was abandoned by mother Denise when he was a teenager (she’s still alive but is effectively dead to him). Now Bertie will only have old pictures and Sinead’s touching video messages she recorded before her passing to remember her by.
And, spoiler alert, such a loss had a significant impact on all the above characters who are defined by their foibles: Peter’s alcoholism, Adam’s womanising, Simon’s anger issues, Daniel’s fragile mental health.
No wonder devastated Daniel decides to leave the cobbles for Scotland with his bubba in the immediate aftermath of Sinead’s death. MacLeod has already warned us to prepare ourselves as we watch the heartbroken husband understandably lose the plot and spiral into self-destructive behaviour in the coming months, and that ill-advised, confused kiss he planted on Bethany Platt while his wife was on her deathbed will come back to haunt him.
“For Daniel, the story going forward is about loneliness and isolation,” the soap boss told RadioTimes.com. “We’ll also see the families not knowing how much to wade in with looking after Bertie and when to back off.
“Daniel made a promise to Sinead to look after their little boy and never let him down, but fails to appreciate that if you’re not looking after yourself then, in a way, you are letting down your son. The Tinker and Barlow clans will form an uneasy alliance, seeing them worry about Daniel and not knowing how best to proceed feels real and richly layered.”
Keep your eye on poor old Bertie – history has taught us the impact of something as huge as losing a parent can manifest into a lifetime of drama. In 30 years from now, will he be plagued by the same demons as Uncle Peter or cousin Simon?
There’s surely more to come from Daniel and Bethany’s tortured attraction, possibly paving the way for Ms Platt’s exit from the show in 2020. We predict she’ll be compelled to leave town to protect herself from being the widower’s rebound, and Daniel will blame himself for making her public enemy number one and branded a betrayer of the Girl Code, making him even more messed up. Which won’t help Bertie in the long term.
The only way to break the Barlow curse might be for Daniel to hand Bertie over to the other side of the family to avoid it altogether. Think of the fun times he’d have with gregarious Auntie Beth and silly old Uncle Kirky? Maybe there’s hope for that kid after all…
Visit our dedicated Coronation Street page for all the latest news, interviews and spoilers