Emmerdale 50th anniversary review: ITV soap eyes future in bold, brave Storm Week
The ITV soap shines in this explosive special.
Following the recent loss in the soap world of continuing dramas Neighbours and Holby City, Emmerdale’s 50th birthday feels perhaps a little more poignant than it normally would have before.
It’s a massive achievement for any programme to get to 50, even bigger an achievement for an admittedly quite niche soap like Emmerdale.
Set in rural Yorkshire, the main issues surrounding our beloved characters at the time were agricultural, or a small bit of drama at the local, The Woolpack - hardly everyday water cooler moments.
But the enduring power of Emmerdale is in its strength as a true and honest soap, having reinvented itself to turn away from the mundanity of the farm, and into a relevant, powerful and completely gripping soap. It has tackled everything from harrowing cancer storylines to stalking and teen pregnancy among recent times.
And as any good soap would and should, Emmerdale also has its fair share of love stories, lies, deceit, and some good old fashioned psychotic serial killers - I'm looking at you, Meena.
To celebrate turning 50, Emmerdale aired a touching and forward-facing hour long special, which opened with a poignant reminder to the past in the form of an exploration of the glorious Yorkshire landscape. Long-serving Kim Tate (Claire King) majestically rode her horse through the long grasses before we dived headfirst into the action - and what a dramatic episode it was.
The episode centred itself around Kim's wedding to Will Taylor (Dean Andrews) which of course wasn't without its hiccups after she discovered him kissing his old flame Harriet Finch (Katherine Dow Blyton) last week. It was harmless - Will is clearly #TeamKim.
But the mini showdown was absolutely nothing compared to the size and grandeur of the wedding - not least just Kim's arrival.
Bold, brash, and extravagant, Miss Kim arrived on top of her beloved white horse, Ice, dressed in what could only be described as a cross between the Olympics dressage dressing room and The Greatest Showman.
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It's hard not to laugh at the spectacle, while also being sort of amazed by it, but more importantly, it's light relief in what will turn out not just to be a dramatic hour of TV, but a nightmarish week as a whole for the residents of Emmerdale.
We need this. It's abundantly crucial not just to this particular episode, but to soaps in general. The warmth of the village community shines through, thus underlining what a terrible event is about to strike.
And then, it does. What works really well across the first instalment of the Emmerdale anniversary episode is the constant ramping up of the tension. The wind, which starts off as fairly normal for a Yorkshire October day, gets more ominous by the second and it isn't long before it looks genuinely unbearable to be in.
Props, therefore, to the behind-the-scenes team who have gone above and beyond for Storm Week to make it look as lifelike and terrifying as possible. The stakes are high in the drama, and the visuals fully match it.
As for the drama, it genuinely feels like everyone is truly in danger. Flying debris and falling trees mean we could see a hefty body count at the end of the week, and by the looks of things in the first episode, no character is too big to be killed off.
While this special anniversary episode is epic and fantastic, it is serving a more important purpose: it's proving what a bright and vibrant future Emmerdale has.
The young cast really shine just as bright as existing stars during Storm Week, with Daisy Campbell in particular flying the flag for the coming years of the ITV soap through her devastating portrayal of scared and alone Amelia who's going into labour.
Emmerdale did well not to focus too much on the past. Sure, it paid homage in its touching and gentle introduction, but the beauty of the special lies in what it shows for the future - something clearly on Executive Producer Jane Hudson's mind, who noted the anniversary drama doesn't end here as events from Storm Week will see us through to the new year.
With soaps sadly coming off air and the future of the genre constantly in question, Emmerdale has left one thing without any doubt: it's here to stay.
Emmerdale airs on weekdays at 7:30pm on ITV and ITV Hub. If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV Guide or visit our Soaps hub.
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