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Chas Dingle's Emmerdale affair undermines important cancer storyline

The soap's latest cheating plot is unnecessary.

Al Chapman and Chas Dingle share a passionate kiss in Emmerdale
ITV
Published: Wednesday, 6th July 2022 at 8:00 pm
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Chas Dingle (Lucy Pargeter) has embarked on a sordid affair with on-off enemy Al Chapman (Michael Wildman) in Emmerdale, and the timing couldn't be more inappropriate.

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The character's mum Faith (Sally Dexter) is terminally ill with breast cancer, and Chas has been struggling with the news. The latest instalment of the ITV soap saw Faith learn that the disease has now spread. This led her to make the decision not to continue with debilitating chemotherapy, as it would leave her too weak to enjoy the time she has left.

There were truly heartbreaking scenes as the mother and daughter came to terms with Faith's deterioration, and Chas finally accepted her choice to withdraw from treatment. But in the aftermath of such a sensitively crafted moment, Emmerdale cut to Chas meeting up with Al, and the pair enjoyed another passionate rendezvous.

Emmerdale's Faith and Chas received devastating news ITV

It's clear she is using Al as a distraction from her pain; but there were any number of ways she could have gone off the rails. Cheating on dependable husband Paddy (Dominic Brunt) isn't one of them - especially when she's already been there and done that! Even worse, the last time Chas chose the comfort of another man over Paddy, he continued to prove his worth by becoming a father figure to her son Aaron (Danny Miller).

Paddy has been a rock for Chas and the Dingles for several years; an awkward, bumbling one, yes, but solid nevertheless. Sympathy for Chas is now dwindling as she chooses the most selfish route possible to cope.

Before Chas turned to Al, Emmerdale hadn't put a foot wrong in its handling of Faith's distressing story. From the moment she confided in daughter-in-law Moira (Natalie J Robb), we were on that journey with Faith.

The performances from star Dexter, alongside supporting cast Pargeter, Robb and young co-star Katie Hill who plays Faith's great-granddaughter Sarah, have produced some of the show's most moving work this year.

It's Faith's journey that should be the focus, not a sordid soap affair ITV

Jeff Hordley, as Faith's estranged son Cain, also delivers sterling work later this week; and compared with Chas's attitude, Cain's reluctance to show support hasn't felt out of place. Fans will recall that a memorable flashback episode shed light on his lingering resentment towards Faith for abandoning him as a child.

Meanwhile there's Chas, whose potential to fall into Al's arms has been teased for quite some time - to the point that we knew it would happen, just not when. Then the soap waited until it was in the midst of one of its most emotional plots to make it happen.

Chas's initial conversations with Al were portrayed delicately as they talked over their respective troubles; only to be marred by their subsequent smooching. Suddenly, that long-awaited glimpse of character development for Al was gone and forgotten.

Of course, infidelity is a typical soap twist - though not so much of a 'twist' these days since so many characters are going there. Our soap favourites are flawed, and acting out during times of extreme stress is expected in a continuing drama.

Chas is secretly sleeping with Al ITV

But Chas's dalliance with Al has taken things too far, and risks undermining the narrative that's really important as Faith's life begins to ebb away. Back in 2017, Faith discussed her previous battle with breast cancer which saw her undergo a double mastectomy. A body double was used to show the character's scars on-screen, and Emmerdale was praised for shining a light on the experiences of so many women.

The return of Faith's illness - and her impending death - did not need to be accompanied by a tasteless affair which only takes the focus away from a vital message of awareness. There is much more substance in watching a vibrant, beloved member of the Dingle clan poignantly face up to their own mortality as well as the complexities of their familial relationships.

Emmerdale must not let the soap genre's penchant for adultery compromise what has otherwise been a compelling, beautifully scripted storyline. The spotlight should be solely on Faith and her loved ones, not Chas's lustful liaisons with Al.

Read more:

Visit our dedicated Emmerdale page for all the latest news, interviews and spoilers. If you’re looking for more to watch check out our TV Guide or visit our dedicated Soaps hub.

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