Hollyoaks Later is back for a one-off special as part of a spectacular climax to serial killer Breda McQueen's reign of terror.
Post-watershed spin-offs running parallel to the main soap used to be regular occurrence, but this is the first outing since 2013 and the show is pulling out all the stops. Here's your guide to what's in store after dark…
When can I watch Hollyoaks Later?
The hour-long edition airs first on E4 on Monday 6th January at 9pm, with a second showing on Channel 4 on Tuesday 7th January at 11pm. But to make sense of what's going on make sure you catch the preceding episode of the main show as it leads directly into Later's storyline - for E4 viewers that's Monday 6th January at 7pm, and on Channel 4 on Tuesday 7th January at 6.30pm.
How is Breda McQueen finally busted?
In the episode before Later, the McQueens piece the evidence together and realise sweet nanny Breda (Moya Brady) is the person behind the slew of murders that have rocked the village for the last 18 months as part of her misguided mission to rid the world of neglectful fathers. James Sutton reveals his alter ego, prodigal son John Paul, is the first to raise the alarm:
"John Paul figures out the truth and shows Mercedes (Jennifer Metcalfe) the box of murder weapons and keepsakes Breda has from her victims. Mercedes doesn't believe it, she thinks he's talking nonsense as Breda has been so kind to her and Bobby. John Paul convinces her to go to Breda's pig farm and gather more evidence, while he fills Breda's daughter Goldie (Chelsea Healey) in."
What happens when Mercedes gets to the pig farm?
She's stunned to find Tony Hutchinson (Nick Pickard) is being held captive - clearly he's not run off with another woman as everyone thought. This is the starting point for Later itself, which begins with Breda catching Mercy, attacking her with a pitch fork and locking her in with Tony. The truth is finally out, and the murderess announces she's leaving them both to die and plans to flee the country…
Does Breda, or anyone else, die?
You'll just have to watch! A recent trailer showed Sylver (David Tag) and Goldie are also lured to their mad mum's pig farm as it's engulfed in flames, with a crazed Breda ranting about taking them, along with Tony and Mercedes, to heaven. Has she torched the place deliberately as a final act of her carrying out the lord's work?
The clip also showed John Paul and the police at the scene outside as the farm explodes - surely not everyone can make it out alive…? This is most definitely the end of Breda, but this is Hollyoaks where killers often roam free - remember Silas Blissett?
What other storylines are going on?
Light is provided against the killer McQueen shade with the Hutchinsons' glamming up to attend a swanky charity gala. We finally meet Verity Hutchinson (Eva O'Hara), daughter of Edward Hutchinson (Joe McGann) and Tony's estranged younger half-sister. When she arrives ahead of the party she catches Edward smooching with daughter-in-law Diane Hutchinson (Alex Fletcher), mortifying the mum. Calling off their fledging forbidden romance, Di has a change of heart and seduces the suave surgeon wearing just a fur coat, a pair of heels and a saucy smile…
Meanwhile, vivacious Verity makes an impact on fellow lawyer Sami Maalik (Rishi Nair), who finds her a welcome distraction after being dumped by ex-fiancee Sinead Shelby. The pair spend a lusty night together, but is Sami just on the rebound? And has he met his match in the privileged princess?
Why do a late-night episode?
Good question. Historically it was an edgier brand extension to please the soap's original trendy teenage/young adult demographic, with added spicy elements such as more explicit sexual content, violence and swearing forbidden in the regular teatime slot to add a dash of excitement. Having rested the format for seven years, Channel 4 have revived it in recognition of Hollyoaks' current purple patch of acclaim and industry awards glory.
“Obviously because it’s on later we can get away with a little bit more," says Fletcher. "It’s slightly gruesome, possibly a little bit sexy and a little bit risqué." Traditionally the late-nights have a different stylistic feel that gives a more grown-up, cinematic sense of identity away from the main show.
"We filmed a lot of it on this beautiful camera which makes everything look quite filmic," explains Fletcher. "Extra time was spent on lighting and shot choices, so it just looks really high end and glossy. We could just push the stories a bit further, and be a lot more shocking, fiery and feisty.”
Contrary to popular belief, it's not just an opportunity to revel in the incongruousness of seeing characters use bad language. "Sami doesn't even get to swear, which I'm annoyed about!" laughs Nair. "Although the whole thing is definitely raunchier - and much more out there!"
Will Hollyoaks Later return?
Possibly. Occasional one-off specials ran as far back as 1999, and became an annual event between 2009 and 2013 in the format of five episodes airing across one week every autumn.
Executive producer Bryan Kirkwood told RadioTimes.com that even though Later is back for one night only this time, there could be more in the future: “This is a taster. We have more at our disposal to experiment with in terms of budget. It’s a massive vote of confidence from the channel to invest in it, and it might come back…”
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