The last year in Emmerdale has been a memorable rollercoaster of emotion, high drama and action but as we finally move out of the winter months, it looks set to step up a gear yet again, with a mixture of hot passion, devastating tragedy and big twists weaved into the mix.
Metro.co.uk recently paid a visit to Emmerdale to chat with producer Iain MacLeod, who highlighted his big plans over coming months. Some of it will make you cheer, some of it will make you gasp, some if it will make you angry and some if it will break your heart.
Here’s what’s ahead:
We knew it had to come eventually – but we’re still not ready for the devastating scenes which lie ahead as Ashley passes away in coming months. As his battle with dementia reaches its end, expect deeply moving performances from all involved, not least of all John Middleton who has done the difficult storyline huge justice.
Iain revealed: ‘Ashley’s exit story is not that far off – it’s tragic to say it but he will soon be no longer with us. I’ve just signed off on the final version on the episode in which he dies and it is unbelievably beautiful. It’s oddly joyous – it’s a celebration of the character. We didn’t want to do a story where he just absconded from a care home and was discovered dead from hypothermia or something, it would be too bleak.
‘It’s super warm and funny and almost festive and boisterous. It’s just beautiful and I couldn’t be more proud of the script, which is in very capable hands with our cast and crew.’
After Ashley dies, the funeral will be dealt with via a special episode which will be reminiscent of the special dementia episode last year.
Iain added: ‘What we’ve got for the funeral is something that is every bit as quirky as that special Ashley episode that we did. It’s as experimental as that but in a different way – that will be really special and will probably be talked about for quite some time to come. I hope people are as surprised as I was when I read it. It’s pretty special, I have to say.’
Aaron faces a horrendous ordeal as he heads behind bars and when his fellow inmates discover things about him, his situation gets even more bleak than ever – leading to a special stand alone episode that will fully explore what he and his loved ones back through are enduring.
Iain shared: ‘It will be like a day in the life of Aaron Dingle as a convict. I’ve yet to see it but the scripts are really fantastic. It’s as much as a day in the life of that family too – we thought we’d do something because it’s quite topical as well in that there’s a lot of news issues around prison and prison life and the kind of challenges people face in prison so we just thought it was a really good opportunity to explore some of that using a really well liked group of characters. That’s coming up in the not too distant future.
‘The story for a while will feature Aaron in jail quite heavily. We just thought we shouldn’t shy away from what it’s like; obviously Aaron’s experiences with jail are numerous and complicated and we’ll be touching upon the fact that Gordon took his own life in jail and that has its own, hopefully quite surprising effect, on how Aaron is able to cope in there.’
On whether the fact that Aaron is Gordon’s son may cause problems between Aaron and other inmates, Iain pondered: ‘I couldn’t possibly comment but you may not be far wrong in guessing that. The story becomes a case of can he escape his past and can he get over his past? What impact does the struggle he has inside have on his family on the outside? And what degree does he feel able to be honest with them about what he’s going through because Robert, Liv everyone is worried sick about him.
‘It’s big and complicated and interesting and feels very much of our time. It feels quite topical. With every news report that comes out I feel more and more pleased that we’ve been able to do something in this area.’
A new home – and a second wedding?
Iain also fully confirmed that the building of a new set is underway for a Robron home but it was hinted that Aaron may not be necessarily moving in right away given his current circumstances. Revealing that it’s Robert’s time to step up with Liv, the scrapyard, their new home and keeping everything ticking, it’s clear that Robert wants to prove his love and devotion to Aaron and the family unit as a whole.
And there may even be a second wedding when Aaron comes out, with Iain teasing that they might as well have ‘two bites of that cherry’.
He commented: ‘There are no firm plans for part two in place but it feels like in time they will want to sign and seal the deal legally. We sort of want to have our wedding cake and eat it!’
Things are already devastatingly bleak for Rhona as she remains in a destructive and controlling relationship with unstable rapist Pierce. But things are only set to get worse as the storyline takes another dark twist in coming months.
Iain warned: ‘Rhona and Pierce’s story is swinging into top gear – it reaches a kind of peak in April/May time, I think. It doesn’t come to an end there but there’s a big story explosion. The episodes are heart-stoppingly dramatic – quite a tough watch but an unbelievably big talking point heading into the summer.’
Emma’s crimes haven’t been forgotten and she will come back to the forefront of the action towards spring as her conscience continues to attack her over what happened with James. Promising that there is big drama ahead, Iain seemed reluctant to bring about an ending to the character. Although some form of comeuppance is far from ruled out.
He explained: ‘The soap gods are currently adjudicating on whether Emma will get her comeuppance and they haven’t made their ruling yet. Fundamentally, no bad deed goes entirely unpunished but in terms of what form that punishment takes is very much still to be decided. I love the character and I love Gillian so I’m in absolutely no rush to judgement on it. I think she’s quirky, odd and brilliant and the fact that she can go from scolding the boys for not washing the dishes to pushing James off a bridge just makes her an invaluable character.
‘Being responsible for someone’s death – especially when it wasn’t a kind of cold blooded murder – doesn’t necessarily mean you have to end up behind bars. Obviously there’s an appetite for viewers when something bad is done – you can’t ignore that but equally comeuppance can come in many forms so it’s just a case of deciding what form that might take and when it might happen.’
On whether the killer might get worse, Iain added: ‘She’s already been pretty peak crazy, hasn’t she? I don’t know about worse but there’ll certainly be more big drama to come and we’re already storylining the beginnings of her conscience eating away at her and things like that so we want to explore what she has done. Whether we kind of try and top it or not, I don’t know yet – we’re still in the planning stage.
‘The joy of Emma is that she can kind of do anything – she could go and run the pub quiz and it would be the most terrifying pub quiz that the Dales has ever seen. I’m really reluctant to do anything that nails her fate down in one direction or another just yet.’
Shock love triangle!
There’s all sorts of passions exploding in the Dales over coming months – and one love triangle will see a confused man unable to choose between two women. Which can only lead to big trouble, surely.
Iain teased: ‘There’s a love triangle that kicks off over the summer and it crash lands out of the blue and it’s two people that you wouldn’t have necessarily thought would embark on such a wild, crazy liaison.
‘It’s sexy, destructive and also kind of funny – it’s a man and two women and the bloke haplessly gets stuck between two people that he can’t choose between which will be good fun.’
With Lucy Pargeter heading off on maternity leave, Chas will be written out as part of her tempestuous relationship with her troublesome mum Faith. And the Emmerdale chief has promised emotional scenes ahead as tensions between the pair come to a head.
He revealed: ‘Obviously, Chas is back in the not too distant future. The viewers know the off screen situation so if you create a big “Gasp, I wonder if she has left for good?” situation, it would be like: “Well, she hasn’t though, has she? She’s just gone on maternity leave.”
‘We didn’t want to lead the audience up the garden path – it’s big and emotional with some of the funniest and most heartbreaking scenes between Faith and Chas in the run up to it which sum up their whole relationship.’
Coira’s new challenge
There is an event coming up which will further test Moira and Cain’s relationship – and it is something that could either tear them apart or bring about the reunion that Coira fans have been waiting for.
He said: ‘Suffice to say we’re building to a massive story for Cain, where he’ll find himself being tempted by probably the person you’d least expect in the whole village. Fundamentally, there’ll be a massive event for him and Moira to deal with later in the year that could either be the thing that brings them back together or could be the thing that ruins their relationship forever.’
A surprise new pairing!
Iain gave more details on a surprise new affair that would heat up the Dales in coming months – though it wasn’t clear whether he was referring to Cain’s imminent temptation or a whole new romance altogether. Whoever it involves though, it sounds like it will be jaw dropping!
He shared: ‘Chalk and cheese doesn’t even cover it! If you thought about the most ying and yang characters in the village, it would be them. It’s unbelievably sexy and dangerous and insane – I love it. The early phases of that are just coming into the scripts now so I’m only really just dipping my toe into the water with that at the moment.
‘When it was first suggested, it’s the sort of thing that you go: “Really!?” And then you kind of go: “Yeah, I’m weirdly turned on by that!” Hopefully you’ll all agree otherwise, I’ll look very silly. Honestly, pick the two characters who are least likely to end up in bed together…it’s a fun game to play at home!’
Since Holly died, things have been quiet for a seemingly reformed Jai. But that’s set to change as a new storyline is on its way for him that could have big effects both on himself and the Sharmas as a whole.
Iain said: ‘There’s interesting developments for the Sharmas. Jai was just falling in love with Holly when he lost her and, I don’t know about you guys, but I felt desperately sorry for him and he tried to be a better man only to get his heart broken. So we’re telling the next chapter of that for Jai and also the Shamras more generally.’
Meanwhile, Priya and Rakesh are secretly back together – but it won’t be long before the Sharmas discover what’s going on. Whether or not they support the reunion remains to be seen – but there is a surprising turn of events in store that could turn it all upside down.
More action ahead!
And finally, be prepared for another major set of episodes later in the year. While it sounds like it will be less driven by action packed sequences, it also seems like it aims to be equally as big and dramatic as the No Return week. And, once again, the catalyst could be Emma.
Iain teased: ‘We’ve got big news for Emma which will starting in the summer and building up to a big storyline towards the back of the year. It won’t be the same as the big crash we did last year – it will be every bit as riveting but with a slightly different spin on it. It will be less stunty and more story and that will play out in the autumn.’
He added: ‘It will be equally as quirky and interesting and probably non-linear…’