Coronation Street

Monday, February 24, 2003 by

And relax.

After a spell of unbearable tension Coronation Street finally delivered the goods to its eager viewers (viewers who watched, unsurprisingly, in numbers terrestrial television thought it might never see again this side of Christmas). And who was responsible for this? Entirely responsible? Why, it were none other than Richard Hillman, I say – Richard Hillman and his evil doin’s. Not Tracy and her detestable, tiresome prattling; not Ashley and his pathetic squawking. This was Tricky Dicky’s show from start to finish and a testament to what Brian Capron and the writers responsible for his words have done with him.

From the opening shot the irony bell was tolling heavily and it became deafening throughout the course of Richard and Gail’s leaving do in the Rovers (and for the record, I seem to recall Betty Turpin’s leaving do at the Rover’s this time last year. But there she was behind the bar and has been for the last while – you can’t look away for a moment). Archie, Norris and Audrey sat like three wise monkeys in the corner tut-tutting but they were marginalized at the outset. Only we knew they were right to be appalled and it was wonderful to see all this going on, safe in the knowledge that with a double episode to enjoy we would see this thing right through to a conclusion. (Proof that too much soap is not a bad thing – only too much bad soap is a bad thing.)

There were some added attractions naturally. Ashley and Fred brought their rather piddling differences to a close. Stephen held his disastrous dinner party with That Cow Tracy bringing Dev and thoroughly upsetting Deirdre, which was more entertaining. But the producers had the sense not to let these distract too much from our Special Feature; the unveiling of a psychopath.

Sarah began to twig first, discovering from Aidan Critchley that he had been drugged with Diazepam in the vodka he’d drunk the night of the murder. This was passed on to Gail who found out from Audrey that it had been Diazepam she had left in the house when she had left after their falling out. The truth finally – finally! – began to rise across Gail’s horizon and the insufferable smile was wiped from her face as Richard made his leaving speech. He in turn was stopped short after catching sight of Ashley behind the bar. And his face was shut. Things started to add up now in sums small enough for Gail to understand and she cleared off to the house.

Running into the second episode Richard found Gail discovering that the Diazepam was missing and the fireworks as we launched into what was effectively a two-hander that made the likes of EastEnders attempts at this difficult device look decidedly amateurish.

Gail pressed Richard on his exploits and eventually Richard confessed that, yes, he killed Maxine. Hurray! Caught out! But what’s this? He did it just to frame Aidan and put Sarah off her? No! She can’t believe that? But then Gail did once marry Brian Tilsley so her powers of reasoning are fundamentally shaky. Richard had worked this through and it seemed plausible, except to us of course – we knew better. Then it all came tumbling out as Gail finally refused to believe this ruse.

All the history of his dark past came out and even though he had committed fewer murders than we had thought (he hadn’t killed Duggie Ferguson after all) this made him seem even worse as he was not just a maniac who killed left right and centre. No indeed, Richard had a powerful motive. He wanted his perfect family and he set about making it happen. He killed his ex-wife with a spade and buried her under the flats he was now selling. Hear that irony bell swing! He was going to kill Emily for her house and Maxine was a mistake (we knew that, of course) but it was all for the family. It transpired that Richard couldn’t have children of his own and, in a tremendous but ill-advised reversal of roles, Gail taunted and abused him with this fact, finding voice of the wronged and deluded wife stabbing him with accusations that he didn’t care for her, he only wanted a ready-made family. With a savage blow – “They’re not your kids!” – she stunned him into silence and, again rather rashly, provoked him into a degree of anger.

A bit of a chuck about and a touch of quietening down the children and that was it. Richard loped off into his natural habitat – the night – and Gail was left to finally, gloriously, wondrously, call her mother in floods of sobs. Hell mend you Gail! Mother knows best!

Truly this was a memorable duo of terrific episodes which did just what it ought to have. No surprises or twists of note, it gave us what we wanted and deserved and in spades (ahem). Not only that, but we get to look forward to so much more. We know that Audrey won’t rub Gail’s face in it but we sincerely hope that Norris most emphatically will to Emily. Aidan will be freed and Ken will be grovelled to by Fred and Ashley and all sorts of others. One can only hope that he will rise above his normal reticence and blast them with a mighty: “I told you so, you damned fools!”

Gloating will, hopefully, feature as a major part of the next few episodes.

But whither Tricky Dicky? Will he be back? Of course he will. Unlike EastEnders of late, which strings storylines out interminably and digresses disastrously, we shall have only a brief respite after the humble pie has been stuffed away and the dust has settled and then resolution.

And if you think it all far too predictable, take note: Precedent was broken in the first of tonight’s two episodes by reversing the usual soap policy of troubles taking place away from (and in contrast to) the parties going in pubs and homes. In Weatherfield troubles brew in the celebrations this weather. Stay at home (at least now that Richard’s absconded).


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