Hollyoaks' McQueen family have been under pressure in recent weeks, as their lives were disrupted by a blackmailer over their 'Seven Deadly Sins'. As the mystery began, it didn't quite have the impact we were expecting. But the shock twist that serial killer Silas Blissett is behind everything has been a game changer for the storyline.
The past few weeks have seen Mercedes, Sylver and the rest of their clan conducting several meetings in The Dog pub. After they received a series of cryptic text messages demanding money to keep their secrets safe, a talking doll took charge. These group scenes did nothing to solve their problems, especially when they discussed their crimes in front of the doll.
After the doll recorded Sylver admitting to Breda's murder, he narrowly avoided going to prison, but the McQueens didn't learn from their mistake and continued carelessly talking openly about their pasts.
They have also developed a habit of explaining exactly what is going on in almost every scene, needlessly describing the blackmail and its consequences. This only seems to stall any real progress from being made.
Another confusing element is John Paul, who's worried about the risks to his career – an odd concept considering he's the "boy scout of the family".
It's unusual not to see more of his sensible side, too. Instead of being the reasonable one, he's even more irritable than his relatives. However, there's nothing particularly shifty about his behaviour either, so it's not clear whether he is hiding something, or he's just fed up with the drama.
Of course, it is soap law to keep the audience in the dark until the crucial moment, and there could indeed be a big reveal ahead over John Paul. But the suspense passed us by in the plot's early stages due to the repetitive narrative. The vibrant, entertaining characters lost some of their edge during their crisis talks, as they went round in circles deciding what to do.
Next week, Theresa will admit to taking part in criminal activities during her time away. But it's no secret that the McQueens are familiar with the wrong side of the law, so this news won't be a bombshell for the audience.
The intrigue should be in the 'sins' we already know about, but have yet to be directly mentioned. Mercedes was able to move on after murdering ex-husband Paul Browning in self-defence – but this would be the perfect time for it to become public knowledge.
Going forward, the presence of Silas promises to increase the tension. The casual way in which he arrived on screen was simple and effective. No fanfare was needed, as just the sight of his reflection staring across at Mercedes was enough to have us on the edge of our seats. Suddenly we understood just what the ongoing scenario was leading to – and the reveal alone was worth the wait.
The storyline has gained a new burst of energy - and all it took was the reappearance of that flat cap. The fear factor immediately arrived alongside Silas, whose false pleasant demeanour (played with brilliant subtlety by actor Jeff Rawle) is far more unsettling than the doll Goldie nicknamed 'haunted barbie'.
As we await further glimpses of Silas, the identity of his associate gives us a fresh, much more gripping mystery to consider. We already know this person has access to the McQueen family – and upcoming episodes see John Paul and James leave money for the blackmailer, only to be left shocked by who turns up.
Silas's focus will be on Mercy, the victim who got away. She was pregnant with his great-grandson Bobby when he held her captive back in 2011, and another confrontation followed five years later.
Silas was ready to kill Mercedes this time around, only to stop himself when he overheard news of her pregnancy. When they finally come face-to-face, we expect to see the landlady at her most fierce, but her vulnerable side is sure to resurface too.
The anticipation of a showdown between the pair is already causing a buzz amongst Hollyoaks fans, and it's easy to see why. Silas's feud with Lynsey Nolan during his first stint remains one of the soap's most memorable eras, sharing the limelight with other popular villagers Mitzeee Minniver and Brendan Brady.
Long-term viewers continue to reference these favourite characters and spot opportunities for their return, so this unexpected comeback is a triumph for the soap.
Maybe we will see Silas bumping into old neighbours like Nancy or Ste, or forming fresh alliances and enemies with the village's dodgiest residents. He has already had a chance encounter with troubled fellow murderer Toby Faroe. But even if Silas sticks to tormenting the McQueens, he will add that sinister quality that has been missing from recent proceedings.
The presence of one of Hollyoaks' most iconic villains has turned a storyline that seemingly had no purpose into one of the year's most exciting developments. We wouldn't dare look away now and risk missing one tiny, chilling moment.
Hollyoaks currently airs new episodes on Mondays to Thursdays at 6.30pm on Channel 4, with first-look screenings at 7pm on E4. Classic episodes, titled Hollyoaks Favourites, air on Fridays at 7pm on E4.
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