Erin Byrne regularly dives into the soapy waters of daytime television and tries to make sense of it all. This week she takes on “Hollyoaks.”
When last we saw Brendan and Ste they were exchanging tenderness upon the Liffey Bridge. Picking up the next morning Brendan buys croissants and promises to show Ste around Dublin.
They wind up at Seamus Brady’s vacant club where Brendan confesses that his father used to beat him up and call him “Brenda.” Ste responds in the only way Brendan can understand; with senseless violence. Together they shatter glasses and bust up furniture before finally winding up on the floor together. Nothing says true love like sex on a pile of broken glass.
I must admit this was all very exciting. I’d waited a long time for this and honestly, I nearly bit my fingers off seeing Ste and Brendan together at last. I was beaming for all of 10 minutes; but when they returned to Hollyoaks hand in hand, their happiness turned to ash in my mouth.
As everyone who has ever watched anything involving a prolonged will they/won’t they, sexual-tension-packed, star-crossed-romance, sociopathic-chicken-hawk-meets-scrawny-chav-type storyline knows, the moment they get together for good they become insufferable. It was painful to watch Brendan getting Ste’s kids ready for school, gaze into Ste’s eyes and talk about true love, always. Barf.
Let’s pause to remember that Brendan is a murderer who used to beat Ste regularly. One lesson I learned watching “Hollyoaks” is that it doesn’t matter how horrible a man is to you, only you and the power of your love can save him. Ste is nothing if not perseverant. Actually, that’s not true at all. He’s just a former juvenile delinquent who got involved with a mad man.
So what does this make me? Why am I so disappointed by Brendan’s newfound morality? Because soap operas are fantasies, fantasies often bordering on science fiction; occasionally even crossing that border. (“One Life to Live” and the city of Eterna, I’m looking at you.)
The best fantasies are the ones where you, the reader/viewer, can see yourself in the action; allowing you to do vicarious things like wear a strapless dress for a breakfast meeting with your divorce lawyer or take over Newman Enterprises.
I like “Hollyoaks” because I can pretend I’m Brendan, punching stupid, sexy Ste until he is begging to meet me in the wine cellar. That’s why I tuned in. Not namby-pamby wedding-ring fantasies.
Fortunately for me, Ste and Brendan’s bliss was short-lived. Seamus Brady, the only man alive capable of making Brendan Brady’s blood run cold, followed his blue-eyed son back to Chester.
It was about this time that I learned that Brendan Brady would be exiting the canvas. Initially, I was pretty upset, pouting and insisting that my husband coddle me in my time of despair. (To his credit he did buy me some smokes, which was sweet.) But a day or so after finding out that Brendan was leaving I was ready for him to go. I couldn’t stand any more domestic bliss.
So you can understand my excitement and imagine my surprise when Walker came back to town looking to destroy Brendan Brady. Walker was an undercover cop who met Brendan while he was in prison, falsely accused of murdering Rae, the pebble-toothed troll.
Walker and Brendan shared some Beecher/Keller realness while in the joint; all the while Walker was tightening his net. See, Brendan sold Walker’s brother some bad acid or something and it killed him. Walker left the show for a while, having to lay low after the aforementioned Tilt-A-Whirl incident, and now he’s back and ready to kill.
For a while Walker has been stalking Brendan from the shadows, sending jail-bait Kevin in to do his dirty work. Gotta hand it to him, Walker knows Brendan’s type. But Brendan’s having none of it because he loves Ste too much. Since his seductions aren’t working Walker beats the shit out of Kevin, then orders him to tell the police that Brendan did it.
Since Brendan has a record of beating up delicate younger men the cops didn’t need much convincing. You know who else didn’t need much convincing? Ste. He was already suspicious because he’d caught Kevin trying to put the moves on Brendan.
No matter how much Brendan tried to convince Ste that he was innocent, Ste just couldn’t believe it. When Brendan realized that he’d lost the trust of his one true love he snapped and proceeded to beat the shit out of Ste. All the pieces were in place. I could not have been happier.
Fearing he had lost Ste forever, Brendan was a man with nothing to lose. When Walker showed up on his crotch rocket Brendan had no choice but to chase him. They met face to face beside the railroad tracks and proceeded to pummel one another.
Just when we thought Brendan was a goner he lands one final kick to Walker’s gut, sending the man flying into the path of an oncoming train. Good job, “Hollyoaks”; one down, Seamus to go.
For reasons too complicated to go into here, Ste and Cheryl learn about Brendan’s abuse at the hands of his father at the same time. Ste, bless his stupid little heart, forgives Brendan for the recent beating and assures him that their Happily Ever After starts right now. Brendan doesn’t seem quite convinced, but there’s no time to dwell on semantics because Seamus Brady is in the house.
All it takes is one snarl from his dad and Brendan is cowering on the floor. For me, at this moment in the story, the shit began to get real. Seamus is taunting Brendan, saying that he secretly liked the abuse and that’s why he’s queer. Then the guy removes his jacket and makes like he’s going to force himself upon his adult son. Damn show, you’re not messing around.
Suddenly, a gunshot rings out. It’s Cheryl, protecting her big brother from her beloved Daddy. Just as Brendan goes to comfort her they hear the sirens. Ste, having heard the report of the gun, had called the cops.
But Brendan Brady will be damned before he lets his baby sister take the blame for this. She protests but Brendan wins in the end. He steps out onto the balcony to greet the helicopter overhead along with spotlights, bullhorn, the works. One of the cops is restraining Ste from rushing up to his beloved.
Hands behind his head, Brendan confesses to all of his crimes, including the murder of his own father. Then he pulls out a gun. In a flash, we see a close-up of a sniper firing. Cut to black.
I thought that was it, and frankly, I was disappointed. I expected some kind of Sonny Corleone hail of bullets, or at least the closest approximation an English teen drama that airs at 6:30 pm can muster. Surely the fans deserve that, right? What about Ste? Brendan doesn’t even get to die in his arms? I went to bed that right feeling robbed AND cheated.
Still, I tune in the next day because I have to see how Ste’s handling things. Wait a minute; Brendan’s not dead at all! He’s in the hospital. Apparently, the Hollyoaks SWAT Team is cutting corners because the sharpshooter just winged him. No matter! This means we get a balls-out, bedside, Ste/Brendan semi-reunion. All the while Ste’s, sobbing (I swear, he sobs better than anyone. That boy is gifted.), promising to stick by Brendan throughout the trial, saying he’ll visit him in prison, everything.
“No, Stayven! Ye can’t. Oi won’t let ye!”
“BRENDAN! I LOVE YOU!”
Orderlies try to drag Ste out of the room but he breaks free for one final kiss. “In the next life, Stayven,” Brendan whispers.
This is when I started crying, and no, it wasn’t entirely due to all the box wine I’d had to drink.
The final scene, set to Johnny Cash’s version of “One”, cuts between Brendan getting hustled off to prison and Ste, annihilated, wandering around the village. He opens the front door to find Amy, his baby mamma, and his kids there waiting for him. Brendan is shoved into a cell. The last we see of him is through the tiny window in the door.
Cue actual sobs from me. At that point, I was putting Ste to shame in the Ugly Crying Competition. Goddam you to hell, “Hollyoaks!” How dare you manipulate my emotions like that? After weeks of gag-inducing domestic storylines and wasted time with Kevin, you finish off the week with a spiked fist to the solar plexus. It was a perfect ending.
Next week we’ll delve into “The Young and the Restless” and I’ll talk about how that show has never once made me ugly cry.
Erin Byrne just learned that hot tea bags make great hand warmers.