“Your little James is a psychopath!” My husband said that at the end of Wednesday’s episode, with some considerable glee. He’d been telling me for weeks that James was up to no good. “No no, he’s Ken’s grandson and he’s working at a homeless shelter. He is good,” I said adamantly. What I didn’t say so often is that he’s also Ken’s real-life son and therefore he has to be a good character. Well, the actor James Roache who plays James is the son of William Roache who plays Ken Barlow.
It has been clear for quite some time that something wasn’t quite right with James and his stated plan to expand from a soup kitchen to a home for the homeless. But I did the visual equivalent of putting my fingers in my ears and saying “lalala I can’t hear you!”
My attitude toward this has reminded me of an essay about soap opera audiences entitled “They killed off Marlena, but she’s on another show now.” (The title translates as “the writers killed off the character of Marlena and the actress who played her is now on another show.”) That paper is about the layers of viewing in which soap fans engage and the shorthand they use to discuss both the fictional and real-life stories. But in my refusal to accept that James could be a scam artist I was going way beyond that, into the realm of delusional fans who write real life letters to fictional people or worse.
I have had to wake up and smell the plasterboard in the Roof & Refuge remodeling job. I still was hoping against hope that the invisible Rob, overall shelter manager or whatever, was also scamming James and it was Rob absconding with the money that Sophie stole from her father. But I’m afraid James is the bad guy.
Aside from it being Bill Roache’s son, James’ perfidy upsets me because I liked having a new character genuinely concerned with helping others. Yes, Emily works at the charity shop but that isn’t horribly surprising. She’s involved with her church and she believes it is her Christian duty to help others. It was nice to see someone else thinking the same way, but without the premise of religion behind it. Not since Emily’s nephew Spyder have we had someone who believed it was valuable to do good for its own sake.
And he’s a scam artist, and a practiced one at that it seems. The smooth steps by which he got Sophie so involved and guilt-ridden that she would commit the only real theft there has been – against her own father – suggests he has done this before. And he’s Bill Roache’s son. I am devastated.
And technically, he’s a sociopath. Although by his behaviour to poor little Amy on Friday’s episode, he might well veer to psychopath yet! “My secret friend can take Mummy away again, back to prison, and Grandma and Granddad and you’ll be left on your own – with me.”
“They killed off Marlena…” by Louise Spence is published in an excellent edited volume by Robert Allen (1995) To Be Continued…: Soap Operas Around the World.