Six months after her death, the storyline came back to life with a week long trial
Hollyoaks finally aired the trial for Amy Barnes’ murder last week, as Ste Hay faced his fate in court. There were strong performances all round, most notably from Kieron Richardson who proved for the hundredth time why he’s constantly in the running for best actor.
As the week began, Amy’s widower Ryan confessed to Ste that he had been caught up in James Nightingale’s plot to frame him for the murder. Ste wasn’t thinking clearly and in an emotional scene, spoke of clinging to memories of his children and accused the man of trying to mess with his head:
“I’m not gonna crack…Don’t you dare come in here, saying all that and making me question everything”
Although his history so far has been dodgy, this time Ryan was doing the right thing…
“He loves those kids so very much, and I don’t believe he would do anything to hurt them or their mother. And he certainly didn’t kill her.”
Duncan James (Ryan) and Jessica Ellis (Tegan) played great supporting roles during the week’s episodes. The moment Ryan defended Ste in court was brilliant. His scenes with the children have also become more and more watchable, containing a lot of heart to them – although I don’t think much of the soap’s choice to refer to him as their ‘daddy’ in the odd scene here and there! Tegan spent much of the week looking after Leah and Lucas as well, and was particularly fantastic in emotional scenes during the aftermath of the trial.
Amidst the main story there was sadness for Tony, who visited his baby daughter Grace’s grave and poured his heart out over her loss and his worries for son Harry over the trial. Nick Pickard portrayed Tony’s heartache beautifully, and an earlier scene in which he talked about his long-term friendship with Ste was another highlight.
Following Ryan’s testimony in court, shady lawyer James put on a comical show of incompetence, played expertly by Gregory Finnegan. Nobody had suspected James of foul play up until this point, which is daft considering Ste had slept with the man’s boyfriend! Then again, Ste’s naivety could be blamed on his fragile state of mind. In a tense scene, he goaded James into admitting he had been setting him up – and Kieron Richardson played Ste’s discovery superbly as he finally gained the upper hand. Then he was wrong-footed by the revelation that James knew who really killed Amy – and also knew Ste wouldn’t want the truth getting out.
As the trial continued viewers were kept in the dark a little longer as to exactly what James knew, but Ste was determined to cover for this mystery culprit. In heartbreaking video footage his daughter Leah was seen telling police that her parents had argued on the night Amy was killed. Ela-May Demircan, who plays Leah, gave a scene-stealing performance despite not actually being in the court room.
It would have been understandable if Ste’s decision was based on covering for one of the kids, if they had accidentally caused their mother’s death. But it was in fact boyfriend Harry that Ste was protecting; which I found quite baffling given the circumstances. That was until the memorable scene in which he finally got a confession out of Harry, heard the details and realised that there wasn’t a reasonable explanation for what happened.
Parry Glasspool acted out his character’s admission very powerfully, but I wonder if I was the only viewer who thought Harry sounded rather childish. Although the remorse was there, lines like “we never had any time to think about us” and “I knew I’d done something really, really bad” didn’t make me feel any sympathy for him.
And could the ‘Starry’ fans overlook his crimes? Walking away from an injured Amy without calling an ambulance; leaving his almost-step-children motherless, letting Ste suffer in prison for months? I can’t imagine Brendan Brady allowing things to play out this way. For all his faults, he would do anything for Steven – if he wasn’t already in prison himself!
During the confession scene, Kieron gave the performance of the week as Ste reeled over what really happened to Amy. It was there in every facial expression, and the way his voice cracked. The narrative of Ste’s bond with Amy was very much present throughout the week:
“She was my best friend. The mother of my children, and you just left her on the floor like some kind of animal”
Dialogue such as this felt very real to watch. There were flashbacks to happier times between the Ste and Amy, as well as one showing his history of domestic abuse against her. This sadly led him to re-evaluate his behaviour with Harry and conclude that he had turned him into the sort of person who leaves a woman for dead. After his initial disgust, again he vowed to cover up the truth. This quick turnaround was frustrating but true to Ste’s character and lack of self-worth:
“I’ve been destined for prison since the day I was born”
Harry decided he was actually going to confess (only five months late) but was predictably stopped in his tracks. The flashbacks used in the trailer for the week turned out to feature in various imaginary scenarios, in which an innocent party killed Amy. This was down to James, who implicated DS Armstrong instead. Ste was found not guilty, but the relief didn’t last long as he was shot by Kathy Barnes while embracing the guilty Harry. (Brendan would have stood in front of the bullet for him – just saying!)
Having been lucky enough to survive without any lasting damage, Ste was reunited with Leah and Lucas for the first time in months. Leah was upset at having made Ste look guilty to the police, but he reassured her:
“You told the truth, just like me and mummy taught you to. Look at me – you did good.”
This isn’t the first time Kieron Richardson and Ela-May (Leah) have moved viewers to tears in their shared scenes, and this one was beautifully written and performed. The young actor playing Lucas, William Hall, also did brilliantly showing how the little boy was suffering since losing his mum.
Following this Ste realised he couldn’t stay with Harry, despite being willing to keep his secret. One look at his children, and their worries that the man who hurt their mum might hurt them too, made him see things clearly.
“How can I let you make them tea, or watch you read them a bedtime story knowing the reason their mother’s not there doing that is because of you?”
But although Harry knocked Amy over and left her for dead, a final flashback revealed she was very much alive afterwards. Hollyoaks have kept the mystery going by showing an unknown figure entering her flat to kill her, and even the episode that followed didn’t let on who that person was. We could guess that it was either Armstrong, James or Ryan – although if Ryan is the culprit it would be a disappointing twist after this week. There is also the matter of what looked like blood seen on Leah’s hand on the night Amy was found dead. Is she involved?
There may be a while to wait before we find out, but in the meantime you can vote for Kieron Richardson as Best Actor and Ela-May Demircan as Best Young Actor in the Inside Soap Awards. Voting is open until 2nd October.