There was little sign that Audrey’s son Stephen, who had left the cobbles for 15 years, would return in June of last year as the Street’s newest serial killer. Instead, he appeared as a knight in shining armour to assist his mother when the Platts became worried about her excessive drinking.
Eight months have passed, but he has only committed two killings and is still at it.
It’s a tale that has divided viewers, and many have used it as proof that the soap opera has become directionless in recent years. However, I differ because I believe Stephen Reid to be a classic Corrie character and that his role has made for excellent television.
When Todd Boyce’s portrayal of Canadian Stephen, who had just returned from living as a wealthy businessman in Milan and had broken down the salon door to discover his mother unconscious, he was portrayed as the ideal child who would solve all of his family’s issues.
The viewers quickly realised, though, that he was actually having significant financial difficulties and that the real motivation behind his return was to seize Audrey’s money.
In September, Leo, Jenny Connor’s boyfriend, found Stephen trying to sell Audrey’s home. When confronted, Stephen quickly threw Leo over the railings of Underworld to his death, shocking the audience.
From there, the narrative took a more dark turn, and Stephen’s attention turned to covering up his murder. He did this by deceiving Teddy, Leo’s father, into believing that his son was in Canada, then killing Teddy when he discovered the truth.
I know this sounds like a very gloomy plot, but the way it was handled was anything but grim, as the authors leaned more towards comedy than drama, with winks and nods along the way.
The plot is criticised most frequently by Coronation Street viewers as being ridiculous or unrealistic. Of course it is, and that is precisely the reason I adore it.
Over the past few weeks, Stephen’s antics have become more and more entertaining, particularly in the episodes that followed Teddy’s death (a blow to the head with an industrial hole punch, in case you were curious), which featured a series of events befitting of any farce.
He hides the body in the roof box of his mother’s car out of panic, only to discover later that Audrey had driven the car to the Peak District to visit a friend while carrying the deceased body, of course.
David, the nephew, then takes the vehicle because he wants to buy wood chips that are being sold using the roof box. The fact that they are sold out is the only thing preventing him from identifying Stephen’s most recent victim.
My favourite part was when Stephen tried to dispose of Teddy’s corpse in the canal but gave up because the box was still floating there. The episode concludes with him throwing stones at the box until it finally sinks, then he says a less-than-casual “Ey up” to a passing dog walker that is even funnier when said in a Canadian dialect.
These aren’t the deeds of a cold-blooded killer, but rather of a guy driven to extremes by desperation.
capable of, must struggle to hide his activities, and becomes increasingly entangled in his own web of criminal activity.
When Stephen is under pressure, he sometimes reminds me of recent villains in dramas like Happy Valley and Sherwood: unassuming, almost comically clumsy men who surprise the audience by performing horrific acts of violence.
However, Corrie has adopted a much more sarcastic stance. Small details like Kevin, Abi, and Tim assisting Stephen lift the body-filled box onto the car roof, or Chesney and Billy later admiring the box and discussing its capacity, feel authentic despite the absurd plot that wouldn’t have worked decades ago.
so deeply ingrained in soap drama and the unique Northern humour of the Street
It’s been amusing to watch Hope’s curiosity about her deceased father John Stape coexist with Stephen’s antics. In addition to being a murderer, John was already a convicted felon serving time in prison for kidnapping Rosie Webster. He was an innocent educator caught up in an odd identity theft case that led to his involvement in three deaths more than ten years prior.
Naturally, Stephen’s murder of Teddy in a fit of rage after Teddy threatened to reveal the truth is similar to John’s murder of Charlotte Hoyle in 2010 on the night of the tram accident for the same reason. Although neither of them are innately evil, they share a tendency to make dubious choices and act in a panicky manner, which gives their storylines a funny and interesting twist.
It’s not necessary for every soap opera storyline to be a model of excellent drama. What’s the harm in having one that’s just a little bit of fun when there have been so many serious tales playing out lately on the cobbles, like Max’s indoctrination into an extremist gang and Summer’s struggles with her body image?
It’s unlikely that Stephen Reid will be compared to enduring soap opera villains like Pat Phelan or Richard Hillman, but you can’t deny that he’s been entertaining, and sometimes that’s all we want from our television watching.
Stephen has the worst poker face ever, so it’s hard to believe he hasn’t been caught yet, but I can’t help but smile when another coincidence or narrow escape keeps him alive for another show.
However, for the time being, I’m really enjoying watching what their accidental serial killer will do next and wondering who his next victim might be. Corrie should be cautious not to drag the story out for too long.