This week marks a televisual landmark. After 4½ years of bad plots, dodgy acting, convoluted farce and surprisingly dull murders John Stape looks like he's finally taking his leave of the cobbles.
Stape was first introduced as a love interest for Fiz and his presence in the soap was initially benign and marginal. Then he had an affair with schoolgirl Rosie Webster, then kidnapped her, for which he went to prison. This would have been a good and (semi) realistic time to get rid of the character, but no. While in prison he convinces Fiz to marry him and is subsequently released. Then the madness began.
John stole teacher friend Colin Fishwick's identity to gain a position as a teacher, sort-of murders Colin, then (with the help of fellow nutty teacher Charlotte Hoyle) hides Colin's body in the knicker factory. Charlotte falls for John (who wouldn't? - the lovable fraudster/ killer is apparently irresistible to women) then starts to blackmail him into having an affair with her. Then John tries to kill her, fails, then kills her properly. (In the middle of all this Stape - for long-forgotten reasons - pretended to be a furniture salesman and was offered a job selling settees!). Then Colin's mum, Joy, turns up and John befriends her then sort-of kills her. Then he has a mental breakdown and is sectioned. Here was another chance (though slightly less realistic than the last opportunity) to get rid of Stape's character. But no.
Heavily medicated, John comes home, stops taking the medicine, befriends Charlotte's parents by pretending to be Colin again, kidnaps them and Chesney and holds them in a cellar for a frankly ridiculous amount of time. At the same time Stape has to move Colin's body and ropes in Fiz to dump it in the canal. Then he hides in his own attic before being captured and hospitalised. He escapes dressed as a doctor and winds up on the roof of Weatherfield General, holding baby Hope and threatening to jump. He doesn't jump, but sort-of falls, then somehow gets up, walks away and vanishes. Here was yet another untaken chance to write him out.
Now he's back (possibly from outer space) with a beard and a stupid plan to kidnap Rosie Webster (again!) and tutor her in the ways of madness, then have a car crash and die (please, please, please, THIS TIME!!).
You may be thinking 'What's wrong with all that? It's a soap, soap's are full of drama and over-the-top storylines. Well, 'soaps' may well be - but this is Corrie, we expect better. The whole Stape misadventure has been badly thought-through (hence Fiz's insanely convoluted trial), farcical in a non-funny-just-annoying way, dragged out waaaaayyyy too long and, perhaps most importantly, badly acted. If we were being kind we'd say that Graeme Hawley was miscast as a fraudster/ adulterer/ manslaughterer/ murderer but the truth is that his performance has been monotone throughout. He's been sweatily flapping and flappily sweating round Weatherfield for the best part of five years and the whole time it's felt like he's been in his own badly-worked, sub-Brian Rix -scripted, whoops-I've-accidentally-killed-the-neighbours pantomime.
When Stape dies at the end of this week all here at Corrie Blog hope that the actors, crew, writers and producers breathe as big a sigh of relief as the viewers. Not because Fiz is free but because her husband will no longer be around to terrorize his victims - us!
PS Don't count on it, though, Stape has been back more times than the Terminator.