Ever since Geoffrey ‘Spider’ Nugent (Martin Hancock) returned to the Coronation Street cobbles earlier this year, it’s been clear to viewers that he’s hiding a big secret from ex-girlfriend Toyah Habeeb (Georgia Taylor).
Now we’ve finally heard the truth: Spider is an undercover police officer.
It’s always a win for a soap when a bombshell creates genuine shock; and the idea of strong-willed, rebellious activist Spider being a detective certainly wasn’t on our list of guesses.
There was a brief red herring when he rejected Toyah’s advances by revealing that he was married; but of course, something like that wasn’t going to create the kind of high stakes drama that Corrie thrives on.
After a screen break of 19 years, actor Hancock’s comeback was first sparked when his co-star Taylor shared a throwback photo of the pair. Instead of bringing Spider back simply as a fond reminder of Toyah’s past — though he undoubtedly is — the show hit upon a narrative that makes his presence much more relevant.
Initially, it seemed that Spider was back as an extension to Toyah’s storyline: she's about to stand trial for the murder of husband Imran (Charlie de Melo). But this is not the case, as there’s plenty of room to explore Spider too.
The scenes between Spider and Toyah have been engaging and enjoyable to watch, and Hancock has been given his own chance to shine. Ahead of that gripping revelation about Spider, we saw him admit to Toyah that she had always been the one for him. One minute, he was at the centre of a heartwarming declaration; the next he faced the toughest of ultimatums.
The case that Spider is working on isn’t actually linked to Toyah; but now that DS Swain (Vicky Myers) is aware of their connection, she has demanded his help in securing Toyah’s conviction. If he refuses, he could lose everything - and despite his lies, it couldn’t be more obvious that Spider adores Toyah.
This is where those high stakes come in, as Toyah’s freedom hangs in the balance after she makes a shocking confession to Spider in upcoming scenes. But while Toyah’s fate is a crucial element here, we’re set to see how her situation affects Spider’s life.
Until now, Spider was primarily known as the nephew of former long-term character Emily Bishop (Eileen Derbyshire), as well as Toyah’s first love. Now there’s a new complexity to the character that adds a whole extra layer to who he is.
There’s no denying the appeal of nostalgia when a soap chooses to bring back a familiar face. Over the last decade, Corrie has welcomed home the likes of Jenny Bradley (Sally Ann Matthews), Sharon Bentley (Tracie Bennett) and Stephen Reid (Todd Boyce), as well as Toyah herself.
All of these returns have been storyline-based rather than just for the fun of it, and Spider’s reappearance is no exception. We might have been able to predict that he would rekindle his romance with Toyah, but everything else has been a surprise.
Far from being limited to his reputation as an environmental campaigner who marches to his own beat, Spider 2.0 is a breath of fresh air who promises to deliver constant cliffhangers.
And thankfully, Coronation Street hasn't sacrificed his quirky persona.
Watch the latest Coronation Street spoilers