Is Emmerdale's Joe Tate really dead? 9 clues which could solve the soap's big mystery

Emmerdale killed off Joe Tate last week and the shock storyline still has fans reeling, with many unconvinced that he’s really gone for good.

Soaps pretend to kill characters so often these days that it’s getting increasingly harder to tell the difference between a fake death and a genuine one. With this in mind, it’s really no wonder that some viewers are holding out hope for Joe to make a miraculous return sooner or later.

With so much speculation, can we help to clear this one up? Here’s nine very important clues which may help us to figure out whether Joe really is a goner or not.

1. DEAD? The goodbye interviews

As soon as Emmerdale aired Joe Tate’s death scene last Thursday, we published a goodbye interview with Ned Porteous, while the show’s social media accounts also had a farewell video with the star.

Following his one-year stint as Joe, Ned confirmed that he’d genuinely left the cast, had moved back to London and was hoping to land some US roles. We have no reason to doubt him, because although soaps and their cast members can sometimes lead us down the garden path to protect big storyline twists, it’s rare for them to be quite so brazen with telling outright lies.

As an example, when Ross Barton had a fake death in 2015, Michael Parr famously had a farewell video. Crucially though, it was one that he’d cheekily filmed himself at home and posted on his own Twitter account, independently from the show. Emmerdale stayed out of it and didn’t give him an official goodbye video, avoiding any accusations that they’d lied to fans.

More recently, every time Rebecca White was “killed” with death fakeouts this year, the show stayed silent and let the speculation run, rather than releasing fake statements or exit chats.

In this case, it does seem that Ned has genuinely left the Emmerdale cast and is pursuing other ambitions – unless the soap’s team are taking lying to a whole new level.

2. NOT DEAD? Ned hedges his bets

With all of that said, Ned’s goodbye interview on the Emmerdale Twitter account did seem like he was keeping his options open just a tad. Although he once again confirmed that he’d left Emmerdale, some of the language used did leave a slight question mark over Joe’s ultimate fate.

He opened with: “Hi guys, Ned Porteous here at Home Farm – my home – for what could be the last time.” Hmm, could?

Ned then added: “Now it seems that he’s fully integrated in village life, is it all over?” Hmm, you tell us, Ned…

3. DEAD? Those holiday shots

If you thought Ned was lying about his plans for US success, think again. The actor’s Instagram shows that he’s actually been enjoying himself over in the States for several weeks, mixing career chats with some touristy fun. In fact, speculation about a possible exit for Joe started among the fans a few weeks ago, when eagle-eyed viewers spotted his holiday shots and the fact that he’d listed a US agent on his Instagram page.

So anyone expecting Joe to suddenly come knocking at Home Farm this week and reveal it was all a bad dream, may be in for a disappointment…

4. DEAD? The Joe and Graham bromance is over

We also spoke to Andrew Scarborough, who plays Graham Foster, on set at Emmerdale recently. Just in case there was still any doubt left, he also confirmed that Ned was no longer on set after Joe’s death scene.

Andrew explained: “Graham’s relationship with Kim Tate is delightful and very wicked. It’s great, but I shall miss Ned. But that’s showbiz!

“It has been odd without him. When we were shooting stuff in Home Farm, we got on very well and he was like a family member. Then suddenly I was alone on set and having flashbacks of us together! I was talking to myself!”

5. NOT DEAD? Not all of the cast are so sure…

While Andrew Scarborough seemed pretty certain it was the end of Joe, we can’t quite say the same for Charley Webb and Jeff Hordley, who play Debbie and Cain Dingle. As long-serving cast members, perhaps they’re more cynical when it comes to the workings of the soap gods.

When we caught up with Charley on the Emmerdale set, she certainly wasn’t ruling out the possibility that Joe could turn up alive at some point.

Asked whether there’s a chance Joe isn’t really dead, Charley replied: “We actually don’t know. Whichever way, Cain’s not actually killed him. He’s either alive, or Graham’s the one who killed him. If it comes out, it won’t be Cain who’s to blame because Joe’s fingers twitched, so he was alive and then Graham shot him.”

Answering the same question, Jeff laughed: “He might have gone to a special military hospital!”

6. DEAD? The leaving party

But before we get too carried away, it’s also worth mentioning that we know Ned did apparently have a leaving party shortly after he’d finished filming the big masquerade ball week.

Telling us all about it, Jeff explained: “There were a few of us there and it was really good. He’s such a great lad and we all wish him well. It’s been great fun working with Ned, he’s been a great addition to the show. He’s a brilliant all rounder. He’s a great actor and a great guy, so it’s a shame he’s gone, but people have to go on and be actors and do other jobs.”

Charley also said: “I didn’t give him a good send-off because I didn’t go to his leaving do! I’m sure he had a great send off, but I wasn’t well that week so I didn’t go.”

Unless Charley just didn’t bother going because she knows he’s coming back, or is that one conspiracy too many?

7. NOT DEAD? The finger twitch

Joe’s final scenes saw Cain Dingle punch him, causing him to fall backwards and hit his head on a rock. Cain now believes that he caused Joe’s demise, but his finger twitched after Graham embarked on a cover-up and stuffed his body into a car boot.

The implication – as backed up in Ned’s final interview – is that Graham had to finish off the job by shooting Joe, before disposing of the body. However, another sneaky possibility is that the finger twitch was written in to give Emmerdale the perfect excuse to bring Joe back in the future without it seeming too implausible.

Although we’d need a decent explanation for Graham’s tears and why he’s looking so guilty, it’s always possible that he managed to put Joe in hiding to escape the wrath of Kim. Plus, it’s the golden rule of soap that nobody is ever properly dead unless you’ve seen the body…

8. NOT DEAD? The unfinished business

While there was a big buzz around last week’s dramatic Emmerdale episodes, certain elements of the storyline were pretty weird. The big plot was Kim hating Joe so much that she wanted him dead, but in a fairly bizarre move, they didn’t get to meet or share any scenes together on screen. Surely this interaction was more crucial than Kim randomly insulting the likes of Kerry and Brenda? We’re baffled!

You never know though, perhaps the big Kim vs. Joe showdown is still to come. If not, it’ll definitely go down in history as a major Emmerdale missed opportunity.

9. DEAD? The obvious replacement

Friday’s episode of Emmerdale saw the show not-so-subtly pave the way for the arrival of Kim Tate’s son James next year. Before the police carted her back off to prison, Kim ordered Graham to find James and help her to build bridges with him following her time in prison.

Emmerdale‘s more clued-up fans immediate pegged James, who was last seen as a child in 1999, as an obvious Joe Tate replacement for the new year. And it wasn’t just the viewers saying it – even Claire King, who plays Kim, saw exactly what the writers were up to.

She laughed: “He’s bound to be young, glamorous, gorgeous – they’re going to bring that kind of character in to replace Ned aren’t they?

“He’ll be a good looking young boy. They haven’t spoken for a while so that’s why she’s asked Graham to try and find James.”

If Emmerdale really did plan to bring back Joe anytime soon, surely they wouldn’t be making such an obvious attempt to fill the gap left behind by his exit?

Our verdict

It seems fairly certain that Ned Porteous really has left the Emmerdale cast. The in-depth goodbye chat, the leaving party and the various statements from the cast all seem to indicate that he’s departed with no immediate plans to return, unless we’re seeing a sneaky soap lie on a scale we’ve never seen before.

With that said, we reckon Emmerdale bosses have deliberately left the nature of Joe’s exit fairly open-ended, just in case they want to bring him back in the future. No body and a few sprinkled clues that all isn’t as it seems helpfully pave the way for a possible return one day.

With Kim Tate taking residence at Home Farm permanently next year, the pressure will be on for the writers to provide big twists and gripping stories for the soap’s iconic character. And the possibility of Joe making a shocking return from the dead one day might be an opportunity too juicy to resist…

Emmerdale airs weeknights at 7pm on ITV, with an extra episode at 8pm on Thursdays.

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