Joyce Murray and Seven Other Underwhelming EastEnders’ Deaths That Were Quickly Disregarded

nintchdbpict000330035975

In EastEnders, on Thursday the 29th of March, Ted Murray’s wife Joyce, passed away peacefully in her sleep. The axing of Joyce had seemed like a foregone conclusion for a while now, as she generally failed to catch the interest of fans who often negatively compared both her and her husband to the much more popular, Pam and Les Coker. I don’t think many of the show’s viewers are going to miss her, which is a shame because a character played by the incredibly talented Maggie Steed should have been written so much better than the drab Joyce was, whose only stories seemed to revolve around having to deal with all the issues Ted created for the couple.

Possibly the saddest thing about Joyce is that even in death, her character hasn’t really felt that important. The storyline got off to a promising start on the episode after she passed away, with Ted being shown wandering around confused and unsure what to do, while being reminded by almost every character just how special a wife Joyce was but since then most of the focus has been on the Taylors often annoying attempts to be there for Ted, along with Ted feuding with his daughter Judith. So many conflicting elements of the story have cropped up at once, that personally it feels at times like Joyce isn’t really dead and Ted and Judith are just fighting over the personal issues they have, while Joyce is away on holiday or something.

The most insulting part of the storyline however, came when Ted revealed that he didn’t have enough money to bury Joyce, with her now being scheduled to be cremated without a ceremony in order to dispose of her remains as inexpensively as possible. It all feels ridiculous, especially considering the square just recently pitched together to pay for a lavish funeral for Kat Slater who wasn’t even dead and the whole thing blatantly has been done to try to forget the fact that Joyce was a character who existed as soon as they can, with minimal effort. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened either and in today’s blog post, I’m going to list seven other recent EastEnders’ deaths that were disregarded and mostly forgotten about way too quickly:

 

One: Kevin Wicks

Kevin_wicks

Played By- Phil Daniels 

Last Appearance: 1st January 2008

Shirley Carter’s ex-husband and all round top guy, Kevin Wicks was a favourite of mine during his near two year stint on Albert Square but when he tragically died on New Year’s Eve after being impaled by a pole, the legacy that he left on the show quickly disappeared. Kevin was revealed beforehand to not be biologically related to Dean or Carly, two of Shirley’s children and his wife at the time Denise, went on to have several different relationships, so the only way Kevin even gets a rare reference usually tends to come from Shirley.

It’s hard to blame EastEnders themselves for Kevin’s long term legacy being diminished because Phil Daniels, who played him, refused to renew his contract, leaving writers with no choice but to kill him off but I feel it still could have been done in a better way. As a big fan of Kevin, thanks to his sensitive nature and love of Chelsea football club, I actually couldn’t bare to watch his death episodes and when I returned, even then it was obvious we were expected to forget about him as soon as possible. Fresh audio of him did at least feature in some home video recordings Shirley has watched over the last few years to be fair, so at least the BBC and Phil patched up whatever differences they’d had back in 2008.

 

Two: Derek Branning

Derek

Played By- Jamie Foreman

Last Appearance: 25th December 2012

There will be some names on this list that people are more than happy were disregarded almost as soon as they died but I personally had no issues with this one as a character. The older brother of Max and Jack, Derek Branning was portrayed as a big deal during his entire run on EastEnders but some viewers didn’t think he was a convincing enough bad guy, so when he died pretty comically to a heart attack on Christmas Day, it wasn’t really a surprise that the aftermath of his death didn’t feel like that big a deal.

Derek had managed to alienate himself from most of the Square when he passed away, so asides from some failed storylines involving his daughter Alice and his son Joey in the months after his death, he was quickly forgotten about and is rarely mentioned nowadays. As I’ve said, Derek was far from beloved but when you’ve spent so long building a bad guy up to be a threat, I feel like his death storyline could have been handled much better than it ultimately was. The most important thing to happen after Derek’s death was that it brought on the appearance of Carl White, who we’ll be hearing more about later. That’s pretty telling.

 

Three: Michael Moon

Michael_Moont

Played By- Steve John Shepherd

Last Appearance: 1st November 2013

I really miss Michael Moon. Undisputed as my favourite EastEnders character of all time, Alfie’s cousin was perfect in his role as an understated, slimy, psychopath and in my eyes, hasn’t been matched as a villain since his departure. With that said, for a character as great as Michael, he’s been pretty much forgotten over the last five years. After Janine Butcher and Alice Branning, who were involved in his death, avoided murder sentences, his name has barely been uttered on the square, which is a shame because he truly was a great villain who deserved better.

Michael will have some form of legacy in EastEnders in the next few decades, as the father of Janine Butcher’s daughter Scarlett, who presumably will be an important character some day but it would be nice if he’d at least get the occasional mention on TV for now. Recently, when Jean Slater foolishly gave away all of her life savings to help Big Mo pay her debts, no one even bothered to remind her of her past with Michael, where he conned thousands of pounds of savings from her but then again, that was one of Michael’s weakest storylines, so maybe that one is welcome to stay forgotten.

 

Four: Carl White

p01bkh8w

Played By- Daniel Coonan

Last Appearance- 1st January 2014

Oh Carl White. While he probably is the greatest example of a death being brushed under the carpet as soon as it was slightly feasible to, he’s also someone who was such a bad character that he’s probably best left forgotten anyway. The Derek Branning expy who as mentioned, was introduced in the aftermath of the big Branning Brother’s death, somehow managed to be an even less revered villain than Derek and was killed off in gruesome fashion, after Ronnie Mitchell slammed a car boot into his head on New Year’s Day.

In the months after Carl’s death, it was expected that eventually his corpse would be found and Ronnie would face some retribution for killing him but instead Ronnie hired some people to intimidate Carl’s family into leaving her alone, after they were suspicious about her and Carl’s body was never found and is presumably still lying rotted in a car’s trunk somewhere, possibly in the same scrapyard as poor Fatboy. This storyline regularly gets referred to as an example of a soap story surrounding a death, that was never resolved but at this stage it’s probably better that EastEnders’ writers let sleeping Carls lie.

 

Five: Emma Summerhayes

DC_Summerhayes

Played By- Anna Acton

Last Appearance- 2nd January 2015

Since she was only brought in to further some elements of the Who Killed Lucy Beale storyline, it kind of makes sense that there wasn’t much of a focus on the death of Emma Summerhayes, the Family Liaison officer to the Beales after Lucy was murdered, who eventually began an unethical relationship with Max Branning. Despite some deserved criticism over the fact that Summerhayes wasn’t a particularly great police officer (although to be fair, she did solve the case months before anybody else in the force did), Emma was a warm and compassionate character who I believe could have fitted in with EastEnders in the long term. Unfortunately, the writers had other ideas and Emma died from complications from a concussion, suffered during the New Year’s Day car crash that almost killed Ronnie Mitchell as well.

While Max was devastated at first over his partner’s death, it didn’t take him too long to get over it and she hasn’t even been briefly mentioned in a long time. As I’ve said, Emma wasn’t every fan’s cup of tea and it makes sense that writers wouldn’t want her passing to overshadow the heavily hyped Lucy Beale storyline but still, it was kind of jarring to see one character’s death story being dragged out over almost a year, while another character who died as well, was forgotten within a few weeks.

 

Six and Seven: Ronnie and Roxy Mitchell

EastEnders - January-March 2017 - 5415

Played By- Samantha Womack and Rita Simmons

Last Appearance- 1st January 2017

Hey, hey, stop! Before anyone takes the pitchforks out, since the decision to kill both of these characters was highly contentious and caused a mammoth split between EastEnders fans, let me explain where I’m coming from for a second. To make it clear, this entry isn’t saying that I believe Ronnie or Roxy shouldn’t have been axed or that their initial death episode wasn’t done well but when you think about it, Ronnie and Roxy were two of the modern era’s most well known and widely liked characters and their deaths should have ultimately meant more than they did. I’ve said it before, I don’t expect Jack or anybody else for that matter to still be mourning Ronnie a year later but the way that the Mitchell family especially, forgot so quickly about two pivotal members of their family was crazy and nowadays, if it wasn’t for Jack making sure Ronnie wasn’t forgotten, it would feel like all the square forgot that either of them ever existed.

The drowning deaths of these two characters, while bizarre, was incredibly different and unique (a difficult feat in soap land) and I can’t bring myself to be too hard on it but the fact that it was all the fault of Roxy, a dead woman, meant that asides from Jack grieving the passing of his wife, there wasn’t much that could be done afterwards. Even the plot elements that were laid out beforehand, such as Max being with Roxy before she took cocaine and went off to the pool to die, were completely ignored and never referred to again and the whole thing just feels like a big disappointment in hindsight. It happened all the way back last Summer but I think the lack of impact that Ronnie and Roxy’s death had was most apparent, when Sharon pleaded with Denise to not tell Phil about their love child because Phil was in the middle of a really good year. The death of R and R, who he was close to was completely glossed over like it had never happened. Considering the lack of excitement that followed the whole thing, I wish it hadn’t.

 

So there we have it, there’s a list of some EastEnders’ characters who I feel were forgotten about way too quickly after they died. On Twitter, I asked for suggestions about other characters people thought had underwhelming death stories and some great names such as Billie Jackson, Sylvie Carter, Steven Beale and truly enough, Tramp the dog were brought up and if you can think of anybody else I may have missed, feel free to let me know in the comments section below.

Before finishing, I also want to add that the scenes involving a mourning Ted on Friday night’s EastEnders were exceptionally well done and that maybe in the long term, Joyce’s death story will play out just fine but for now, I still think it hasn’t felt that important and will be forgotten soon enough. That said, when we think about the follow up to the passing of the likes of Carl White, Emma Summerhayes and Derek Branning, seeing Ted playing chess with Bernadette, while his daughter Judith scowls in the background actually isn’t all that bad.

Five Reasons Why The Slater’s Return To EastEnders Isn’t Working So Far

EastEnders - The Slaters

Last Thursday, after a week long plot that revolved around a returning ‘Big’ Mo Harris conning the square into believing that Kat Slater had died, in order to make as much pity money as possible to pay off a hefty debt, Kat herself conveniently made her much hyped, grand return to EastEnders after two years away from the soap. This return was the culmination of a plot intended to bring the long running, much loved Slater family back to the forefront of the show, that also involved making Big Mo and Jean Slater full time characters again and reverting Stacey back to the mostly unapologetic and completely independent personality that she had when she first appeared in Walford.

On paper it makes perfect sense why the higher ups at the BBC would jump at the chance to make the Slaters a pivotal element of EastEnders again. As one of the most well known families in the show’s history, fans have built up a familiarity with the Slaters over the years (especially Kat) and their return to prominence should bring more attention to EastEnders, especially through past viewers who may have given up on non Christmas watching but been lured back in order to find out what Kat, Jean or Big Mo have been up to over the last few years.

In execution things haven’t entirely worked out so far. Despite a pretty positive response throughout social media on the Thursday of Kat’s return, the ratings EastEnders has received since the start of the big Slater revival have been better than usual but still a little underwhelming, considering the heavy marketing campaign in the weeks beforehand and the quality of television, as well as the characterisation of all four Slaters have, in my opinion, left a lot to be desired. In today’s post I’m going to offer five reasons why I view the return of the Slaters to be a disappointment as of right now, with the caveat that it is early days and that there’s plenty of time for things to improve:

Reason One: Stacey Made Unlikable To Facilitate Return

EastEnders - October-December 2017 - 5621

After a few years of being in a loving relationship with Martin Fowler, it seemed to come out of nowhere when we were informed that Stacey was growing tired of being married to him, which led to her briefly reigniting her love affair with Max Branning over Christmas and quickly breaking up with Martin. At the time, this seemed like a rushed and directionless decision, especially since Stacey and Martin were working really well as a couple and Stacey had became a much more mature and sensible character than she had ever been before but now it’s blatantly obvious that writers rushed the split of her and Martin, in order for her to live together with the returning Slaters.

While it’s not unrealistic for Stacey to get tired of feeling expected to be a perfect, domesticated mother and wife and sometimes it’s understandable when soap storylines have to be rushed, the main problem is that Stacey has been portrayed as thoroughly unlikable in order to make the split with Martin happen. Even the day after Martin found out about her affair with Max, Stacey was completely unapologetic, accusing Martin of needing to ‘get over it,’ and ever since then, the way that she treated him has been abhorrent. Despite being loving, I do understand that Martin isn’t perfect but he always tried his best to be good to Stacey and even forgave her for letting him believe she was having his baby, when it was actually his best friend’s child instead and Stacey should have been much kinder to him. Lacey Turner portrays Stacey so well that she’s such an easy character to like, so the fact that this story has required her to come across as such an unpleasant human being, is a major mark against the Slater revival.

 

Reason Two: Big Mo’s Antics Just Aren’t Funny Anymore

eastenders-big-mo-laila-morse-t

I can already see some people having issues with the title of this part, since I’d imagine some viewers haven’t found Big Mo’s antics funny for a much longer time than me but I was generally a (no pun intended), big fan of Mo Harris and her wacky schemes and usually found her silly, comic relief providing side plots to be enjoyable. This time however, I have viewed the majority of scenes she’s been involved in to be either groan or cringe inducing and I don’t think it’s because at the age of 25, I’m now too mature to find her style of humour to be funny.

This applies to all elements of the Slater revival but with Big Mo especially, she has been written almost like a caricature of herself, doing ridiculously cartoonish and unrealistic things, with us expected to find them hilarious just because it’s a character we used to love who’s doing them. From trying to become a cam girl online in order to pay her debt, to hiding extra money in her bra and in her underwear, almost every piece of comedy involving Big Mo has failed in the last two weeks and it’s beginning to make a lot of sense why she has been used extremely sparingly over the last five years.

The writers do deserve to take as much flack for the recent failure of Mo, as the character does to be fair. She tried to exploit Stacey and Jean’s bipolar conditions in order to convince them that Kat had actually died and was only in debt in the first place because she tricked an old man into falling in love with her and then stole his money. Expecting us to find genuinely evil behaviour like that to be endearing, just because she’s Big Mo was a huge misfire.

 

Reason  Three: The Return Circumstances Are Too Contrived 

In order for Kat to come back on the same week that her death was announced, I automatically assumed that for whatever reason, she was in on the pretending to have died plot or at the very least, had returned to let everyone know in person that she was still alive, after hearing the news from somebody else but that wasn’t the case. Instead, despite not visiting Albert Square for two whole years, she just randomly decided to turn up on the exact night that flyers announcing her death were everywhere.

As if that wasn’t enough of a suspension of reality, Friday’s most recent episode made an even more ridiculous one, after Jean Slater declared that she was going to live with Stacey, Kat and Big Mo, until Mo paid back Jean every penny that Jean used from her savings to pay off Mo’s debt. Of course it’s natural for Jean to want her life’s savings back but she could demand that Mo pays her and still live in her home in Brighton with her husband Ollie. Big Mo also isn’t going to make thousands of pounds back in a short amount of time either. Expecting viewers to believe Jean would live away from her husband for months, just in order for the four Slater ladies to end up sharing the same household together, is almost as ridiculous as expecting them to believe that every character in the show would don leopard print and put on fake tan in order to raise money to bury Kat, who just two years ago became a millionaire thanks to a lottery win. Wait, what do you mean that happened as well?

 

Reason Four: The Taylors Are Currently A Better Family Than The Slaters

_96023581_13493902-low_res-eastenders-portraits-2017

Alright, I do have to admit that the night of Kat’s return did get me excited for a feud and eventual friendship between her and Karen Taylor but I find it interesting that in a month where we were constantly hammered with ‘hey remember how great the Slaters were?!’ references, the Taylors had yet another month of great to watch television. Bernadette has slotted well into her role as Ted Murray’s unlikely friend and will more than likely continue to thrive there with the aftermath of his wife Joyce’s death still to come and Keanu, Keegan and Karen have all done excellently in the plot revolving around the return of Keegan’s father Mitch. I might be alone in having this opinion but I’ve found the Taylor related content in this past week’s programming, to be infinitely better than the scenes involving the Slaters and this was the first full week since Kat returned.

I get that despite them both being families of down to earth, rough around the edges characters who inwardly have a heart of gold, the Taylors and the Slaters aren’t exact clones of each other and can coexist on the same show but I hope that the Slaters don’t end up pushed to the forefront of EastEnders at the expense of Karen’s family. At the very least, hopefully the extra eyeballs that came with Kat’s return has introduced some new viewers to the greatness of the Taylors because the show has a bright future if the Taylors are kept strong.

 

Reason Five: No Remorse Over The Kat Death Scam… Until A Week Later

 

I get that a lot of people enjoyed the mass brawl that broke out in the Queen Vic on the night of Kat’s return but Kat and Stacey’s completely obnoxious attitude towards the Walford residents, who were upset that they’d been conned into paying money towards a funeral for someone who hadn’t actually died, which then led to the brawl, was massively off putting to me. I can understand them not wanting to completely throw Big Mo under the bus because she’s part of their family but in this situation, Kat and Stacey should have been more humble, towards the people who had so recently been grieving her demise.

Not every character loved Kat but some people in the pub that night had been genuinely upset by the fact that she had apparently died, such as her supposed best friend before she left, Kim Fox and yet Kat treated the entire thing like it was a joke and like nobody had the right to be upset over it. Again this was another case of EastEnders showing the Slaters behaving in a reprehensible way and expecting fans to find it endearing and hilarious just because it’s the Slaters and on a night where we were supposed to be excited and happy to see Kat back, I found myself wishing that she had never returned to at all.

Of course, after realising that having no friends on the square wouldn’t be beneficial in the long term, Kat and Stacey returned to the Vic to pay back the remainder of their debt on Friday’s episode but since this was a full week after Kat returned, their apologies fell flat and seemed forced. They’re now going to have an uphill battle ahead of them to regain the trust and friendship of Walford’s residents and literally all of that could have been avoided if they’d just been humble about the misunderstanding over Kat’s ‘death.’ I get that maybe it wouldn’t have made as interesting television, if Kat and Stacey had begged for forgiveness that night but we’re supposed to like these characters, not find their actions detestable.

 

As I said at the start, this is early days and there’s plenty of time for 2018 Kat, Big Mo, Jean and Stacey to improve and become better characters but some changes do need to be made in order for this to happen. Perhaps the biggest change is that the show’s writers need to stop overestimating the love and adoration that they believe fans have for certain legacy characters. We need a reason to like Kat Slater in 2018 beyond the fact that she is Kat Slater. Give us more than that. Change isn’t always a bad thing either. We don’t want to see these characters stay the exact same people forever. Like most things involving the Slater revival in the last two weeks, that’s not representative with real life.

 

Ben Mitchell and Eight Other Disappointing EastEnders’ Exits From the 2010s

10398046-low_res-eastenders-e1455804326579

Ten days ago, Ben Mitchell made his exit from EastEnders. Despite the actor who portrayed him, Harry Reid, finally getting the character right on the third attempt and being generally popular with fans of the show, the three months of discontent that followed his axing announcement wasn’t enough to reverse anybody’s decision and EastEnders is now left without one of the show’s best written LGBT characters in years.

I’ve long argued that Ben shouldn’t have been axed on this blog but if he had to leave, at the very least I felt like he should have got an exit that was truly special. Unfortunately, special is the last thing that comes to mind, when I think of how Ben left last week. In a drastic change of the character that had been established by Harry Reid over the last few years, Ben ended up being the one to steal the money that Aiden Maguire made from his big New Year’s Day heist and made plans to run away without even asking his brother from another mother, Jay to come along with him. Anybody who has even been a casual EastEnders fan over the last few years, would have found Ben’s unexplained abandonment of Jay bizarre and things didn’t get any better during his final episode, when he somehow lost most of the heist money on the ferry to France, shrugged it off and then walked out into Calais, with gangster Ciara Maguire lurking around in the shadows behind him and his ultimate fate left ambiguous.

The exit of Ben Mitchell was a disaster. Rushed and forcing him to act completely out of character, Harry Reid’s promise that it wouldn’t let fans down, ended up being broken. With that said, when you look at some of the exits over the last decade or so, Ben Mitchell’s wasn’t the only one to disappoint, so today I’m going to shine a spotlight on eight of them. From endings that didn’t live up to the potential the character offered, to some that were just plain boring, this is my list of eight other Eastenders’ exits from the 2010s that left me feeling disappointed:

 

Character #1: Vanessa Gold

elib_4741597-e1465303424970

Played By- Zoe Lucker

Date of Exit- October 6th 2011

Best known for her famous ‘bubbly’s in the fridge,’ breakdown when she discovered that her partner Max Branning was having an affair with his ex wife Tanya, Vanessa Gold was a valuable addition to EastEnders in 2010 and 2011.  A glamorous, high maintenance lady on the outside, Vanessa became more interesting when it was revealed that she was actually a slave to crippling Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and eventually was shown to be brave enough to defeat her inner demons and leave her controlling and abusive husband, Harry.  Despite initially only being brought in on a short term, seven episode deal, Vanessa eventually became a full time character and was even nominated for a Best Newcomer prize at the Inside Soap Awards.

The main problem with Vanessa, was that she was only brought in to have a relationship with Max, in order to eventually get Max back together with Tanya, so when their romance ended writers didn’t really know what to do with her next, leading to them axing the character. I’m a big fan of the main villain at the time, Michael Moon and this era of EastEnders in general but even I have to admit that Vanessa’s exit storyline, involving the enigmatic Michael paying her to have a false relationship with his estranged dad Eddie, wasn’t an adequate enough final plot for a character as great as Vanessa. Her final scene, where she was abandoned at the side of the road by Eddie and left to fend for herself, was perhaps a fitting enough way to write off a character as high maintenance as her but the whole thing felt a little underwhelming. Her character, who performed so well during Max and Tanya’s affair story, deserved much better.

 

Character #2: Ray Dixon

EastEnders

Played By- Chucky Venn

Date of Exit- 28th May 2013

I’m not going to pretend that Ray Dixon shouldn’t have been axed, in case it had kept us from getting Kim Fox and the wonderful Vincent from ultimately getting together but in a similar fashion to Ben Mitchell, Ray, who had shown a lot of potential as the Queen Vic’s well mannered, nice guy bartender, completely changed his personality in the weeks leading up to his exit from the soap.

Despite being a generally loyal and understanding partner to Kim before, in the months before his exit Ray became a serial womaniser and an increasingly more unpleasant and unlikeable character. His decision to kiss Kim’s sister Denise and then blame it all on Denise was such snake like behaviour, that Kim’s plans to move away with him made zero sense to begin with, completely ruining the emotional point of Ray’s exit, when Kim decided she couldn’t be in a relationship with a man she had so little in common with, forcing Ray to leave by himself. The truth is that when Ray and Kim first got together, they were shown to have more in common with each other than they did at the end. EastEnders bosses don’t always seem to get, that when you’re axing a character, you don’t need to strip them of everything that made them popular to begin with. Even five years later this is still something they haven’t grasped.

 

Character #3: Jack Branning

Played by- Scott Maslen

Date of Exit- October 2013

Of course Jack Branning returned to EastEnders in 2015 and has been present ever since but back in 2013, there was a feeling of permanency when Scott Maslen announced he was leaving the soap behind. He spoke to the media in length about how he felt typecast as a soap actor and needed to challenge himself, so at the time it felt like when he exited, he definitely wouldn’t be back again. Big things were expected from his final episodes, perhaps involving a dramatic storyline that forced him to leave or an emotional goodbye party, that was finished off with a rousing rendition of Julia’s Theme but in the end, the whole thing ended up being kind of, boring.

Essentially, after a brief reunion with Ronnie, Jack realised that their relationship wasn’t going to work and in a final episode that could only be described as low-key, he decided to go off to France to be closer to his daughter Penny, who as we know in the present is rarely referred to and certainly never visited. I can only assume that EastEnders’ higher ups were so unimpressed with Maslen’s departure, that they decided to have him leave in as underwhelming a fashion as possible, with no Julia’s Theme to see him off but at the time the whole ordeal bored viewers and seemed like a ridiculously unfair way to see off such a popular character. Thank goodness Jack returned, leaving this terrible exit mostly forgotten.

 

Character #4: Sadie Young 

p01dr0v4

Played By- Kate Magowan

Date of Exit- 21st January 2014

I talked about Sadie Young in a fair amount of detail, in my post about EastEnders characters of the past decade who were already mostly forgotten but it’s worth reiterating again that with proper writing, Sadie could have became a pretty important character. Sadie, who briefly ran Tanya’s salon, had the right amount of attitude and backbone, despite being a generally kind and forgiving person who just wanted the best for her family but asides from a storyline involving her husband Jake Stone having an affair with the significantly younger Lauren Branning, she never ended up accomplishing much and certainly didn’t live up to the ‘eventual landlady of the Queen Vic,’ potential, that certain fans, on a certain internet forum placed on her.

Honestly there wasn’t a lot wrong with Sadie’s exit specifically, since the low-key nature of it was kind of a fitting response to the low-key nature of her entire EastEnders’ tenure but there was something that just left a bitter taste in my mouth about the whole thing. Over the course of a week, Sadie found out her husband was cheating yet again, decided to leave him and the next day shut down the salon, before never being seen again. I’m not sure why EastEnders’ writers didn’t try harder to make Sadie into a big deal but it’s completely their fault that the character failed, thanks to constantly not making her seem important. Her completely forgettable exit just proves this further.

 

Character #5: Lola Pearce


generics

Played By- Danielle Harold

Date of Exit- 28th July 2015

On the subject of characters who had a lot of potential Lola Pearce, Billy Mitchell’s granddaughter, had everything she needed to become a really important addition to EastEnders. With an extremely talented and adaptable actress in the role, who even managed to make a cliched by then, teen pregnancy storyline work, Lola quickly became a well liked citizen of Albert Square who most viewers didn’t mind watching every week. I can understand a criticism some fans may have, that Lola was perhaps a little over exposed under Executive Producers Bryan Kirkwood and Lorraine Newman but to me it seemed unfair that when Dominic Treadwell-Collins took over, Lola was pushed offscreen as much as possible and was written to do very little of interest, eventually leading to her exit.

Once again the biggest problem about Lola’s exit is that she was axed to begin with but with that said, it still wasn’t a particularly good one and it certainly wasn’t one that did her character any justice. To summarise it as succinctly as possible, Lola and her friend Jay Mitchell decided that they were romantically attracted to each other and made plans to go to Newcastle to live together. Lola and Jay had always shared this believable chemistry, so I had no issue with this but then a bunch of unrealistic nonsense happened. Firstly, Jay was arrested for stealing Lucy Beale’s mobile phone on the night she died, leaving him forced to stay in Walford for another month and while Lola was in Newcastle alone, offscreen it was revealed she had got together with past character Dexter Hartman, leaving Jay broken hearted. I have no issue with Dexter but even I found Lola’s actions cruel and unrealistic and it all just felt like DTC’s way of sticking a final nail in the coffin of a character he didn’t help create.

 

Character Six: Kyle Slater 

kyle-slater

Played By- Riley Carter Millington

Date of Exit- 25th November 2016

At the start, a lot of time and effort was put into the character of Kyle Slater. With Riley Carter Millington’s status as the first ever transgender main character to be in EastEnders and a complex story involving Stacey’s dad having a secret family just so he could be introduced, the very least they could have done was made sure that Kyle ended up having a memorable and interesting exit. I liked Kyle but even if writers didn’t have enough faith in the actor’s ability to be forced into more prominent stories, the character deserved better than just deciding to move to France to be a chef one day and then never really being mentioned onscreen again.

Riley himself confirmed that he felt disappointed by the character’s exit and it’s hard to blame him. At the start he had a lot of interesting stories centred around his gender, including a great one involving his mum, who couldn’t accept that he had changed his sex and to see none of this effectively resolved was a big shame. Just casting a transgender character, making a big deal about it and then doing nothing afterwards isn’t good enough. You have to sign people from the LGBT community with better intent than just touting how progressive it makes you, like EastEnders sadly did with Kyle.

 

Character #7: Andy Flynn

Andy_Flynn

Played By- Jack Derges 

Date of Exit- 8th August 2016

Andy Flynn who was really Gareth Jones, the brother of Ronnie Mitchell’s dead daughter Danielle, was brought in to get revenge on Ronnie for his sisters’s death and may have have been supposed to have a more prominent role on EastEnders, only for plans to change when Sean O’Connor took over from Dominic Treadwell-Collins as EastEnders’ Executive Producer. Andy was one of those villains who had genuinely understandable motivations and his character, who was a handsome, fun loving lad’s lad on the outside, while being secretly psychotic was a really interesting and generally underused one in the world of soaps, so even though there wasn’t a lot wrong with the execution of his exit it still left me disappointed.

Ultimately over the course of a dramatic few episodes, Andy revealed who he was to Ronnie and tried to get revenge on her, only to realise that she wasn’t really responsible for Danielle’s death and ended up leaving, after making peace with Ronnie. That’s probably a fair enough way to conclude the storyline and it all felt natural instead of rushed but it was hard to take when Andy left straight away as soon as the story was resolved. Andy had built up solid friendships with the likes of Stacey, Martin, Jack and even Ronnie herself and I would have loved to see him become a full time character, so his departure felt a little disheartening.

 

Character #8: Luke Browning

eastenders-luke-browning-1086333

Played By- Adam Astill

Date of Exit- 5th December 2017

The most recent exit to feature on this list and by far the most disappointing, was the exit of Luke Browning, the standout of the entire ill fated James Willmott-Brown storyline. I’d say that anybody who watched EastEnders regularly last year would know what happened to Luke but the truth is, that all it would have taken would be for viewers to miss one episode and they’d be clueless why he randomly disappeared. Despite being a prominent figure at Weyland and Co and being part of an excellent abusive relationship storyline with Ben Mitchell, Luke’s final appearance just involved him being bundled into a van by a bunch of masked men and then he was never seen and only referred to again a further three times (yeah I counted, what’s it to do with you?).

To be fair, Luke’s bemused ‘really?’ as he was kidnapped by Aidan Maguire’s friends was a really fitting way of writing out a character as quirky and unique as him but he was such a well liked element of the show and a genuine success, that a lot of people were sad to see him go no matter how well done it was. The lack of resolution about his fate was also annoying and actually was eerily similar to Ben’s recent exit. There is a possibility of course, that Luke Browning could be brought back at a later date, like the aforementioned Vanessa Gold or Danny Pennant, who were brought back after popular brief roles but for now, Luke’s fate being left unknown is just torturous and has been mishandled.

 

That concludes my list of eight EastEnders’ exits from the 2010s, that I felt were around as disappointing as Ben Mitchell’s. If you have any feedback on the post or feel like I left out any particularly bad exits, please feel free to let me know on my Twitter account @heathyheath_ or in the comments section below. Thank you so much for reading as always and to finish this post off in a fashion that’s fitting of this blog post, I’m going to make my grand exit by saying, well… Bye?

 

Eight Reasons Why EastEnders Has Been Terrible Since the Christmas Episode

EastEnders - Christmas IconicI strongly believe that this year’s Christmas episode of EastEnders, was one of the best of all time. Sure it had its faults, the main one being Max and Stacey reigniting their affair, for no valid reason asides from ‘hey it’s been 10 years since their affair storyline had its payoff, we should probably redo that again,’ but overall, the big blow out to Max’s year long revenge storyline was a major success. Social media was abuzz all night, EastEnders beat Coronation Street by over a million viewers to become the country’s most watched Christmas soap of the year and most importantly, the cliffhanger involving Abi and Lauren’s plunge off the Queen Victoria roof left viewers desperate to find out what happened next.

The Christmas episode’s success, combined with the James Willmott-Brown storyline hurtling towards its conclusion and increasing anticipation for the big heist that Aidan Maguire had planned for the New Year episodes, left a lot of fans excited about what was coming up next in EastEnders. Sadly that excitement seems misplaced and the show’s quality has completely dropped off, almost overnight.

From stories being wrapped up as quickly as possible, to consistent confusion that seems to follow every episode, reaction to EastEnders post-Christmas time, has been mixed at best and today I’m here to offer eight reasons, that in my opinion have contributed to the show’s slump. As I’ve said, this is all my opinion and if you’re someone who has enjoyed EastEnders recently, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section or over on my Twitter account @heathyheath_ For now at least without further ado, here are my eight reasons why I really haven’t enjoyed the soap since Christmas time:

 

One: Apathy Towards Abi

When Abi and Lauren Branning both fell off the Queen Vic roof on Christmas Day, it was clear that at least one of the girls was going to die and while Abi hasn’t passed away yet, she is completely brain dead, with Max being the only character who refuses to accept that she is beyond recovery. For all of Max’s faults, such as him being the man responsible for her fall in the first place, at least he seems to care about his daughter unlike Abi’s mum Tanya, who hasn’t been seen onscreen since Boxing Day, her grandmother Dot, who hasn’t been to visit at all and her best friends Ben and Jay, who were shown larking around and having fun on New Year’s Eve, while Abi was in hospital fighting for her life.

To be fair, Jo Joyner who plays Tanya is rarely available for filming and has at least been referred to onscreen like she’s still around and our beloved June Brown, who plays Dot is at an advanced age that necessitates long breaks from the show but there is no excuse for showing Ben and Jay having the best of times in the Vic, just mere days after Abi’s fall. We’re meant to believe that she is a real person who is about to die, so this absence of concern for her from certain characters is jarring and creates a disconnect with the story, that I struggle to look past. The possibly tacked on scene involving Jay and Ben discussing how sad they were about Abi, on Thursday night’s episode, at least showed them grieving about their friend but it still felt like a case of ‘too little, too late.’

 

Two: A Rushed Finish to a Major Storyline- The Weyland and Co Plot

As I said earlier, throughout December the Weyland and Co Storyline that involved past mega villain James Willmott-Brown attempting to take over and redevelop Albert Square, seemed to be picking up momentum and getting better each week. A huge amount of screen time had been invested on this story in all of 2017 and I was excited to see how it was all going to come together and conclude. Yet again this excitement was misplaced and after Christmas, over the space of two episodes, the story didn’t so much conclude, it just kind of stopped.

At the start of those episodes, James Willmott-Brown delivered a monologue to his conflicted daughter Fi, about how he had a safe that contained deeds and documents that if leaked, would be enough to completely ruin his evil plan and entire career. His speech seemed so blatant and obvious, that most people assumed he was simply lying as a way of testing Fi’s loyalty but unbelievably, she  later went into the safe and took the documents to the police and it had the exact impact JWB said it would, causing him to have a heart attack and ownership of the local businesses in Walford to all be returned to their original holders. That’s right, essentially a year of programming was completely reverted within 45 minutes.

Granted, the original owners do have to pay back the money they sold their property for, which is still driving Mick Carter to try and buy the Vic back through crime but overall, the core Weyland and Co storyline was rushed to a finish within two episodes and the whole thing was poorly done. I understand that this plot was Sean O’Connor’s storyline and that the new Executive Producer John Yorke wants to do his own thing but viewers invested nearly a year of their time on it. As someone pointed out to me, this is the sort of thing that will make viewers hesitate before they get invested in a long term storyline again. Heck I’ve already struggled to care about the ongoing heist story, which I’ll get to later on and part of the blame for that lies with me not being truly over the James Willmott-Brown angle yet.

 

Three: Underwhelming Character Exits

13094642-low_res-eastenders-portraits-2017-e1493304524984

On the subject of Fi Browning, Lisa Faulkner the lady who plays her, had confirmed that she was set to leave EastEnders at the end of 2017 but even taking that into consideration, her exit ended up being so underwhelming and understated that most people could barely believe she genuinely had finished. Before the Weyland and Co plot was so badly rushed, they may have had grander plans for the end of Fi but as it was the whole exit just sucked. In her final episode, she enlisted Max Branning to help ‘one last time,’ for seemingly no reason at all, went into the Queen Vic offering to sell Mick and Linda back the contract for the pub, was quickly rejected and then said her goodbyes to Max outside, before visiting her dad in his nursing home and leaving him to live out his last few months completely alone. It was nice to see Fi leave looking so strong and independent but in general her exit was pretty uninspiring.

Fi wasn’t the only Willmott-Brown related character to have a boring exit either. Hugo seemingly had his last scene gravely realising the error of his ways after James’ heart attack before never being onscreen again, James himself was last spotted dying in the bed of a nursing home completely alone, in an exit that would have been fitting enough if the story hadn’t been rushed and Luke Browning probably won’t be seen or referred to again, having fallen off the face of the earth since his kidnapping. I realise it’s not fair to penalise the writers for Luke, in a blog post about EastEnders since Christmas time but he was such a great character, I’m going to hold it against them every single episode that they don’t at least reference him being alive and well. Luke is way too good a character to write off forever.

 

Four: Halfway? More Like Halfwit! 

EastEnders-spoilers-Tony-Clay-s-Callum-Halfway-Highway-shot-Mick-Carter-1179086

In a television programme where great characters like Fi and Luke Browning are exiting with little to no fanfare, the introduction of Halfway, Lee Carter’s childhood friend who made his debut shooting Mick Carter by accident, was so bad that it deserves its own section on this list. I have no problem with characters being brought in purely as comic relief and to be fair, the wonderful Taylors had a terrible first week before becoming popular but so far, I have found most of the comedy involving Halfway to be absolutely dreadful and it’s making me feel automatically inclined to not like him.

From accidentally ordering five times the amount of alcohol the pub needed (a cataclysmic error that would lose most people their job), to standing like a fool with a tampon stuck up his nose, the comedy involving Halfway has been mostly groan inducing and the fact that Shirley jokingly made a point of calling him Halfwit instead of Halfway, TWICE in the same hour long episode, suggests to me that his dumb act is going to get old quickly. The fact that Mick then employed this outright moron, who literally shot him the day before, to work at his bar is one of the most ridiculous plot points in EastEnders for a long time.

 

Five: Selfish Sharon, Loud Linda

When Mick Carter began to tease a potential affair with Whitney last year, I was baffled by the sheer amount of people who seemed to think it was a good idea. Convinced that Mick and Linda were a perfect couple who should be kept together at all costs, I thought that the people who demanded they break up were crazy or at least seeing something that I just couldn’t.

I don’t know what caused me to change my mind exactly but lately I haven’t just been able to understand this point of view but I’ve also began to hope for a Mick and Linda breakup as well. Linda has spent almost every day since Christmas treating him like a child, interfering in his business constantly and screaming in his face about how he had better get his share of the money for the heist, despite being told by Mariam, a nurse just scenes before, that unnecessary stress could end up killing her recently shot husband. Things have got so bad, that I begin to dread every scene they’re both involved in

Sharon Mitchell has also been equally as awful in the last few weeks, which has left me fearing about the portrayal of most of the female characters in EastEnders in 2018. I kind of get where they’re going by showing Sharon accepting Phil’s return to a life of crime, since a lot of fan’s hated her being a nagging doormat but it almost feels like they’ve gone too far in the other direction, by showing her essentially relishing being the wife of a criminal and it makes her look selfish, especially when it’s blatantly obvious that Phil is dragging other residents into the firing line, including Mick who is the husband of her supposed best friend Linda. Linda and Sharon have been around for long enough, it shouldn’t be that hard to keep them likeable.

 

Six: The Heist Story Is Way Too Complicated 

EastEnders-heist-1169832

I understand that stories that make us have to think in order to understand what’s happening fully, aren’t a bad thing but based on the reaction I’ve seen, I still believe that Aidan Maguire’s heist plot is way too complicated. Initially I was excited to see the robbery, that involves major characters such as Phil Mitchell, Vincent Hubbard and Mick Carter, unfold but the final result felt extremely contrived and was so complex that questions from all of the 5 Ws were being asked by both the press and social media.

When are they going to explain what all of this is about? Why did they choose to commit the robbery in broad daylight, right beside the place they were going to stash the stolen goods? Who is this Irish lady and what’s so important about her, that she was able to call off the police team who went to respond to reports of the robbery? What were the stolen goods? I find it hard to believe that this tiny van contained nearly a million pounds of valuables and they’ve done nothing to address this for around a week now. Where is this all going?

It might have been a better idea to introduce Aidan and Ciara, a little sooner because if they’re going to be the main focus of this story, we should have been given more reasons to care about them beforehand. I like Aidan but I can understand fans finding it hard to accept him as the new top guy in Walford, when he only debuted back in December.

Honestly, I’m maybe being a little too critical here but I would have a lot more faith in this storyline having a satisfying conclusion, if the pay off to the James Willmott-Brown one had been even remotely good. As always watch this space but the heist episodes being met online with mass confusion and even boredom at times, more than likely wasn’t the reaction that the people behind the show were hoping for.

 

Seven: Killing Keanu’s Character

34346869913_846d01b5ec_b

As I said in my 2017 new character rankings, Keanu Taylor is a great character who has a lot of potential to be a big star on EastEnders in the long term. Portrayed as sensitive and sensible, Keanu quickly became a popular young character in the last few months of the year and while I was initially hyped to see him involved in the heist storyline, my excitement quickly died down when he was exposed as a gullible idiot several times over.

It was bad enough that Keanu was taking part in the heist for just a thousand pounds, considering the likes of Mick and Vincent were being offered around a hundred and fifty thousand pounds each but even more damage was caused to Keanu’s character, when he was looking through the political themed robbery masks and seemed gleeful at the sight of Donald Trump, exclaiming that he liked him because he was funny. I’m probably nitpicking but we’re meant to find Keanu likeable and him openly admitting to being a fan of probably the most unpopular American President of all time, really wasn’t a good way to accomplish this.

Keanu doesn’t have to be a genius but he doesn’t need to be portrayed as a complete idiot either, especially on a show where Halfway now exists.

 

Eight: Another Rushed Finish to a Major Storyline- Phil Telling Jay He Killed His Real Father

The Weyland and Co storyline wasn’t the only one to be dropped as quickly as possible, with minimal fuss over the festive period. In a series of episodes back in September, that included a dramatic and emotional half an hour two hander, between Jay Brown and Phil Mitchell, Phil revealed to Jay that he had grown up mistaken about the identity of his biological father and that his real father had actually been the homeless man that Phil had accidentally killed back in the 90s. At the time, it seemed pretty obvious that Phil was outright lying or at least bending the truth but it didn’t take long for the story to stop being mentioned on television and for a while it seemed possible that this would end up being one of those storylines, that happens and then never really gets referred to on TV again.

To EastEnders’ credit, this plot didn’t join the ranks of Billy Mitchell and the stolen post and after Christmas, Max revealed to Jay that he had blackmailed Phil into lying to him about the identity of his dad, as part of Max’s grand revenge plan. It felt a little hard to believe that Max Branning could convince the obtuse Phil Mitchell to do anything, especially with limited evidence that Phil had paid off the head juror in the Lucy Beale murder case but the reasoning behind Phil’s lie wasn’t the real issue here, it was how Jay reacted to it.

Despite Phil making Jay believe for months that he had been wrong about who his father was, when Jay found out he had been lied to, in a short scene in the Arches he simply told Phil that he now knew the real truth and after Phil apologised, Jay’s reaction was little more than, ‘eh it’s okay, I understand.’ I appreciate that this was not John Yorke’s idea and that it was at least resolved on TV in some manner but yet again, another story that viewers may have got invested in, was simply disregarded as quickly as possible, so when Aidan’s cousin Sheamus is revealed as the man who stole his money, things like this will be the reason why nobody cares.

 

That concludes my list of reasons behind my lack of EastEnders’ enjoyment since Christmas time. As we enter another week of new programming, I can only hope that Aidan’s cousin Sheamus doesn’t get introduced and that the show can steady itself into the new year. No soap is perfect, especially when you’re trying to revert a lot of the changes that were implemented by the last person in charge but fingers crossed John Yorke will go past these growing pains and provide an even better EastEnders than we had last year.

On a personal note, I would like to thank everybody who jumped on board and supported this new blog at the end of 2017. I can’t guarantee that I’ll always post to a high standard or that I will be able to update on a regular basis but in the same vein as last year, I’ll do my best. I hope that every single one of my readers had a great festive period and have the most successful and happy 2018 that you can possibly get. Thanks for stopping by.

 

Ranking the 23 New EastEnders Characters in 2017 From Worst To Best: Part Two

In last week’s blog post I started ranking this year’s new EastEnders characters from worst to best and after a mostly negative review of the likes of Preston Cooper, Tom who spent all of his time stalking Michelle and the bland Mister Pryce, it’s time to focus on my top ten favourite new characters of 2017, in what should be a generally positive Part Two. If you read Part One, I’m sure you’ll have noticed that I haven’t included a fair few members of the Taylor Family or of Weyland and Co, so I don’t think it’s a massive spoiler to say that you should expect them to feature heavily here today:

10th: Josh Hemmings

Joshhemmingsnoglasses

Played By: Eddie Eyre

First Appearance: 17th March

See I told you. Coming in at number ten on my list is Josh, the half brother of Fi and Luke Browning and the son of James Willmott-Brown. I initially wasn’t fond of Josh because I found him to be obnoxious in his intense chasing of Lauren Branning, who he knew was already in a relationship but over time he began to grow on me, as it became increasingly more apparent that he was a good guy at his core, despite being part of an unapologetically evil family. The romantic angle with Lauren, that almost seemed to be harassment at the very start was toned down, with Josh giving her plenty of space to become attracted to him naturally, instead of trying to force it and now their relationship actually seems believable and much better for it.

Josh does have an aggressive edge to his character as we’ve seen over the last week or so and his struggle between his loyalty for his family and his loyalty for Lauren has caused him to rebel a little against his dad recently, so he’s more than just the bland minion of Weyland and Co that he seemed at the start. I’m very impressed at the turnaround they’ve managed to complete with him. With his sister and his dad already confirmed to leave at the conclusion of this Weyland storyline and Lauren’s imminent December exit, I’m pretty certain that there’s going to be no long term future for Josh on the show and that makes me a little sad. As a character who’s trying to do the right thing, he does have a chance when this whole mess is over to stick around but I have a feeling that unfortunately, Josh could end up dead as a consequence of his dad’s evil screaming.

 

9th: Woody Woodward

woody-eastenders

Played By: Lee Ryan

First Appearance: 18th April

As someone who liked Cora’s grandson Dexter better than most people and who ranks Fatboy as one of my favourite ever EastEnders characters, I understand inexplicably feeling attached to a character who conventional logic says that you should hate. Something like this has clearly happened to me with Woody. Portrayed by long term irritant Lee Ryan and with the ridiculous name Woody Woodward, Woody should have been an object of hatred but instead surprised me by injecting a bit of fun and life into a Queen Vic, which was starting to feel stale and depressing under the Carters.

When Woody, who was a cover barman as a favour for Linda Carter originally, was made bar manager by Grafton Hill, I feared that his fun and kind persona might have been fake and that he might have been a pawn in the Weyland and Co storyline but it seems like that was a red herring of some kind, since it was never hinted again that he was even remotely trying to plot against Mick and Linda. That wasn’t a problem, since it’s sometimes refreshing to have a character with no secrets or agendas and who is there to just add fun. I have a feeling that Woody is a Marmite character with most viewers, one that you either think is great or who you can’t stand, with no inbetween but personally I really like him.

This isn’t to say that I’ve found Woody to be perfect all the same. He recently returned to the show engaged to Whitney Dean, in one of the quickest offscreen whirlwind romances ever, which meant it was extremely irritating when they expected us to care and feel invested in the couple immediately without any build up but at it’s core, that’s the writing team’s fault. The relationship seemingly also brought out the worst in him, especially during one episode when he followed  a conflicted Whitney around the square, basically arguing her into deciding to stay with him. The cowardly way in which he left for a bit recently also wasn’t a good look, after he got cold feet and left Whitney to go off to be a barman in Ibiza. When he returns, the writers are going to have to quickly work out the best way to write him and stick with it. Lee Ryan’s EastEnders future depends on it.

 

8th and 7th: Alexanda D’Costa and Madison Drake

Played By: Sydney Craven and Seraphina Beh

First Appearance: 17th January

For six months straight, I found myself absolutely hating Alexandra and Madison and that’s great because that was exactly the point of them. The bullies in the controversial but important Walford High bullying storyline, for no reason apart from maybe jealousy, decided to make Bex Fowler’s life absolutely miserable by doing various evil acts, such as turning her best friend Louise Mitchell against her, forcing her to eat dirt from the ground that they had convinced her were chocolate truffles and even smashing her precious and expensive acoustic guitar. As if they weren’t hateful enough by that point, they then turned their bullying towards their own friend Louise, getting her blackout drunk and convincing her the responsibility for it lay with her boyfriend (the aforementioned Travis who I talked about in Part One) and ultimately causing Louise to suffer from the burns that still mentally affect her in the present.

Madison and Alexandra were often difficult to watch at times but I have no doubt that the actors played their role well and if anything, my biggest criticism is that their back story was never really expanded on. It would have helped them if they’d showed us why they had so much hatred in their hearts. I get that they were so horrible that they deserved comeuppance in some way but their exit just involved them being carried away by the police, after burning Louise and then they were never seen or mentioned of again and this seemed to annoy a fair few fans.

Maybe some day when they’re older, the characters will return and I think so long as too much time hasn’t elapsed that most fans have forgotten them, they’ll be able to succeed all over again. EastEnders may have received a lot of criticism for the Walford High bullying story being ‘too much like like Grange Hill,’ or being focused on too much but in my eyes its impossible to claim any of the blame for that lies with the brilliant Alexandra and Madison.

 

6th: Karen Taylor

Karen_Taylor_(2017)

Played By: Lorraine Stanley

First Appearance: 15th June

As I’ve said already, the Taylor family took a bit of time to click but when they did, they became a vital part of EastEnders. A large part of their success of course lies with Karen Taylor, the family matriarch. The thing with a character like Karen, is that you need to correctly balance them being a bit rough around the edges and abrasive, with also being secretly good hearted and caring and at the start I felt like the writers did a poor job of it. She would be selfish and abrasive, which made it difficult to watch and had such a poor control over her children that sometimes, I genuinely wondered if they were trying to make viewers hate her instead of feel empathy towards her.

Like all of the Taylors and a fair few other characters on this list, over time the worst of Karen’s traits were toned down and she quickly became a delight in almost every scene she was involved in. Possessing audience pleasing humour and motivated by her driving love for her children, Karen’s vulnerabilities began to make her character stronger instead of weaker and now that she’s built up some friendships and respect with other characters on the show, she has started to become a major success.

Her recent loan shark story has maybe been a little cliche but after being involved in several great moments, such as when she helped Sharon, Michelle and Denise with Tom the stalker, when she found out that Bernadette had suffered her miscarriage and when the Taylors hosted dessert as part of the Queen Vic food night, I’m mainly excited to see more of Karen in 2018. I still feel bad for wishing for her axing during her first week! She can stay for a long time as far as I’m concerned now.

 

5th: Aidan Maguire 

landscape-1512774113-soaps-eastenders-patrick-bergin-aidan-maguire-1

Played By: Patrick Bergin

First Appearance: 27th November

The fact that Aidan hasn’t been around for a full month and has somehow managed to make my top five is a testimony of how great a character he’s been. The steely, magnetising Irishman, who once shared a cell with Phil Mitchell, has spent the last few weeks trying to recruit a team of characters to help him in some sort of robbery/heist that seems to be targeted against Willmott-Brown and it’s been great television. We don’t know a big amount of his backstory and most characters, asides from his friend Phil don’t either but he’s still been impressive enough to convince Mick Carter, Vincent Hubbard and Keanu to join up, to help pull off his scheme, which is set to happen at the beginning of the new year.

In a testimony to just how charismatic Aidan is, it only crossed my mind the other night that his plan might not be successful and that the members of his team could all end up paying dearly in some way. When a character is so convincing that he’s able to make you believe in what he’s selling, that’s when you know they’re truly great. I really like Aidan and I’m so excited to see what he’s going to do in EastEnders over the Christmas holiday period. Even if his plan goes up in flames, it’s going to be an amazing fire to behold.

4th: Sophie (Fi) Browning

13094642-low_res-eastenders-portraits-2017-e1493304524984

Played By: Lisa Faulkner

First Appearance: 31st March 1987 (Returned April 2017)

As a representative for Grafton Hill, brought in to make sweeping changes to the Queen Vic in order to make it more profitable, I didn’t pay as much attention to Fi Browning at the start as I should have. There was no doubting Fi’s charm or her charisma but at the time, I just thought she was a minor player in a storyline, that was hard to understand and way too slow at times. After the story got more familiar however and it was revealed that Fi was in fact Sophie, the daughter of past mega villain James Willmott-Brown, who had been behind the whole Weyland and Co scheme, it began to become apparent just how important she is.

A rare character who got more and more interesting as time went on, the slow reveals that she was in a relationship with Max Branning the whole time he was in a sham one with Carmel and that she was James Willmott-Brown’s daughter, were extremely effective and proved that when you don’t withhold character details just for the sake of it, they can be revealed to a positive reception. Fi has been probably the most important element of the Weyland and Co storyline, doing the majority of the heavy work when it came to taking over the Queen Vic and being a cool and calm influence in comparison to her hot headed and erratic older brother Luke and her conflicted younger brother Josh.

It’s a shame that Lisa Faulkner, who plays Sophie has confirmed that she is to leave EastEnders at the conclusion of this story. Recent events have showed that, just like Josh, she does have a heart and only did a lot of her more evil deeds, in order to please her father, so she could have been redeemed. It says a lot about the complexities of her character, that unlike Josh who is slowly turning on his dad because he’s fallen in love with Lauren, she’s mainly doing it because she’s fallen in love with the Carters and the Queen Vic.

 

3rd: Keanu Taylor

34346869913_846d01b5ec_b

Played By: Danny Walters

First Appearance: 15th June

Ignore the tough guy pose in the photo above because Keanu Taylor, right now is possibly the most kind and gentle character in EastEnders. Even when I was convinced that the Taylors were dead on arrival, something about Keanu screamed ‘Breakout Character,’ and I’m pleased to say that so far I haven’t been wrong. He did fall into the same pitfalls as the rest of his family at the start and was very lucky to avoid a teased incest storyline between himself and his sister Bernadette but from then on it was almost plain sailing, as it became obvious just how much of a good guy he was. Despite being shunned by the community initially for his role in a ridiculous plot, that seen the family steal Arthur Fowler’s memorial bench, Keanu would go around the square performing random acts of kindness, like planting flowers again that had been destroyed and never once asked for attention or money, for any of his good deeds.

As someone who has spent pretty big portions of my life unemployed, I’ve loved seeing Keanu’s raw and very real struggle to get a job and his associated shame in having to claim jobseekers allowance. We all know there’s a pretty unfair stigma attached to signing on for benefits and his internal conflict between needing money and not wanting to be like his mother, who had been a claimant for most of her life was a heartbreaking but important plot to put on television and I don’t think Keanu or Sean O’Connor got as much credit as they deserved for addressing it. His other storylines have been mostly successful as well, give or take the outdated male escort story that seems to have been thankfully dropped and I’m very interested to see where his relationship with Ingrid and his role in Aidan’s upcoming grand crime is going to go in 2018.

It’s a little hard to put into words succinctly what’s so great about Keanu’s character (I could write endlessly why I love all of the characters in my top three) but with a moral compass that veers towards doing the right thing, a love for his family that stretches out above anything else, a gritty East End personality that makes him unafraid of getting his hands dirty and an extremely talented actor to draw all these factors together, Keanu has been great and I can’t wait to see more of him next year. I hope Danny Walters has no plans to leave for the foreseeable future because if he sticks around, Keanu is going to be huge.

 

2nd: Keegan Baker

1003732_eastenders_spoilers_keegan_baker_zack_morris_interview_new_plot_a753c4bd239abab6cac02d16946fcc2a.jpg

Played By: Zack Morris

First Appearace: 9th January

The majority of characters that I’ve had positive opinions of in these blog posts, all started off rather unlikeable and then grew on me more as time went on, so it’s fitting that my second favourite new EastEnders character of 2017 completed the biggest one eighty turn of all. Originally introduced as Shaki’s mean best friend and as a supporting player during the Walford High bullying plot, Keegan was often shown to be violent, homophobic and cruel in his treatment of other characters and it got so bad, that when Denise Fox snapped and knocked him to the ground with a slap, I’m pretty sure I stood up and broke into a chorus of applause.

What really helped Keegan was the introduction of his family, the Taylors because it helped to explain why he was such a bitter and angry young man. Over time we began to see that there was a vulnerability to him, he loved his family despite often rebelling against Karen, he genuinely did care about being a good friend to Shaki and he felt guilt over what happened to Louise at the conclusion of the Walford High plot, unlike the unapologetic Alexandra and Madison. Recently he surprised everybody by getting a job as a market street sweeper and sticking with it and it seems as time goes on he’s only going to continue to be more likeable and less of the arrogant toerag that he was at the start.

Honestly, if you’d told me at the start of the year that I’d end up declaring Keegan to be the second best new character of 2017, I would have assumed that most of the other new introductions were terrible but that genuinely hasn’t been the case and I’m now a big fan of Keegan and extremely glad that he was allowed to stick around and be part of a brand new family unit. Aidan has clearly seen some raw, untapped potential in the young man as well, so don’t be surprised if he sadly veers towards some criminal activities in the new year.

 

1st and My Favourite New Character of 2017: Luke Browning

eastenders-luke-browning-1086333

Played By: Adam Astill

First Appearance: 31st March 1987 (Returned September 2017)

Unlike with Keegan, there hasn’t been a single moment that I haven’t found this man to be a great EastEnders character. The son of James Willmott-Brown and a major player in the Weyland and Co storyline, Luke Browning quickly made his mark in Walford by entering into a relationship with Ben Mitchell, in order to acquire several properties for Weyland and Co and over time has shown an increasingly more violent and evil character, that constantly simmers behind his elegant and affable exterior.

I think my favourite thing about Luke is that he’s a gay character, yet his sexuality isn’t made a big deal of by anybody. There’s no hint that he’s ashamed about his sexuality or that anybody in his family feels negatively about him due to it. It’s just how he is and he doesn’t care about hiding it. In spite of his relationship with Ben being a ruse, their brief pairing felt so real and so genuine, that I spent every episode trying to ignore the clues that it was false because I was that desperate to see it work and both actors deserve so much credit for being able to create the chemistry they had, even if it ended with Luke leaving Ben a crumpled and bloody heap in the Arches.

I’ve made Luke my personal favourite new character of the year and honestly it wasn’t even a difficult decision for me. He’s probably my favourite EastEnders’ villain since the late, great Michael Moon and I hope that I’m going to get the chance to see a lot more of him on the show. That hope might be a pipe dream since, at the time of writing, he hasn’t been onscreen since he was kidnapped by Aidan’s gang of merry, masked men but if he can make it out of the Weyland and Co story alive and not imprisoned, I genuinely think that he could end up being one of the show’s great villains.

Even if last Friday’s episode was somehow his last, it wasn’t a bad way for him to go out, especially thanks to the kidnapping scene, where he looked unimpressed at two masked men who had just jumped out of the back of a van to assault him and simply responded with, ‘really?’ I love Luke.

 

That concludes my countdown of the top 23 new EastEnders characters from this year. Do you agree with my rankings? Is there somebody I have way too high that I’m wrong about? If you feel strongly about anything, so long as it isn’t about Luke not being a great character, feel free to let me know about it over on my Twitter account @heathyheath_ or down here in the comment’s section. Thank you so much for reading everyone. Oh yeah and Merry Christmas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ranking the 23 New EastEnders Characters in 2017 From Worst To Best: Part One

2017 has been an interesting year for EastEnders. After a slow and clunky start that essentially cost Executive Producer Sean O’Connor his job, the storylines he put in place eventually picked up steam and it seems like, mainly thanks to the Weyland and Co plot, EastEnders’ 2018 is going to provide a lot of captivating and good television. Like any EP, Sean’s impact on EastEnders will be felt for a long time to come, whether you liked him or not and of course a major part of his legacy involves the characters he introduced during his tenure.

In today and next week’s blog posts, I thought I’d take all of the characters introduced by Sean O’Connor in 2017 (and one introduced by John Yorke) and rank them, starting with who I think is the worst and ending with the best.

There’s some rules here. I’ve only included characters who were around for at least a full month, excluding the likes of Jay’s mate Tommy (I don’t remember him either) and Denise’s mother. I’ve left out babies and animals (sorry Bronson and Hope Fowler) and after a lot of backwards and forwards internal debate, I’ve also excluded characters who were established in the past, ruling out Michelle Fowler and James Willmott-Brown. I get the argument that Michelle is a recast and JWB has been away for so long, that they both act as almost completely new characters but they’ve had so much character building before 2017, I didn’t think it would be fair to include them. I’m also aware that Fi and Luke both appeared as Willmott-Brown’s children in the 1980s, but that’s a little different. They still act as completely new characters so they’re included here.

23 new characters were introduced in 2017 under these rules, so I’m going to break my rankings up into two parts, in this one focusing on the 23rd best character to the 11th best, before counting down the top ten this time next week. So I guess you could call part one my mixed to negative rankings. Just call me EastEnders Advisor:

23rd: Preston Cooper

12789860-low_res-eastenders-portraits-2017-e1488891604712

Played By: Martin Anzor 

First Appearance: 14th February 

The fact that even looking at the face of Preston Cooper again induces anger in me, makes me feel a lot less guilty for declaring him to be the worst new character of 2017. The 17 year old American Preston, was handicapped even before he arrived in Albert Square, thanks to his first time being referenced on screen, involving an affair he had with his 40+ year old teacher Michelle Fowler, while she was teaching in Florida. This reveal at the time, was meant to be the launching pad for Michelle’s first major story since she arrived back in Walford but it was so badly received and made viewers feel so uncomfortable, that many hoped the character of Preston would never appear in EastEnders.

Sadly those hopes were dashed when he made his onscreen debut on Valentine’s Day, as a romantic surprise for his former teacher and over the course of the next month and a half proceeded to annoy viewers with his immature attitude and on and off relationship with the already unpopular Michelle. If I had been writing for the show, I would have had Preston subvert the expectations of viewers, by being mature and focused and genuinely appearing to be in love with Michelle but instead, they decided to have Preston be exactly who we thought he would and he absolutely sucked. After just over six weeks of excruciating pain for viewers, Preston left after being justifiably shooed away by Sharon and I can say with near certainty that we will never see him in Walford again. Good riddance.

 

22nd: Gethin Pryce

Played By: Cerith Flinn

First Appearance: 23rd January

Gethin or Mister Pryce, as he was known as throughout most of his EastEnders tenure due to his role as drama teacher at Walford High, was no doubt hurt by taking part in a badly received and awkward to watch storyline but honestly even before that, there didn’t seem to be much long term potential for him. With his bland character and wishy washy grip on the responsibilities that came with being a teacher, Mr Pryce was only used as a minor supporting character in the Bex and Louise bullying storyline, so it came as a big shock to me when, after the angle concluded, he moved to Walford and began a relationship with Sonia Fowler and an uncomfortable plot where her daughter Bex constantly tried to seduce him after they shared a shock kiss.

The kiss literally was a shock one, taking place minutes after an explosion rippled through Walford but that didn’t stop Bex from completely abandoning all of the things that made her a good, wholesome and likeable character as she proceeded to spend weeks chasing after her conflicted music tutor. Due to horrible scenes, like where contrived circumstances led to Mr Pryce giving Bex an awkward driving lesson or she led poor Shaki on in order to make Gethin jealous, it became clear quickly that both the character and the story weren’t working and thankfully a way out appeared, when John Yorke took on the Executive Producer’s role and seemingly ended it much earlier than it was planned to.

Strangely enough, Gethin Pryce’s best episode was also his last, when he made the mature decision of telling Sonia about the kiss, only for it to backfire on him and see Sonia end their relationship, after he had already got desperately drunk and roughed up by an irate Jack Branning. It was nice to see him finally show a bit of a backbone at the very end but it was nowhere near enough to save Gethin for me and I’m glad he’s gone.

 

21st: Travis Law-Hughes

33967199322_e5d2465765_b

Played By: Alex James-Phelps

First Appearance: 17th January

There’s not really that much to say about Travis and his time on EastEnders. Asides from the fact that he may be notable as the first ever EastEnders’ actor with a double barrelled second name, to play a character who also has a double barrelled second name, Travis never did that much notable for bad or for good. Clearly brought in to add another recurring face to the Walford High bullying storyline, Travis’ greatest sins were probably being a little too bland to have long term potential and at times even being way too nice to a sickly extent, something that led to his girlfriend Louise Mitchell ending their short lived romance. Compared to some of the much better young characters introduced this year, such as Alexandra, Madison and especially Keegan, Travis was just kind of there and never really did much of note.

 

20th and 19th: Chatham and Riley Taylor

Played By: Alfie and Tom Jacobs

First Appearance: 15th June 

The first two members of SOC’s completely new family the Taylors to feature on this list, Chatham and Riley are only so low down because they’ve done nothing much of note which is completely understandable considering both actors, who are real life brothers, are young and have learning difficulties just like their characters. The two boys are often worried about by Karen due to their vulnerabilities, unfortunately being targeted and threatened during her recent loan shark storyline and both of them add a lot of heart to a family unit who have been a massive success in my eyes, if you don’t think about their opening few weeks on the square.

I’m not too sure what the long term future of Chatham and Riley looks like but you have to admire two young boys with learning difficulties managing to get exposure through their acting on national television every single week and for that reason I hope they’ll continue to help the Taylor family be such a huge success in 2018.

 

18th: Joyce Murray

ted-4

Played By: Maggie Steed

First Appearance: 26th May

Oh Ted and Joyce Murray. I’ve really tried to like the long term married couple who were introduced to EastEnders this year, since more elderly characters on the show isn’t a bad thing and they’ve really tried to get us to like them in return but I just haven’t been able to enjoy them much. Ever since their debut, constant comparisons have been made between Ted and Joyce and Les and Pam Coker, another more popular elderly couple who were axed mere months before Ted and Joyce came around and those comparisons have been so negative, it makes me wonder why they ever axed Les and Pam to begin with.

While the couple haven’t worked as a whole, I’ve enjoyed Ted a lot more than Joyce, (ironic because I loved Pam a lot more than Les), so Joyce has found herself at the negative end of my list. Generally portrayed as dreary and always ready to complain about something, Joyce has mostly failed to exude anything that resembles warmth and limp storylines that seen her trying to cover up Ted’s mental health issues and feuding with Dot over her cat Dave/Lucky have done her no favours. I get that for an older resident in Albert Square, a rivalry with Dot isn’t a bad way to introduce a character but the problem was that it dragged on too long. Even recently, in scenes where Dot and Joyce have sat around drinking tea, you haven’t got the impression that they’re friends and the majority of the blame for that lies with the dour Joyce.

My disdain for Joyce is so bad that recently I was disappointed to see her and Ted escaping a jail sentence, for Ted shooting Johnny accidentally and Joyce trying to cover it up. When you’d rather see an elderly couple go to jail than continue onscreen, that’s obviously bad and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Joyce axed in the new year. Bring back Pam Coker.

 

17th: Felix Moore

Played By: George Maguire

First Appearance: 6th July 

Clearly brought in to answer the persistent question of, ‘this is London, where are the hipsters at?’ Felix Moore was first introduced in EastEnders, drinking expensive hipster craft beer in the Queen Vic and flogging antique goods from a market spot he took from Donna and that’s all he’s really done since July. He last appeared on Halloween night aiding and assisting in the search for the missing Janet Mitchell, so it’s not like he’s been axed and will never be in EastEnders again, so it makes me wonder why he hasn’t been given much to do.

I’ve enjoyed the sight of somebody slightly aloof and above the hectic goings on in Albert Square, being forced to deal with unpleasant situations like having to spend time with Robbie and being the villain by proxy, for taking the market spot of somebody who was behind with her pitch fees and now that he’s shown there’s a heart in there as well after trying to find Janet, I hope Felix will be kept around under John Yorke. Apparently the man who plays him is an extremely talented West End actor as well, so it’s not like he isn’t capable of being given a more prominent role. He’d have been considerably higher on this list if he’d been given something to do.

 

16th: Tom Bailey

Played By: Daniel Casey

First Appearance: 1st June

Tom Bailey, the creepy stalker who tortured Michelle Fowler for a few months, is probably yet another victim of changes at the top of the show’s hierarchy causing a story to end early but honestly a character who was originally credited as ‘Nosebleed Man,’ didn’t have a lot of long-term potential to begin with. After meeting Michelle in a couple of seemingly random encounters on the train, he very quickly developed an intense and creepy fixation on her that only escalated when she thought he was too full on and ended the relationship.

It looked like some great TV was ahead. Tom played the role of the obsessive stalker well, the premise that he believed Michelle could replace his similar looking ‘dead,’ ex-wife was a great hook and there seemed to be a lot of decent mileage in the storyline due to how realistic it was. In real life sadly there are ladies out there who do get bombarded with creepy messages and gifts from men, who just automatically assume they’re entitled to whatever girl they want, if they put enough effort in and EastEnders deserved plenty of plaudits for covering this and acknowledging the fact that sometimes, the police can’t even do anything about it until it escalates.

I think what halted the story and Tom’s time as a character was that once the point was made that this was an awful situation, the new people in charge didn’t particularly care about showing this escalation and just wanted to wrap things up as quickly as possible. This did lead to an awesome episode where Michelle, with the help of Sharon, Denise and Karen, got one over Tom, recording him acting like a creep and tying him up after Sharon knocked him out with a vase. During this, it was revealed that Tom’s wife had never died and had instead just divorced him and Tom was shown to be more of a woman hater who didn’t value women, than an outright psychopath, which is okay I guess.

I don’t think it’s the end of the world that Tom was cut early but I don’t think he deserves too much criticism either. Being limited to a plot with the unpopular ‘Fakechelle,’ meant he could only go so far.

 

15th: Bernadette Taylor

Bernadette_Taylor_(2017)

Played By: Clair Norris

First Appearance: 15th June 

I’ve talked about it before in more detail but the Taylor Family’s first few weeks were so bad, that it almost made the whole unit seem Dead On Arrival as characters. Their main problem was that they were written at first, to be the most blatant stereotypes of a low income, benefit reliant family that the mind of your worst Daily Mail reader could conjure up. Obviously all the Taylors bounced back after those first few weeks but by far the character who had the biggest comeback to complete was Bernadette.

Over the course of a month, Bernadette was shown to be lazy and always miserable (her first press introduction photo has her scowling for some reason), it was briefly hinted that she could have been having an incestuous relationship with her brother Keanu and she was even given the dreaded cliche teen pregnancy storyline, that only invited negative comparisons to Demi Miller from the mid 2000s. Despite being handicapped in so many ways during her first weeks, Bernadette did manage to complete a decent enough turnaround as a character and even though she’s not beloved or anything, the Taylors would be worse of without her.

Personally, I found the scene where she tore up flowers in the Square because she wanted to destroy something beautiful, particularly interesting because I can’t remember a young character saying something as poignant as that before but it was her performance when she suffered a miscarriage a month or two into her pregnancy, that got her the most positive attention and deservedly so. The subject of miscarriages is obviously an extremely sensitive and delicate one and for a young character to go through that situation in a way that was so well acted and real, is something that deserves a lot of praise. As a whole, I like Bernadette and how her vulnerabilities bring out the best in Karen, Keanu and Keegan. It’s just a shame about those first weeks.

 

14th: Hugo Browning

Hugobrowning

Played By: Simon Williams

First Appearance: 26th January

When Hugo debuted as a mysterious stranger, outlining to Max Branning his plans to redevelop Walford, it seemed pretty certain to me that he was set to be the next big EastEnders villain. As we know now, this was a bait and switch, with Hugo’s brother-in-law James Willmott-Brown being the true driving force behind the Walford redevelopment villainy but that doesn’t mean Hugo isn’t without his merits.

Much more understated in his villainy compared to the likes of Luke or James, as evidenced by him skipping last week’s big reveal in the Queen Vic because he prefers to step back and let others take the glory, Hugo is a refined yet sinister presence and is definitely a valuable and important cog in the Weyland and Co machine. His finest moment to date was probably when he arrived at the Queen Vic about a month ago, expecting the Carters to sign their ownership of the pub over to Weyland and Co, only for Mick to kick him out after signing the contract in Lady Di’s name instead. In those scenes we seen a temper from the usually cool Browning and a stuck up contempt for what he considers to be the lower class and I’m looking forward to seeing more of that. His comparative lack of screen time compared to the rest of Weyland and Co is the main thing that prevents him from a higher ranking on my list.

 

13th: Ingrid Solberg 

Played By: Pernille Broch

First Appearance: 22nd June

A lot of people, myself included, feared the worst when a lady who looked vaguely like Ronnie Mitchell got hired to be a live in babysitter for the grieving Jack Branning, who still wasn’t over the death of his wife Ronnie just six months ago. Those fears were seemingly confirmed when the two shared a passionate kiss, causing a lot of fans to write off Ingrid as a ‘fake Ronnie,’ and a terrible character. I hated the storyline as well don’t get me wrong but was willing to still Ingrid a chance, since she’d already shown some promise in a few scenes that didn’t involve Jack and always seemed good hearted, a trait that isn’t shown enough in EastEnders,

I’d like to think that my faith was rewarded because not long after the kiss, all hints of a romance between Jack and Ingrid were completely dropped and since then, she has went on to be quite a well rounded character who adds a lot of brightness and warmth to an often dreary Albert Square. The way I look at it is, if a character isn’t intended to be involved in massive storylines and isn’t going to be a villain or gangster of some kind, then they might as well make the show a happier and better place and Ingrid does that for me. Her new romance with Keanu has been pretty cute as well and has worked out much better than the one with Jack would have. If John Yorke is behind that story being dropped as well, he deserves his EP job for that alone.

 

12th: Konrad Topolski 

Played By: Piotr Baumann

First Appearance: 16th February

I’d love more than anything to put Konrad higher on this list but he just hasn’t been on TV enough and for all I know might never even be coming back. For a few weeks in February and March, the charming, down to earth owner of a local Polish delicatessen, helped out the Carters with their countless themed food nights in the Queen Vic and seemed to develop a fondness for Shirley, before suddenly disappearing from our screens with zero explanation as to why and it sucks. He was recently referred to in a throwaway scene in the Vic’s dining room, when Linda teased Shirley for having a crush on him, so there’s still hope he’ll be back again even if it doesn’t seem likely.

I don’t want to get into this too much, since there could be a tonne of reasons why Konrad hasn’t became a regular character but one of the counter arguments I always see when the need for diversity on TV is mentioned, is that the actor, no matter their colour or ethnic background, should add to the show and seem like a natural fit. Konrad definitely did this and offered a lot of potential, so it felt like a slap on the face when the previously mentioned, bland  and generic Mr Pryce was given a full time role on the show around the same time that Konrad seemingly fell off the face of this earth. I’m not sure what’s going on but I do know I’d love to see Konrad continue this story with Shirley at some point in 2018.

 

11th: Ted Murray

Ted_Murray_(2017)

Played By: Christopher Timothy

First Appearance: 26th May

Coming a massive seven places ahead of his wife Joyce is Ted Murray, the man to finish off part one of this post. I know I said earlier that Ted and Joyce don’t seem to work as a couple but I do think that Ted has got an upside and has became a valuable part of the community unlike Joyce. Originally I found it an insult that Ted was considered as a better option to be the Queen Vic potboy, than the iconic Patrick but since they ended up sharing the role, I’ve found myself enjoying almost every pub scene that Ted has been involved in, especially when he’s hanging out with Patrick.

I found the reason behind Ted owning a gun (PTSD from the war) to be a little underwhelming when it was finally revealed, since a similar story had already been done with Lee Carter recently but at least Ted’s mental issues are an interesting aspect of his character that makes him stand out, unlike Joyce. I’m not too sure what should be done with Ted in the new year, since as I’ve said I wouldn’t have been upset if he’d had to leave with Joyce but I’d like to see him stick around in some capacity if they can improve the characterisation of his wife. EastEnders have always had an impressive roster of older characters on their show at all times, so I’m really rooting for Ted. Patrick needs a friend who can relate to him after all.

 

That concludes part one of my rankings for today. If you feel like I’ve been unfair on anybody, feel free to let me know in the comments section or over on my Twitter account @heathyheath_ and if you get a chance please come back next week to check out part two. It’s pretty much a positive tone from here on out!

Five of the Worst EastEnders Villains of the 2000s

It seems like every EastEnders’ fan right now has a strong opinion on the current James Willmott-Brown storyline. The 1980s villain, who was involved in a groundbreaking and compelling story, regarding his rape of Kathy Beale back in 1988, has been the mastermind behind this complicated plot that has been rumbling in the background of EastEnders for all of 2017 and for every fan like me, who finds it intriguing and interesting television, there are other fans on various mediums of social media, who find the whole storyline dull and who can’t wait for it to end.

I personally love everything about Willmott-Brown and find him to be a compelling villain, even 28 years after he last featured on EastEnders but I am aware that many fans don’t particularly care for him. Whether it’s finding his scheme to redevelop all of Walford too methodical and plodding or feeling a level of emotional disconnect to the Kathy storyline that happened before a lot of viewers were born, I can understand the criticisms aimed at JWB, even if I personally don’t feel the same way. The jury is still out on him of course and his story could still burn out in a blaze of all engrossing glory but I have a feeling that when it’s all said and done, the  James Willmott-Brown of the 2000s will be thought of as a villain who was just alright. Not terrible, nor incredible on the level of the likes of Archie Mitchell or Janine Butcher, but alright.

All of this talk about James Willmott-Brown recently, has led me to think about all the villains who have made their way onto Albert Square this millennium that were much, much worse than he is. From bad guys (I can’t think of a single  long term female villain EastEnders have treated poorly, unless Alice Branning counts), who have failed to be threatening or intimidating in any way, despite being written as such, to those who have been unable to break the mould of appearing to be a cardboard cut out of a pantomime villain, EastEnders has had some terrible villains over the last 17 years and today I’m here to shine the spotlight on five of them.

 

Villain One: Andy Hunter

Andy_Hunter

First Appearance: July 2003
Final Appearance: February 2005

It almost physically pains me to have Andy Hunter on this list. At the age of just 10 when he debuted, I found the leader of the Firm to be imposing and scary and would genuinely fear for the lives of the likes of Kat Slater, Alfie Moon and Sam Mitchell, who he had various disputes with. Unfortunately over the years of reading bits and pieces about Andy, it’s became apparent to me that he wasn’t particularly loved or cared for by a good portions of the show’s audience. Long term viewers didn’t feel like he compared to some of the East End gangsters of the past and the way he allowed Kat and Alfie ,who had humiliated him on what should have been the day of his marriage to Kat, get away from the situation relatively unscathed, was a big credibility blow to the smarmy criminal.

In hindsight, I find it easy to see that Andy Hunter wasn’t as great as I thought he was at the time. Myself and my primary school friends were so in love with the dark and gritty ‘Gangster Era,’ of EastEnders, that we probably would have found any character who was a criminal and proud of it to be awesome and even when I look back to this time frame in EastEnders nowadays, my first thought isn’t of Hunter, but instead the vastly superior Johnny Allen, who came along at the start of 2005 to steal Andy’s thunder and ultimately murdered him. The most damning thing in my shift in opinion on Andy Hunter probably came a few years ago ,when I made an offhand comment to my mum about him and my mother, a regular viewer of EastEnders since it began, had absolutely zero memory of him, even after I showed her a photo. I can’t defend someone who was in EastEnders regularly for two years and who can’t even be remembered by a long term fan. Sorry Andy.

Most Memorable Moments: Despite his long term irrelevance, Andy was involved in some important storylines that the effects of can still be seen to this day. He was responsible for the murder of Paul Trueman, something that has shaped the iconic Patrick Trueman as a character since the day it happened and as mentioned, was instrumental in how Kat and Alfie got together but perhaps, his most iconic moment came in how he died. After trying to con the new Big Dog Johnny Allen, out of close to a million pounds, he was mercilessly flung off a motorway bridge by Johnny in one of the show’s most brutal and harrowing death scenes of all time. Sadly in a way that sums up Andy Hunter’s entire time on EastEnders, his death took place on the night one of EastEnders biggest legends of all time, Dirty Den Watts was also killed, immediately overshadowing his own grisly fate. Tough break.

Villain Two: Danny Mitchell

nintchdbpict000000395336.jpg

First Appearance: January 2010

Final Appearance: January 2017

Archie Mitchell in my eyes, is one of the finest villains in the history of EastEnders. Eventually universally hated by all of Albert Square and the vast majority of the show’s viewers, there was something about the spiteful, manipulative father of Ronnie and Roxy Mitchell that made him that rare kind of character that everybody loved to hate. A big problem about villains in soap world however is, unless redeemed in some way, they have some form of a shelf life and eventually there comes a time when they will need to exit the show for good. This time came around for Larry Lamb’s character sadly but the show made the most of it and Archie Mitchell’s death story was done masterfully and hooked me in so much, that I haven’t missed a single episode of EastEnders since then. Despite this, there still would come the time a villain as great as Archie would need to be replaced, so what did EastEnders do to fill their Archie shaped, villainous void? They invented a secret son that had never been even hinted at before and threw him into the spotlight.

Enter Danny Mitchell. As the son of Glenda, the brother of Ronnie and Roxy and of course a member of the iconic Mitchell Family, Danny should have been well placed to take over from Archie as the lead villain in Walford but there was one problem, he really wasn’t all that good. Too young for the role to be particularly intimidating and written to appear too awkward and reliant on his mother for help in his scheming, Danny was quickly written out after his attempts to try to con his sisters were unearthed and even more fatally to the character, Glenda revealed that he wasn’t actually Archie’s son, but was the product of a fleeting affair she had, after she split up with him. I don’t have any background information on this but Danny was introduced in January and ended his first tenure in June of the same year, so it wouldn’t surprise me if the not being Archie’s son reveal, was tacked on at the time, when they realised just how much the character was outright tanking.

In what came as a real surprise to a lot of people, like I alluded to in the paragraph above, Danny Mitchell actually had a second run as a character in EastEnders, being brought back in January of this year after seven years away, with the same actor in tow. There to support his returning mother after the deaths of Ronnie and Roxy, Danny once again made little impact, showing that he had experienced hardly any character growth and was still as terrible at scheming as ever, after trying and miserably failing to extort money from Ronnie’s grieving husband Jack Branning. After that didn’t work out for him, Danny disappeared again and I’d say his chances of ever returning for a third run, are almost completely non existent.

Most Memorable Moments: As far as I’m concerned, Danny only had one truly memorable moment and it actually came this year, which says a lot about his first time in Walford. After offering Jack, in the home he used to share with Ronnie, to convince his mum Glenda to drop her plans to take Ronnie’s son Matthew away from Jack’s custody, in exchange for a hefty sum of money, Danny was beaten savagely by the enraged and insulted Jack in response. In something that summed up Danny’s time on EastEnders, what made the moment truly memorable was that Max Branning was sitting stoically in the kitchen watching the proceedings unfold, while calmly putting ketchup onto a sausage sandwich and watching quietly as Danny was assaulted by his brother. Even in a bizarre and wonderful TV moment like that, Danny was nothing more than a mere plot device.

Villain Three: Danny Pennant 

article-2542708-14FF0184000005DC-299_634x865

First Appearance: September 2012

Final Appearance: February 2014

Danny Mitchell wasn’t the only Danny of the 2010s that was intended to be a major villain before failing miserably. Danny Pennant, who was introduced around two and a half years later, seemed to have a lot of potential that for whatever reason quickly fizzled out. The city investment banker was played by soap veteran Gary Lucy and was an LGBT villain in EastEnders before Luke Browning managed to pull it off so effortlessly in 2017, appearing as a mysterious stranger who ended up convincing Syed Masood to sleep with him behind the back of Syed’s partner Christian. Danny only was involved occasionally in the show as part of the story surrounding Christian and Syed’s problems but his role that lasted from September to November 2012 was so intriguing that it left viewers desperate to see more of Danny, so he ended up returning in June 2013 as a full time character.

From then on,  it didn’t take long for the wheels to fall off Danny Pennant’s car of credibility. After a promising enough start, where it was revealed he was bisexual and ended up sleeping with Janine Butcher, he was quickly reduced to being Janine’s lackey and was kept in mostly boring storylines involving his relationship with Lucy Beale ,that never really clicked with the average viewer. Danny was so mishandled in his second run on EastEnders that it makes me wonder why they bothered bringing him back to begin with and after he was revealed as the Walford Wonder (a name that makes me wonder if it subconsciously inspired the name of my blog), an anonymous male on a gay dating site who was stalking Johnny Carter, Lucy dumped him and Danny left Walford in shame, clinging onto a fistful of cash that Lucy had thrown at him. For the third villain in a row, I feel the need to point out something that was indicative of why they failed as a character. Danny had entered Walford as a successful city banker and had left broke and desperate. That’s just how it goes in Albert Square I suppose.

Most Memorable Moments: This won’t ring true for everybody but when I think of Danny Pennant, the first thing that goes into my mind is his banter with Michael Moon, Janine’s estranged husband who often feuded with Pennant. I enjoyed every scene with Michael and Daniel, as Mr Moon called him and found that he was the character Danny had the most chemistry with by far. What Danny is perhaps most known for by the average viewer, is initially being the most popular suspect with bookmakers and fans in the Who Killed Lucy storyline, even though he’d left Walford a good while before it happened. Granted, it could have been interesting viewing to see Danny return and reveal that he had killed Lucy in an act of revenge but it had already been made pretty clear that writers could not invest in him as a major villain and the police quickly revealed that he had been in living in Marbella when Lucy was killed.

Villain Four: Carl White

p01bkh8w

First Appearance: June 2013

Final Appearance: January 2014

I have to admit that I loved Carl White, even if it was from a ‘he’s so bad I find him hilarious,’ perspective. In the same sense that Danny Mitchell was introduced to fill the void left by Archie Mitchell’s exit, Carl was pretty much brought in to fill the void left by Derek Branning’s departure. Granted, Derek Branning wasn’t close to a villain on the level of Archie Mitchell but I think that most viewers of the time will agree that he was leaps and bounds above Carl White, who screamed generic, non threatening and too much of a cliche from the minute he made his entrance into Walford, on a quest to claim back money that Derek Branning owed him, which had somehow ended up with Ian Beale.

Given a firm hold over Ian Beale and written to appear dominant against both Max Branning and Phil Mitchell, it’s not as if Carl White wasn’t pushed onscreen enough to succeed but as the months went on, it became more and more apparent that viewers just weren’t taking to him. Perhaps the biggest blow to Carl came when he hatched a plot which he hoped would eliminate both of his rivals for good. The convoluted scheme, that Carl hilariously told Max was coming, down to the exact day it would happen on, involved him taking Phil Mitchell out for a drive in a car that didn’t have functioning brakes, crashing the car seconds after releasing Phil’s seatbelt and then taking over Phil’s businesses while he was in hospital. During all of this he also got Max Branning arrested, after coercing poor Ian into claiming he had seen Max tampering with the car’s brakes. Boy do I feel stupid even typing all of that out.

Needless to say, this story only brought on mockery and derision by viewers and the media and Carl’s days in Walford were numbered, especially when Phil managed to take back his businesses with minimal fuss. As his exit story, Carl got together with an on the rebound Roxy Mitchell and got into a feud with Roxy’s sister Ronnie over their relationship, which led to his grisly and memorable end at the hands of Ronnie, who slammed a car boot down on his head, in retaliation to him attempting to rape her.

Humorously, a storyline after where Carl’s mum and brother tried to get answers from Ronnie about their son’s disappearance, was never truly resolved. Ronnie just got a few people to threaten Nora and Adam and that was it, they didn’t seem to care about Carl enough to push the matter further. With Ronnie and Roxy’s death this year, it can be assumed that this story will never have a resolution and that Carl’s skeleton is just set to lie there in the boot of a crushed up car for eternity and maybe that’s for the best.

Most Memorable Moments: As I’ve already said, Carl White’s death scenes were memorable in how gruesome and unpleasant they were but apart from that, most of the things he’ll be remembered for involve how bad a villain he was. The plot against Max and Phil stands out but only because of the sheer ridiculousness of it and I guess the fact his story never got resolved, makes him more notable than if it had been but apart from that Carl White was a true waste of such a concentrated attempt to create a new big villain.

Villain Five: Gavin Sullivan

Gavin_Sullivan

First Appearance: August 2015

Final Appearance: July 2016

Speaking of a waste of opportunity, no list of the worst villains in EastEnders’ recent history could be complete without the inclusion of Gavin Sullivan, a man who managed to bungle being the driving factor behind Kathy Beale’s fake death and Sharon Mitchell’s biological father. It was during this storyline that I began to get frustrated with EastEnders’ leadership under Dominic Treadwell-Collins and it’s pretty much all down to how corny and laughably handled Gavin was. Since he was supposed to be dead just like Kathy, Gavin would disappear and reappear for what felt like his entire EastEnders run, popping up to cause trouble for his wife and the Mitchells before vanishing and then resurfacing weeks later. This made it nearly impossible to connect with the character because he was gone and out of your mind for weeks after he’d done anything that remotely made an impact.

Just like with Carl, a concentrated effort was made to convince people he was a big deal but nothing ever seemed to work. The identity of Sharon’s biological father should have been an honour, that was enough to turn any character into a major EastEnders’ player but even that, coupled with actually giving Gavin, Den’s ‘Ello Princess,’ greeting didn’t help him. History of some major characters on the show was actually retconned, in order to give him the best chance to succeed but nothing seemed to help and by 2016 it was starting to become clear that The Powers That Be were getting tired of trying and failing to make Gavin Sullivan work.

After several long months of Denny, Sharon’s son, concealing the fact he was still in contact with his granddad, who had been paid off by Sharon to leave them all alone, Gavin’s time in EastEnders came to an end in the most hilarious and laughably bad fashion. In July he hatched a cunning scheme to coerce Kathy into visiting his newly bought, super villain mansion, where he planned to live happily ever after with the under duress Kathy and his solicitor sister, who was also involved in this plot for some reason but his evil plan backfired miserably. A lot of over the top, B Movie level stuff happened and Gavin accidentally sent his sister plunging to her death and ended up arrested by the police, never to be seen and rarely to be mentioned of again. It was TV gold and those disastrous episodes were almost enough to make me regret that Gavin was leaving. Almost.

Most Memorable Moments: Thanks to a heavy show of hand from writers, there’s lots about Gavin that has sewn him into the fabric of EastEnders history for the long term, with perhaps the most important being that he will always be known as the real father of Sharon Watts, unless somebody decides to retcon that in the future. From a personal standpoint, I’ll never forget those few precious episodes that were held in his mansion right at the end of his EastEnders run or the time they tried to make him seem a bigger deal, by showing Walford legend Dot Branning reminiscing that he was a troublemaker back in the day. When Gavin Sullivan was first introduced to EastEnders, Dominic Treadwell-Collins said that he hoped Gavin would be an EastEnders villain like no other and in a strange little way, he kind of was.

 

Thank you so much for reading today’s blog post. If you’d like to suggest any bad villains from the 2000s that I’ve missed out on, or have any thoughts on the credibility of these five, feel free to let me know in the comments section below or tweet me over on @heathyheath_ because I would love to hear from you. Maybe at some point in the future I’ll return with a similar post about five EastEnders villains of the 2000s who I consider to be the best but it’s probably worth waiting to see how well James Willmott-Brown and Luke Browning do in this current storyline before I commit to that. It would take a lot to join the likes of Michael Moon and Archie Mitchell on a list like that but you never know. Well, you probably do know.