Oh Billy Mitchell. Despite originally being introduced to EastEnders as an abusive bully (more on that very soon), it didn’t take long for the runt of the iconic Mitchell family to become a firm favourite with viewers. Kind hearted and well meaning, Billy, expertly portrayed by Perry Fenwick, has been an endearing character on our TV screens for almost twenty years now and is showing no signs of leaving Walford any time soon. Generally portrayed as a loser who is often easy to manipulate, I think most viewers have always been fond of him because there’s something relatable about a character who is constantly unlucky, despite trying their hardest to be somebody in life, while remaining a good person who does their best for others at the same time.
After what felt like nearly eighteen years of solid bad luck, it’s seemed over the last while that things were finally turning around for Billy. He got back together with Honey, the mother of his two children and took over as the Manager of Les Coker’s Undertaker business and has, in a twist of fate became one of the more well adjusted and successful members of the Mitchell family. Unfortunately in the last few weeks it’s begun to be apparent that this good fortune isn’t going to last for him. Recently it was revealed that his income has been severely hit due to his unwillingness to chase payment from clients and this led to him getting hit with a pretty hefty tax fine. As if financial issues that could bankrupt his business weren’t bad enough, over the last week or so things have got even worse for him, after his daughter, the adorable Janet, was ran over by a car on Halloween night and afterwards, well if you don’t know I’ll expand more on what happened at the end of this post.
Today, in honour of Billy Mitchell’s latest misfortunes, I thought it might be good fun to take a look at eight of the character’s lowest moments since he first landed on our screens back in 1998. Each moment is going to be in chronological order and between Billy being forced to steal from charity, to randomly being a creepy stalker for a few weeks, there’s a lot of negative moments to cover, so let’s get started with one of Billy’s lowest moments ever, the way he was introduced.
One: Billy The Abusive Uncle
Originally intended to only appear on EastEnders for a four episode run, Billy was written into the show to begin with as a way to bring his nephew, the new heartthrob Jamie Mitchell, to the square, which is somewhat ironic since Jamie only lasted four years on the show, while Billy has now been around for well over a thousand episodes. Unfortunately Billy’s introduction involved him being a pretty reprehensible bully, who regularly abused Jamie by hitting him.
Perry Fenwick himself wasn’t a fan of Billy being an outright villain and fortunately thanks to some clever writing, EastEnders was able to slowly redeem him when he was introduced as a full time character in 1999. Revelations that Billy himself was how he was because he had been abused while growing up in a children’s home, along with his actions towards Lil Mo who was suffering domestic abuse from her husband Trevor Morgan, which were nothing short of heroic, helped mould Billy into the good natured character we know and love today. It’s just a shame that his character will always be that of somebody who did genuinely make the childhood of a troubled teen a miserable existence. Even though Billy has done a lot of good things since then, that’s always going to be part of his character and something that’s difficult to forgive.
Two: His Marriage To Little Mo Collapsing After Her Tragic Rape
As mentioned above, Billy did a lot of good things for Maureen Slater, that actually led to them having a pretty strong and stable marriage but sadly a tragic event happened that was too much for Billy to handle, that eventually led to their divorce. In what I remember as a really harrowing storyline, Little Mo got raped one night when she was alone in the Queen Vic and ended up conceiving a child with her rapist, the creepy Graham Foster.
It’s difficult to even wrap your head around the situation someone like Little Mo ended up in but the general consensus was that she deserved a lot of credit for having the strength to carry on with her pregnancy and have her child, despite how horrible a position she had been put into. Billy himself respected Little Mo for her choice but was unable to cope with being a father to a baby that wasn’t his and the marriage was ended which was a shame because I honestly assumed at the time that their marriage was strong enough to survive anything. Another element of the entire situation that is desperately sad, is that Graham Foster was only sentenced to eight years in prison, despite his past sexual offences and in the world of EastEnders probably went on to assault even more women. This is perhaps the most depressing storyline Billy has ever been involved in.
Three: Billy The Charity Thief
After Billy’s marriage to Little Mo collapsed, he was able to ultimately find temporary happiness again through his marriage to his second wife, the delightful Honey, who is still one of my favourite characters to this day. Despite initially struggling to raise their firstborn child Janet, who suffers from Down’s Syndrome, Billy and Honey had a mostly strong and love filled marriage that was only bolstered by the birth of their second child, a son called William. However, in what has been a recurring theme during his time on EastEnders, his happiness wasn’t to last and by the end of 2007 he was facing severe financial difficulties that left him unable to pay the rent for the flat he occupied with Honey, Janet and William.
Like all rational people suffering from money problems, instead of begging his wealthy family for help or getting a second job or something, he decided to steal money from a children’s charity, a reprehensible act that would propel any character into villain status, if they weren’t as pathetic and downtrodden as Billy. Obviously the scorn and displeasure he received from his own family and the community wasn’t punishment enough because it was only in 2008 that he lied to Honey about donating money to charity that he’d gotten from more questionable means. In Billy’s defence, he was trying to keep the money for honorable reasons but to have a supposedly likeable character, twice deprive charities of money within a year probably wasn’t the best of ideas.
Four: Billy The Coward
Before I go any further I do have to admit that my headline here is perhaps a little mean spirited. See in 2008, Billy hid in a toilet stall while his friend Jase, the father (biologically at the time) of the still popular Jay, was brutally murdered by some East End gangsters, after a criminal job gone wrong and even though he was portrayed pretty extensively onscreen as a coward, I’m not sure if there was anything he could have done to save Jase that wouldn’t have also cost him his own life. Of course Billy was far from heroic in this situation but it’s hard to imagine being in his shoes and even more difficult to imagine springing to action and potentially risking your own life as well.
Regardless of whether you believe Billy was in the right to hide or not, he was met with derision for his cowardly ways and did himself no favours when he allowed Jay to believe that he had done all he could to save Jase, instead of pocketing the money Jase earned during the job and hiding away. It’s undeniable that he suffered for his actions all the same, with a combination of his cowardice and his lies about donating Jase’s money to charity, costing him his marriage after Honey moved away with the two children to live with her father. 2007 and 2008 was such a bad period of time for Billy’s character that it’s almost a miracle that him and Honey are back together in 2017. How much they struggled to get there alone really makes me hope they don’t break them up again.
Five: Billy Loses His Guardianship Of Jay To Phil
I get my first low moment suggests that Billy shouldn’t be tasked with being a responsible guardian to anybody but after Jase died, Billy took Jay in and undeniably was a decent father figure to him. Desperate to atone for the cowardice that arguably cost Jase his life, Billy tried his best with Jay and I thought it was an endearing way of getting viewers back onside of a character who had done a lot of bad things over the last year or so. Sadly Billy and Jay being close wasn’t to last after I’m guessing some new writers, decided there was a gap in Phil Mitchell’s family that needed Jay and slowly over time begun to show him idolising Phil and eventually leaving Billy to live with him full time.
While I honestly have no regrets about Jay being amalgamated into Phil’s family, since that meant we were gifted with the close bond between Ben and Jay, it did make Billy seem weak and perhaps even worse, completely irrelevant. Jay quickly moved from one household to the other in what felt like no time at all and the whole thing just made Billy appear to be an unappealing afterthought. Writers have made an attempt to fix things by having Jay and Billy work together in the funeral parlour nowadays and they did live under the same roof as each other again for a while but they’ve never been as close as they were in the early days and the quick change in guardianship is almost fully to blame for this.
Six: Billy The Letter Thief
I don’t know how much I can say about this storyline because it was one that was snuffed out almost immediately but since it’s considered up there in the most bizarre unresolved soap storylines of all time, I thought it deserved to be included. You see, in 2010 a mystery story began where it was revealed that somebody was stealing the post of various Walford residents. Masood Ahmed got blamed by a lot of people, since he was the postman and had been going through financial difficulties around the same time but in a shocking twist, it was revealed that Billy had been responsible for stealing everyone’s letters and then, then it was never referred to or brought up again.
It’s fair to assume that at some point, the show’s writers realised the plot was entirely ridiculous and scrapped it but still, for a while he randomly decided to steal other people’s mail, presumably to take any money that was gifted inside and it’s a bizarre part of his character. I have a feeling that the story of Billy Mitchell and the mail will never be referenced again or resolved and honestly, it’s probably for the best.
Seven: Billy The Fish Thief And Also The Creepy Stalker
Ouch. On the topic of storylines involving Billy that are probably better off forgotten, this one is up there with the postal theft. Thrown under the bus by The Powers That Be in order to create more artificial suspects for the Who Killed Lucy Beale storyline, Billy was thrust into the spotlight for a few weeks, when it came out that Lucy had been threatening to get him sacked from his job at Ian Beale’s fish and chip shop because he was stealing fish to feed his granddaughter Lola and his great granddaughter Lexi. Yeah. Billy was stealing fresh fish from the fish and chip shop he worked in, Lucy found out and then started threatening to get him sacked.
Probably because this reason alone was pretty flimsy and not enough to make any savvy EastEnders’ viewer believe Billy could have possibly killed Lucy, a closing shot to an episode showed Billy had several covertly taken photos of Lucy hidden behind his fridge. Like I said, this was all done to turn Billy into another Red Herring but it was at the expense of making him seem like a creepy pervert. Depressingly it ultimately came out that that’s exactly why he had the photos. He had taken a shine to her and decided the best way to react to this would be to hold onto several photos of a young girl who had barely left her teens like a complete weirdo. Just like the post storyline, this is yet another angle that is better off forgotten and makes Billy appear unpleasant if you think about it too much.
Eight: Janet Gets Knocked Down By A Car, Billy Sleeps With Tina Carter, The Driver
As I touched on a little earlier, things started to get better for Billy after the Lucy Beale storyline concluded and it seemed like things were finally on the up for him for a while. It must be some unwritten rule in EastEnders that a character can’t be happy for too many years in a row however, because over the Halloween period we seen Billy suffer from the one two punch of having to deal with his daughter Janet being ran down, before sleeping with Tina Carter after a row with Honey, on the exact same night.
The storyline hasn’t reached anywhere near its conclusion so maybe I shouldn’t be too judgmental but to have Billy cheat on his wife was a massive mistake and now that he’s been involved in this grim plot, where he knows Tina was the person who ran Janet down, but has to keep it hidden to avoid his cheating ways being exposed, it seems like things are only going to get worse for him. In soaps most of the time big secrets end up exposed and if this follows that traditional trajectory and Honey finds out what happened, then Billy Mitchell may soon have his lowest moment of all time.
After writing all of these it’s blatantly obvious to me that Billy has been written into some awkward to navigate corners in his nearly two decade long EastEnders career and I can only give credit to Perry Fenwick for being able to inject an element of likeability into the character that has always allowed him to find ultimate redemption, no matter how many bad things he ends up doing. I personally adore the character and will always have a lot of time for Billy. Even if he’s not always involved in the best or most prominent storylines, the guy has became an important part in the framework of the show and I’m so glad that back in 1999 he managed to snag the opportunity to live in Walford full time. EastEnders wouldn’t be the same without him.