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
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
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
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.