Author: walfordwhisperer

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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 

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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


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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 

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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

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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

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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

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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! 

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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 

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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

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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.