Tag: Ben Mitchell

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?

 

Five Reasons Why Harry Reid Should NOT Be Axed As Ben Mitchell

This week there was a lot of hype created online, when EastEnders’ official social media accounts all began to tease a new arrival in Walford. That arrival turned out to be Melanie Owen, a character who hasn’t been in EastEnders for over fifteen years. While some people online, who were expecting returns from big names like Kat and Alfie Moon or Janine Butcher were disappointed, there was a lot of positivity about new Executive Producer John Yorke’s first character introduction. Melanie who is billed as a strong and feisty free spirit, had several big storylines centered around her relationships with the likes of Ian Beale and Steve Owen and in my eyes represents a pretty solid start to John Yorke’s tenure as Executive Producer in the arrivals department but it’s a shame that the same can’t be said about his handling of departures so far.

I wasn’t exactly heartbroken at the recent news of Abi and Lauren’s upcoming Christmas exit, so long as they’re not murdered and written out permanently but the news that Harry Reid, who has played Ben Mitchell for the last three years, will be leaving EastEnders when his contract runs out, left a bitter taste in my mouth. Obviously I know nothing about EastEnders behind the scenes but as a character, I think Ben Mitchell adds a lot of value to the show and shouldn’t be let go of just yet. In today’s post I’m going to offer five reasons why I think Harry Reid’s Ben Mitchell should not be axed, even if I’m well aware that blog posts and fan petitions have stopped a grand total of zero soap characters from ever being axed in the history of television. Here we go:

Reason One: It Took Three Attempts To Get Casting Right

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I’ll have to admit that I hadn’t been the biggest fan of Ben Mitchell until the last few years and I think a lot of that was down to the people they had playing the character. I won’t be too hard on the original actor Charlie Jones, who was only a child at the time and was also a victim of terrible writing, like so many child characters in EastEnders but the second person to play Ben, Joshua Pascoe, did a horrible job in my eyes. Yet again, Ben wasn’t written during Joshua’s stint as well as he has been recently but I constantly felt baffled by how often such a gormless and uncharasmatic character was getting put into big storylines during Pascoe’s time on the Square. It felt like every time a big mystery storyline was coming up, whether it was who was anonymously threatening Phil or who would end up killing Heather Trott, Ben ended up being the answer, usually to lukewarm and underwhelming results.

The past failure of two different actors to play Ben Mitchell as well as he should have been, meant that I groaned and dreaded the return of the character when it was announced that he would come back after yet another recast. My skepticism couldn’t have been more misplaced however when Harry Reid took to the screen as Ben.  Ben still had a dark side and was tormented by the same tired issues involving his dad but under Harry Reid, the character almost instantly felt better. For the very first time, I felt natural sympathy at his inner vulnerability, instead of almost being forced to feel it begrudgingly because we were told to.

I don’t think this feeling that Harry Reid finally got Ben Mitchell right is exclusively mine either, since a lot of other people online really like the character nowadays and it would be a shame if EastEnders lost an actor who has managed to change popular opinion about a character some worried was completely unsalvageable. If Ben isn’t killed off permanently in his exit storyline, then I can guarantee there will be a point were an Executive Producer will want him back and he or she will be extremely lucky if Harry Reid is still ready and willing to return again. A fourth recast would more than likely be fatal for the character, no matter how many years they waited.

Reason Two: He’s A Legacy Character That Actually Works

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I’m not sure what the official definition is but in regards to EastEnders, I consider a Legacy Character to be a child of one of the show’s long running, most popular families. These characters should be generally easier to write because their family have deep seated roots in the show’s history and are automatically more recognizable to fans but the problem is that they can sometimes end up failing for one reason or another, usually thanks to a mixture of writing that makes them far too unlikeable and bad casting.

In the Mitchell family alone, we have some good examples of Legacy Characters who currently aren’t working as well as they should be. Denny who will be a big deal some day, as the son of Dennis Rickman and Sharon Watts, has been portrayed as a selfish brat for years now and while recent attempts have been made to tone down how much of a little toerag he is, a lot of damage has been done and I feel like it will take a fair amount of hard work, if writers want to make him likeable and easier to empathise with in the future. Louise, Ben’s sister and obviously Phil Mitchell’s daughter, is also someone who I think isn’t working right now. Louise came across as extremely cruel and vicious when she allowed Alexandra and Madison to bully Bex and the fact that she only ever really decided to side with Bex when the bullying turned to being against her as well, meant that even her redemption arch was handled clumsily. Recently things haven’t got much better for Louise either, with her only storyline involvement centering around her body hang ups over some first degree burns that she received, thanks to Alexandra and Madison, which hasn’t exactly got a lot of attention or plaudits.

I fully understand at one point, Ben Mitchell was a legacy character who wasn’t working as well but axing him when he’s doing much better than he used to seems like a bad choice, especially when there’s even people in his own family who haven’t got it right. I’d sooner lose Denny or Louise for a while than Ben.

Reason Three: Without Ben, Jay Will Feel Directionless

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One of EastEnders greatest assets in recent years in my eyes, has been the relationship between Jay and Ben. Despite not actually being biologically related to each other in any way, both guys have developed a bond over the years that’s probably even stronger than the bond a lot of biological brothers have. Jay and Ben have been through lots over the years, from Ben’s conviction for the manslaughter of Heather Trott, to Jay devolving into drug dealing that put them both at risk for a while and even after everything, they’ve remained loyal to each other and have constantly reiterated that they are brothers who’ll always have each other’s back. A recent scene were they both got physical and knocked lumps out of each other, before making up and playing video games together was one of my favourite scenes of the year and summed up exactly what their relationship is all about. Brotherhood.

My fear is that when Ben goes, Jay is going to be rudderless as a character, without his partner in crime to bounce off against. I’ve always insisted that one of the most underrated actors on the entire show is Jamie Borthwick, who plays Jay and it scares me to imagine how much he’ll suffer when Ben leaves. The great scenes they’ve had recently, were they hang out in the Arches or at their flat having fun and bringing some lightness to the show, or where they support each other in their respective romantic lives. will all cease to exist and without Jay’s strongest link to the Mitchell family, I have a feeling that his connection to them will erode considerably. We’ve seen these two characters grow up in front of our eyes onscreen over several years and their entire relationship grow and flourish and it just feels like such a shame to know that it’s all coming to an end soon. I’m worried for Jay Mitchell in an EastEnders that doesn’t involve Ben.

Reason Four: Three Departures In A Year Will Hurt The Mitchells

I have a feeling that Jay isn’t the only character that is going to suffer when Ben leaves. In my opinion, the entire Mitchell family, probably the most recognisable family in EastEnders history (I know that’s ridiculously controversial but in this century at least, I do think the Mitchells have received the most prominent and biggest storylines), is going to be hurt by Ben’s departure. I’ve already touched on Denny and Louise not being the strongest characters right now but even looking at it in the long term, the loss of Ben is going to be damaging for a family, that already had to go through the losses of the popular Ronnie and Roxy at the beginning of 2017.

Without getting too involved in the debate over Ronnie and Roxy’s axing, it’s hard to argue that the Mitchells weren’t hurt when they were killed off on New Year’s Day. Characters that have been developed since the turn of the century in EastEnders, that are actually popular and well liked by the majority of fans, are somewhat of a rarity and I can only see the prominence of the Mitchells continue to tumble, if they end up losing three of these sort of characters in a single year.

EastEnders and the Mitchells can’t survive just on the popularity of Phil alone. Even though I do admit that Ben and Phil’s issues have been stretched out over the years to the point of tedium, it would be better if Ben was around to continue that angle, than Phil lost his son and only really had Louise, Denny, Billy, Sharon and Jay to have family based storylines with. I can only hope that Ronnie and Roxy’s exit will be enough to ensure John Yorke doesn’t kill off Ben but more baffling permanent axings have happened in the past. In a completely unrelated point, Rest in Peace Pat Butcher.

Reason Five: EastEnders Loses A Great LGBT Character If Ben Leaves

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I’m not going to dwell on this point for long, since I’m not part of the LGBT community and don’t want to feel like I’m trying to speak on their behalf but one thing I’ve always loved about Ben is how positive a gay character he is. Quite often in soaps I’ve found gay characters can be written to be stereotypes and since in a lot of ways, Ben has always been the opposite of those stereotypes, I’ve always felt that he was a good representative for that community. With his dark past and tough guy attitude, Ben really stands out as a well written and endearing LGBT character, who’s extremely different to some of the often over the top and campy, gay soap characters of the past and it doesn’t surprise me at all that Harry Reid’s portrayal, has encouraged some viewers to actually come out to their friends and family and feel more comfortable about their own sexuality.

Even if it broke my heart to see it end, Ben’s relationship with Paul Coker was one of the sweetest and most well done romance storylines that I can ever remember and the recent content involving Ben and the older Luke Willmott-Brown has also been excellent viewing and I think that EastEnders will miss having such a great LGBT character being involved in entertaining romance storylines like those. It’s important that we see more Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transexual characters in our soaps than less and axing Ben, one of the best gay characters in all of the soaps seems like a reductive step.

 

As I’ve said, I fully understand that I don’t have a tight grasp on what goes on behind the scenes on EastEnders but from a character and acting standpoint alone, I can’t really understand why the bosses have decided to let Harry Reid leave his role when his contract runs out. Ultimately, with the knowledge that the recent petition to keep Harry Reid around, won’t do anything to prevent him from leaving, all I can really do is thank him for reviving a character that was dead in the water before he took the role. He might only have been on the show for three years but he’s done a wonderful job in improving the characterisation of Ben Mitchell and perhaps most importantly, has improved the lives of some viewers considerably, by giving them the confidence to be proud to be who they are. I’m not an actor but I can imagine one of the most rewarding aspects of the job, is the ability to improve the lives of the people that consume your work. Harry Reid has most definitely done that and can leave with his head held high, no matter what. I’ll miss you Ben.