Tag: EastEnders

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.

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 of Billy Mitchell’s Lowest EastEnders’ Moments

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Oh Billy Mitchell. Despite originally being introduced to EastEnders as an abusive bully (more on that very soon), it didn’t take long for the runt of the iconic Mitchell family to become a firm favourite with viewers. Kind hearted and well meaning, Billy, expertly portrayed by Perry Fenwick, has been an endearing character on our TV screens for almost twenty years now and is showing no signs of leaving Walford any time soon. Generally portrayed as a loser who is often easy to manipulate, I think most viewers have always been fond of him because there’s something relatable about a character who is constantly unlucky, despite trying their hardest to be somebody in life, while remaining a good person who does their best for others at the same time.

After what felt like nearly eighteen years of solid bad luck, it’s seemed over the last while that things were finally turning around for Billy. He got back together with Honey, the mother of his two children and took over as the Manager of Les Coker’s Undertaker business and has, in a twist of fate became one of the more well adjusted and successful members of the Mitchell family. Unfortunately in the last few weeks it’s begun to be apparent that this good fortune isn’t going to last for him.  Recently it was revealed that his income has been severely hit due to his unwillingness to chase payment from clients and this led to him getting hit with a pretty hefty tax fine. As if financial issues that could bankrupt his business weren’t bad enough, over the last week or so things have got even worse for him, after his daughter, the adorable Janet, was ran over by a car on Halloween night and afterwards, well if you don’t know I’ll expand more on what happened at the end of this post.

Today, in honour of Billy Mitchell’s latest misfortunes, I thought it might be good fun to take a look at eight of the character’s lowest moments since he first landed on our screens back in 1998. Each moment is going to be in chronological order and between Billy being forced to steal from charity, to randomly being a creepy stalker for a few weeks, there’s a lot of negative moments to cover, so let’s get started with one of Billy’s lowest moments ever, the way he was introduced.

One: Billy The Abusive Uncle

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Originally intended to only appear on EastEnders for a four episode run, Billy was written into the show to begin with as a way to bring his nephew, the new heartthrob Jamie Mitchell, to the square, which is somewhat ironic since Jamie only lasted four years on the show, while Billy has now been around for well over a thousand episodes. Unfortunately Billy’s introduction involved him being a pretty reprehensible bully, who regularly abused Jamie by hitting him.

Perry Fenwick himself wasn’t a fan of Billy being an outright villain and fortunately thanks to some clever writing, EastEnders was able to slowly redeem him when he was introduced as a full time character in 1999. Revelations that Billy himself was how he was because he had been abused while growing up in a children’s home, along with his actions towards Lil Mo who was suffering domestic abuse from her husband Trevor Morgan, which were nothing short of heroic, helped mould Billy into the good natured character we know and love today. It’s just a shame that his character will always be that of somebody who did genuinely make the childhood of a troubled teen a miserable existence. Even though Billy has done a lot of good things since then, that’s always going to be part of his character and something that’s difficult to forgive.

Two: His Marriage To Little Mo Collapsing After Her Tragic Rape

As mentioned above, Billy did a lot of good things for Maureen Slater, that actually led to them having a pretty strong and stable marriage but sadly a tragic event happened that was too much for Billy to handle, that eventually led to their divorce. In what I remember as a really harrowing storyline, Little Mo got raped one night when she was alone in the Queen Vic and ended up conceiving a child with her rapist, the creepy Graham Foster.

It’s difficult to even wrap your head around the situation someone like Little Mo ended up in but the general consensus was that she deserved a lot of credit for having the strength to carry on with her pregnancy and have her child, despite how horrible a position she had been put into. Billy himself respected Little Mo for her choice but was unable to cope with being a father to a baby that wasn’t his and the marriage was ended which was a shame because I honestly assumed at the time that their marriage was strong enough to survive anything. Another element of the entire situation that is desperately sad, is that Graham Foster was only sentenced to eight years in prison, despite his past sexual offences and in the world of EastEnders probably went on to assault even more women. This is perhaps the most depressing storyline Billy has ever been involved in.

Three: Billy The Charity Thief 

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After Billy’s marriage to Little Mo collapsed, he was able to ultimately find temporary happiness again through his marriage to his second wife, the delightful Honey, who is still one of my favourite characters to this day. Despite initially struggling to raise their firstborn child Janet, who suffers from Down’s Syndrome, Billy and Honey had a mostly strong and love filled marriage that was only bolstered by the birth of their second child, a son called William. However, in what has been a recurring theme during his time on EastEnders, his happiness wasn’t to last and by the end of 2007 he was facing severe financial difficulties that left him unable to pay the rent for the flat he occupied with Honey, Janet and William.

Like all rational people suffering from money problems, instead of begging his wealthy family for help or getting a second job or something, he decided to steal money from a children’s charity, a reprehensible act that would propel any character into villain status, if they weren’t as pathetic and downtrodden as Billy. Obviously the scorn and displeasure he received from his own family and the community wasn’t punishment enough because it was only in 2008 that he lied to Honey about donating money to charity that he’d gotten from more questionable means. In Billy’s defence, he was trying to keep the money for honorable reasons but to have a supposedly likeable character, twice deprive charities of money within a year probably wasn’t the best of ideas.

Four: Billy The Coward

Before I go any further I do have to admit that my headline here is perhaps a little mean spirited. See in 2008, Billy hid in a toilet stall while his friend Jase, the father (biologically at the time) of the still popular Jay, was brutally murdered by some East End gangsters, after a criminal job gone wrong and even though he was portrayed pretty extensively onscreen as a coward, I’m not sure if there was anything he could have done to save Jase that wouldn’t have also cost him his own life. Of course Billy was far from heroic in this situation but it’s hard to imagine being in his shoes and even more difficult to imagine springing to action and potentially risking your own life as well.

Regardless of whether you believe Billy was in the right to hide or not, he was met with derision for his cowardly ways and did himself no favours when he allowed Jay to believe that he had done all he could to save Jase, instead of pocketing the money Jase earned during the job and hiding away. It’s undeniable that he suffered for his actions all the same, with a combination of his cowardice and his lies about donating Jase’s money to charity, costing him his marriage after Honey moved away with the two children to live with her father. 2007 and 2008 was such a bad period of time for Billy’s character that it’s almost a miracle that him and Honey are back together in 2017. How much they struggled to get there alone really makes me hope they don’t break them up again.

Five: Billy Loses His Guardianship Of Jay To Phil

I get my first low moment suggests that Billy shouldn’t be tasked with being a responsible guardian to anybody but after Jase died, Billy took Jay in and undeniably was a decent father figure to him. Desperate to atone for the cowardice that arguably cost Jase his life, Billy tried his best with Jay and I thought it was an endearing way of getting viewers back onside of a character who had done a lot of bad things over the last year or so. Sadly Billy and Jay being close wasn’t to last after I’m guessing some new writers, decided there was a gap in Phil Mitchell’s family that needed Jay and slowly over time begun to show him idolising Phil and eventually leaving Billy to live with him full time.

While I honestly have no regrets about Jay being amalgamated into Phil’s family, since that meant we were gifted with the close bond between Ben and Jay, it did make Billy seem weak and perhaps even worse, completely irrelevant. Jay quickly moved from one household to the other in what felt like no time at all and the whole thing just made Billy appear to be an unappealing afterthought. Writers have made an attempt to fix things by having Jay and Billy work together in the funeral parlour nowadays and they did live under the same roof as each other again for a while but they’ve never been as close as they were in the early days and the quick change in guardianship is almost fully to blame for this.

Six: Billy The Letter Thief 

I don’t know how much I can say about this storyline because it was one that was snuffed out almost immediately but since it’s considered up there in the most bizarre unresolved soap storylines of all time, I thought it deserved to be included. You see, in 2010 a mystery story began where it was revealed that somebody was stealing the post of various Walford residents. Masood Ahmed got blamed by a lot of people, since he was the postman and had been going through financial difficulties around the same time but in a shocking twist, it was revealed that Billy had been responsible for stealing everyone’s letters and then, then it was never referred to or brought up again.

It’s fair to assume that at some point, the show’s writers realised the plot was entirely ridiculous and scrapped it but still, for a while he randomly decided to steal other people’s mail, presumably to take any money that was gifted inside and it’s a bizarre part of his character. I have a feeling that the story of Billy Mitchell and the mail will never be referenced again or resolved and honestly, it’s probably for the best.

Seven: Billy The Fish Thief And Also The Creepy Stalker

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Ouch. On the topic of storylines involving Billy that are probably better off forgotten, this one is up there with the postal theft. Thrown under the bus by The Powers That Be in order to create more artificial suspects for the Who Killed Lucy Beale storyline, Billy was thrust into the spotlight for a few weeks, when it came out that Lucy had been threatening to get him sacked from his job at Ian Beale’s fish and chip shop because he was stealing fish to feed his granddaughter Lola and his great granddaughter Lexi. Yeah. Billy was stealing fresh fish from the fish and chip shop he worked in, Lucy found out and then started threatening to get him sacked.

Probably because this reason alone was pretty flimsy and not enough to make any savvy EastEnders’ viewer believe Billy could have possibly killed Lucy, a closing shot to an episode showed Billy had several covertly taken photos of Lucy hidden behind his fridge. Like I said, this was all done to turn Billy into another Red Herring but it was at the expense of making him seem like a creepy pervert. Depressingly it ultimately came out that that’s exactly why he had the photos. He had taken a shine to her and decided the best way to react to this would be to hold onto several photos of a young girl who had barely left her teens like a complete weirdo. Just like the post storyline, this is yet another angle that is better off forgotten and makes Billy appear unpleasant if you think about it too much.

Eight: Janet Gets Knocked Down By A Car, Billy Sleeps With Tina Carter, The Driver

tina-billy-eastenders-edjmgkjhfdhgkjfdhgkfdjAs I touched on a little earlier, things started to get better for Billy after the Lucy Beale storyline concluded and it seemed like things were finally on the up for him for a while. It must be some unwritten rule in EastEnders that a character can’t be happy for too many years in a row however, because over the Halloween period we seen Billy suffer from the one two punch of having to deal with his daughter Janet being ran down, before sleeping with Tina Carter after a row with Honey, on the exact same night.

The storyline hasn’t reached anywhere near its conclusion so maybe I shouldn’t be too judgmental but to have Billy cheat on his wife was a massive mistake and now that he’s been involved in this grim plot, where he knows Tina was the person who ran Janet down, but has to keep it hidden to avoid his cheating ways being exposed, it seems like things are only going to get worse for him. In soaps most of the time big secrets end up exposed and if this follows that traditional trajectory and Honey finds out what happened, then Billy Mitchell may soon have his lowest moment of all time.

 

After writing all of these it’s blatantly obvious to me that Billy has been written into some awkward to navigate corners in his nearly two decade long EastEnders career and I can only give credit to Perry Fenwick for being able to inject an element of likeability into the character that has always allowed him to find ultimate redemption, no matter how many bad things he ends up doing. I personally adore the character and will always have a lot of time for Billy. Even if he’s not always involved in the best or most prominent storylines, the guy has became an important part in the framework of the show and I’m so glad that back in 1999 he managed to snag the opportunity to live in Walford full time. EastEnders wouldn’t be the same without him.

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.