Tag: Luke Browning

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.

 

Ranking the 23 New EastEnders Characters in 2017 From Worst To Best: Part Two

In last week’s blog post I started ranking this year’s new EastEnders characters from worst to best and after a mostly negative review of the likes of Preston Cooper, Tom who spent all of his time stalking Michelle and the bland Mister Pryce, it’s time to focus on my top ten favourite new characters of 2017, in what should be a generally positive Part Two. If you read Part One, I’m sure you’ll have noticed that I haven’t included a fair few members of the Taylor Family or of Weyland and Co, so I don’t think it’s a massive spoiler to say that you should expect them to feature heavily here today:

10th: Josh Hemmings

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Played By: Eddie Eyre

First Appearance: 17th March

See I told you. Coming in at number ten on my list is Josh, the half brother of Fi and Luke Browning and the son of James Willmott-Brown. I initially wasn’t fond of Josh because I found him to be obnoxious in his intense chasing of Lauren Branning, who he knew was already in a relationship but over time he began to grow on me, as it became increasingly more apparent that he was a good guy at his core, despite being part of an unapologetically evil family. The romantic angle with Lauren, that almost seemed to be harassment at the very start was toned down, with Josh giving her plenty of space to become attracted to him naturally, instead of trying to force it and now their relationship actually seems believable and much better for it.

Josh does have an aggressive edge to his character as we’ve seen over the last week or so and his struggle between his loyalty for his family and his loyalty for Lauren has caused him to rebel a little against his dad recently, so he’s more than just the bland minion of Weyland and Co that he seemed at the start. I’m very impressed at the turnaround they’ve managed to complete with him. With his sister and his dad already confirmed to leave at the conclusion of this Weyland storyline and Lauren’s imminent December exit, I’m pretty certain that there’s going to be no long term future for Josh on the show and that makes me a little sad. As a character who’s trying to do the right thing, he does have a chance when this whole mess is over to stick around but I have a feeling that unfortunately, Josh could end up dead as a consequence of his dad’s evil screaming.

 

9th: Woody Woodward

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Played By: Lee Ryan

First Appearance: 18th April

As someone who liked Cora’s grandson Dexter better than most people and who ranks Fatboy as one of my favourite ever EastEnders characters, I understand inexplicably feeling attached to a character who conventional logic says that you should hate. Something like this has clearly happened to me with Woody. Portrayed by long term irritant Lee Ryan and with the ridiculous name Woody Woodward, Woody should have been an object of hatred but instead surprised me by injecting a bit of fun and life into a Queen Vic, which was starting to feel stale and depressing under the Carters.

When Woody, who was a cover barman as a favour for Linda Carter originally, was made bar manager by Grafton Hill, I feared that his fun and kind persona might have been fake and that he might have been a pawn in the Weyland and Co storyline but it seems like that was a red herring of some kind, since it was never hinted again that he was even remotely trying to plot against Mick and Linda. That wasn’t a problem, since it’s sometimes refreshing to have a character with no secrets or agendas and who is there to just add fun. I have a feeling that Woody is a Marmite character with most viewers, one that you either think is great or who you can’t stand, with no inbetween but personally I really like him.

This isn’t to say that I’ve found Woody to be perfect all the same. He recently returned to the show engaged to Whitney Dean, in one of the quickest offscreen whirlwind romances ever, which meant it was extremely irritating when they expected us to care and feel invested in the couple immediately without any build up but at it’s core, that’s the writing team’s fault. The relationship seemingly also brought out the worst in him, especially during one episode when he followed  a conflicted Whitney around the square, basically arguing her into deciding to stay with him. The cowardly way in which he left for a bit recently also wasn’t a good look, after he got cold feet and left Whitney to go off to be a barman in Ibiza. When he returns, the writers are going to have to quickly work out the best way to write him and stick with it. Lee Ryan’s EastEnders future depends on it.

 

8th and 7th: Alexanda D’Costa and Madison Drake

Played By: Sydney Craven and Seraphina Beh

First Appearance: 17th January

For six months straight, I found myself absolutely hating Alexandra and Madison and that’s great because that was exactly the point of them. The bullies in the controversial but important Walford High bullying storyline, for no reason apart from maybe jealousy, decided to make Bex Fowler’s life absolutely miserable by doing various evil acts, such as turning her best friend Louise Mitchell against her, forcing her to eat dirt from the ground that they had convinced her were chocolate truffles and even smashing her precious and expensive acoustic guitar. As if they weren’t hateful enough by that point, they then turned their bullying towards their own friend Louise, getting her blackout drunk and convincing her the responsibility for it lay with her boyfriend (the aforementioned Travis who I talked about in Part One) and ultimately causing Louise to suffer from the burns that still mentally affect her in the present.

Madison and Alexandra were often difficult to watch at times but I have no doubt that the actors played their role well and if anything, my biggest criticism is that their back story was never really expanded on. It would have helped them if they’d showed us why they had so much hatred in their hearts. I get that they were so horrible that they deserved comeuppance in some way but their exit just involved them being carried away by the police, after burning Louise and then they were never seen or mentioned of again and this seemed to annoy a fair few fans.

Maybe some day when they’re older, the characters will return and I think so long as too much time hasn’t elapsed that most fans have forgotten them, they’ll be able to succeed all over again. EastEnders may have received a lot of criticism for the Walford High bullying story being ‘too much like like Grange Hill,’ or being focused on too much but in my eyes its impossible to claim any of the blame for that lies with the brilliant Alexandra and Madison.

 

6th: Karen Taylor

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Played By: Lorraine Stanley

First Appearance: 15th June

As I’ve said already, the Taylor family took a bit of time to click but when they did, they became a vital part of EastEnders. A large part of their success of course lies with Karen Taylor, the family matriarch. The thing with a character like Karen, is that you need to correctly balance them being a bit rough around the edges and abrasive, with also being secretly good hearted and caring and at the start I felt like the writers did a poor job of it. She would be selfish and abrasive, which made it difficult to watch and had such a poor control over her children that sometimes, I genuinely wondered if they were trying to make viewers hate her instead of feel empathy towards her.

Like all of the Taylors and a fair few other characters on this list, over time the worst of Karen’s traits were toned down and she quickly became a delight in almost every scene she was involved in. Possessing audience pleasing humour and motivated by her driving love for her children, Karen’s vulnerabilities began to make her character stronger instead of weaker and now that she’s built up some friendships and respect with other characters on the show, she has started to become a major success.

Her recent loan shark story has maybe been a little cliche but after being involved in several great moments, such as when she helped Sharon, Michelle and Denise with Tom the stalker, when she found out that Bernadette had suffered her miscarriage and when the Taylors hosted dessert as part of the Queen Vic food night, I’m mainly excited to see more of Karen in 2018. I still feel bad for wishing for her axing during her first week! She can stay for a long time as far as I’m concerned now.

 

5th: Aidan Maguire 

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Played By: Patrick Bergin

First Appearance: 27th November

The fact that Aidan hasn’t been around for a full month and has somehow managed to make my top five is a testimony of how great a character he’s been. The steely, magnetising Irishman, who once shared a cell with Phil Mitchell, has spent the last few weeks trying to recruit a team of characters to help him in some sort of robbery/heist that seems to be targeted against Willmott-Brown and it’s been great television. We don’t know a big amount of his backstory and most characters, asides from his friend Phil don’t either but he’s still been impressive enough to convince Mick Carter, Vincent Hubbard and Keanu to join up, to help pull off his scheme, which is set to happen at the beginning of the new year.

In a testimony to just how charismatic Aidan is, it only crossed my mind the other night that his plan might not be successful and that the members of his team could all end up paying dearly in some way. When a character is so convincing that he’s able to make you believe in what he’s selling, that’s when you know they’re truly great. I really like Aidan and I’m so excited to see what he’s going to do in EastEnders over the Christmas holiday period. Even if his plan goes up in flames, it’s going to be an amazing fire to behold.

4th: Sophie (Fi) Browning

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Played By: Lisa Faulkner

First Appearance: 31st March 1987 (Returned April 2017)

As a representative for Grafton Hill, brought in to make sweeping changes to the Queen Vic in order to make it more profitable, I didn’t pay as much attention to Fi Browning at the start as I should have. There was no doubting Fi’s charm or her charisma but at the time, I just thought she was a minor player in a storyline, that was hard to understand and way too slow at times. After the story got more familiar however and it was revealed that Fi was in fact Sophie, the daughter of past mega villain James Willmott-Brown, who had been behind the whole Weyland and Co scheme, it began to become apparent just how important she is.

A rare character who got more and more interesting as time went on, the slow reveals that she was in a relationship with Max Branning the whole time he was in a sham one with Carmel and that she was James Willmott-Brown’s daughter, were extremely effective and proved that when you don’t withhold character details just for the sake of it, they can be revealed to a positive reception. Fi has been probably the most important element of the Weyland and Co storyline, doing the majority of the heavy work when it came to taking over the Queen Vic and being a cool and calm influence in comparison to her hot headed and erratic older brother Luke and her conflicted younger brother Josh.

It’s a shame that Lisa Faulkner, who plays Sophie has confirmed that she is to leave EastEnders at the conclusion of this story. Recent events have showed that, just like Josh, she does have a heart and only did a lot of her more evil deeds, in order to please her father, so she could have been redeemed. It says a lot about the complexities of her character, that unlike Josh who is slowly turning on his dad because he’s fallen in love with Lauren, she’s mainly doing it because she’s fallen in love with the Carters and the Queen Vic.

 

3rd: Keanu Taylor

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Played By: Danny Walters

First Appearance: 15th June

Ignore the tough guy pose in the photo above because Keanu Taylor, right now is possibly the most kind and gentle character in EastEnders. Even when I was convinced that the Taylors were dead on arrival, something about Keanu screamed ‘Breakout Character,’ and I’m pleased to say that so far I haven’t been wrong. He did fall into the same pitfalls as the rest of his family at the start and was very lucky to avoid a teased incest storyline between himself and his sister Bernadette but from then on it was almost plain sailing, as it became obvious just how much of a good guy he was. Despite being shunned by the community initially for his role in a ridiculous plot, that seen the family steal Arthur Fowler’s memorial bench, Keanu would go around the square performing random acts of kindness, like planting flowers again that had been destroyed and never once asked for attention or money, for any of his good deeds.

As someone who has spent pretty big portions of my life unemployed, I’ve loved seeing Keanu’s raw and very real struggle to get a job and his associated shame in having to claim jobseekers allowance. We all know there’s a pretty unfair stigma attached to signing on for benefits and his internal conflict between needing money and not wanting to be like his mother, who had been a claimant for most of her life was a heartbreaking but important plot to put on television and I don’t think Keanu or Sean O’Connor got as much credit as they deserved for addressing it. His other storylines have been mostly successful as well, give or take the outdated male escort story that seems to have been thankfully dropped and I’m very interested to see where his relationship with Ingrid and his role in Aidan’s upcoming grand crime is going to go in 2018.

It’s a little hard to put into words succinctly what’s so great about Keanu’s character (I could write endlessly why I love all of the characters in my top three) but with a moral compass that veers towards doing the right thing, a love for his family that stretches out above anything else, a gritty East End personality that makes him unafraid of getting his hands dirty and an extremely talented actor to draw all these factors together, Keanu has been great and I can’t wait to see more of him next year. I hope Danny Walters has no plans to leave for the foreseeable future because if he sticks around, Keanu is going to be huge.

 

2nd: Keegan Baker

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Played By: Zack Morris

First Appearace: 9th January

The majority of characters that I’ve had positive opinions of in these blog posts, all started off rather unlikeable and then grew on me more as time went on, so it’s fitting that my second favourite new EastEnders character of 2017 completed the biggest one eighty turn of all. Originally introduced as Shaki’s mean best friend and as a supporting player during the Walford High bullying plot, Keegan was often shown to be violent, homophobic and cruel in his treatment of other characters and it got so bad, that when Denise Fox snapped and knocked him to the ground with a slap, I’m pretty sure I stood up and broke into a chorus of applause.

What really helped Keegan was the introduction of his family, the Taylors because it helped to explain why he was such a bitter and angry young man. Over time we began to see that there was a vulnerability to him, he loved his family despite often rebelling against Karen, he genuinely did care about being a good friend to Shaki and he felt guilt over what happened to Louise at the conclusion of the Walford High plot, unlike the unapologetic Alexandra and Madison. Recently he surprised everybody by getting a job as a market street sweeper and sticking with it and it seems as time goes on he’s only going to continue to be more likeable and less of the arrogant toerag that he was at the start.

Honestly, if you’d told me at the start of the year that I’d end up declaring Keegan to be the second best new character of 2017, I would have assumed that most of the other new introductions were terrible but that genuinely hasn’t been the case and I’m now a big fan of Keegan and extremely glad that he was allowed to stick around and be part of a brand new family unit. Aidan has clearly seen some raw, untapped potential in the young man as well, so don’t be surprised if he sadly veers towards some criminal activities in the new year.

 

1st and My Favourite New Character of 2017: Luke Browning

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Played By: Adam Astill

First Appearance: 31st March 1987 (Returned September 2017)

Unlike with Keegan, there hasn’t been a single moment that I haven’t found this man to be a great EastEnders character. The son of James Willmott-Brown and a major player in the Weyland and Co storyline, Luke Browning quickly made his mark in Walford by entering into a relationship with Ben Mitchell, in order to acquire several properties for Weyland and Co and over time has shown an increasingly more violent and evil character, that constantly simmers behind his elegant and affable exterior.

I think my favourite thing about Luke is that he’s a gay character, yet his sexuality isn’t made a big deal of by anybody. There’s no hint that he’s ashamed about his sexuality or that anybody in his family feels negatively about him due to it. It’s just how he is and he doesn’t care about hiding it. In spite of his relationship with Ben being a ruse, their brief pairing felt so real and so genuine, that I spent every episode trying to ignore the clues that it was false because I was that desperate to see it work and both actors deserve so much credit for being able to create the chemistry they had, even if it ended with Luke leaving Ben a crumpled and bloody heap in the Arches.

I’ve made Luke my personal favourite new character of the year and honestly it wasn’t even a difficult decision for me. He’s probably my favourite EastEnders’ villain since the late, great Michael Moon and I hope that I’m going to get the chance to see a lot more of him on the show. That hope might be a pipe dream since, at the time of writing, he hasn’t been onscreen since he was kidnapped by Aidan’s gang of merry, masked men but if he can make it out of the Weyland and Co story alive and not imprisoned, I genuinely think that he could end up being one of the show’s great villains.

Even if last Friday’s episode was somehow his last, it wasn’t a bad way for him to go out, especially thanks to the kidnapping scene, where he looked unimpressed at two masked men who had just jumped out of the back of a van to assault him and simply responded with, ‘really?’ I love Luke.

 

That concludes my countdown of the top 23 new EastEnders characters from this year. Do you agree with my rankings? Is there somebody I have way too high that I’m wrong about? If you feel strongly about anything, so long as it isn’t about Luke not being a great character, feel free to let me know about it over on my Twitter account @heathyheath_ or down here in the comment’s section. Thank you so much for reading everyone. Oh yeah and Merry Christmas.