I 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
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!
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
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
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.