Saturday, February 21, 2015

EastEnders - 30th Anniversary Live Week

Well, that was some week. Never have I been that gripped by a soap but between February 17th-20th 2015 and in the space six episodes (regular/flashback/live inserts), BBC1's EastEnders celebrated it's 30th anniversary with a slew of unforgettable episodes with revelations coming thick and fast.

First of all - Lucy Beale (Hetti Bywater). We've waited 10 months and have had various clues, elements of misdirection and secrets being spilled out by various characters as her death became all consuming and factored in nearly every character going. After initially making it look like Jane (Laurie Brett) in the hour long episode on Thursday, the accompanying flashback episode recalled Lucy's last moments - which involved being robbed by Ben, thumped by Jake, slapped by Abi and tackled to the ground by Denise, it turned out that while she did indeed die at home (which Lauren cryptically revealed through a card and a later discussion with Peter), it wasn't Jane who delivered the killer blow.

Instead that honour went to Bobby (Eliot Carrington) who hit his sister with a music box while Jane then placed the body to be found at the commons instead. While I can understand that some people were not happy with this reveal (I was certain it was Abi until Tuesday's episode ruled her out), I actually think it's pretty satisfying. Whether it's sign that Bobby is a future sociopath or it was a horrible accident, I don't know but it confirmed that current showrunner Dominic Treadwell-Collins wasn't joking when he said that it was going to be devastating on the Beales - and it truly was as Ian painfully pieced things together and realised that instead of murdering his daughter that new wife Jane was instead trying to protect her adopted son.

I've seen this show do some amazing moments of television beforehand and throughout the week, it was relentlessly good and grim stuff with the Beales but Friday's episode certainly took the show to a whole new level. The arguments between Ian, Jane, Cindy and Peter upon learning that Bobby killed Lucy were superb and the letter that Lucy had written was utterly heartbreaking when Cindy read it out to Ian. Lucy was a nightmare and not the nicest of people but the loss of the character and the revelation of Bobby's role in her death (as well as Jane's role in concealing it) undoubtedly changes things forever for the Beales. Ian might have forgiven Jane but he certainly won't forget and Peter's inability to accept things will only facilitate Ben Hardy's exit from the show. DTC was telling the truth about this story being a changer for the show. I just didn't realise how right he was going to be after all.

Of course to keep with the Beales for a moment, another thing happened - Kathy came home for all of a minute. Yes, despite the fact that the character was killed off back in 2006 off screen and we've been stuck with Ben ever since, I was genuinely surprised to see Gillian Taylforth back on the show (last seen in Hollyoaks) and her little moment with Phil certainly has me curious as to how Kathy can rejoin the Square but it was one in a series of shocking moments. Others included Lauren's swift exit, the live bloopers ("how's Adam?"), Mick nearly killing Dean, Dot being arrested for Nick's death, Ronnie finally waking up from her coma, the arrival of Richard Blackwood's mysterious Vincent, Kim giving birth prematurely in the ladies of the Queen Vic and Linda proposing to Mick as well as Ian and Jane's second eventful wedding. This certainly was not been a dull week in the slightest for the soap.

Creatively, the show has never been better and with the returns of characters like Martin, Kathy, Peggy, Tanya and Christian, a recreation of the opening scene from the first episode in the anniversary episode and other glorious little nods, this whole week managed to honour the show's rich thirty year history along with signalling various plot points for the future. Aside from the slew of impressive episodes, we've also had the Gogglebox style Back To Ours series in which 13 former/current cast members got to rewatch some of their highlights, an after party special that could rival Doctor Who's 50th one (possibly), a feature on the whole Lucy Beale storyline, a Graham Norton special and a chance to rewatch the first ever episode, courtesy of the Red Button service.

It's been thirty years and the show has gone from strength to strength but in terms of anniversary stories, this truly represented a golden age in storytelling for the show and both the cast and crew, as well as current EP Dominic Treadwell-Collins really should take a bow. An utterly wonderful week of episodes. Here's to the next thirty years.

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