And it wasn't.
In fact, everything about this episode, dating from the spoiler which revealed in lurid detail how Ian would be "coerced" into not testifying, made everything exactly what it was - boring and predictable. And just to put the icing on the cake, they gave us Ava, Sam and Dexter as an added treat.
This is what is so irksome about EastEnders at the moment, and it's one of the signature pieces of Newman's regime - the bloody inconsistency of the thing.
In previous regimes, we had interesting and engaging episodes, and we had filler episodes, but those fillers were entertaining and served as links from one storyline to another. Yes, this was the big Max's trial one, but it was ludicrous - a High Court high profile trial for something that was a big lot of nothing climax to Carl strutting about the Square, scaring the piss out of Ian and smirking for Britain. That was the tragedy of the thing - a character who could have been viable and interesting turning into yet another comic book villain.
And speaking of comic book characters ...
The People's Court Is Now in Session ...
This was a television dream ... not. I mean, we watched the GEICO Gecko ..
being defended by My Favourite Martian ...
(minus the antennae, of course).
The incident concerning Carl occurred on the 3rd of September. You remember this, don't you? It was the much-hyped million-pound stunt that had been plugged and PR'd all summer long and then fell flat on its face.
And yet, here we are, little over two months later, at the trial, an event which probably wouldn't have taken place until next year; but as Jake Wood
This was a Branning-centric episode, and if anyone is in any doubt that there are enough of them left to annoy and turn off the viewing public, there they were to behold tonight:- Abi the Dough-Faced Girl, in all her Thunder-Thighed and Thick Ankled glory, approaching middle age before she's twenty.
Abi accuses Lauren of being naive, when it's Abi who's believed from the get-go that Max was guilty, simply because Max said so. OK, it's a nice thought that we can always believe our parents and that they'll never lie to us, but the truth is that they do - quite often - and many times for good reason. Max admitted his "guilt" out of fear - fear because Carl had threatened to harm Lauren.
Get my drift? Remember Ian Beale's home truth to David in tonight's episode? Ian admitted he was a coward. That's a known fact, and Ian accepted that; but his real fear was if he didn't lie for Carl, that Carl might harm his children. He'd already held Ian's hand over an open fire, he'd beaten Peter up. Lucy was next on the list, and he threw the ball into David's court, as a father and grandfather, asking him what he would do when threatened with harm against Tiff, Liam or Bianca. And David had no answer.
Which was why someone had to act for Ian. Someone forcing Ian's hand not to testify was the moral equivalent of someone forcing Ian's hand to lie in testimony.
Still, as suspensful drama, it wasn't. It was mundane and predictable. It was also a vehicle for the redemption and rehabilitation of ...
THE. WORST. ACTRESS. EVER. TO. APPEAR. IN. EASTENDERS.
Heretofore, it was always Lauren who was the cynical doubter of Max, whilst Abi defended him to the hilt; now butter wouldn't melt in Lauren's mouth.
Cora turns up "as support" for Max's case as well and as a break from swanning around the Square in sunglasses, issuing threats and demanding respect. Who is this drunken old trout? And whoever thought she'd be matriarch material? She's a Branning satellite and the link to the one aspect of the ghetto Brannings. If Bianca's bunch are the white trash Brannings, then Cora's rainbow family of the daughter she's never known, the son-in-law she never knew about and the spoiled brat of a Gumby grandson are the ghetto Brannings.
Carol, for the moment, makes the Brannings truly international - the new economy and multi-faith Brannings, as the Masoods are now adopted by the Brannings, as evidenced by Carol's peremptory command to Ajay Branning and Tamwar Branning to clean their cereal dishes. Masood Branning even drove the family remnants to the court, in an MPV I didn't even know the Masoods owned, especially now the family formerly known as the Masoods are now three rather pathetic men attached, for the moment, however tenuously, to the Branning brigade.
Then there's Kirsty, who's the Branning-about-to-be-deBranninged. And who cares about her anyway, since she's leaving? Mete to note that Max greeted Carol far more warmly than he greeted his wife.
Anyway, who didn't figure out, when Max wanted to "go for a walk" being overwhelmed by his sudden freedom, especially when we spied the van careening along a vast quarry, that Ian was bound and gagged in the back of the van, and Phil and Max were his kidnappers.
The most preposterous scene of the piece was the final one, starting with the shot of Max's winkle-picker shoes and ending with the silhouette of Phil and Max against the sun, two bald men, one an ageing wheezer and the other a ginger-minger, trying to look tough and menacing - well, I guess they did to Ian, the coward's coward.
Just a question ... is Walford, and Albert Square, in particular, close to a leaking nuclear reactor or something? Because suddenly, there seems to be a preponderance of balding men about the place. First, there were the Bruvs, then came Max, In less than a week, not only have we met the shining bald pate of Terry Spraggan, but now we have the ubiquitous familiar Scottish Metropolitan policeman who's bald.
The Coward of the County.
Make no mistake, Ian Beale was always a weasel. That's a given, but he also ruthless and driven, and disdainful of the peasantry of Walford. During recent years, Ian's spine has withered. Prior to his marriage to Laura, he was the husband more sinned against than sinning, with his two trophy brides. But he was the first to cheat on Laura, and he also cheated not once, but twice on Jane. In fact, he went as far as admitting to a stranger that he didn't love Jane at all - he was merely fond of her.
I'm wondering if the pairing with Denise isn't a kiss of death for the character. She hasn't been in the house long enough to sneeze,and already he and the twins are involved in a massive lie to her.
Of course, Ian is a coward, but this time, he's afraid for his children and what Carl potentially might do to them.
On another note, in the realm of forgotten storylines, I thought Lucy had disowned Ian after he shafted her out of the business from which she shafted him? And I also thought Lucy was covering up for him filching off Janine to pay Carl. Forgotten much? And there's also the matter of Cindy's theft of £10k ...
I thought Ian would have grown positively in character since his breakdown, but TPTB only seem intent in showing him in a pejorative light - like most of the men in the programme.
David Wicks, aside, the only other character holding the fort in Walford is Janine. Multi-faceted is back. Michael's body is being released for burial, and she is contacted as next-of-kin.
Janine's another one who's guilt-tripping, and rightly so. She killed Michael in self-defence, but she knows she killed her daughter's father and the man whom she once loved. The old Janine, the guarded Janine, with the emotional shutters down and holding everyone at arms' length is back - and that's when she can be her most vulnerable.
She shifts responsibility for Michael's funeral to Alfie, which prompts the ire of Kat. Quite honestly, this is nothing to do with her, and for all she's been Mother Teresa for the past year, she's still cack-handed with Janine. Janine doesn't want to show emotion. She's afraid of doing so, because then she might be guilt-ridden to the point that she might say something that risks her losing her child. For the record, I thought Michael treated her abysmally. In the end, he would have killed her, he plotted to kill her, and her reaction to his death, even if she didn't wield the blow in self-defence, is perfectly natural. Why mourn someone who's tried to kill you?
And, pardon me, did Kat refer to Alfie as a muppet? Why is she disdainful of the sort of send-off he would give Michael? Is she forgetting his tribute to Michael on Bonfire Night or his send-off of Nana Moon? Alfie doesn't have to do anything for Michael at all. He doesn't owe him the skin off his arse, the way Michael betrayed him.
And Kat should lay off Janine. After all, Kat aided and abetted the break-up of Janine's marriage to Ryan.
I'm Team Janine. I hope she leaves Walford with her daughter and her reputation as a bitch who owns what she does intact. She'll play Joey.
Are They Still Here?
Of course, last week was half-term, and I suppose Ava the Rava, the Magic Negro of Walford, actuallt worked at the community centre. One day back into the winter term, and she's - yes! - having a day off to celebrate her birthday.
I hope her leaving line is that she loses her job for poor attendance.
Cora's buying her affection now by giving her a birthday card with a "treat" inside. That's money which could have helped pay her granddaughters' utility bills. Instead, she cultivates her rainbow family.
What's this I see? Sam the Sham contemplating a departure? I wonder why? Another commitment-phobe or was it the kidney that grabbed him. It's only been a couple of weeks since Dexter had major major surgery - the sort which requires six weeks' recuperation and a period away from straining over car bonnets and lifting heavy items. So why is he at work? And why are he and Sam,each with a kidney apiece and Sam on anti-rejection medication, quaffing bubbly down at the Vic?
This lot of losers can't leave quick enough. I just wish their spoil overgrown sprog was leaving with them.
Back to mediocrity, I see.