Some self-appointed sage on Digital Spy reckons last night's episode was a return to the gritty past of EastEnders.
That selfsame person says he's watched the show since 1990 - hardly the beginning, albeit the beginning of the second phase of the show and the introduction of the Mitchell phenomenon. If that be true, then he'd be well familiar with some of the storyline of the 1990s, which were still gritty - that is to say, kitchen sink drama - the alcoholism of Phil Mitchell, Arthur Fowler's imprisonment and death, Tony Hills coming out, Cindy Beale's repeated infidelities, culminating in her attempted murder of Ian, the car lot fire (since retconned by Bryan Kirkwood).
What I saw last night was a watchable episode, with only a few familiar recogniseable characters and even fewer likeable ones. There was a soupcon of character development regarding Max Branning, but little else.
It was an Ashdown episode, and if this be his last one, he's gone out on a whimper (noticing that he's no longer listed on the credits as whatever he was).
Although this episode was watchable and the show has been bettering itself lately, it still has a long way to go, especially in recapturing the interest of the long-term viewer and the casual viewer, instead of pandering to the airhead fangirls and the bullyboi divas, who don't share a brain cell amongst them.
It wasn't gritty, and it wasn't EastEnders.
The only grit I saw was Jamie Lomas's designer dirt.
Strangers in the Night.
Apart from ...
THE. WORST. ACTRESS. EVER. TO. APPEAR. IN. EASTENDERS
Jake has had no interaction with any other character; and Sadie's interaction has only been superficial. And, really, why should we even invest an interest in her because she's leaving at the end of this storyline?
It's now accepted that she's little more than a plot device - the Rachel to Jake's version of Max.
In fact, this storyline is a homage to Stax and May/Rob/Dawn, and two aspects revealed that tonight - when Lauren rushed to meet Jake, sliding into the front seat eagerly beside Jake. Remind you of anyone? Stacey and Max, anyone? Max had dirty morals, but managed to look clean and immaculate. Jake just looks filthy dirty, as if he stinks. And his horse teeth don't do him any favours. I find it difficult to see what so many people find attractive about this lardy man with an awful Mancunian drawl who looks as though he made a wrong turn, looking for Weatherfield and ended up in Walford. I keep expecting him to call Lauren "Tina."
The way in which it was revealed to Lauren that the woman with whom she'd spoken only a few moments earlier, the woman who had bought her mother's business, was, in fact, Jake's wife, had the odour of Dawn finding out that Rob was, in fact, married to the local GP.
I actually think this storyline, as abysmally acted as it is by both Lomas and Jossa, has a point.
Lauren has always been a judgemental, self-righteous, little bitch, especially where Max and his wanderings are concerned. She was the one who tried to run him over, remember; and she was also the one who "banned" him from Walford when her Yummy Mummy Tanya led her to believe it was Max's fault that Tanya cheated on Greg with him.
First and foremost, I think this storyline was introduced as a means of moving Lauren from the realm of entitled teenhood into the world of being what is known as adult(ery), even though she doesn't work, and Max still doles out money to her without compunction. Thus, TPTB are seen to rid the show of "teens" without actually ridding the show of teens. Lucy Beale turns twenty next month. Lauren will be twenty in March. When Tiffany Raymond was their age, she was already married to Grant Mitchell and the mother of his child.
Things really have progressed.
Secondly, the storyline, if done properly, could also prove to be a startling epiphany for Lauren, always so morally judgemental, for Lauren, right now, is in a similar situation to that of her mother - a teenaged homewrecker involved with a married man who had a child.
A redux of Stax or the same with Tanya-Max-Rachel, Lauren is no better morally than either of her parents.
But her association with Jake is still creepy. Tonight, he mentioned the age difference between the two, essentially covering his arse upon finding out that Lauren lived on his doorstep. He's right. Jake looks like a perv and Lauren still looks like a twelve year-old, no matter how much mascara she rubs on her eyelashes. A man like Jake being attracted to a kid like Lauren has serious issues.
The other thing that's totally laughable about Lauren is how quickly she falls in love. It took her a week to realise she loved her first cousin and immediately she did, she fucked him. Her parents didn't bat an eyelid. Even tonight, she explained to Jake, after throwing away the ubiquitously trite line about all her other conquests having been boys to Jake being a man, when he asked about Joey, she told him that relationship was difficult or complicated or some rot.
Maybe she should have informed him that Joey was actually her first cousin. Still, that doesn't matter, because Lauren loves Jake now - after several rounds of coffee and some dry humping in his bedsit.
The direction in this episode was questionable also, and probably one of Newman's last ditch efforts to get the viewer to love Lauren, judging by the amount of close-ups we had to endure featuring Lomas's stubble and horse teeth and Jossa's gurning, eye-rolling and her latest collagen injection.
Boo-hoo ... she's upset because Daddy is going back to play house with Mommy. If she were a smidgeon more mature, she would have realised that scuzzah Jake isn't worth the perma-tanned skin off her behind, once he'd weaselingly begged her not to tell Sadie of their association.
Somehow, I don't think Max will shrug mildly at this latest association of Lauren's.
As for Jake and Sadie, the surprise was not shocking at all. Something had to start Jake drinking, and we learned that they were having a heated argument whilst driving, he was driving and distracted and hit a kiddie.
When? Where? Before their daughter was born? Since? Must have been since, because she intimated that his drinking cost them their home, his business and hers.
There again raised the age-old EastEnders' female problem of not accepting responsibility.
You never take responsibility for anything, Jake accused Sadie. Too bad, she's leaving. She'd fit right in in Walford, and she could do any sort of gross misbehaviour that came into her head, because she could always claim to be a dirty girl of some sort.
Still, who's shirking responsibility here? Because Jake was driving, Jake got distracted, and he cannot shift the blame to Sadie when he was behind the wheel. Besides, in the aftermath, she got on with their live together, as it was, and he held a pity party with the bottle.
Oh, goody ... just what EastEnders needs, another weak and ineffectual man. And not a very good actor either. Nothing new here.
Are you listening, Saviour?
A plea to DTC ...
Psssst ... by the way, who noticed that Lauren displayed a Max-like tendancy to revert to kind? When scuzzah Jake dumped her, she tried to fall back on her contingency plan, namely Joey. She failed.
The Celibate Max
There poor Kirsty is, slaving away at Branning Manor, doing all sorts to keep body and soul together for Max's children, being sniped at by Cora the Bora and Abi the Dough-Faced Girl and even being blamed for their dilemma.
This was actually quite interesting, with Max facing Kirsty after Carl stirred the pot, informing him that Kirsty had slept with him the previous week. The confrontation between Kirsty and Max was miles different from the shoutfest he'd have had with Tanya - but then, Tanya would have turned her infidelity somehow into something for which Max was to blame, resulting in him becoming, yet again, the perenniel pariah.
Instead, the confrontation was low-key between the two. I found it rich that Max - a liar's liar, whose life is constructed around lies connected with his repeated infidelities - should be offended by Kirsty's lie. My jury's still out as to whether Kirsty was genuinely pissed off with the hissy fits slung her way by Cora and Abi and decided to wash her hands of BranningVille and return to Carl, only changing her mind when she saw the pile of money he'd stashed the next morning, or whether she intended to play him all along.
The surprise element of all this is that Max genuinely didn't care that she was unfaithful. He wants to end the relationship, simply because he doesn't love her. Obviously his time inside gave him time and cause to re-think his life. His oldest son is dead, his first two marriages are finished and neither woman is geographically near him, he hardly sees his youngest son. His daughters are practically grown.
Max appears to have gained some wisdom and insight from his prison experience. Rather than attempt to satisfy yet another high maintenance wife, he wants to spend some time focusing on his daughters before they both leave him (which, I hope, will be sooner rather than later). Now, instead of rococheting from one woman to another and constantly rebounding back to Tanya, Max wants to be on his own for a bit.
Now this is a clever development, if it lasts.
Watchable episode again, but Lomas and Jossa stank up the place.
Oh, and Sadie's salon does Botox treatments. I'll bet Ronnie lives there.