More important than anything that happened in Friday's episode, is the sneaky announcement that Michael French will be departing EastEnders.
Honey, he's gone.
He's bowing out Wedding Week, which is Bank Holiday week, so he's already been gone some six weeks already.
This is one of EastEnders' sneaky announcements. It seems that French only wanted a short-term return, which actually makes some viewers' speculations of him leaving at Chistmas viable; however, he agreed to a brief extension of his contract with The Messiah ...
... and that amounts to a grand total of a stay of about 8 months.
French was never going to commit long-term. He's a very private person, and he remembers from his earlier stint how intrusive the media can be into private lives. If you remember the cast photo released shortly before Skeletor became birdfood, French was one of three main characters who didn't appear in the shoot.
Lacey Turner (Stacey) and Samantha Womack (Ronnie) were off filming other projects, so it was left for professional Company Man Adam Woodyatt to tweet that French was on holiday.
He very well may have been, but he'd also left the building at that point as well.
Consider this: Dominic Treadwell-Collins has seen/will see the departures of such established characters as Janine, Bianca and now David. Add Lucy Beale, the least significant, to the list,and the irony is glaring, considering that the storyline about this unlikeable and unimportant character will form the backbone of the programme until February 2015.
The departures of these three characters are far, far more important to the future of EastEnders than Lucy dying and Ian crying.
Their departures seriously do mean the end of an era.
Ricky Butcher has gone. Soon Bianca will leave with her children. Then David. Janine has gone.
I suppose we can safely say now that Charlie Brooks won't return. There is no link for Janine left in the Square. More importantly, there is now no direct link with Pat. The Butchers, more succinctly, the Beale-Butchers, are gone.
With Lucy's death and Bianca's and David's departures, the Beales are also depleted. They will now consist of Ian and Peter, with the addition of non-Beale CindyBoy the Greek, at some point. We know that all cows some home at some point ...
... so sooner rather than later, we'll probably hear the tinkle of a cow bell to signal the return of Jane and Bobby with a head transplant.
The other fear I have about Michael French's departure is that it will open the door for Lindsey Coulson to leave. Face it, there was never a viable dynamic between Carol and Honker, and I find it insulting to the show's heritage that the only remnants of the Fowler family are Honker the Righteous and her hairy, silent daughter RebeccaBoy.
Since I highly suspect that Letitia Dean will slam the door on Sharon considering the pisspoor treatment her character has received at the hands of Kirkwood, Newman and that silver-tongued liar DTC, we are now well into the age of Millennial EastEnders - where retconning rules and beauty is the design of the day.
Still, why worry about the departures of well-established legacy characters from the 80s and 90s when you have the return of ...
I ask you.
Pity Party at Beale's.
It's only been a month, and already, I'm getting pissed off with the incessant weeping, wailing and moaning at the death of a character liked by few and who liked even fewer.
TPTB left it too late in the day to try to make Skeletor the Stick Insect sympathetic by implying that she had poor self-esteem and sought the approval of a distant father.
The truth is that the image of someone as selfish in her own right as Ian was in his, but with her mother's acuity in seeing what a weaselly and weak bullyman Ian was, is too too strong in the public's mind, because most people identify Lucy as Melissa Suffield.
NuLucy was unlikeable, but in an unwatchable way.
The only one of her contemporaries in this grief-piece who's acting normally is Whitney. Whitney hated her, and she didn't care. Whitney knew that Lucy looked down her carefully sculpted cocaine-tinged nose at her, and Whitney thought and still thinks she was a cow.
People don't become good because they die tragically. Whitney knows that from Tony King's death.
Still the bulk of this episode consisted of Pretty Peter, who hasn't exactly emerged from this predicament smelling of roses, gadding about the Square, emotionally blackmailing friends and residents to attend the latest re-opening of Ian's up-market junk food joint.
Evidence of his own headuparseitis was his encounter with his cousin Bianca, completely discrediting Bianca's reason for not attending the event by offering her a free meal.
And it didn't even register when Bianca stated that the real reason she couldn't attend was that she was attending a hospital appointment with her mother. You know, the one who has cancer?
The other big surprise in this was how suddenly Millennial Queen Lauren, played by ...
THE. WORST. ACTRESS. EVER. TO. APPEAR. IN. EASTENDERS.
... has suddenly acquired insight and wisdom. There's a middle-class love affair blooming between two picture perfect middle-class people, who, at all other times, have been self-obsessed and self-absorbed. Please, let's do put Peter and Lauren together, so they can spend the rest of their lives talking at each other and not listening because they're too much in love with themselves. For Lauren, this is life imitating art, because no one is more aware of the camera than the surgically-enhanced poor man's Jennifer Lawrence, Jossa.
Lauren's gone from art student to dropout to drunk to student to car-washer to cleaner to drunk to businesswoman (for two weeks) to professional e-mail reader and now she's back as a waitress.
Gee, Peter's even offered her a full-time job waiting tables at Beales, which is just miles above someone giving manicures. It does make you wonder how any of Ian Beale's businesses are successful since he allows staff and relatives just to hand out jobs willy-nilly to any passing waif and stray.
I'm also getting more than a bit impatient at Ian's incessant crying.and - I must say it - self-pitying posture. More and more, it seems that Ian's mojo isn't grief over Lucy's death as much as it is feeling sorry for himself at having lost "everything". Lucy's death and the return of Jane the Bovine Queen brought home to him that, without the female Cindy link and the Mummy link, Ian has, in his mind, nothing.
Probably the best moment and best line of the night came when Peter reminded him that Lucy's death was a loss for him as well. He'd lost a twin, which is essentially one half of his existence.
Still, that was no excuse for Ian's treatment of "the help" (otherwise known as Denise). Denise was consigned to toilet-cleaner as her task of helping with the restaurant, and Denise was blatantly lied to by Peter when WPC Hollyoaks appeared to say that Lucy's body had been released and was safely ensconced in the Chapel or Rest at Les Coker's.
The subtle white privilege contained in the Beales' attitudes toward Denise really need to be addressed. It's not pretty and it's not right.
Ian is the weasel of the Beale dynasty, and it's sad he's their sole survivor.
A lot of people were variously impressed and confused by the last scene, which saw Peter bond with Lucy's corpse. I wasn't as much put off by the fact that he chose to stay as there was a daycot incongruously situated in the Chapel of Rest.
I come from the Southern United States, where there has long been a tradition in our culture of "sitting up with the corpse". This entails close family members and friends (usually male) who sit up as a guard of honour around the departed the night before the funeral. It's a custom followed in Spain and in Southern Italy as well, but "sitting up" is, well, "sitting up". Not taking a nap on a cot placed by the deceased.
Pity Party in the Gutter: The Great (Ret)Con
Wherever Shirley goes, controversy follows. With news that there are more Carters on the way, one has to ask if this family are fast becoming the new Brannings?
Remember how retconned the Brannings were as more and more and their satellites appeared?
Well, the same is happening here. DTC promises more are on the way. (Only the fanbois approve). He also says that the arrivals/returns are people who have been mentioned previously.
The most obvious (and necessary) one of that category would be Sylvie, Stan's wife. We need Sylvie (but not as a permanent character) to give credence and closure to Shirley's retconned backstory. But no more, really. Not even the much-mentioned Elaine, Linda's mother. Others who've garnered a mention have been Zsa Zsa and Carly. No. Just no. And really, like the Brannings, the sky is the limit. I mean, does Aunt Babe have children? Does Stan have brothers? Are there cousins?
It doesn't bear thinking about, except to remember that familiarity breeds contempt.
Speaking of which, that leads us to the subjects of Linda and Sharon. A commentator on a forum recently noticed, quite rightly, how cold Mick was to Linda. I agree.
We were lulled into a false sense of contentment with them as a couple when they first arrived, an overtly sexual couple with slaps and tickles and sexual innuendo. But that's all there is. Mick adheres to and respects the opinions and desires of his two feckless, thieving drunks, rather than listen to his wife. Linda is being sidelined, and after his adverse reaction to her attempt to help Shirley, it won't be long before someone is playing away.
Then there's the continuous problem with Sharon. The way the part is being written is all wrong. I've been discussing this with another long-term viewer, and, yes, there is a problem with Dean's acting this time around, but the big part of her acting problem comes with the way this Sharon is being depicted - shallow,selfish and bitchy. The fact that Phil is still buzzing around Shirley is eminently incongruous. Isolating Sharon is never a good idea, and if DTC knows his EastEnders and has been reading the Julia Smith-Tony Holland books from the 1980s, he'd sit up and take notice. Setting up Sharon to be undermined by a marmite character such as Shirley will anger a legion of long-term fans.
Someone has noted, quite aptly, that EastEnders doesn't do subtlety. Wrong. EastEnders 2.0, from 2006 onward doesn't do subtlety, which was why Kat's redemption year hit us like a brick, going from slut to Mother Teresa in less than a couple of weeks.
It's obvious that the entire Carter storyline, winding up now to start now, will be all about presenting Shirley as a more sympathetic character - in other words, showing how her "traumatic" past entitles her to behave in the vilest sort of way. Already we see this, in what I reckon to be the either the most glaring retcon or the worst piece of continuity in the show's history.
As per usual, Shirley is sulking at Dean's home truths, which were well-placed and, well, true. But Dean had forgiven Shirley during his last time there. In fact, Dean was the Wicks sibling who was accepting of Shirley, who called her "mum" from the get-go, who called out to her as he was led away to go to prison.
In fact, I was amazed that he was so harsh on Shirley when he was released from prison, but I'm wondering if that were down to the fact that he was regularly beaten and (it was implied) raped whilst inside, and he blamed her. Go figure.
The retconned moment occurred in The Minute Mart in a three-way conversation between Shabnam, Shirley and Denise. There's a debate raging elsewhere about this conversation, considering the fact that, in Thursday's episode, Shirley alluded to the fact that she had abandoned Dean when he was a baby - specifically, when Dean was an infant, when Carly was 3 and when James was 6. The Voice-of-Kevin-Faceless-Shirley video of the couple with their three small children was dug out and shown again, and one recalls the episode wherein we first saw it, where Kevin reminded Shirley that she disappeared shortly after that video was taken, which caused her to run into the street and get her locketful of baby pictures crushed.
The debate raging about the Minute Mart conversation, where Shirley openly alluded to having left her children fourteen years ago hinges on some people saying this alluded to Shirley breaking off contact with Mick after having burned dwon his pub.
Not at all.
I've watched this clip three times, and either this is very bad continuity that was overlooked by both the writer and DTC or it was, indeed, a deliberate retcon for a deliberate person.
The conversation was between Shirley, Shabnam and Denise and it was all about Dean and the effect of his return on Shirley. Dean is a known entity to all of those concerned in the conversation - Shirley is his mother, Denise was his stepmum and Shabnam a close friend of his sister's. The conversation quickly degenerated into a whingeing bout of self-pity on Shirley's part about her maternal qualities, even questioning Denise's right to comment on her situation because neither of Denise's daughters were with her. (Most adult children aren't with their parents full-time.)
The conversation in question started with Shirley identifying herself as a "mother of three" and wisecracking to Shabnam that no one would notice. Why?
Shirley: Wanna know my secret? I left fourteen years ago and never regretted a moment of it.
I wasn't the only one who caught and interpreted that to mean that Shirley had left her children fourteen years ago. Nothing to do with Mick or the fire to his pub, which was fifteen years ago. And Shirley was told by Linda and her mother to clear off when that happened.
No, this was totally about Dean. I'm inclined to think this was an intentional error and done with a purpose of making Shirley look not so bad. We know from 2006 that Shirley abandoned three very small children. Had she done this 14 years ago, we're talking about a 19 year-old James, a 16 year-old Carly and a 13 year-old Dean. When Shirley appeared in 2006, that would have been a mere 6 years after she'd disappeared, and yet Dean and Carly never recognised Shirley when they inadvertantly accidentally on purpose met then, and DTC, who's been infamous for retconning for storyline purposes, has some 'splainin' to do.
It just reeks to me as deliberate. Shirley leaving 14 years ago would meant that she left two children who were, for all intents and purposes, adults; and a thirteen year-old is a bit easier to take care of than an infant.
The Great Shirley Redemption has begun. And with more Carters on the way, Branning City will soon become CarterVille.