Sunday, August 10, 2014

Love and Warmth Week - Review:- 04.08-08.08.2014

Just when you thought it was safe to sit back and watch cutting-edge drama with EastEnders ...

DTC serves up his own brand of love and warmth, for two episode at least, and featuring this year's Brannings, the Carters.

I'm not the only one in thinking that the Carters are wearing thin their recent welcome. No, they're not force-fed us in the way the Brannings were offered up to us, episode after episode; but when we're presented with the Carters, it's more of a subtle infusion.

They're everywhere, especially DTC's self-appointed matriarch, Shirley. A child she'd formerly taunted, runs to her for help when his mother loses her temper with him. She rescues children abandoned by her Skinny Heather version, Jean. She's at one time an unknown mother and an unwanted one by each of her surviving sons, and we're supposed to be sympathetic to her. We're sold on a major storyline featuring Sharon, and we find that Shirley is an important part in the whole thing, and in the end, the storyline will be more about Shirley than Sharon.

The Carters have now infiltrated every storyline in effect at the moment - and not just peripherally. They've become the defining aspects of those storylines.

The question being asked by various fans, in whose minds Branningisation is still rampant, is ... are there too much and too many Carters?

Prelude to Love and Warmth:- Monday 04.08.2014

The week started off weakly, shall we say?

The highlight of the episode were the scenes between Ian and Liam in the cafe. It's now formally acknowledged that Liam is a Beale and part of the Beale empire. I loved Liam's riposte to Ian's remark that he reminded Ian of Lucy on her first day, far worse and just as stubborn. Liam replied with a cheeky grin that maybe stubbornness runs in the family. With Bianca going and Liam staying, I hope Ian proves to be a good male role model for him. I especially liked Ian's remark that he and Liam make a good team. Peter on the stall, Liam in the caff. Could be we're onto something. I've never been impressed with Liam much before, but he and Ian worked well together.

If Shirley is so strongly going to be there the next day, cheering Mick on, has she forgotten that Dean is doing the swim also? Someone's not going to be a happy bunny.

Ian was right - the police usually don't set up a family appeal in a murder unless they are suspecting that a family member was responsible for Lucy's death. Ian has lied to the police, something Rainie knows and is exploiting, and Ian, obviously, is afraid that if he does this appeal, she will come forward with the truth about where he was on the night. On the other hand, Peter seems sinisterly upbeat for this. After having watched the "alibi" section, I thought his arm around Ian when he confessed he'd phoned the police and volunteered to be there with Ian at the appeal more than just a bit intimidating.

Working the World War I memorial, complete with public service history lesson from Whitney as a backdrop to the Romeo-and-Juliet-Go-Walford romcom that is Lee and Whitney didn't do it for me. Bianca has yet another new enemy for her remaining time here, although I am glad the Butchers haven't forgotten the Carters' attitude to Tina's drug-pushing.

Obviously the stuff going on with Alfie and Kat is three preludes for the price of one - the return of Stacey (heralded by the appearance of Jean with six-goiing-on-four-year-old Lily), the birth of the twins and the burning down of the Slater house.

Decent episode for a filler.

Stars of the show: Liam and his Uncle Ian. 

The Waltons of Walford - Tuesday 05.08.2014

Or, in other words, BranningVille becomes CarterTown with a creepy Mamma Shirley everywhere.

I don't know what to say about that episode. I truly don't. It had its plus points - and, not being a fan of Stacey's, when she's a plus point for me, there has to be something wrong with the episode - but it had its bits that made me angry and unsettled. Even Stacey's return made me squirm, but not for the reason you think.

There was one person for whom I felt genuine sympathy in that storyline, and that's Lily. I don't think Jean is coping at all well with Lily. That was abundantly obvious from Jean's behaviour around the child tonight. It's no wonder. Lily misses her mother and doesn't understand where she's gone or why she can't see her, but to be quite honest, screaming Jean gets on my nerves so much, I can imagine what she might do to a child. I'm not talking about her bi-polar condition. That's treatable with medication. But she isn't having an episode now, and judging by her inferences regarding Ollie, I would imagine Jean would be hard going to live with all the time.

At times, she can be a very sympathetic character, but at times, she can be a bloody nuisance, as Alfie's and Kat's reactions were to her tonight. They're caught up in the impending birth of their twins, it's a trying time, and the last thing they need is an unexpected houseguest.

So trying to appeal a verdict after having pled guilty and citing her bi-polar condition is the key (pun intended) to getting Stacey out of jail. Stacey confessed and showed remorse, that was all reflected in the leniency of her sentence. Five years for murder is pretty lenient. She'd have been out in two-and-a-half, and before her sentencing hearing, you can be sure that the police had professional medical people examine her in great detail and make absolutely certain she wasn't having a bi-polar episode when she killed Archie. She knew what she was doing.

The fact that Stacey is reluctant to follow Jean's advice is a testiment to Stacey's character development. She wants to serve her time. In this respect, she reminds me of Pat, who wanted to serve her time for the death of that young girl she hit whilst driving under the influence. Jean is using emotional blackmail in the form of Lily to get Stacey to see sense.

I know she's popular, but I really don't want to see Jean back on the show, flapping her arms and screeching about sausage surprise. I didn't like the way Newman was pushing her to become a species of New Age Dot, armed with pop psychology from downmarket women's mags instead of Scripture. One is just as bad as another. I've no objection to her visiting from time to time, but a permanent stay is off-putting. Haven't enough characters returned from 2007-2010? Still, she's another FOS (Friend of Shirl), so I suppose the Ollie association will soon be a thing of the past, more's the pity.

The upside of that was Stacey. I was glad to see her have a subtle re-introduction as opposed to her last appearance, when Kat simply had to get Stacey back into her life and into Walford at all costs. In the end, Stacey was the adult in the room, as she certainly was tonight.

BTW, Jean's been to a baby shower before. She attended Stacey's baby shower back in 2010, and uttered the same line. Bad research and continuity there.

Love and warmth ...

Both Aleks and Alfie annoyed me in this episode.

It dawned on me that Aleks's vendetta against Alfie comes from Alfie having told Roxy that Aleks was married. Did Aleks lose anything because of this revelation? No. He's still with Roxy, who's quite happy to play the other woman as long as Mrs Shirov is in Latvia. The most he suffered was a night with the shits, thanks to Roxy's revenge, so now he's out to get Alfie.

They're also overplaying the scam bit with Alfie at the moment to the point that it's become ludicrous. Even the baby shower is a scam, a means to make money on duplicated gifts and even original gifts. I know Alfie is unpopular,but I still maintain that that's down to the writers not giving a rat's arse about the character, especially now that Mick Carter with his rhyming slang has become Alfie Moon Mach II, complete with Ian as his new BFF. Alfie's cohort is Terry, who's on his way out within a few weeks. I'm reckoning the Moons are on the way out, both of them. I know people want Kat to stay, and Kat without Alfie may have worked last year, but we would now have the precarious and repetitive situation of a fortysomething single mother with three small children under five, ekeing out a living on a market stall - pretty restrictive when we think of the circular scope Bianca's character had. It's sad, but the Moons were ruined from the getgo by Bryan Kirkwood, and if Newman cared enough to redeem Kat, she should have repaired Alfie as well.

Of course, this is all setting the background for the burning of the Slater house, for which, I imagine, Aleks will get the blame, but whether or not he'll be the culprit is debatable.

Of course, Aleks is just as dishonest as Alfie and more pejoratively so. Tamwar, however, has principles, and I wonder if he'll say something about this.

Moral conundrum. (At least, it's not SnakeGate.)

Neither Beale has come out of the Lucy investigation smelling like roses. At the moment, there are so many secrets and lie whirling about amongst the major players that my head is spinning. In fact, there are too many. It may seem like excitement and fun to some viewers, but for others, it can be very off-putting. Ian and Rainie are now suffering from Newmanitis Circular Syndrome - in other words, same scene, different day. Example?

Rainie calls or texts Ian, demanding money. Ian tells her not to call/text him, but agrees to meet up. Rainie demands money. Ian hands it over, threatening her/telling her this is the last time/yadda yadda. Rainie threatens to tell the police. Ian pays up. Rainie calls or texts Ian, demanding money. Ian tells her not to call/text him, but agrees to meet up ... you get the picture. The only difference in today's occurrance was Ian scurrying off when rumbled by Mick, who thought Ian was in trouble and thought he could repay a good deed.

And which ended with Rainie and Mick - Saint Mick, who suffers for someone else's sin - getting rumbled by the bizzies.

Love and warmth meets moral conundrum.

And finally, The Brady Bunch the Carters. I'm sorry, but they grated tonight, from the very beginning with Mick worrying in bed, alone, only for the camera to pull back and we see Shirley, creepily sitting by Mick's bed, literally promising to kiss his fear better. Mamma can make it go away, Mick. 

The car could break down. They could lie(because Shirley lies so well). It's so clear who Shirley's favourite is, and the brief look on Dean's face when Mick swam the length, taking in the vocal support, including Shirley's presence, willing him on and not Dean, must have made an impact. She even resorted to begging Dean to save face for Mick. When the truth is out, Dean will remember that, and he will also remember that, during the years when Shirley made no contact with either him or his siblings, she flitted in and out of Mick's life.

I find it hard to summon sympathy for Shirley's plight with Mick because the Carters are so wrapped up in a tissue of secrets and lies and downright weird behaviour - from the creepy to the annoyingly puerile right down to sheer childishness. Yes, I love them, but at times I hate them, and it's time like tonight's episode when I get a whiff of force-feeding, and they begin to grate. I know the EP wants, even begs sympathy for Shirley, and Shirley is, indeed, an interesting and multi-levelled character played by a good actress, but the plotline hasn't shown me any concrete reason why I should fall in behind Team Shirley and her newly-created clan. Some I like better than others - Linda, Nancy, Johnny, Lee, Stan. Some have their downside moment - Mick. Some, I deplore - Tina and Babe. My jury's out on Shirley and Dean, both characters being all over the place at the moment.

Before Shirley reveals her true identity to her older son, she needs to make peace with her youngest, and he needs to address his anger projection issues with his mother.

Love and Warmth with a dollop of Creepiness.

Once again, Timothy West and Ann Mitchell stole the show with their timid courtship amongst the ruins of age. I immediately thought of Mr Duck, when I spied (pun intended) Cora's birthday gift to herself, the sunglasses. Once again, and for the better, DTC is emphasising the fact that Cora is, basically, a lonely woman. Dexter has gone to Newcastle to visit Ava (Hooray! I hope he stays!), Rainie doesn't remember, and Tanya couldn't even be bothered to remove the price tag from her mother's birthday card. Typical Tanya. As for Lauren, just what are the plethora of things she has going on that she can't remember her Nan's birthday, but she can come knocking on her door when she needs a place to stay? Waiting tables, plucking her eyebrows and clocking herself in the mirror?

Cora's emotion at being given a bouquet of baby's breath was touching. She's an entirely different character from the one she was a year ago.

Watchable episode, but not one of the best. 

Two for the Price of One - Thursday 07.08.2014

If this were a Friends episode, it would be entitled "The One about Weak Men" - Ian, Mick, Alfie, Ollie, Tamwar. Shirley not only midwives puppies, she rescues lost children. Linda frowns. Cora gives sage advice, which we know will come back and bite her in the arse. Kat opines how Slater women always get their way, ne'mind what her husband might think. And Lauren does a high-school play version of a self-perpetuating virgin.

They were 2 watchable episodes spliced together, but ... give me strength.

CarterVille. or The Children's Playhouse Hour.

 Because that's what this week has been all about, and that's the impression I get about the Carters. Mick, Linda, Shirley and certainly Tina, are all children playing at adults. Linda's the mummy pining for a new babydoll now that her children are grown. Mick assumes the role of "the husband." We all know Shirley's puerile characteristics. Tina is bleeding obvious. Even Stan has been known to childishly deface property, and today his idea of tending a friend's allotments was to drink beer and litter the place with beer cans.

The kids are kids who, sometimes, act younger than what they are supposed to be. And that's down to the writing. When Mick was off to see "the bank manager," Nancy, again, had a Tiffany Butcher moment.

Of course, Mick doesn't want his kids to know he's up in court on a soliciting charge -he also doesn't want them to know that he and their mother aren't married - both of those secrets are understandable, but the most ironic line of the night went to Mick when explaining his situation to Linda:-

We promised from the beginning that there would never be any secrets.

Which, of course is a joke, because the foundation of this set-up is secrets, which aren't really secrets - and when secrets are known, yet denied, they become lies.

- Linda and Mick aren't married, but Dean knows they aren't, having overheard.
- Shirley is Mick's mother, but Phil knows, having listened to Shirley's confession.
- Mick's being done for soliciting, but Cora knows, having overheard.

If that's the most ironic line of the night, then the most moronic came from Nancy, pretending to be 11 year-old Tiffany, when she learned that Mick was off to see his "bank manager."

We're all right for money, ain't we, Dad? I mean, it's not a money thing?

And here's another piece of irony - Shirley, she, who abandons children, gathers little Lily/Carly and Tommy/Dean to her bosoms after Jean abandons them - not only does she rescue them, she buys them fresh ice cream for tea and plants a watchful eye on them, plopped outside the pub.

The Bromance of Two Weak Men.

 Ian is not only a weasel, he is a blatant moral coward. If a friend of mine left me in the lurch with the police, he wouldn't be my friend anymore, no matter what his circumstances were for abandoning me to my fate. Ian used emotional blackmail on Mick, and even if Mick were only to get a slap on the wrist, he may not. There's no way of telling.

Ian's more concerned about his rendezvouz with Rainie than helping in the investigation of his daughter's murder, and that looks suspicious to the police, even though they've been very understanding, but his begging Mick to take the rap in order to keep his extra-curricular activity out of the limelight, was craven; but Mick was a putz to agree not to say anything, because if the shoe were on the other feet, Ian wouldn't help Mick.

Another annoying thing about Ian is how he always has to be reminded that he has Denise in his corner. When he returned home after running away from Mick, he couldn't give a rat's arse that Denise was there to offer moral support in his dealing with the police, he wasn't giving her a thought; but once, his dirty little secret was outed to Mick, it took Mick to remind him that Denise was Ian's fiancé, so that's Mick (and Linda) and Patrick who now know where Ian was the night Lucy was killed.

Just an observation: Ian was in his car. I know some people are suspecting Ian of being the killer, even by accident. I don't think he is, but the red herring clue that he had access to a car on that evening is intersting.

I like Mick. A lot, but I'm not too keen on Saint Mick, the sin-eater who assumes the sins of his mates out of compassion, the man who can purportedly do no wrong, but who looks the other way when a favoured relative breaks the law by pushing drugs. And as creepy as Dean is, I can sorta kinda understand his isolation and his confusion. Mick is the star at the centre of a loving family. From time to time, Mummy approaches Dean, tells him she's proud of him, pats him on the head and goes away. Then she returns to beg him to help Mick, and Dean perceives that Mick is Number One in Shirley's estimation. When he finds out the truth why, there'll be hell to pay.

The Self-Perpetuating Virgin. Ever since she's been sober, Lauren dresses like Pollyanna. Her love affair with her cousin was boring, her affair with Jake was totally unbelieveable, and now she's acting like a demure schoolgirl around Dean. Arms waving, the shrill, funny voices are back, and she comes looking for Dean, literally begging for a date. Dean's going to use her and lose her in an attempt to make Linda jealous. When Dean can't be with the one he loves, he loves (in the carnal sense) the one he's with. He's not interested in silly Lauren. Nor should we be.

On the other side of the coin, Cora is not a self-perpetuating virgin, and she's proud of it. I'm liking Cora more and more, although I could hear Mr Duck's feathers ruffle when Cora popped up to greet Linda in the Carter kitchen first thing in the morning, having spent the night with Stan. She had sound advice for Linda - if she really believed Mick were innocent, she'd be in court supporting him, with Cora as moral support, which is a contrivance so Cora can learn the identity of the trick who tried to pull Mick. But then, Stan had a point when he told Dean that if all Linda had to worry about was Stan having a woman stay over, then something wasn't right in her own bedroom stakes.

Cheer Up, Creepy Jean

Once again, in addition to Linda and Cora carrying the show, the other star was Stacey. Very muted and understated performance, and Lacey Turner is seriously good when she does things like this. 

I know we're supposed to sympathise with Jean, but I found her annoying tonight. Her problem is clearly she's having a hard time coping with Lily, the female equivalent of Denny in terms of prettiness. It was more than a bit creepy, the way she snapped at the child and the way she demanded Lily tell her she loved her. According to both Jean and Ollie, Jean was taking her meds. Kudos to Stacey for telling Jean that she's serving her sentence with Lily in mind, so that her conscience would be clear when she'd served her term. She wants to do the right thing, Jean wants her to take Lily off her hands.

The one remark I didn't like was Kat's remark about Jean wondering how Alfie would feel about Jean staying.

What did I tell you about Slater women putting their foot down?

Nice one, Kat. You've learned a lot from your year in the wilderness. Whatever you want is important. Alfie doesn't even come into the equation. Even though he's forgiven you and taken you back. I wasn't invested in Jean's suicide attempt either. It was a cry for attention and it was meant to indicate that she couldn't cope and didn't want to cope with Lily. I'm also glad Ollie showed up to set the record straight about what was going on. Jean's overreaction to Lily isn't anything to do with bi-polar, it's just Jean and how she is - trying, frustrating and most of the time, unbearable. She automatically assumes that Shirley's spoken to Kat and dumps the kids on Shirley. She calls the police and the rescue services when Lily goes to look at the fairground rides. She trashes Ian's restaurant and can't explain why. And now, she asks to be committed to a psychiatric hospital, even though she's not having an episode, just to force Stacey's hand into doing something she doesn't want to do. As Stacey explained, the authorities knew she wasn't having an episode when she killed Archie, how can she convince them otherwise?

And if that isn't enough, Kat goes into labour and the first person she screams for is Stacey. Too. Much. Regression. And it just dawned on me that Jean, who left the series only last autumn, has returned before Kim, who is absent through the actress's pregnancy leave.

I don't want Jean to stay. I want her to go off, recuperate, and then spend the rest of her life, flapping her arms and screeching at Ollie.

Meanwhile, Alfie smells a cheating rat in Alex and an even weaselly, weak one in Tamwar. I was genuinely surprised at Tamwar's lie. I seriously thought he had more integrity than that.

Mick's Lou Reed Moment - Friday 08.08.2014

Special mentions to Ann Mitchell and Tanya Franks. And the baby saga made me smile. Yeah, Alfie is unpopular, but only because the writers have given up on his character and started writing for Mick Carter the way they wrote for Alfie ten years ago. But you have to give him his moment. These are his sons being born, and he proved he was beyond words and intent on meaning that Lily would be a part of his family when he included her in the family selfie.

Ten years ago, it would have been Alfie Moon taking the rap for Ian, and explaining to Kat exactly why he did it.

I hope it works out for the Moons, even if it means they leave the show. Alfie isn't in the wrong here - he's being targeted by Aleks, and Tamwar needs to grow a pair and stand up for the truth.

Tamwar and Nancy? She deserves better, but it's still better than Dexter and Nancy.

The Carters are beginning to unravel at the core. Mick is sincere and is probably the most compassionate member of the tribe, but that tiny smidgeon of mistrust has just begun to enter Linda's psyche, judging by the look she gave him when he asked if she believed he never touched Rainie. There was a noticeable moment of hesitation before she said she believed him.

I can see where both are coming from - Mick disapproved of Ian's leaving him in the lurch, but he understands that any undue publicity towards Ian right now would deflect emphasis and attention from finding Lucy's killer; whilst Linda is perplexed why Ian would want to kerb crawl anyway, with Denise at home and his family about. She's adamant that Ian should ow up, and she's right as well.

Two defining lines came from the Carters tonight which totally defined their relationship:-

Linda: I don't want the kids finding out about this.

Mick: It's over. I made it go away. We can pretend it never happened.

Loads of secrets, followed by massive pretence. Linda lives on "Let's pretend." Let's pretend we had a wedding. Let's pretend that taking care of babies is wonderful. Let's pretend that the kids will never leave home, that Nancy's a girlie girl, that Johnny is straight, that everything is well and good within this relationship. Let's pretend that a bunk-up, a West End show and shopping spree is all it takes to keep Linda happy.

And the secrets envelop the Carters like a fog. 

Probably for the first time in their association, Mick let Linda down, by thinking and acting outside the box. He did something for another person, who acted stupidly on the night of his daughter's death and is suffering for it - selfishly suffering, but suffering all the same. Mick was astute enough to realise that he still had his daughter, whilst Ian didn't - hence the kiss for Nancy.

Kellie Bright played an absolute blinder tonight, when she returned from the hearing. She was the very embodiment of something Linda would have been proud of -the stiff upper lip, maintaining her dignity even as Denise told her how Ian now considers Mick his friend. And Mick made Ian look small when he told Ian he'd always be welcome to drink in the pub.

I do have a hard time believing that the Carters couldn't stand a 500 quid fine. Do they make no profit from the Vic?

There's been a crack in the armour of Mick and Linda now. She feels betrayed and humiliated, especially with Cora's revelation. The fleeting shot of Dean's face when Cora revealed Mick was done for soliciting a prostitute was opportunism personified. Linda may have brushed him off previously when her pride was privately dented by what she perceived to be Mick's weakness, but now she's been made to flaunt her humiliation publically, whatever Dean offers, she just might take in the name of comfort.

Also, Dean is a man of 27 years. How can he enjoy the company of a teenager and her smitten sister who's just turned twenty and who looks fourteen and plays the part of the self-perpetuating virgin?

If anyone has suffered in the wake of Lucy's murder, it's been the Beales, father and son - especially Ian. He hasn't come out of this at all and is weasellier than ever and immensely unlikeable. All of a sudden, this is all about saving Ian's reputation and less about finding out who killed his daughter. Even Max Branning wouldn't do that.

Once again, Ann Mitchell takes centre stage. Cora's been with us now since 2010, Rainie since 2007. Tonight, we saw the depth of Cora's worry, concern and compassion for her lost daughter. Kudos to DTC for remembering that Rainie's counsellor had passed a message to Cora late in 2012, saying she didn't want to see her mother again because Cora fed Rainie's addictions. It was a poignant moment, during the scene in the cafe, where Cora silently realised that Rainie was the prostitute who was arrested with Mick.

The most heart-wrenching moment of the night was when Rainie asked for help, and Cora saw the tracks on her arms, realising that Rainie was back on heroin. I was reminded of the scene years ago when when Dot, conflicted with herself, went out to buy heroin for Nick.Cora was disgusted, she was disappointed, but she gave Rainie all the money she had, just to get Rainie a fix and keep her off the street. And then the ultimate irony. She took back ten quid:-

I need a drink.

For the end of the week, this was a good episode. 

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