Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sympathy for the Devils - Review:- Thursday 18.06.2015

This was a good, character-led episode, fronted by a rapist and a murderer, both of whom TPTB seem to be intent on having the viewing public feel deep sympathy for them. Never have characters who have committed such foul, cold-hearted deeds been offered up as such poor lost souls for whom various people apologise profusely.

I'm sure their victims are equally as generous. So whilst it was a good episode, it was skewed in its depiction of such people; however, its saving grace was the depiction of a couple of other characters who have latched onto the mojo of the rapist and the murderer.

But there was something else that was far, far more subtle and sinister that's threaded its way throughout EastEnders for most of DTC's tenure - and that's the displacement of the adoptive/foster or legal parent with the sperm donor or incubator who gave them life. It's just as jarring hearing Dean refer to his legal father, the man who loved him and brought him up as his son, as Kevin as it is hearing Sharon refer to her parents as Den and Ange, especially now that her coolboy birth Daddy-o is hanging out in Notting Hill with pretensions of returning to Walford to claim his daughter.

The Closest You'll Ever Come to Learning Why Shirley Abandoned Her Kids. Actually, if anything, this episode belonged to Linda Henry, Karl Howman and, briefly, Diane Parish. The episode was rife with mentions of previous characters and also opened up a bit more about Shirley's backstory.

I have to say this, at the risk of riling the plethora of Shirley-haters about the place, and I'm certainly no fan of Shirley's; but Linda Henry is the single biggest asset in the way of acting talent in the show at the moment. You don't have to like Shirley to feel for her in this dilemma. In point of fact, if she thought about it, she and Shabnam actually have a lot in common. They are women riddled with guilt at having turned their back on their children, and they've convinced themselves that they're bad people in the bargain. They hate themselves so much that the idea of someone loving them is totally alien to them.

Tonight Buster, who's turned out to be one of the nicest and most positive depictions of a male character in recent years, actually got to learn a little bit about Shirley, a woman he clearly loves, but about whose character he knows very little. He was right, however, in accusing Shirley of being so jealous at the sight of him and Carol chatting about a motorbike that Shirley assaulted (his words) Carol. Shirley even admits it- first the chat-up, then the cup of tea and then the ubiquitous sight in Shirley's mind of the breastless Carol swinging from the chandelier by her knickers.

There was also a lot of reference about age in tonight's episode, so now's a good time to address seventy year-old Paul Nicholas playing Gavin Sullivan, Sharon's father who's only supposed to be in his early sixties. Karl Howman is sixty-three, a good eleven years older than Linda Henry, yet he's playing Buster, who's only in his early fifties.

What's troubling Buster the most is the state of Shirley - disappearing over the weekend and returning drunk. It gives Buster a sense of deja-vu about a time in his youth, when he'd only been seeing Shirley about a month and he found out that she'd got drunk on cidre and put out for the local fat kid and sought to keep that from Buster. That backstory was interesting, because in an earlier episode in a scene Shirley shared with Sylvie, when it was revealed that Shirley, apparently, didn't know that you could get pregnant from having sex with a boy, and was as surprised as anyone to find she was having a baby; but tonight, we found out that Shirley had not only been drinking since she was thirteen (her liver must be mush by now), but she was also skanking about.

Buster still can't understand the reason behind Shirley's reticence to open up to him, and her rationale is astounding.

When you live with an alcoholic, you learn to keep your mouth shut.

Really, Shirley? I'd love to know when your alcohol issues are going to be addressed. Masood's labelled you a drunk, and you haven't denied it; yet he thinks the child Jade would be better off with a violent alcoholic who's blood kin than in a foster whom with people who are kind to her and love her.

When Shirley finally admits her absence was due to her having seen Dean's daughter and having found out that the child had cystic fibrosis, we came as close as we're ever going to come to finding out why Shirley abandoned her children. The sight of the child with the oxygen mask brought Jimbo back before her eyes. As much as she blames herself for his condition, Buster told her that the disease had its basis in genetics, and that wasn't her fault; but Shirley reminisced about the difficulty in caring for Jimbo - every day was a trial, but a trial for whom? The child? For Shirley? Certainly not for Kevin. He stayed and dealt with the situation.

This situation, until tonight, was all about Shirley. She confessed to Buster about having tried to drown Mick when he was a baby, and it was karma(that word again) that Jimbo had CF and now her granddaughter had it. Her children and grandchildren were trying to drown themselves. So every day that Jimbo suffered was less about Jimbo suffering and more about punishment for Shirley.That's a massive dose of self-hatred, so much so that when Buster decides to forgive all and ask her to marry him, she refuses. Simply because she fears he'll tell Dean what she's told him tonight.

Basically, Shirley doesn't want to tell Dean about Jade because she's afraid Dean will do the same thing she did and bolt on the child. In the end, it took Dean and sharing an old video with Denise to reveal why Shirley left her children. When Dean, who slinks everyplace like a snake ready to coil and strike, overhears Buster and Shirley discussing whether or not he should be told about his daughter, his learning that she had CF was a chance to level some home truths at Shirley. She left because Jimbo had CF, because she couldn't cope? Dean accuses her of not being able to see beyond the disease. She never knew Jimbo- how funny and how bright he could be. Kevin - and it was jarring to hear Dean refer to his father as Kevin- saw all of that and more in Jimbo.

Later, we had that beautifully poignant scene of Shirley watching the family video of the kids when they were young and Denise coming in to share some time. Hearing Kevin's voiceover, Denise realises how much she misses that voice. Shirley then tells her the story about how she and Kevin reacted to Jimbo's diagnosis. Shirley was in bits, but Kevin only went back to the hospital room, picked Jimbo up and smiled broadly at Shirley. She was angry that he could accept the situation so readily. This still doesn't explain her repeated infidelities however.

Taking Dean over to the foster home in the middle of the night with 200 quid in hand in order to "fast-track" Social Services by getting enough biological data (i.e. a strand of hair) in order to have a DNA test, is beyond belief. This may prove Dean's paternity, but Social Services will still have to vet the family before allowing the child to return to them.

The Closest We'll Ever Come to Getting a Confession from Dean. Wow, Dean sure does have rejection issues. It's offensive to me to watch an unrepentant rapist presented clearly as a character for whom we should show great sympathy - more than that, as a victim, himself. I guess poor Dean's a victim of having his mummy reject him and his siblings when he was very young, and even more now, he's a victim of some dodgy gene which gave his daughter cystic fibrosis, thanks to her mother being a carrier of the gene as well.

The rejection issues came right to the fore tonight when the unrepentant rapist was tucked up in bed with the sister of Walford's resident unrepentant murderer. I can't believe Dean was actually thinking of checking on a frightened Amy, who'd had a nightmare. He's a stranger to Amy and would have frightened her even more.

His comeback to Roxy was pretty low (and Roxy was the recipient of a couple of vile insults tonight). Dean's insult was the first.

It wouldn't be the first time that Amy came in and found you in bed with a strange man.

The catalyst for Dean's near-epiphany came when he found out that Jade had cystic fibrosis. After levelling a few home truths as Shirley, about how her motif at life was cutting and running, Buster persuaded him to wait for him at Blades and they'd have a coffee and a chat. The scene where Dean, waiting alone in Blades for Buster, glimpses himself in the mirror was electric with symbolism. Dean left Walford on the heel of Mick's boot and returned hiding behind a full beard. There's symbolism in that. The mirror symbolism was something more. Simply put, you can't hide behind what you are and what you've done, so Dean immediately starts busting up all the mirrors before Buster stops him.

Dean echoed Shirley when she once said that she felt that Jimbo with CF was punishment for her having tried to drown Mick. Now Dean echoes the same thought about himself, but with more resonance. He feels Jade is being punished, but being punished for something that he's done. If he, Dean, has really done something that's bad (and he has, we know that), then God or Mother Nature or anyone should punish him... him. It would be an understatement to say that Buster was knocked for six, as evidenced by his worried walk home alone and his stopping to gaze up at the lighted bedroom window in the Vic. Buster knows Dean is a rapist.

Roxy in Revolution. The creepy situation at The Blisters' house continues, but tonight Roxy came as close as she's ever come to sticking two fingers up at Ronnie because of Ronnie's perceived controlling of her life. I've been long awaiting this, but - oh, my godfathers - she's chosen to give her Declaration of Independence with Dean in hand. Bad judgement much?

The scene in the Blisters' kitchen over ice cream was sorta kinda weird in an uneasy way, and ended with a subtle look of Death by Ronnie in Roxy's direction, over her shoulder. Ronnie's annoyed because Roxy won't tell her who the man was she'd brought home and noisily had sex with. No amount of passive aggressive bullying would do it, not even Ronnie weirdly announcing that she'd managed to make love with her husband, accompanied by a particularly frightening smile.

If anyone was uneasy, it was Charlie during the lovemaking scene. He was clearly distracted by the sounds coming from Roxy's room. At first, he gave an excuse that there were young children in the house, but it was clear that he was jealous of Roxy copping off with someone else. I'll bet Ronnie found his shriveled balls, and put him through the grinder to get it up for her.

But later the sisters sat in the kitchen, ate ice cream and talked about how they used to tell each other everything (except Ronnie never told Roxy about Archie), and now they tell each other nothing. Time was, Roxy would have given Ronnie a blow-by-blow account. Ten years ago, she would have; Roxy counters that ten years ago, Ronnie would have dismissed her as silly. Once again, Ronnie plays the victim - another rotten character who sees themselves as the eternal victim, even to the point where Roxy reminds her that she sounds like Glenda. Ronnie's worried because Roxy won't tell her anything about the man she brought home. Ronnie's control element was based on the fact that she had to know everything about Roxy's movements. That made the control mechanism that much easier when Roxy fucked up. Roxy calls her reticence to tell everything about herself "growing up." Ronnie tries a bit of passive aggressiveness by throwing a guilt factor in and accusing Roxy of growing apart. When that doesn't work, she reminds her that they're sisTAHS.

The line of the night went to Ronnie, when after lecturing Roxy about bringing home an "inappropriate man", Roxy countered with Ronnie sounding not only like their mother but like a teacher, the sad thing being that Roxy still gave a damn about what Ronnie thought. And then the line from Ronnie ...

You didn't when you slept with my husband.

Of course, that line sent Roxy right back into Dean's arms, even having her confess that her unease before had been down to Linda's accusations, but - hey! - what's a rape accusation when you're good in bed and Roxy can use a rapist against her murdering sister.

(I see dead people).

Roxy is being treated like an adolescent in her own home, by Ronnie who's intent on controlling Roxy's every move, and now Charlie, whom Roxy rightly accuses of jealousy because she's moved on and is seeing someone else. Charlie, who should be lolling upstairs in the afterglow with his wife, but is instead half-heartedly watching late night television whilst swigging a beer from a bottle, uses upsetting Ronnie as a stick with which to beat Roxy. Charlie jealous?

He's not ...

I'm embarrassed because a woman approaching middle age feels the need to sleep with someone in order to make herself feel better.

Wow, Roxy's second big insult of the night. Roxy is four years short of forty, and Ronnie is forty. If Roxy is "approaching middle age", what is Ronnie?

Dean is now linked with the creepy-crawly, killing part of the Mitchells. Maybe he and Ronnie will both get their just karma.

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