Sunday, September 11, 2016

Review: 09.09.2016 - Thank God That Shower Is Over

Apart from being a bit preachy in some instances and a bit of a history lecture, this was easily the best episode of the week. The best part about this was it felt a lot like the EastEnders of old. The worst part was still the reconstruction of Sharon's attitude towards Grant and of Grant's history as a father.

At least we got rid of the worst impression of an American since the show gave us Vicki Fowler. There must be only one British school in America, where its sports programme includes gridiron football, with a programme good enough to get him a sports' scholarship. He'll have to hurry back to the US, however, and hope his affected British accent keeps him in good stead with the Dean at his university as well as his gridiron coach, because classes started last Monday.

We not only saw Grant leave the Square tonight, and it sounded as if this were a final good-bye, we saw Courtney go with him ... and Jay left.

I haven't looked, but I imagine the forum is in meltdown. I don't think this is the last you'll see of Jay, however. We had the theme of fathers and sons and brothers, and two different sides of the gay equation.

And we had the divine Michael Cashman.

Continuity Plus ... Daran Little's Done His Homework. Of course, Daran Little's first love is Corrie, and when he worked for that show, his episodes were pitch perfect, not only in writing, but in the immaculate research he put into his episodes. 

He did the same tonight here - little things that were really major things, like Colin using a walking stick: When Colin Russell left Walford, he'd just been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis; or Dot's resistance to same-sex marriage.

Many people are too young to remember Dot when she first appeared on the Square. She was a Bible-bashing fundamentalist Christian, who lectured everyone's lax morals and could only see the good in a son she'd appallingly brought up. She was a casual racist and was shocked at Colin's and Barry's relationship. This was during the time when AIDS was at its height in the 80s. People are, however, capable of changing their opinions about things, however - as a very reasonable Sonia stated tonight, everyone's entitled to their own opinions (they're just not entitled to their own facts). As Dot grew to know Colin, she grew to like him, and the two became fast friends. He was the first character on the Square to educate Dot about tolerance, although as late as 2010, she was still making vaguely racist remarks to Mercy Olumbummi.

A lot of the Twittersphere accused Dot of homophobia. She isn't homophobic. She's just guided by her Christian beliefs. Whatever the Bible says, most of it, Dot takes as guidance. Tonight, she quite clearly stated that Colin was her friend; she was conflicted in her belief that, according to the Bible, marriage is something that occurs between a man and a woman, for the purposes of procreation. And Colin was brilliant in dealing with that situation - they reminisced about the past, and he told her that he wasn't asking for her approval, just to be there for him on his wedding day, What touched Dot was Colin admitting that his parents disowned him after finding out that he was gay, but Dot stuck with him, in friendship, throughout, and he was saying that having her there would be almost like having his mother attend.

Dot, like Pat and Shirley, is one of a long line of EastEnders' abysmal mothers who make a right mess of bringing their own children up, but do justice in bringing up other people's. Pat had an edgy relationship with both her sons, but was as good as a mother to Ricky Butcher and Ian Beale. Shirley abandoned her children, yet took on Ben Mitchell and Jay. Dot produced Nick, but she's cherished by her Branning stepchildren, especially Jack and all of their children, especially Sonia and Abi.

Just as Colin had ways of subtly educating Dot with gentle (and positive) manipulation, he did the same today. Having told Sonia that she would never attend any same-sex wedding she would have, she eventually was persuaded by Colin's remarks to attend the wedding and was struck by how happy and in love Colin and his new husband Eddie seemed to be. At last, Dot could finally admit that love is really love.

However, this gave Sonia the opportunity to admit something we'd suspected for a long time - she doesn't love Tina. I suppose that Tina was fine for a fling, but once she actually lived with her, the feathers, the five year-old's wardrobe, the childishness, the fecklessness all got to her. Tina hates to see Sonia give any sort of attention to anyone else, even if they are family. I clocked her rationale in yesterday's episode when she reminded Tina that Dot was family, pointedly inferring that Tina was not. I guess we're getting to the point of Natalie Cassidy leaving for maternity leave (since she had her baby a couple of weeks ago). It's almost a shame, because I like Sonia when she is like this. Tina definitely brought out the worst in her, and whilst I don't approve of domestic violence, it's easy to see why Tosh was driven to distraction by Tina's antics.

Colin paid a visit to the pub for a public service announcement, which had to be introduced by a Carter. (They had to have a Carter involved in this in some way, and so Johnny stepped up to the plate). Notice the glaring omissions in the Carter clan? Mick and Shirley. I imagine when this was filmed, Danny Dyer was right in the middle of his marriage preparations, and Linda Henry was probably on her annual two-month sojourn to her home in Greece.

This was the preachy, history-lesson bit, where Johnny told Colin the story behind why Paul had died, and Colin came forward with his history of Albert Square in the 1980s and what he and Barry had to endure. (He seems to have forgotten about Guido). That was the only later Brookside moment in all of this, but Daran Little provoked a niggle here, when he had Sharon enter a virtually empty pub, look right at and right through Colin. She was the only character left from his time on the Square in that scene, and you'd think TPTB would have remembered that and had an encounter between the two, but I guess that didn't fill TPTB's agenda for either character.

I know Lord Cashman is a politician and activist now, but I'd love to see him and Eddie set up residence on the Square at sometime. Still, it was nice seeing someone from the era when EastEnders was real.

And It's Good-Bye from Him ... Seriously, this looks like it for Grant, and I actually hope it is. He, as well as Sharon, were all over the place during his various turning-ups. I have to say that the only genuine moment he looked like Grant to me was during that scene with Letitia Dean - the "moment" scene during Peggy's last hurrah. Like a lot of other characters, Grant had to leave the Square to find happiness; and when he returned a decade ago, he'd had psychological counselling, had attended an anger management course and was a doting dad to his young daughter. But people didn't like the mellow, metrosexual Grant, so this time, it seems as DTC and co went for the madman version, and failed epically.

Grant and Phil were at loggerheads and had been for sometime, it seemed. It also seemed that Phil had acquired literally all of Grant's money in order to pay off Kathy, who - at the time - was planning on leaving Gavin, but who was really filching the money on behalf of Gavin. According to Grant, Phil took everything, including Courtney's trust fund money - and that still begs the question ... Where is this damned money? Obviously, it went along with the £100k Sharon handed over to Gavin, and a hold-all filled with cash was left by the police on the mezzanine of the "estate" which Gavin bought and where Auntie Margaret died. What happened to that money?

Grant's return this time should have been for drawing a line under Sharongate. It was obvious from the "moment" scene that there was still a spark of attraction between them. Sharon even went looking for him that evening and found Phil instead. She also was sneaking around during the time Ben first disappeared after Paul's death, making secret phonecalls and text messages to Grant, and when he did show up, he declared his love for her. That was when the character assassination began in earnest on Grant - and you can always tell when a character is never going to appear again because they get a character assassination - Zainab, Zoe, Michelle ... and now Grant, but it's done fully on screen and in sight of everyone - which makes a change, since so much happens off-screen now, like Colin's wedding and Paul's funeral.

Suddenly, after Phil found out about Sharon's "moment" with Grant, Grant became a broken person, a dangerous person, a loser, someone out of control, who'd lost everything, and a bad dad, to boot, because Courtney, who started out so well and so Tiffany-esque, suddenly became a rotten old Mitchell, spouting anti-police rhetoric and pejorative family values.

Sharongate was sacrificed for the Secret Son venture, and tonight's episode picked up where last night's left off, with Grant and his secret son having a drink in the pub. Once again, things were all over the place. Grant asked Mark if Michelle ever mentioned him, and Mark said no ... directly in contravention to what was implied earlier this week, when Mark told Grant how Michelle was always lambasting him. Strange.

Also, we got a glimpse of the happy homelife in Florida. Mr NoName is calm, probably almost to the point of non-existence, where Michelle is always shouting her mouth off and losing her temper. Not a great thing to do in the South like that, unless you want your teeth knocked out or a gun shoved in your face. According to Secret Son, he's just like his mother, to the point that NoName Tim keeps telling him to calm down. Wow, Michelle sounds like a real piece of work. But this kid showed none of that sort of behaviour. What turned Grant on a dime was when Mark said he had the best dad in the world, and he wouldn't want another. That's when Grant realised the difference between being a father and being a dad.

So maybe Mark isn't as stupid as he looked. He put two and two together and came out with four, as we learned later.

There was something else that was a bit off-kilter in the subsequent scene between Sharon and Grant touched on Sharon's aborting Grant's baby, when he asked about their child, the one, in his words, "that you got rid of". The last time this was addressed was when Sharon told Grant a decade ago when he returned with Phil to the Square and she was married to Dennis. NuGrant accepted Sharon's abortion as the best decision she could make; now he, accusingly, asks her if she ever thinks of that child, who'd be roughly Mark's age by now.

One of the best parts of this vignette was seeing Jane get handed her arse by Sharon and Ian, for interfering. As either Ian or Sharon pointed out, revealing Grant's paternity to Mark would only have destroyed a family dynamic in Florida that was not only established, it was happy; and that information should only come from Michelle and only if she wanted to impart it.

Jane's pithy reply to that was pathetic - that Mark was an adult and she thought he had a right to know and decide for himself. 

Bitch, please. As Peter Beale told you back in 2015, you are nobody's parent, and your judgement is shite. You're the one who watched an innocent man go to prison, who would have tolerated your husband's brother going to prison, to save a child who ended up braining you. And then you were too cowardly to accept responsibility for your role in Lucy's death, instead throwing Bobby fully under the proverbial bus.

Woman, that kid is coming for you, and you have no right to render any sort of judgement on this situation. It's none of your business.

In the end, it was Sharon, who admitted to Mark that Grant was his father, but only after he'd guessed it. For a moment, I thought he wanted to stay, but Sharon pulled the onld "Grant-is-Broken-and-He'll-Destroy-You" line, and the wuss followed through. I hope he never returns. He's the last thing we need, and the new Mitchells, this time around, have failed to impress.

And It's Good-Bye to Him: Brothers in Arms. As much as this was a show about fathers and sons, it was also a show about brothers, actual and spiritual.

Arguably, the best scene in the episode occurred between Phil and Grant, after Phil went out for a walk to the Arches after having attended Paul's funeral with Ben. This was after he'd told Ben how proud he was of his reading, and how it took guts for him to stand up beside Paul's coffin and speak. He also took that opportunity to speak honestly to Ben about his health, actually telling Ben that he was dying. I'd never noticed before the jaundiced make-up Steve McFadden was wearing in these two episodes. He genuinely looked ill.

The Phil-and-Grant scene was one of the few times that Grant has been brutally honest, and I feel he put the Mitchells dynamic into the proper perspective. Grant admitted what was really the truth about the Mitchells, that without Peggy, there really was nothing left for him in Walford. He actually admitted that neither of his wives - neither Sharon, the love of his life, nor Tiffany, the mother of his child, mattered as much to him as Peggy and Phil did. No mention of Sam, but at least this was out in the open.

Now Peggy was dead, and Phil was dying. He told Phil some brutal truths, especially about the fact that Phil had seemed to roll over and accept his fate. The difference between the Bruvs, and Grant knows it, is that Phil has a lot to live for, and I think he hit the nail on the head. A lot of Phil stumbling around and accepting his fate, almost wanting to die, has been his reaction to and grief for Peggy's death. That's been selfish of Phil. It takes Grant to remind him that he has a wife who loves him and a son and daughter. After all, Mitchells are fighters. 

He also puts Phil right about Phil's wanting Grant to impose himself on Mark, as his father. Grant pointed out that the boy told him he already had a father, and Grant couldn't argue with that. Instead, he needed to repair ground with the child he'd raised from infancy, his daughter. 

The flaw in this was that his reunion with Courtney was rushed. He simply reminded her that he was her father and that he loved her, and one day she would need him. That's all it took for her to chuck uni and head back to Portugal with the few grand Phil had handed him, saying this was all he had.

I guess Grant must have sold or given his BMW SUV to Sharon, because she was driving Mark to the airport in it. So maybe he got a few more quid.

Meanwhile, almost imperceptibly, Jay left, telling Ben that no matter where they were, they would always be brothers. I have a feeling that this isn't a real departure for Jay. He's drawn to the Mitchells like a drug, and if this were his good-bye, it was certainly a surprise and remarkably downbeat.

The thing ended, a bit unbelievably, with Ben offering Phil his liver - well, part of his liver; but I would have thought Phil was not a prime candidate - age and health-wise - for a live liver transplant. 

The Cokers. Of course, we didn't see Paul's funeral, but the playout at the wake was heart-rending. This is exactly what happened with Les when Lawrie died. His way of containing his grief is to throw himself into his work. He's afraid to show emotion, when Pam wants comfort. Her grief was raw, and the only time she could speak was to speak to Ben, because she felt that Ben was suffering the same as she.

I realised tonight how much I'm going to miss the Cokers, but I also realised how this part of the show was a mirror to Dot and Colin. It took the death of Paul to realise that both Les and Pam now needed Les to revert to "Christine."

I'm going to miss them. 

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