Monday, December 26, 2016

Let the Games Begin - Review:- Boxing Day 2016

OK, he was back last night, but tonight was the episode for which we'd all been waiting - that moment when more than Stacey realises that Max the Knife is back in town.

This was a good episode, overall. Just some observations:-

Millennial Michelle Again. Listen, very carefully to what I'm going to say, because I can only say it here. Saying it anyplace else provokes patronising comments, tinged with ageism and misogyny. So, I'll be blunt: As a character, I like this person; but she isn't Michelle, not the way I remember her.

Yes, my entitled, patronising, precious, little Millennial snowflake, people do change in the course of twenty years, even five years. But not so significantly that they are unrecogniseable. For example, when Steven Beale left Walford early in 2008, he was gay. He reluctantly admitted to being gay and disclosed that this was the reason his birth father had turfed him out. Now, he's back in Walford and 100% het. No one's even mentioning bi-sexual. That's a significant change.

This new character, this Millennial Michelle, is going through all the motions real Michelle would have done - interposing herself into Sharon's life and affairs, for example, visiting her father's allotment (whilst not even mentioning her mother, Pauline's yet to get a look-in). The writers even threw in an Americanism tonight for authenticity, when Michelle asked for her "cell" as opposed to "mobile". They even had Michelle make a glaring grammar error in one line of dialogue, which is also consistent with the character. There you go - the only character in the programme to have a degree and to speak properly and correctly is Libby Fox; Michelle and Sonia can get all the education in the world and still talk like guttersnipes - yet the error came in a carefully modulated and well-spoken voise.

 But within the next sentence, they made an enormous boob.

After inviting Millennial Michelle to accompany her and Lily to the Boxing Day sales, and when Michelle demurred, Stacey asked what Michelle did on Boxing Day in the States. The proper answer should have been that there is no Boxing Day in the States, and the day after Christmas, most people are back at work, ne'mind that Christmas fell on a Sunday; and those who aren't at work and are lucky enough to have the day off, do exactly what Stacey and Lily were going to do - go to the sales, although I find it hard to believe a six year-old would be pining to go to the sales.

From her response, it sounds as if Millennial Michelle feels distinctly unappreciated at home, judging from her remark about nagging the various men in her household to get their lazy arses out of bed.

Look, take the fact that this character is supposed to be Michelle Fowler - and do we even know her surname? Why is she still Fowler if she's got a husband in the US? What does she do for a living that necessitates her extreme professionalism in continuing the use of her maiden name? - take the fact that this  is supposed to be Michelle out of the equation, and I actually like the actress and her portrayal.

I just find it difficult to be affected by someone so categorically different in appearance, mannerisms and diction to be such a seminal character as Michelle, and I think Sean O'Connor was wrong to re-cast.

I read the interview the reticent O'Connor gave recently in the wake of this character's re-birth. He justified his re-cast by pointing to the fact that James Bye had recently been re-cast as Martin.

Bollocks! Martin Fowler never had half the importance that Michelle Fowler bore. He was portrayed by at least three different actors until James Alexandrou took over at twelve. He never spoke before Alexandrou took the role, and then the character of Martin never made it to the forefront of the proceedings until a couple of years before the actor left. If O'Connor can justify the one by the other, maybe he doesn't fully understand or appreciate just how seminal the character of Michelle Fowler was and how much it was ingrained with the identity of the actress who portrayed her.

Since neither Patsy Palmer nor Charlie Brooks are returning anytime soon, if at all, perhaps he'd consider re-casting Bianca or Janine.

There'd be plenty said about that by the Millennials dominating the discussion on the show - a fact that the EP openly acknowledges, commenting that the writing now is aimed directly and especially for people who've watched the show since 2000. I suppose anything that happened before that is of no consequence.

And just a final word to the specious pedant who so painstakingly corrected my opinion ventured about how and why I found it difficult to accept Millennial Michelle - please read for comprehension. Michelle and Sharon had a unique, and apparently undying, friendship based on envy, jealousy and guilt. Each envied the other's circumstance. Sharon craved the normality of a family where a mother and father loved one another; Michelle wanted money and nice things and something better than the life she'd been dealt. I never implied that their friendship was a tissue of lies and deceit on Michelle's part. She dealt Sharon a nasty hand on two significant occasions in her life - she slept with Sharon's father and bore his child; she slept with Sharon's ex-husband and also bore his child. 

She didn't tell her of the first situation until she felt she had to do so, and never told her about the second - leaving Sharon, inadvertantly, to discover the other truth. All the rest of the time, Michelle remained excrutiatingly loyal to Sharon, without a shadow of a doubt; but anyone remarking on Sharon as being a doormat or a mug in regard to the Mitchells, she was always a mug when it came to Michelle. How many women, how many people would maintain a friendship with someone who'd done what Michelle had done to Sharon? Michelle is lucky Sharon is still her friend, which - I suppose - accounts for her almost divine sense of loyalty she feels toward Sharon, an obligation.

So please don't go to the trouble of trying to explain to me why I should think something the way you want it thought and try to tie my opinion in knots just because you think you're younger and smarter and that you understand the scope of the programme better than I. The more you do that, knowing what you do about me, the more you come across as pedantic, ageist and misogynistic.

As you so patronisingly told me one time, you're better than that. Only just, but better. Now, toddle off to sit on the Naughty Step.

Phil's Fava Bean Moment. New Year's Day is approaching, and whilst the Blisters are bowing out that day, both they and Steve McFadden are in pantomime, and the New Year's Day episode usually gives us an excuse as to why we won't see Phil until about March or thereabouts. He's got a new liver, and he's not yellow anymore. What could go wrong?

I have to say it. Sharon around Phil makes be squeeze by bumcheeks together in embarrassment. She is awful. She contributes to the infantilisation of Phil, by the way she baby-talks him, gazes at him with a look on her face that some women only reserve for their children, including the kisses on the forehead.

Sharon is either shrilling at Phil like a fishwife or she's talking to him as though he were two years old. She gives more intellectual credit to Dennis, and he's ten. That scene the day before Christmas Even when she told him to sling his hook and that she didn't care, was more of the original Sharon than I've seen in recent years.

But wait ... Sharon spoke the same way and in the same manner with Dennis Rickman, Denny's father. It used to be embarrassing, listening to her talk to a grown man as if he were a child. She spoke to long-haired Denny in much the same way, but once again, this is a Sharon as created by John Yorke - the simpering, moue-mouthed, man-dependent doormat. I don't remember her speaking this way with Grant - why babify Dennis and now Phil? Bloody hell, Phil's been babified enough through Peggy and every woman since Kathy with whom he's ever associated. Even now and up until this incident, everyone in the Mitchell household tiptoed on eggshells at the Court of King Phil.

I can't invest in this couple anymore, and I was once a big Mitchell fan and shipper of Sharon, simply because I know the shit will hit the fan once it becomes obvious that Denise is carrying the fated Blood Mitchell. So all the talk of them being OK as a couple for the future and even taking a holiday will come to nowt because there's inevitably trouble ahead, and I'm sure Millennial Michelle will be fighting Sharon's corner. She owes it to her.

Five Days and Counting. The Blisters' days are numbered. Five days until Ronnie weds and dies. Ironic that Roxy seems to have taken some sort of message from the state in which she saw Phil, after having spent two nights out drinking.

I absolutely loved Ronnie's line about Roxy being too old to continue partying like that. Bitch, you encouraged her childishness. She's two years off forty, is Roxy, and seriously venturing into Old Troutdom.

Fun and Games with Ian and Jane. What a welcome sight to see Jake Wood back again! And what a player Max is! Unless he's hired it, he's obviously earning enough money to afford a late model luxury car. This is where Ian's and Jane's real punishment starts.

Even Stacey is convinced that Max is different from when he departed before. It's no mean feat to fool Lauren, who could never understand why her father disowned her outright, and it was sublimely ironic to hear her humbly thanking the Beales for making her a part of their family.

Ian is as big a coward as Phil. His first instinct, when hearing that Max had returned, is to cut and run, but Jane believed Stacey when she told her that Max had changed, and Max put in such a virtuoso performance in convincing the Beales that he was back only to move on with his life, his quiet demeanor, his acceptance that the Beales did what they did to protect their child, his shaking of hands and offer of a drink blew all worry away from Ian's mind. 

This is the calm before the storm. I hope the revenge is worth it.

Lowlife Lee. We knew Lee had everything to do with the robbery, but by the end of that segment, I didn't know which way to look - and actually, that confusion was good. In fact, there was a moment when I actually felt sorry for Lee's confession that he told Osman what he did because he wanted those guys at work to like him. It sounded lost, insecure and vulnerable - not pathetic as Whitney proclaimed. 

This is the real Lee, the Lee who's masked his depression. He's never over this, and this encounter revealed, I think, what Whitney genuinely thinks of the real Lee, the Lee laid bare. It's what she was thinking of him after her miscarriage, not wanting to tread carefully around him, not wanting to see him cry. She built up an impossible image and fell in love with it, someone who was going to love and protect her and show that love and protection by buying/renting her an expensive home and buying her expensive items. Lee was fixated on the diamond necklace he'd bought her with the proceeds from selling that stolen item as a quiet affirmation of why he'd done what he did. He told Mick as much, figuratively when they had their conversation on the roof a few days back - that he's fearing letting Whitney down. Mick thinks she's easy to please and would understand, but Lee knows Whitney confuses material bling and sex with love.

He'll leave Walford in the back of a police car for prison.

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