Friday, February 10, 2017

Family Values - Review:- Thursday 09.02.2017 Part 1

I would have watched these two Thursday episodes in their entirety, but I got distracted by other things, and so I'm behind once again. However, watching tonight, I thought this was a genuinely good episode, and one of Daran Little's better ones in recent times. At least the ending left a lot of foreshadowing and subtle hints to the future. 

Part One was a bit of a Republican-esque episode, dwelling on two families in the Square, harping on certain proclivities of one family and the apparent disintegration of another. It just made me think of an old country and western song about one of country music's foremost families with as many hang-ups and as many drunks as EastEnders sport:-

Jack's Blonde Ambition. This was where sitcom crossed over into a bit of a sexual farce. all centering around Amy's bedwetting and what to do about it. Amy is almost nine and acts as though she's five, which is nothing new in EastEnders' tradition of not knowing what to do with various children. I suppose the writers' room took it on board finally about the atrocious Tiffany Butcher mouthing off as though she were some sort of 45 year-old smartarse, so they've gone the opposite with Amy (who never talked and was carried around in Roxy's arms for the first five years of her life), and they have her talking and believing the sort of things a kid of five would only say or do.

Anyway, Glenda soon 'fesses up to Jack about Amy wetting the bed, and Jack determines to talk to her about it. Of course, he's struggles. He doesn't begin to think that he should ask her what's bothering her, because something obviously is, and considering the fact that she's only recently lost her mother and her aunt, their deaths have had to have had some sort of bearing on her.

Instead, he starts waffling with her about bed-wetting being something all boys and girls do at sometime or another. Amy doesn't want to know that. That normalises the fact that she's subliminally reacting to something she can't vocalise. When Jack flounders, Glenda steps in and tells her about Roxy bed-wetting because she thought a bear was under her bed. It was only when Glenda crawled under the bed to prove a bear wasn't there, that Roxy accepted it and moved on.

This prompts Amy to ask Glenda what Roxy was like as a little girl, and Glenda told a very Roxy-esque story about Roxy having loved dancing and how the little boy next door saw her dancing in the back garden one day and started yelling things at her. Roxy climbed the fence and made the boy dance with her.

That sounds very Roxy-ish, except as Glenda later admitted, it wasn't true. Neither was the tale about the bed-wetting and the bear under the bed. Glenda thought on her feet and came up with the right sort of antidote to help Jack out of a sticky situation. Jack acknowledges her help and seems to understand that this situation with Amy, Ricky and Matthew is actually Glenda's chance to make amends. She confesses to Jack that Roxy's childhood was all a haze to her as she was in the process of leaving Archie.

Later Amy asks to sleep in Jack's bed that night, and he relents and stays with her. Glenda comes in to kiss Amy good-night as well, and also tenderly kisses a sleeping Jack on the forehead.

Of course Jack is aware of this. WTF? Since the two shared a comfortingly innocent clinch earlier on, is Glenda reading more into this than meets the eye? Or is she extending maternal tendencies to Jack, viewing him as an extension of Ronnie? Is Jack worried that he's getting the hots for her as well?

The Brannings are incestuous enough as it is; this storyline better not be heading the way things go when someone blonde with the surname "Mitchell" enters into Jack's life. Jack is supposed to be 45. Glenda is 62 (another glamourous Granny). Come ON.

The Carters Are Not a Family (Well, Not in the Walford Sense of the Word). I actually like most of the Carters, but it's been amazing, considering that two of the tribe have been given their marching orders and a third is on maternity leave, watching the dynamic unravel before our very eyes.

The Carters, quite simply, are not a family. Oh, DTC threw them at us as a heretofore unmentioned part of Shirley's retconned pastm and for the first year, they were never off our screens; but now, I can only hope that SOC is unraveling them, only to build them up again. I have to say, however, can you imagine that shower that took place in this episode ever happening to the Mitchells? Can you imagine the likes of Peggy, Grant, Phil, even Billy having their darkest secrets spilled out in the middle of the Vic for all to see?

However much one of their own may have managed to betray them, the Mitchells kept their own dissensions and divisions upstairs in the pub and presented a united front to the punters and the public. They would never have aired their dirty laundry in front of everyone in the pub on a quiz night the way Babe's indiscretions finally caught up with her and her disgrace was made public, nor would they ever have made Lee's disgrace public knowledge.

From the very last scene, the eerie moment when Mick at last threw Babe out onto the street in a torrent of rain, when she ominously promised that she would be back ...

and then followed that threat with a curse upon Mick, the family, and most importantly, the Vic ...

... the foreshadowing was just too obvious, especially the final shot from above of the Queen Vic sign and Babe stood on the pavement below. You know, you just know that the Carters' luck will go from bad to worse and that they'll lose the Vic. Mick may not have lost his licence, but he got landed with a hefty fine of £20 grand to add to his debt, and I think the debt will be his undoing.

The Carters' dilemma was interesting to watch, as it showed them falling apart from the inside out; it also established the unspoken truth that it isn't Mick, the so-called "head of the family" who holds the stuff togeher; it's Linda. 

He's missing her, and they all are missing her presence. Also, I actually think that the straw breaking the Carter camel's back and upsetting their equilibrium is Whitney. Whitney is the Non-Linda, although, in her puffed up arrogance, she'd like to think herself the natural successor to Linda, even usurping some of Linda's place, at least as far as Mick is concerned.

As much as Linda's presence was missed in this episode, we also had underlined for us the abject uselessness of Johnny. Mick had allegedly explained to Johnny about why he was in such a financial predicament, owing to Lee's debt, as well as disclosing that Lee was behind the raid on the pub. (All of a sudden, Lee was this big criminal mastermind - at least that's how Babe put it about). Yet Johnny's suggestion to sad, self-pitying Whitney and her suggestion that Lee was in "a bad place" right now, was that the pair of them needed a night out - ne'mind, the fact that they were stretched financially as it was. 

I don't know who was came across as more stupid in that cafĂ© scene - Whitney, who was so dumb that she didn't know that a pub can't be opened for business unless at least one licencee is on the premises, or Johnny, who reckoned that Whitney was the best wife ever. Yep, that's right, even better than his sainted mummy Linda, who'd have been chuffed to no end to hear about that. Not.

Well, Johnny doesn't know about the furtive snog exchanged between Mick and dirty Whitney - sorry, but she looks as though she's always in need of a bath, and at best, she looks like a poor man's Morticia - but he does know that Lee was delving into payday loans and the like. He's known this since before the wedding, and he tried to warn Lee of doing such things. Ted Reilly is such a wooden actor, who delivers all his lines as though he's reading from a bad autocue.

There was a lot of symbolism in Whitney being too quick to divest of her engagement and wedding rings in order to buy a night out with - of all people - Beanbag and his wife. Beanbag is another representative example of the grossest form of misogyny, apart from Keegan - I guess Keegan grows up to be Beanbag - and that evening will probably be a real treat. The way she was talking to the pawnbroker about the diamond "not being very big" but "she loved it" and about her wanting to "treat her husband" was her way of bigging herself up and trying to convince herself that she was doing the right thing for Lee, when her demands and entitlement were the reasons Lee hefted himself into so much debt.

I do believe Shirley has her pegged as well, giving her the best snark line of the night about being too much above herself to work in the kitchen in Abi's absence. That's exactly what Whitney does think of herself, that she's now the Carter Princess who hopes to shove over the Crown Prince in favour of the King. She honestly still believes that Mick is a strong man.

The other thing I didn't like about this situation was the way everyone, from Mick to Babe to Shirley even to the sneaky surreptitious Whitney sought to put Lee down. Mick's problems were all to do with Lee. A debt and some credit card debt originally were in the thousands - high, but low enough for Mick to consolidate his credit cards and pay it off. So now he's maxed out and paying them off. Mick's real debt comes from the 14 grand he borrowed from a loan shark to get Linda and the ailing Elaine home from Spain. That's the interest that's killing Mick, not what he's paying back on his credit cards for Lee's debt. 

And yet he saw fit to tell Shirley about Lee's part in the raid on the Vic. He told her and then admonished her not to have a go at Lee, although her first reaction was to have a rage at him. It wasn't enough for him to tell Shirley about Lee; Babe had to elaborate on the tale with her version of events to Tina, enhancing Mick's debt crisis, all blame to Lee ...

It's cripplin''im.

It just seemed that everyone was driving yet another nail into Lee's coffin, Mick's disclosure, came with the admonition of protection, and even in the end, when Babe was exposed to everyone in the pub (and by extension, the whole of Albert Square), when she reminded Mick that Lee had done fare worse than her breach of licencing laws, Mick's retort was short, sharp and shockingly true ...

He's family.

You have to stop and think about this. All the other things that Babe has done - baby-brokering, selling cannabis, the atrocious black-mailing and baiting of the Cokers, the goading of Abi - all terrible things, in and of themselves, and worthy of Babe being labelled a pariah; but through all of this, Mick and Linda, mostly Mick, stuck by her, giving her chance after chance; yet once her misbehaviour endangered Mick's livelihood, once she left Sylvie to what Babe reckoned would be her death, Mick finally issued her an abrupt eviction order.

Finally, there's the character of Babe, herself. Once again, in the throes of her leaving line, O'Connor manages to give us just enough of Babe's background - of which we were aware, but in this instance, presented with a different perspective - to make us realise that this was not just a cartoon villain, but an incredibly complex and, at tiimes, tragic character. In fact, the way some of the events of Babe's past were presented in this episode, the meanness shown her, especially by Sylvie, in her younger years, made her appear a very poignantly tragic figure. 

As she pathetically said in this episode, Babe wanted to be loved. For years, after Sylvie abandoned her family, Babe acted as the general dogsbody of the Carter family - cleaning up after Stan, raising Tina and Mick, being some sort of moral support for Shirley; it's difficult to know if she did this out of sheer love or if she did everything she did, expecting love and gratitude, but finding that either she proved herself a nuisance (in Stan's case) or that her loved ones in question simply grew up and moved on (Mick and Shirley).

The scene in the flat between Babe and Sylvie, reminiscing about one horrific episode after another was pretty horrific in the extreme; what started out innocently enough, quickly got dark. Babe's reminiscences of the self-absorbed Sylvie sneaking out to go dancing was rejoindered by Sylvie cruelly remembering that Babe could never climb out a window because she was too fat ...

You were quite a porker in those days.

But Sylvie didn't come out smelling like a rose, with Babe remembering her cheating on Stan with another man, and then forgetting which pub outside which she had left Tina, cooking up a story about gypsies snatching the baby. It just seemed to me that Babe had been ridiculed and lambasted as the fat, ugly, younger sister, someone who could expect love from no one because she was so physically repellent -rejected by Stan, whom she knew first, who chose Sylvie over her, eventually shoved to the sidelines by all the children for whom she cared, she longed for a family; and it was in her interests to keep the demented Sylvie on the sidelines and bask at being at the bosom of Mick's family.

That was an easy role to attain. Mick and Linda are eternal children, who have always existed playing house in a situation where there was at least one viable adult on hand - in Watford, it was Elaine; in Walford, for awhile, it was Shirley. Eventually, it turned out to be Babe. Babe's forte was her ability to cook. She could. Linda couldn't. Babe cooked for the family; she cooked for the pub. In her absence, we learned, Carmel got sick after eating some dodgy herring during Swedish night.

The final straw for Babe came when her abandonment of Sylvie was discovered, that she'd left her - we thought - to drown in the canal. The curious thing was this being the moment Mick chose to evict Babe, something which made her fight for her life amongst this family by revealing every scrap of dirty laundry they had to expose - regaling Shirley about Dean, revealing the part Lee played in the Vic raid, and the actual telling of the home truth about Mick and Shirley not giving a fig about Sylvie at the best of times. They didn't. It simply provided a better reason, and one with which the punters would identify, for kicking her out,rather than doing so because she jeopardised his career in the pub trade.

After all, as Mick said to Shirley, he was ultimately guilty of breaking the licencing laws. He took his eyes off the ball with his situation with Lee, his enormous self-pity party at Linda's departure and his growing physical attraction for Whitney. The buck stops with him.

I wonder if this is really the last we;ll see of Babe. She's always been one for revenge, but I wonder how strong her curses will carry. I still say the Carters will lose the Vic.

Who knows?

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