“This Life star Steve John Shepherd joins EastEnders as Alfie Moon’s cheeky cousin,” said the Daily Mail back in July last year. “Even cheekier than Alfie,” they promised, excitedly (and completely wrongly, as it turned out). But further down the page, Shepherd was quoted as saying, “He has hidden depths, which will be exciting to explore.”
And, oh boy, the depths are properly unhidden now. To be honest, I really disliked the character of Michael Moon when he first appeared. He was a slimeball who seemed to be only around for the purposes of upsetting Kat and Alfie, the World’s Most Loveable Couple Ever.
Then he starting sniffing round Ronnie Branning. And, indeed, sniffing Ronnie Branning’s underwear. He seemed attracted to Ronnie by her air of tragedy. Here was a tortured soul who was not averse to a spot of torturing himself, as demonstrated when he set things up to look like Ronnie was once again trying to steal Kat’s baby.
The very depths of Michael Moon’s hidden depths didn’t begin to be revealed until his father Eddie (David Essex) turned up in the Square. Michael hates Eddie with a terrifyingly cold, extreme kind of loathing. But why? What could inspire such hatred of a man who is the living embodiment of cuddly gorgeousness? Well, he blames his father for his mother’s suicide, when Michael was just a child. It’s not the kind of thing that can be sorted out with a chat and a pint at the pub (though Eddie thought it could, and that it had been). It’s what shapes Michael, haunts him and drives him.
And he’s planned his revenge for weeks. Like the way he set up Ronnie, he plays other people like chess pieces, and set up a scenario where, on the anniversary of his mother’s death, at exactly the same time, his golden boy of a brother, Tyler, would be killed in a boxing match (though he is still alive as we speak) and other brother Anthony would lose all of Eddie’s money, betting on Tyler to lose (when he in fact won, before collapsing) and Eddie would lose Carol. Money, favourite son and new girlfriend all gone in one fell swoop.
Steve John Shepherd is magnificent as Michael. He seems to have no flesh on his face, so you can see every muscle and sinew working in it. A tiny twitch of the cheek expresses volumes. There’s a feeling of otherness and alienation around him, so even when he’s pretending to be joining in and being part of a happy family, you can see that his mind is somewhere else, and probably calculating how to do something very nasty. He delivers lines with Shakespearean intensity. “What colour… were her eyes?” he said to Eddie in last night’s episode. “They were blue, weren’t they? But then they turned grey, do you remember? When she was lying there? The colour just drained away” (makes languid sweeping gesture with his hand). “You’re not helping, son,” Eddie said. A twitch of the Michael Moon cheek. “Oh, I’m not here to help.”
If revenge is a dish best served cold, Michael has served it with ice.
Posted by PLA (more EastEnders here)