Phil Mitchell is the prime example of this. He’s a small, dense bundle of bitterness and grievance to whom being “a Mitchell” is the most important thing in the world. The “world” being an area within a half mile radius of the Queen Vic.
Danny Dyer’s Mick Carter – new landlord of the Vic, patriarch of a family that came ready-made with at least six visible members and more in the offing – seemed like Phil Mitchell Mark 2. Faaamily matters to Mick (they stick together, they look after their own etc etc). He has the stance of a boxer and under the veneer of cheeky-chappie Alfie Moon-like charm there’s a glittering seam of thuggery.
More or less from the outset we knew Mick’s son Johnny (Sam Strike) is gay, not least because he’s already enjoyed the pleasures of the lovely Danny Pennant. Johnny was at great pains to hide this from his faaamily, because he didn’t think it would go well if they knew. His mother is the oddly clingy Linda, a woman who reminds me to a disturbing extent of Norma in Bates Motel. And his father is Mick. “You know what Dad’s like,” Johnny told his sister Nancy. “He’d kill me.”
The scene was thus set either for Johnny to carry on pretending he fancied Whitney while making excuses not to go over to her house when they “would have the house to ourselves.” Or for a showdown with Mick, who would doubtless rant that “no son of his” etc etc.
What actually happened was touching and joyful – which is not a word I would normally associate with EastEnders. Even if you don’t usually watch EastEnders, watch the scene on iPlayer, from about 23 minutes in. Mick Carter’s reaction was a million miles from how Phil Mitchell reacted to his own son being gay (a fact which was neatly referred to by Shirley), and it proved that Proper East End men can be emotional and cry and be proud of their children for being honest about who they are.
The writer, Daran Little, said on Twitter the day before that “it’s the only thing I’ve ever written that’s had me in tears,” and you only have to see it to understand why.