While we were dragging ourselves from the comfort of our beds and into the grips of a wet, wintry Monday morning, the residents of Walford were still stuck on the same day that started over two weeks since.
It seems like an age ago that we were writing about the horrendous prospect of Phil Mitchell stripping at Sharon’s hen do and yet here we are, just a day on, as the most eventful day in EastEnders history continued to throw powerful drama our way. If a wedding, the reveal of an affair, a shooting, the death of a dog, a blossoming new romance, a couple splitting up, a text from Peggy Mitchell and a fugitive on the run wasn’t enough to cram into one day, Walford writers hit us with the most emotive punch yet, as Dean’s breakdown led to a harrowing attack on landlady Linda Carter.
It was billed as the episode that would change everything, and it has certainly done that. The Carters have become firm EastEnders favourites and Linda is already moulded as a true Albert Square legend, with hints of Angie Watts about her. It was a day, as Sharon’s matron of honour, that Linda had been stressing about for weeks but, as it came to a close, poshing up a mince pie seemed like a distant problem.
Following Shirley’s departure and his breakup with Lauren, Dean crumbled and, as the rest of her family set out to track down the wayward gunner, it was left to caring Linda to look after him. Treating Dean like her own son, Linda embraced the distraught lad, and, in all good faith, set out to stand by him as he faced his darkest hour. Her repayment? A brutal, cold, sexual assault in her own kitchen.
The scenes were raw and harrowing and extraordinarily difficult to watch and the chilling performance of Matt di Angelo as Dean emphasised the dark nature of the story. As the horrendous attack came to an end, oblivious Dean, almost as if he didn’t even realise the enormity of what he had done, left Linda shaken and broken on the kitchen table, after kissing her and assuring her that he wouldn’t tell anyone.
Kellie Bright played the victim of such an ordeal devastatingly well and portrayed poor Linda, as one of my Twitter followers put it, as a woman who just utterly shut down. There could not have been one person watching who did not ache for Linda, a kind hearted soul who had poured kindness into Dean only to be repaid with brutality. As she made her way slowly and with huge fragility to the shower to bleach herself after the attack, it became clear that this story will indeed change everything and it is going to have huge repercussions for the Carter family and Albert Square as a whole.
This was dark, gritty EastEnders at its best, reminiscent of its strongest years in bygone eras. When the writers and actors are on their game, it is unbeatable, difficult but important drama to tell, and it couldn’t get more on its game than this. The sheer horror of watching these scenes unfold meant it was not an easy half hour of television viewing, but it is an utter testimony to the performers involved that they have done this right.
Suddenly, it’s no longer important that Phil is at death’s door yet again, or that Abi killed her dog or who topped Lucy Beale about five years ago. This is the story that will define EastEnders this year, and possibly for this whole era. And an entire nation is watching, to make sure they get it just right. After last night’s episode, I am fully confident that they will.
Written By Our Man In The North