Daytime TV: Dirty denouement

EastEnders offered long-awaited revelations, but not everyone could handle the truth, writes Gary Day

February 25, 2010

EastEnders was 25 years old last week. Various celebrities wished the show happy birthday. But there was something fake about their smiles. Perhaps it was the sawn-off shotgun prodding them on to ever-greater encomiums.

The soap celebrated a quarter of a century of making viewers glad they didn't live in that part of London with a live episode that naturally ended in death (BBC One, Friday 19 February, 8pm). Bradley, pursued by the police, scrambled along the rooftops of Albert Square before demonstrating Newton's law of gravity to devastating effect. His body lay on the pavement ready to trip up anyone who was not looking where they were going. And which of us, dear reader, is?

In case you are wondering what I am talking about, let me explain. On Christmas Day, Archie Mitchell, a bad 'un if ever there was one, sat brooding on his crimes when a bust of Queen Victoria came into heavy contact with his skull. His impressive CV included rape, incest, theft and murder. "What did he ever do that was wrong?" exclaimed his daughter Roxy, showing yet again the failure of children to appreciate their parents' achievements.

Since Archie's demise, the country had not been able to think about anything else except who murdered him. Not the economy, not the Iraq inquiry, not the environment, not even the forthcoming election. No, the only talking point has been "whodunnit?".

We all hated Archie. We could all have done it. Neighbours began to suspect each other. Some were even ringing the show with their suspicions. DCI Jill Marsden, who was heading the murder hunt, had more leads than a professional dog-walking company.

But on Friday night, as a press release had it, "all would be revealed". The nation held its breath as the theme music sounded in living rooms up and down the country. Even teenagers emerged from their bedrooms to find out who the killer was.

"Do I have to leave?" asked Bradley - who, by the way, was guilty of nothing apart from bad taste in jumpers. And terrible judgment where women are concerned. "None of this is your fault," he assured Stacey. Wrong. Stacey killed Archie. Bradley is nabbed because she rings his mobile as he creeps past two coppers. She wants to warn him that there are police everywhere. See what happens when you try to help people? But all this is to come.

"Say goodbye to everyone for me," said Bradley. "To Gran and Grandad, Abby, Lauren, Mo, Charlie ... ". This is the East End and the list could have gone on indefinitely. "You've got to go!" screamed Jack. He seemed to have only two lines. The other was "I am the only person who knows what he is doing", and he repeated them endlessly.

A knock at the front door. Quick, out the back. Groping their way in the dark, Bradley, Stacey, Max and Jack clatter into chairs, bang into tables and break any crockery not stacked in cupboards as they struggle to get Bradley out. The police have not been watching The Bill and so don't realise they need to cover the rear.

But that didn't matter, because no one could find the key. The demolition of the kitchen continues as they ransack drawers and dig up floorboards in search of it. Meanwhile, DCI Marsden patiently waits with her team for someone to come and answer the door. "Perhaps they can't hear us knock over the noise, ma'am."

It was lively in the Beale household too. Dot was there. She had come for moral support because "Gawd", as she calls him, was avoiding her - again. He was probably in the Vic, where a lot of East Enders seem to meet their maker. Phil Mitchell was throwing Ian around the living room. Dot smoked a cigarette while she waited for him to finish.

"Where is it?" snarled Phil as he hurled Ian over the sofa and then posted him through the service hatch into the kitchen. It turned out to be a bit of a misunderstanding. Look, it's just too complicated to explain.

Ian found a video. "Put it on!" Dot demanded. He did. He was probably scared she would call Phil back. There were fuzzy pictures of long-departed cast members and laughter and disconnected remarks. Then the tape broke.

Students of popular culture immediately explained the significance of this scene to their families. It was symbolic of the disintegration of memory. Their families told them to shut up. The video made about as much sense as Bradley having to leave the Square. But when is anything clear in this life?

Meanwhile, Roxy asks her sister, Ronnie, to tell her the truth about Archie. Ronnie obliges. But still Roxy won't believe her. She can't handle the truth, you see.

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