The most frequent grievances I have from soap opera viewers are to the narratives being “dragged out.”
This is a soap opera, a genre that, above all others, ought to take its time telling its stories—one that I normally deride.
It felt like a huge risk for EastEnders to tease us with a big disclosure 10 months before it really happened, though, given there is frequently plenty of reason for the statement.
Asking an audience to commit to nearly a year of a story when we already knew part of the ending was a hefty ask given how quickly shows go.
Though they knew they had a wonderful giant of a narrative on their hands, the writing and story team must have been nervous about the flash-forward murder scenario.
I would have been, but as soon as it became clear, they had nothing to be concerned about.
The audience quickly came together to exchange theories, aspirations, and joy. Fandom factions who were frequently at odds with one another came together as a result, and everyone looked into every little, devious hint woven throughout the text.
With such an ardent and engaged fan following, EastEnders had to be incredibly creative to maintain the momentum.
From the beginning to the end, the Six plot has been a clever and exquisitely written soap opera.
Well, I should have said “somewhere about the midpoint” rather than “end.”
Not only has the intense excitement we’ve all experienced carried us through ten months of exciting and packed episodes, raising ratings year after year and adding trophy cases to the collection, but the most flawless Christmas Day program has also set the stage and detonated the explosives for an incredible 2024.
The BBC serial opera has made the most of the extra time, as seen by the 400k viewers it saw overnight compared to 2022—the biggest number in four years.
In addition to juggling the intricate plots for the seven possible male victims and the six women who were involved, this ensemble drama also crammed in some incredible arcs for the other characters in Walford.
Just a few years ago, could you have guessed that Sharon, Linda, Denise, Suki, Kathy, and Stacey would have covered up a murder while THE Cindy Beale was staring at Colin Salmon across the street?
Because of the tremendous build-up, the first concern was if the story would become national news or whether it would be stretched out into a complaint. The second concern was whether the result would live up to expectations.
Possibly one of the most ridiculous soap opera scenes ever, and I say that with the utmost respect, the last turns gave us a surprise that showed the payoff was just as remarkable as the plot.
Six of TV’s top actresses threw everything at a masterful screenplay in the Boxing Day episode that followed (accessible on iPlayer from 6am for those who were ready to fight their hangover for the following chapter).
It was a brilliant powerhouse, all that the individual threads and the overarching plot had promised all year long.
And that’s only the start. For a very long time, the plot will elevate these Albert Square symbols to a prominent position, leaving us with plenty of mysteries and exciting developments as Keanu’s body rots away like The Six’s secrets.
Even for those who claim they haven’t watched EastEnders since Bradley jumped over the roof, Christmas Day is a calendar event. (By the way, I call lies on that.)
There was quite the mood in my home on Christmas night when casual watchers and die-hard fans sat down together, and I know that many other people around the nation experienced the same thing.
Everybody sat still and enthralled, especially during the final ten minutes, from those who hushed anybody daring to breathe through to those who said, “Who the heck watches soaps?” and yet kept their eyes on the television.
Generally speaking, an EastEnders Christmas episode would have plenty of material for a wedding in which Phil Mitchell bursts through the doors, revealing the soon-to-be slapped husband as a kidnapper before learning that he has a secret child.
However, this was just the beginning of the drama; it was simply the appetizer.
Producer Chris Clenshaw has brought a renewed zest to the program since he took over, helped by a crew that the modest boss is often praising. The show had begun to fade from many people’s minds.
Chris is a huge fan of EastEnders and the soap opera genre in general; I’ve chatted with him several times.
In a similar vein, authors and actors have made it very evident how different the atmosphere at their workplace is in terms of the excitement around their collaborative work.
When it finally appears on TV, Christmas Day seems like the just reward they’ve all been waiting for—an astounding victory.
Since Chris and his crew are the ones who would be better suited to hold the 40th anniversary celebration, it is clear that this is a narrative that was on their thoughts from the moment they received the set keys.
They are currently preparing additional goodies for months and months into the future, and you can be sure that, similar to this slowly developing masterpiece that has just passed, we will be gripped from start to finish like we were in the old EastEnders.
I know I’m not alone in being more enthusiastic about EastEnders’ future than I have been in a long time, having been knocked for six by one of the finest holiday episodes the program has ever had.
And the greatest Christmas gift of all is the comeback for fans.