Saturday, 11 April 2009

The Eastenders Death-Fest

When I was told that for the second year in a row, the BBC’s soap Eastenders would have as its Easter plot a man being buried alive, I scoffed. “Of course not!” I said. “That would be ridiculous.”

Last year housewife Tanya was bored, and so decided to bury her husband Max (Kill-Crazy from Red Dwarf) alive in the woods in a coffin. Max then dug his way out and rose from the dead, and now a year later they are living together as a happy loving family and I haven’t a clue why (apart from the fact that the writers seem to think middle aged balding men are irresistible).

But last night, Phil Mitchell (another irresistible middle aged balding man) had the villainous Archie Mitchell in a pit whilst he stood above him with a cement mixer laughing away evilly. Archie is a classic soap villain in that his sole motivation is ‘he’s evil’. Of course we don't get a cementy death in a pre-watershed popular drama, so instead Archie just gets water hilariously poured on his head. Then Phil’s mum (played by Barbara Windsor of Carry-On fame) throws him out of the house for not being a murderer. I wish I could make this stuff up.

The sheer amount of deaths and attempted murders in Eastenders recently has made me cast my mind back to those we have lost. Come with me on my journey through Eastenders-Land and my favourite horrible deaths!

Danielle Jones
You are never allowed to be happy. Ever.

Poor Danielle. In one of the soaps more interesting twists, she was revealed to be the long-lost daughter of regular character Ronnie, who was forced by her evil father (the aforementioned Archie) to give her up as a baby.  Danielle returns to find her mother, and does she tell her?

No. She decides to tell her, wanders over to Ronnie’s place, then chickens out and goes back to the train station. Once or twice would have been fine, but this went on for an entire sodding year. Eventually Danielle worked up the courage to tell Ronnie but instead bumped into Evil Archie.

Evil Archie had told Ronnie that her baby had died. So in order to get away with that little lie, Archie decided to try to murder Danielle. Since being found out for a lie is far worse than killing someone. Thankfully Danielle escaped by wandering back to the train station.

Eventually she did tell Ronnie who didn’t believe her. So Danielle ran away to the train station again. Ronnie caught up with her, told her she believed her and that they would at last both be happy...

...and a car comes out of nowhere (driven by Eastenders' regular murderess Janine Butcher), running over Danielle in order to be as contrived and depressing as possible. The camera then pans slowly out on Ronnie crouching over her daughter’s body, screaming “NOOO!” in her best Darth Vader impression. That was just last week!

Moral: If you’re adopted never go looking for your real parents. Especially if they live in the East End.
Steve Owen

To me, the golden years of Eastenders where when Steve Owen was around. Played by Martin Kemp of Spandau Ballet fame, he strutted about the nightclub he owned (the E-20) to the tune of Gold, which was played often. They kept trying to make him a villain, but he was just too darn lovable and often he fought epic battles with his enemies, the immortal Phil Mitchell and Dan ‘I was in Cliffhanger’ Sullivan.

On Valentines Day 1999 his crazy ex-girlfriend tried to kill him and so in self-defence he smacked her over the head with an ashtray, killing her. Rather than take the CCTV to the police which proved he was acting in self defence, he buried her body in a shallow grave in Epping Forest.

As an aside I did attempt to put together a book range in which Steve Owen would operate out of the E-20, fighting robots, dinosaurs and zombies with his trusty ash-tray, but I guess it was an idea too far ahead of its time.
After various fires, kidnappings and extortions, Steve finally decided to try to take on Phil Mitchell and for some reason decided to steal Phil’s baby and drove off with it. Steve then promptly crashed into a wall and after getting the cute kid to safety, his car exploded into a huge fireball, killing him.

Pauline Fowler
Here’s a confession – I never liked Pauline Fowler. At all. Eastenders has a habit of taking attractive actresses from the 60s and 70s and strutting them about as old, bitter wrinkly prunes so that when we watch old episodes of Are You Being Served or Carry On we want to vomit.

Pauline Fowler had been around the square forever, sitting in her cardigan and scowling. Ten years earlier her husband Arthur had died (eerily predicted by the Eastenders / Doctor Who crossover ‘Dimensions In Time’) and so the character had nothing left to do but be depressing. If I wanted to watch old ladies in cardigans hang about a laundrette I’d just get out the old binoculars and stare out the window, thank you very much.

Finally they decided to kill her off, and so her character ‘turned heel’ to use a wrestling term, and became evil (her new motivation: she was evil). On Christmas Day (merry Christmas Britain!) she was pushed through a fruit bowl and died.

It later transpired that Pauline’s death was actually caused by her new husband Joe hitting her with a frying pan, causing a brain haemorrhage. Rather than be crowned a hero by the public for this act, he instead leapt out of a window to his doom.

Dirty Den #1
Den Watts was one of the most popular characters in the soap’s early days. The Christmas Day special where he served divorce papers to his wife was watched by over 30 million people in 1986. Obviously this was a simpler time. Nowadays, that storyline would have had the divorce papers explode or something.

Den was the original bad boy owner of the Queen Victoria pub (other owners have included Frank Butcher, Steve Owen, Phil Mitchell and The Rani). Den was very naughty, and famously got his teenage daughter’s best friend pregnant.
It's like Terror Of The Autons all over again

All villains must die however, and Den finally met his end on a canal towpath, being shot by a bunch of daffodils.

Dirty Den #2
14 years later Den returned from the dead, revealing that when he was shot and fell into the canal he... somehow survived. He spent 18 months wandering about the Square being villainous before a cabal of the shows female characters tried to kill him. Rasputin-like, he took quite a while to die, before he finally succumbed and was buried in the cellar of the Queen Vic pub. Get out of that one Den!

Barry Evans
Barry was in the show for ten years, and no-one was really sure what to do with him. Was he a villain? A lovable goof? Clinically stupid? Whatever he was, his character somehow had lots of money from a car lot empire that spanned one entire car lot.


It was not to last however, for he fell into the clutches of Janine Butcher, the black widow of the square. This dumpy femme fatale decided she wanted all his money and so married him, thinking he was dying. It turned out he wasn’t, but then she made sure he did by pushing him off a cliff. It is one of the few soap crimes that someone has actually got away with, so if you want to kill someone ladies, make sure that they are fat and ugly.

Stella Crawford
Eastenders went through a period of characterising all women as insane delusional monsters obsessed with children. Ladies man Phil Mitchell’s wife, the professional lawyer Stella Crawford was revealed to be an insane, child-abusing psychopath who leapt to her death off the roof of a factory wearing a wedding dress and tiara, calling her husband ‘daddy’.

May Wright
In an attempt to further show that there is no such thing as a professional woman who is not insane, the character May Wright (who was a doctor) attempted to kidnap and drug little Dawn Swann so she could rip her unborn baby from her womb.

May was foiled in this plot and didn’t go to jail. Instead she returned a few months later wielding a crowbar and attempted to steal Dawn’s child again. This time though she was foiled when she blew up Dawn’s house, killing herself in the process.

This happens an awful lot

Johnny Allen
"Nya ha ha ha"

Eastenders had a macabre fascination with gangsters for a good while. One of the last of these was Johnny Allen, who inherited the title of Chief Gangster after murdering the previous Chief Gangster, Andy Hunter. (Andy was killed the same night as Dirty Den was killed for the second time. It was a big week for murders). He also had popular character Dennis Rickman killed, the monster.

Johnny isn’t on this list for how he died but how he lived. In his short time on the square he was involved in many ridiculous plots, from murder to arson to attempted murder to more murders to running a nightclub. Running the Square’s nightclub is pretty much a death sentence in this show, so his days were always numbered.

If this were a drawing, I would make fun of his hilariously small hand. As it is, I haven't a clue!

All this culminated in what was hilariously officially referred to as “Get Johnny Week” where the poor man’s Bruce Willis, Phil Mitchell and his similarly balding brother ran about in the woods for a week after Johnny, waving guns. This somehow ended up for Johnny going to jail for all the millions of murders he had committed.

Johnny shuffled off this mortal coil after the evil Shaun Slater (his motivation was that he was evil and crazy) shouted at him in jail, causing his heart to explode. It was a rather poor death, but even in death the murder train could not be stopped, since his last words of “Get Jake Moon” were interpreted by his cellmate not as “get popular recurring character and friend Jake Moon to me” but instead “murder Jake Moon to death”.

Eastenders hasn’t really had any gangster storylines since then.

There’s hundreds more deaths and I could be here all day talking about them. From more knifings to explosions to the humiliating ‘they were killed off-screen’, Eastenders has had them all. And hopefully will have many more to come!

The BBC website has a rather amusing death map that you can check out here if you want to learn more about the most dangerous place to live in Britain.

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