After six months of tears, high-controversy, shouting, new OfCom records, more shouting, Mumsnet outrage, internet debate and frantic BBC announcements, tonight the EastEnders babysnatch storyline finally came to an end. As Ronnie Mitchell was led off to jail after a typically truncated and explosive court case.. (Justice moves fast in Walford!) we start to think about where the BBC soap can go next? Whatever route the EastEnders writers take, we can be sure that a swathe of complaints and soaring viewing figures will follow them. This most recent high-profile storyline might have been plodding on since New Years, but tonight’s hour-long special saw the soap return to its tangibly emotional best.
Most of the episode focused on a surprisingly calm Ronnie desperately trying to fix her fraught relationships with various Albert Square residents, but in particular her sister Roxy, her sister’s boyfriend Michael and the understandably grudgeful Kat Moon. After Michael set Ronnie up for Kat find her holding baby Tommy alone in the park, her devoted husband Jack told her the best course of action would be for them to leg it to Mexico and try for another baby. Why he thought that would help is beyond me – the poor woman’s current state of psychosis is largely down to losing a child, so it seems the last thing she needs to do is get pregnant!
We wouldn’t have thought it possible for Ronnie’s relationship with Kat (whose baby she callously robbed..) to get any worse, but lo-and-behold when Michael frames Ronnie for babynapping it does. Never one to hold back, Kat lets the vitriol flow before having a conveniently dramatic change-of-heart after Ronnie martyrs herself at the trial. “THAT AIN’T RIGHT!” she cockneys when a custodial sentence is handed down. My personal highlight was listening to the well-spoken lawyer read her personal statement. “It was her who done that to us..” she says eloquently. Jessie Wallace, who plays Kat Moon, is such a great re-addition to the soap. There is nobody than can bawl like that woman, although admittedly Ronnie seems to be well past that stage and spends most of the episode sniffing like a coke-head with hay-fever.
When Eastenders introduced the Mitchell sisters, we were that they would be bringing a ‘bit of spice’ to the soap. For ‘spice’ read: nervous breakdowns, miscarriages, paedophilia and mental institutions. We should have seen it coming. Suffice to say, after a while some EastEnders fans wanted bi-polar Veronica (or ‘The Two Ronnies’ *guffaw*) to hop back on a plane to I-beefa for good.
The baby-swap plot turned out to be Eastenders most controversial storyline to date, but despite the backlash (or most probably, because of it..) the tragic saga attracted some of the highest ratings the show has ever seen. The nation was on tenterhooks to see how the drama would pan out, begging the question as to whether Eastenders hit the nail right on the head for what satisfies the British public. There’s no such thing as bad publicity..