Max Branning’s guilty secret is out thanks to the arrival this evening of a wife that no viewer knew he had. Just as events at No 5 Albert Square were getting romantic, with Max (Jake Wood) having handed fianceé Tanya (Jo Joyner) a surprise wedding dress prior to an impromptu ceremony, an arrival on the doorstep put paid to the plans.
“I’m looking for Max Banning,” said the newcomer. “My name’s Kirsty. Kirsty Branning. I’m his wife.”
Kirsty, played by actress Kierston Wareing (read an interview with the actress here), then proceeded to leave the Brannings under no misapprehension regarding her connection with Max: “This ring. He put it on my finger. In a registry office. And these are divorce papers – not signed.”
Max’s time in Manchester in late 2011 has been the subject of much fan speculation due to his brother Derek’s (Jamie Foreman) veiled threats and insinuation. Back in June, Max did confess to Tanya that he felt shame over what went on up North, that he did some things of which he wasn’t proud – and that someone got hurt. But it was only in the Christmas Day episode that the audience – and Tanya – finally discovered the truth.
Kirsty, as it transpired, was not in a forgiving mood: “This might be your house. Your bedroom,” she said to her rival in love, “but he is mine.” Her appearance in Walford was organised by a vengeful Derek, who paid the ultimate price for ruining Max’s big day by keeling over and dying at the climax of the hour-long instalment (for more information on Derek’s exit, click here).
Wareing, whose casting was kept hidden in advance of tonight’s broadcast, has previously had notable roles in such TV dramas as Top Boy, The Shadow Line, Inside Men and Luther. In 2007, she received a Bafta nomination for Best Actress after starring in the Ken Loach movie It’s a Free World…
EastEnders continues on Boxing Day at 8.30pm on BBC1