For a murder mystery to last 10 months there has to be more than one body. A typical Agatha Christie novel stacks up at least two or three victims, while James Patterson litters his pages with bloodied corpses. So how can EastEnders plot an epic-length whodunnit with just a single cadaver in the mortuary? Surely the killer who saw off Lucy Beale in last Friday’s episode will strike again, but who in Albert Square should be watching their back?
The smart money has to be on Lauren Branning, the business partner of the late Lucy who not only possesses the same initials as the dearly departed, but who has also been dressing in the same clothes for the past month. Is this a case of mistaken identity? OK, so Lucy was blonde and Lauren is a brunette, but this was a dark Good Friday evening: could the murderer’s brain have been addled by a combination of Queen Vic lager and Mini Eggs?
But why would anyone want to do away with Lauren? Lucy had managed to accrue the biggest band of haters this side of your average episode of Murder, She Wrote. Jilted Max, jealous Peter, unstable Lee – they all had a beef with Beale. But Lauren? Unless the owners of Walford’s off-licences plan to get revenge for a fall-off in trade, then it’s hard to imagine why she’s a wanted woman.
But cast your mind back to when Stacey handed herself in to the police after admitting that she’d bumped off Archie Mitchell. What did she entrust to Lauren’s safe keeping? A key! And who was there in the Vic at the time? Ronnie Mitchell! Yes, Ronnie, who has a history when it comes to homicide, having sent Carl White to the crusher over Christmas.
EastEnders boss Dominic Treadwell-Collins has talked about 2014 being the year in which Ronnie turns into a Darth Vader-style figure. Maybe Stacey’s key unlocks a secret Mitchell mystery that Ronnie wants to keep hushed up. And perhaps the killing of Lucy is just another step on Ronnie’s path to the dark side…
Treadwell-Collins (a self-confessed Agatha Christie addict, let’s not forget) has also promised a big twist in the run-up to Christmas 2014. And what could be better than some sleight of hand worthy of the Queen of Crime herself? Christie was extremely adept at convincing her reader to look in completely the wrong direction. Just check out A Murder is Announced and Death on the Nile if proof is needed: no one beats Christie when it comes to a devious bit of hoodwinking.
So what’s the betting that the upcoming investigation into Lucy’s final hours is a ruse on the part of the writers? Instead of looking at where Lucy has been, we should be concentrating on where Lauren is headed. We know she left the party early on Good Friday: did someone notice her absence and try to track her down? We saw ice maiden Ronnie in the Vic at some point during that pivotal episode, but what had she been up to beforehand?
‘There’s a killer amongst them’ warns the current EastEnders ad, but it’s not telling us anything we didn’t already know. Ronnie Mitchell has Carl’s blood on her hands and who’s to say that she hasn’t already struck again? We're watching you, Ronnie. And Lauren - be careful out there.