Tonight’s tear-jerking episode saw the departure of Danny-Boy Hatchard after three years in the role, following a long-running storyline focusing on his character’s battle with depression.
Having fled Walford on Valentine’s Day leaving wife Whitney a note following an argument in which he hit her, troubled Lee had been in touch with angry dad Mick begging to meet up so he could explain his actions.
Fans fearing Mick Carter was turning into a meanie breathed a sigh of relief as father and son reunited for emotional and very frank chat about Lee’s feelings, with the eldest Carter kid confessing how he felt he could never live up to his dad’s heroic status.
Lee struggled with low self-esteem which saw his life spiral out of control to the point of contemplating suicide. During his heart-to-heart with Mick, he admitted feeling like he couldn’t measure up to the father he so idolised and had to move away from his family.
“I tried so hard to be like you I forgot what it was like to be like me,” he said, “and that’s why I’ve got to go dad, I’ve got to go and do my own thing…”
After weeks of somewhat unsympathetic behaviour towards his son, the penny seemed to drop at last for Mick. It was an engaging, well-written scene which got to the heart of Lee’s problems, ending with Mick encouraging Lee to leave so he could get himself together. “You’ve got issues and I don’t think we’re the cure… maybe this is what its going to take.”
Mick urged his son to explain to Whit face to face, and their last scene together saw the doomed marriage finally fall apart – although Lee didn’t open up to his wife as much as he did to his dad, presumably wanting to protect her from the truth about the root of his anxieties.
Lee’s depression has been a slow-burning plot that took various directions over the last 12 months.
His exit was full of emotion and heartfelt performances (Danny-Boy Hatchard has definitely grown as an actor), but after exploring such a sensitive issue and encouraging people in Lee’s position to speak out, is it really the right decision to have him leave his support network? Was there really no other way?
“Go and find your place…,” whispered Mick as he bid his boy farewell outside The Vic, “…‘cos this place, these people, will always be here for you if you need us.” Does this hint at a potential return for Lee once he’s had some time out? That would certainly give the plot a more positive postscript.
At least it restored Mick’s caring reputation. Although when Lee said to little brother Johnny, “Keep an eye on Whitney for me,” we can’t be the only ones fearing that Mick might take it upon himself to do that…
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