To make a lasting impression on EastEnders, a character has to be larger than life. Not cartoonish or a complete exaggeration but ripe for impersonation in some way. To do a Sharon Watts is quite easy – all you have to do is heave a bit of bosom and inject some breathy hysteria into your voice.
When she turned up on Phil’s doorstep this week, that flair for melodrama was unmistakable: “You gotta help me!” Sharon panted, black cuticles quivering. Phil, mentally spooling back to the time his fling with her was broadcast over the Vic’s sound system, bundled Sharon into his gas guzzler before she could inflict any damage on his current relationship with Shirley.
But little did he know that his life was going to implode anyway – for Shirley, her temper now as short as her skirt, was about to unearth the truth about the death of Heather (or the “def of Ev” as it’s been known since her body was discovered).
These seven episodes were billed in advance as the week of Sharon’s return, but however welcome her reappearance may have been, it did at times seem like a sideshow, despite her making a beeline for alpha smoothie Jack Branning.
Shirley discovering Ben’s guilt was undeniably the main event and the way his exposure played out felt almost Dickensian in its intensity and morality. Heather’s demise became something akin to the murder of Nancy in Oliver Twist, while Ben was Sikes facing his reckoning, Phil a latter-day Fagin protecting his boys and Jay the desperate orphan whose path looked increasingly muddied.
It was terrific TV, made special by the fact that audience gratification had been deferred for months in order to create such a high level of anticipation. As events unfolded, Sharon did, however, become a bit of a casualty of Ben getting his comeuppance, but how could she ever hope to compete with such a long-running storyline reaching its conclusion?
Yet in the world of soaps, endings always serve as fresh beginnings, so let’s hope that in the weeks to come she gets more of an opportunity to make her mark. Locking lips with Jack within hours of being back on the Square wasn’t bad going but it’ll be more interesting to see where she goes from here.