Ian Beale mooning after a glamorous blonde clearly out of his league is not an unfamiliar sight in EastEnders, but when said blonde is his oldest friend Sharon Watts it feels all sorts of icky.
Surely it wasn’t just me who felt uncomfortable, and borderline queasy, as lovestruck Ian tried to put the moves on his mate hoping she’d ditch Phil Mitchell and shack up with her pal and become the 93rd (or thereabouts, we’ve lost track) Mrs Beale.
Even Shazzer, thankfully oblivious to his advances (in fairness she’s got enough emotional turmoil to wade through at the minute), reminding him that the pair are more like brother and sister didn’t deter his desire.
Having grown up together, their dads Dirty Den and fruit and veg vendor Pete BFFs before them, Sharon and Ian share a huge history, most of it platonic – although, not all of it. And maybe this is what EastEnders is cleverly tapping into…
As weird as it seems for Ian to be cracking onto Sharon in 2020, in the early days of the show he had a crush on her bigger than the Queen Vic bust, and they dated during their school days.
Their innocent romance hit the rocks when she traded up nerdy Ian for flash barman Simon Wicks, who wooed her with his cheeky charm, sharp suit and piano tie (relax, it was the mid-1980s). Heartbroken Ian, meanwhile, soon found love again with sexy stallholder, and future wife, Cindy Williams.
As the original Walford teens grew up they would often double date with their respective new partners. In fact the foursome got so close Cindy and Wicksy ended up having an affair and running off together.
There has been no hint of Ian having inappropriate feelings for his ex since then, as they became practically family, but what if Sharon has actually been his perfect woman all along?
They say you never get over your first love, and Ian’s choice of partners since dating the young Ms Watts suggests he’s been trying to recreate what he had with his teenage sweetheart his whole life.
Let’s be honest, Beale has punched above his weight quite a bit over the years, just look some of his other conquests: the aforementioned sinful Cindy, who he forgave for numerous indiscretions and even a murder attempt, man-eating Mel Owen, the woman he was so desperate to keep hold of he pretended his young daughter had a terminal illness, gold-digger Mandy Salter. And don’t forget his disastrous marriages to loopy Laura Dunn and tough cookie Jane Collins.
The man has a type – high maintenance, emotionally volatile drama magnets. Often blonde and quite stylish. Who didn’t fancy him as much as he did them. Just like Sharon.
Of course he’s not the only fella to be entranced by the pouting Princess, and there’s a whole other argument to be made that Sharon herself has fallen for a series of men who are shady crims just like her infamous adopted father.
Now lonely Ian is convincing himself he’s still in love with the girl who stole his heart when he was a boy – looking at the evidence of his love life over the decades, was Shaz the one that got away? The one he’s been looking for ever since? Is there a sliding doors parallel universe where they tied the knot in their teens and settled down together?
Muddying the emotional waters between the soap’s heritage duo is a bold move, but also means the inevitable reveal of Ian’s part in Sharon’s son Denny’s death will be all the more explosive – as long as we don’t have have to see them snogging. Ever.