**Warning: this article contains references of self-harm which some readers might find upsetting.**


As Walford's resident detective, Jack Branning (Scott Maslen) should be the one EastEnders character the locals can trust. But his short fuse has made him anything but that; and after tonight's developments, we can't help but wonder what road the BBC soap intends to take him down next.

Let's be fair, Jack is having a very tough time of it. From the devastating discovery that his daughter Amy (Ellie Dadd) has been self-harming, to the shocking revelation that 12-year-old son Ricky Jr (Frankie Day) is set to become a father after having underage sex with Lily Slater (Lillia Turner), the bombshells just keep coming for Jack; and to say he isn't coping might be the biggest understatement in soap.

But his only solution seems to be to shout orders at the top of his voice; and not only is this method not working, it's making Jack look like a total villain. In the latest instalment of EastEnders, he tried manipulating young Lily into having an abortion - despite the fact that the teen's parents Stacey Slater (Lacey Turner) and Martin Fowler (James Bye) have made it perfectly clear that Lily is keeping her baby.

There's no doubt it's a huge decision to make, but Jack's awful attempt to show Lily how terrible her life would be with a child led to a furious outburst from Stacey and a violent threat from Martin. We couldn't be further from the days where former in-laws Jack and Stacey actually considered each other family.

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Jack Branning in EastEnders
Jack has done almost nothing but lose his temper lately. BBC/Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron

Given that Ricky Jr had vowed to commit to fatherhood, the youngster was horrified when Jack's behaviour caused Stacey to put a ban on the Brannings having any role in the baby's life. As Ricky moved straight in with mum Sam Mitchell (Kim Medcalf), Amy broke down in tears and Jack's wife Denise Fox (Diane Parish) warned him that he was going to end up losing everyone in his life at this rate, Jack felt his family unit crumbling underneath him. And it was all his own fault.

Sam has only been back in her son's life for less than a year, having returned to Albert Square for the first time since leaving him with Jack in 2016. Yet she seems to be doing a better job as a parent at this point. Sure, she's got a lot to learn, but at least she's not stomping around like a tyrant making demands.

EastEnders has, at times, remembered Jack's gentler side during the course of his family troubles. Star Maslen delivered a moving performance when his alter ego shared a heart-to-heart with troubled Amy last year, and Jack later took a moment to offer support to Ricky Jr ahead of his police interview.

But no sooner had Jack made some progress than he was throwing his weight around yet again.

The Slaters and Brannings in EastEnders
Jack has been adamant that Lily must have an abortion. BBC/Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron

Undeterred by the many times he's already been disciplined in his police officer role, Jack made his colleagues' job a complete headache when he had a tantrum over the way his son's interview was being carried out.

Jack's conduct isn't just on par with that of gangster Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden) - it's now starting to look like Phil is the more reasonable man! Remember the moment, last year, when Phil took the time to listen to tormented son Ben (Max Bowden) in one of the pair's longest on-screen conversations in years?

More recently, Phil comforted stepson Tommy Moon (Sonny Kendall) after the latter was kidnapped by DCI Keeble (Alison Newman). Phil assured Tommy that he did not have to bottle up his emotions, before offering him a much-needed hug.

Now, let's not get carried away here - this scene only materialised because of Phil's criminal past, and his handling of Tommy's trauma was, at best, the bare minimum of what's expected as a parent. As for Ben, Phil's words of love were long overdue.

Still, we can't ignore that Phil has suddenly become someone his kids can turn to, while Jack alienates his loved ones with his unruly temper. He's become a bully, and although he's clearly floundering amid the chaos of his life right now, it's time EastEnders found a way to scale back on Jack's over the top attitude.

Otherwise stories like Amy's, as well as Lily and Ricky's, may be overshadowed by Jack's forceful approach - and that possible affair for long-suffering Denise.

EastEnders has worked closely with Alumina, Mind and Samaritans to portray Amy's storyline as realistically and sensitively as possible. For support and information on matters raised within this article, visit the BBC Action Line.

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