*Warning: This article contains spoilers for Thursday 28th March's EastEnders, which was made available on BBC iPlayer at 6am.*


It was the moment an army of EastEnders fans were dreading, as Ben Mitchell's (Max Bowden) final episode culminated in an emotional heart-to-heart with husband Callum Highway (Tony Clay).

The character's exit may have come far too soon, breaking the hearts of all those who fell in love with 'Ballum', but that last bittersweet, emotional scene saved Ben's exit storyline from a cold and, frankly, unconvincing finish.

Ben's departure was confirmed before the end of last year, and little was known about what might tear him away from Callum and daughter Lexi Pearce (Isabella Brown) until recent spoilers confirmed that he would be arrested for a mystery crime.

It transpired that Ben had committed theft and fraud while in America seeking cancer treatment for the late Lola Pearce-Brown (Danielle Harold), a crime which certainly suited Ben's history - but was never alluded to until the moment the police closed in.

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This plot twist was so rushed that we barely had time to take in Ben's sudden regression to his old ways, just months after that longed-for breakthrough as he sought help for his struggling mental health.

Tony Clay as Callum Highway signing love to Max Bowden as Ben Mitchell through a prison cell window in EastEnders.
Callum signing love to Ben in EastEnders. BBC

As other storylines took centre stage throughout the week, hope was fading fast for a meaningful amount of screen time to mark star Bowden's swansong - but Thursday's touching edition changed everything.

Despite an on-brand decision to cut Ben out of his life, Callum had a change of heart and used his detective status to visit Ben - albeit only from outside his prison cell.

After scolding Ben for making every event in their marriage "The Ben Show", Callum convinced him to plead guilty, and Ben agreed.

This was followed by something of a tradition for the pair, as Ben called time on their relationship and urged Callum to find another man who could love him properly.

When Ben turned away and Callum left, it looked like this was the end - only for Callum to march back in and, not for the first time, refuse to let Ben push him away.

And we're thankful he didn't, as any other outcome simply wouldn't have been believable.

Telling his other half that he didn't want a life without him, and recalling the importance of their marriage vows, Callum pledged to wait for Ben to serve his time.

From Ben's tearful laughter to Callum's signing of "I love you" and Ben gifting Callum the Mitchell name in his parting reply, the couple's story concluded - for viewers, at least - on an unexpectedly uplifting note given the impossible circumstances.

The romantic call-backs to their five year relationship ultimately rescued the week and kept the fire burning for one of EastEnders' strongest and best-loved partnerships.

Max Bowden as an emotional but smiling Ben Mitchell in a prison cell in EastEnders.
Ben was left in tears in a prison cell in EastEnders. BBC

The episode was beautifully written by David Moor and Pete Lawson, with the latter having penned Ben and Callum's wedding and many more of their memorable moments over the past few years.

That final conversation, as Callum fought for Ben right to the last second, offered hope and meant the show avoided an entirely miserable farewell.

To describe this as a happy ending for Ben would, of course, be a big stretch - but thanks to character-driven writing and moving performances from Bowden and Clay, whose work together will be celebrated for years to come, Ben's last appearance did justice to a game-changing era for the BBC soap.

Of course, keeping their bond intact means we can't help but hold out hope for a reunion sooner rather than later.

But for now, we're hailing EastEnders' decision to honour Ben and Callum's story, giving them the screen time they deserved before it was too late.

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EastEnders airs Monday to Thursday on BBC One and BBC iPlayer.

Visit our dedicated EastEnders page for all the latest news, interviews and spoilers. If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV Guide and Streaming Guide.


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