It's the most wonderful time of the year - unless you live in Walford in which case it's probably the total opposite. Yes, EastEnders at Christmas is a tradition of high drama, explosive showdowns and game-changing plot twists fans wait 12 months for.
As the 2019 soap festive season approaches the storylines set to be in the spotlight for the all-important Yuletide period are boiling up nicely like a pan of sprouts, so allow RadioTimes.com to tease and tantalise the treats under the tree that will satisfy fans hoping for the usual carnage. You won't be disappointed…
This year's ticking time bomb set to detonate around the Queen's speech is the truth about Sharon Mitchell and Keanu Taylor's clandestine affair and the real paternity of her unborn child being revealed, sending Phil Mitchell on a dark path to avenge the betrayal.
"Sharon and Keanu have been harbouring this secret for months, but secrets never stay hidden in Albert Square," a show spokesperson reveals. "Their lies unravel and when Phil finds out, there will only be one thing on his mind - revenge!" After getting the wrong end of the stick thinking Jack was the father of Sharon's baby, Phil finally figures out the truth on Christmas Eve, and the stage is set for a Christmas Day showdown as all hell breaks loose…
As a result of the reveal, we'll be saying farewell to Keanu this Christmas, following actor Danny Walters' decision to quit which was announced earlier this month. It's not confirmed if the door is to be left open for Keanu, who is also engaged to and expecting another baby with Phil's lovestruck teenage daughter Louise Mitchell - if the mechanic has any sense he'll do a runner the minute his future father-in-law finds out and never look back.
Lou herself will also have a score to settle, and possibly her unstable mum Lisa Fowler (she's handy with a gun…) and other members of the Mitchell clan. Will Mr Taylor survive the festivities? By Thursday 2nd January, Karen Taylor wants answers following the drama surrounding her son. Has he vanished?
The soap has also confirmed Tilly Keeper bows out as part of the festive fireworks chez Mitchell - will she run off with Keanu? Or kill him?! "I have loved playing Louise over these past few years," says the star. "Working with our incredible cast and crew has been a joy and I feel honoured to be part of such an iconic show." What about her newborn daughter, baby Peggy? And unstable mum, Lisa Fowler - will they be left behind when Lou leaves following the Christmas Day confrontation at the Mitchells'?
Channeling legendary lashed-up landlady Angie Watts, current Queen of the Vic Linda Carter is struggling with alcohol addiction which has already seen her arrested for drink driving. L's boozing steps up a gear and she goes missing after a massive session on the source and a row with husband Mick Carter on Christmas Eve. Mick pours her wine down the sink and she storms out, drinking alone in the Square gardens until she passes out. Linda eventually returns home, but mystery surrounds her 'lost hours', and by New Year's Eve she's hit the bottle again - putting herself in a terrifying situation…
There could be something to smile about for the Carter clan, as eldest son Lee makes a brief comeback on Christmas Eve. The announcement was made earlier this autumn when it was teased the character, last seen in February 2017, would be back at a time when his parents need him the most, and it's mum Linda's alcohol-fuelled meltdown that inspires Mick to plead his son to visit hoping it might cheer her up.
However, after she vanishes it's Mick that needs his eldest's help when he collapses with a panic attack on Christmas Day. Fans are hoping Lee will cross paths with ex-wife Whitney Dean over the festive period, will they end up back in each others' arms after her traumatic year?
Martin's shock confession
Just when you thought Mr Fowler couldn't get any more off the rails he properly loses the plot when his latest dodgy job with thug Tubbs takes a game-changing twist that haunts him throughout the festive period. Panicking after the shock turn of events, Martin goes into meltdown and is told by Tubbs to get rid of the van and keep quiet about what happened. On Christmas Eve he breaks down and tells ex-wife Sonia Fowler everything, and reveals the guilt has driven him to flee the Square.
But on Christmas Day Son manages to change his mind and convinces him to stay, for their daughter Bex's sake if nothing else. Keep your eye on the volatile stallholder, as James Bye and Kellie Bright were spotted filming dramatic scenes on location, with a battered and bruised Martin manhandling a terrified-looking Linda while waving a fire arm around…
Chantelle's wedding nightmare
Battered wife Chantelle Atkins is desperate to sabotage abusive husband Gray's plans for a festive vow renewal, only to get railroaded into it on Friday 27th December. Mitch Baker starts to suspect all is not well with his daughter's marriage as she's far from enthused about saying 'I do' for a second time, but scared Chan shuts down her dad when he asks her if she's okay.
Swept up against her will, Chantelle heads off to a surprise honeymoon with Gray on Monday 30th December, but Mitch twigs the increased tension between the couple. Can he get her to open up about the physical and psychological ordeal she's enduring behind closed doors?
Karen's unexpected guests
Talking of the Taylors, the much-loved clan provide some light relief as they welcome unexpected guests for Christmas dinner, and go all out with the festive decor. "They have about four Christmas trees," Lorraine Stanley, aka matriarch Karen, told Inside Soap. "From a mini one to a big'un, and it's proper 1980s style!" Will new lover Billy Mitchell be popping round for a kiss under the mistletoe?
The Panesar brothers are revealed as the new landlords of the Slater house and are determined to kick the gobby girls out on the street, despite it being the season of goodwill. Kat turns to her neighbours for help, and surprisingly it's Albert Square's own Scrooge, Ian Beale, who takes in the sassy Slaters to share his turkey. But the family are not going down without a fight and the battle is on as to who gets to stay put. Have the Slaters met their match in the formidable newcomers?
Elsewhere, the BBC has teased more vague plot developments including a guardian angel ensuring another local family's life changes for the better, while another clan is convinced all is not as it seems and go to great lengths to prove they are right. What could it all mean…?
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