By Laura Denby
One of EastEnders’ most lovable characters is Honey Mitchell. Kind, gentle and bubbly, she is a huge favourite with soap fans. But despite her popularity, she hasn’t had the acknowledgement she deserves in recent years. So as upcoming episodes hint at a renewed focus on Honey, it’s about time she was given a leading role.
When Honey arrived in Walford in 2005, she fell for the hapless Billy Mitchell (Perry Fenwick). Their relationship quickly cemented her as a permanent addition, and she was soon entertaining us with her daft, endearing remarks. Following a happy period, the couple started a family.
Honey struggled with baby daughter Janet’s diagnosis with Down’s Syndrome, in a storyline that contrasted heavily with her usual light-hearted demeanour. It was here that Emma Barton first demonstrated just how versatile a performer she is, and Honey’s turmoil was a very powerful watch.
After heartbreaking scenes in which Honey struggled to bond with her little girl, she turned a corner and became the excellent mother she is today. Billy and Honey also looked after a young Jay Brown, creating a familial bond with him that is still in place today. She has also been a strong support to Jack Branning (Scott Maslen), and befriended Ash Kaur (Gurlaine Kaur Garcha).
These relationships, alongside her job at the Minute Mart, should make her an important part of her community. She knows everyone and could therefore be seen with a variety of characters. Yet appearances in the shop tend to be brief; and she is often relegated to the unseen childminder role within the family.
Honey hasn’t always been a prominent feature during her own storylines, either. During her partner Adam Bateman’s affair, she was sidelined to the oblivious background role for longer than made for comfortable viewing.
Her discovery of the truth caused the resurfacing of an eating disorder she had suffered with as a teenager. While the soap delivered heartbreaking and poignant scenes linked to this, they were short-lived and left us wishing for updates that concentrated purely on Honey.
Adam finally got his comeuppance when he cruelly mocked her as she threw him out of their flat, and she hit him in the face with a nearby bin. Her parting remark was that she hoped he knew a good dentist – the perfect line considering what he did for a living!
Brilliant, infrequent moments like this have captivated EastEnders fans. The gripping performances from Emma Barton served to prove just how much more depth her character could add to storylines if she was placed in the spotlight.
Understandably, Emma’s alter ego had a break for a few months while the actress wowed audiences on Strictly Come Dancing and its accompanying tour. However, the soap could have afforded more time on Honey’s perspective prior to this, and included a few mentions of her recovery progress during her absence.
Following her return, there is potential for a closer look at Honey. She is about to face a terrifying time when her drink is spiked by a man she is on a date with. Viewers will be left hoping that she can escape before things take an even more sinister turn.
Of course, the show doesn’t need to put Honey in peril to place her at the centre of the action. She certainly doesn’t need a love interest to make her watchable, either. With the constant drama going on around her, she could bring positivity to proceedings as a regular, dependable fixture. After all, we are always glad to see her.
Whether it’s delving deeper into her past, or letting her branch out from her job and motherhood, there are endless other ways in which EastEnders could explore such a delightful character. She still has those familiar connections that simply need to be remembered on screen. New scenes have included a heart-to-heart with Jay (Jamie Borthwick), so perhaps there will now be a chance to revisit other friendships.
As we have seen, the headstrong Honey has a tough side to her too. She could become involved in conflict with her new boss, the calculating Suki Panesar (Balvinder Sopal). More involvement with the wider Mitchell family would also be welcome – including scenes with Phil that go beyond despairing at the extortionate price of face masks!
So let’s see Honey credited as an integral part of the soap. Whatever the events of this week bring, I would love to see EastEnders put the character at the heart of the show where she belongs.