Once again, EastEnders has shocked fans with an untimely death, as news broke that popular mainstay Lola Pearce (Danielle Harold) is reportedly soon to be killed off in the BBC soap.
Like most soap demises of late, Lola's apparent fate feels unnecessary. Last year, she played a prominent role in Isaac Baptiste's (Stevie Basaula) mental health struggles, with Harold's moving work proving that Lola deserved her own moment in the spotlight. Several years earlier, she gave a memorable portrayal of Lola's battle to win back custody of baby daughter Lexi - but she hasn't been in the spotlight since. So why kill her off now?
It has to be said that EastEnders is the one serial drama that can't seem to break the habit of eliminating its best-loved characters.
Of course, we all know that death is a soap staple - it has to happen at some point. Where the loss of a fan-favourite can open up new opportunities and challenges that keep a soap fresh and exciting, sometimes a storyline calls for that hard-hitting style.
An actor may choose to depart, with the only realistic exit being that their alter ego meets a sad end. Take, for example, Coronation Street's Imran Habeeb. Star Charlie de Melo himself recently explained that yes, Imran could have had an entirely different farewell. But ultimately, his death served the plot perfectly.
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The same cannot be said for the lost residents of EastEnders. Just last year, beloved Walford market stall-holder Kush Kazemi (Davood Ghadami) was brutally pushed in front of a train by evil Gray Atkins (Toby-Alexander Smith). Sure, choosing the lovable Kush as the murderer's next victim kept viewers invested in Gray's long-awaited comeuppance; but had the character really run his course?
I never thought so - and I'm not just saying that because his relationship with Whitney Dean (Shona McGarty) was so compelling. Kush had so much left to give.
Speaking of which, viewers still haven't forgiven the show for its harrowing dispatching of Ronnie and Roxy Mitchell. Stars Samantha Womack and Rita Simons had brought to life one of soapland's most iconic sister acts, and were devastated over the double death. And so was I!
Even more cruel, Ronnie and Roxy drowned in a hotel swimming pool mere hours after Ronnie enjoyed a fairytale wedding to soulmate Jack Branning (Scott Maslen). After years of torment and trauma, Ronnie deserved an era of happiness with the chance of refreshing material for Womack; while Roxy's spiralling drug abuse had the potential to reach heights that we knew Simons would have conquered with powerhouse performances.
Instead, the future of these adored characters was cut short. Before that, Ronnie actually had a hand in another unwelcome expiry - that of Arthur 'Fatboy' Chubb (Ricky Norwood). Poor Fatboy shared a beautiful bond with Dot Branning (played by the late, great June Brown) that saw him win the hearts of the nation.
But when Ronnie tried to have Vincent Hubbard (Richard Blackwood) killed, Vincent's mother Claudette (Ellen Thomas) sent an unwitting Fatboy in his place - and he was apparently crushed to death in the boot of a car. We never saw his lifeless body, but his death was confirmed. And just as we feel that Lola's death is a huge waste, so too was Fatboy's.
We were just beginning to learn more about his background, as Fatboy had been seen opening up to Vincent over his mother locking him away as a child, leading to him adopting his comedic persona. Fatboy was another of EastEnders' treasured characters, and there was an outpouring of confusion over why the soap was so willing to throw him away when he was one of their biggest assets.
Let's return now to a more recent example. As part of EastEnders' 35th anniversary celebrations, young Dennis 'Denny' Rickman (Bleu Landau) drowned when the party boat crashed thanks to the actions of Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden). While the tragedy gave Letitia Dean some strong material as his mother Sharon Watts broke down in the aftermath, killing off a legacy character like Denny led to the breakdown of one of the soap world's most enduring bonds.
Sharon blamed long-time pal Ian Beale (Adam Woodyatt) for her loss, as he had locked Denny in a room on the boat prior to the accident. Her revenge was powerful to watch, but it soured for audiences when Sharon repeatedly tried to kill Ian before casually moving on with her life - begging the question of what the point was in the first place?
So certainly as far as EastEnders is concerned, the culling of such significant characters feels sensationalist, rather than for the good of the show. With Lola now about to be added to the list of those gone far too soon, it's time to call a halt on these endless premature passings, before the show runs out of characters all together!
- EastEnders Lola 'axed' as character to be 'killed off'
- EastEnders cast: Who is joining, leaving and returning to the soap?
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