And just like that, Sam Mitchell has left EastEnders once more.


It was a lovely surprise when fans were treated to a return from Sam Mitchell, played once again by Kim Medcalf, in 2022.

After it was already unheard of for a soap to return to the original actress following a recast when Danniella Westbrook reprised the role in short stints between 2009 and 2016, it was even more surprising that the role would switch back to the recast actress all of these years later.

Since her return in 2022, Medcalf has brought back her strong acting abilities (originally on show during the Dirty Den murder storyline of 2005) and, with years more experience, gives further texture to Samantha rather than a one-dimensional man-eater or Mitchell family f**k-up.

From her camp entrances in April 2022 and her showdowns with Kat Slater (Jessie Wallace) and Sharon Watts (Letitia Dean), it was clear that Sam meant business and was soon caught up in gangster conspiracies that also built on her complicated relationship with big brother Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden).

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Kim Medcalf as a smiling Sam Mitchell wearing sa black jumpsuit beneath a white blazer and standing on the street with luggage in EastEnders.
Sam Mitchell (Kim Medcalf) made an explosive return to EastEnders in April 2022. BBC/Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron

The most gratifying aspects of Medcalf's return came from elsewhere, however. Whether it was in her believable portrayal of Sam trying to reconnect with her son Ricky (Frankie Day), or her sexy connection with colleague Zack Hudson (with co-star James Farrar, Medcalf has great on-screen chemistry) as both a love interest and a stable friendship, this Sam felt sympathetic, real, and like an individual trying to improve themselves - even in the face of cynical judgement from her family and Ricky’s hypocritical father Jack Branning (Scott Maslen).

The most poignant side to the character was seen when Medcalf portrayed the sheer vulnerability the character felt amid isolation, harsh criticism, and a lack of purpose. A tearjerking scene shared with Sharon ahead of Sam's temporary exit in 2023 hit home how much the actress can shine when the opportunity arises.

Sadly, Sam soon disappeared from our screens for seven months last year as the character headed off to Spain, albeit with a bit of character growth - this time she was going to provide for Ricky and the baby he had on the way by taking up a lucrative new hotel job.

Kim Medcalf as Sam Mitchell and James Farrar as Zack Hudson in EastEnders.
Sam Mitchell (Kim Medcalf) supported friend/former flame Zack Hudson (James Farrar) amid his HIV journey. BBC/Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron

When Sam did return in November, however, the character was shown to have regressed to the Mitchell family screw-up - one perhaps more resembling Westbrook’s version of the character - and one who had not succeeded in her aims to provide for Ricky or succeed as an independent woman.

In her two-month return stint, Sam did manage to rebuild her relationship with Ricky and has now found a novel way of providing for him - by stealing from brother Phil.

Yet, what became most clear in this short return was how much the character has become a figurative punching bag for others - mostly Phil and Kat - and it’s not particularly pleasant to see, even when matched with all of Sam’s bravado.

Often this happens as Sam is trying to make an effort, most clearly in recent scenes when she tried to channel her mother Peggy at Aunt Sal’s funeral in a role that she could and should inherit - the Mitchell matriarch.

Kim Medcalf as Sam Mitchell in a black fur trimmed coat talking to Steve McFadden as Phil Mitchell in EastEnders.
Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden, left) once again bullied sister Sam amid their Aunt Sal's funeral. BBC/Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron

Sam is the only adult female Mitchell by blood left in the programme following the loss of her mum Peggy (the late Dame Barbara Windsor) and the regrettable axing of her cousins Ronnie (Samantha Womack) and Roxy (Rita Simons). The Mitchell clan left behind after the loss of these women lacks strong female figures. Honey Mitchell (the wonderful Emma Barton) is the only one championing the female side now following the death of Lola Pearce-Brown (Danielle Harold) and particularly in light of Kat's relationship woes with Phil. And - let's be honest - Kat will always be more Slater than Mitchell and that's the way it should be.

An unwell Peggy appeared to hand the baton of Mitchell family matriarch over to then-daughter-in-law Sharon back in 2016 when the latter was still married to Phil and after years of complicated life events intertwining Sharon with the family, this felt much more apt.

However, now it's clear that Sam - who has shown strength and steel before, particularly in Medcalf's stints - should be the one to take on this role and provide the aspects of Mitchell women that have been lacking in recent years.

With the ambition of Ronnie, the chaos of Roxy, and the mouth of Peggy, Sam has what it takes to be a much more influential player in Walford.

Kim Medcalf as Sam Mitchell in EastEnders.
Will Sam Mitchell (Kim Medcalf) ever ascend to a major Mitchell power player? BBC/Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron

Thankfully, the broad writing of the character amid the changes of actors and writers over the years means that there are many routes to take the character down should the show ever have her truly take the mantle of a matriarch - and a sympathetic one who has had her fair share of being an outsider in her own family and can strengthen her connections with those remaining.

While it seems that she is seen by the soap as a recurring character for now, it feels like there's still a lot of untapped potential with Sam to take advantage of in the future.

So while we say farewell to Sam Mitchell once again, let's hope it's more of a 'goodbye for now' and that we see the talented Kim Medcalf take centre stage some day again soon.

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EastEnders usually airs Mondays to Thursdays at 7:30pm on BBC One and from 6am on 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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