EastEnders airs multiple surprise exits in early BBC iPlayer release
Spoiler alert for the episode aired on Friday 8th December 2023.
Spoiler warning for Friday 8th December 2023 episode of EastEnders, released at 6am on BBC iPlayer and will air at 7.30pm on BBC One.
EastEnders has aired the emotional departure of five characters in Friday's episode.
Following on from Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden) exposing the Taylor family's involvement in the staged kidnapping of Albie Watts, Thursday's episode saw a guilty Keanu Taylor (Danny Walters) lie that the plot had been purely driven only by his mother Karen Taylor (Lorraine Stanley).
In the aftermath, with her neighbours shunning her, Sharon Watts (Letitia Dean) contemplating involving the police, and Phil baying for blood and wanting the return of the ransom money he had supplied Sharon with, Karen decided that she needed to flee Walford.
In Friday's instalment, Karen remained firm on her decision to keep the money and flee Albert Square for good but was initially rejected by former partner Mitch Baker (Roger Griffiths) when she asked him to join her and their grandchildren Mia (Mahalia Malcolm) and Mackenzie Atkins (Isaac Lemonius).
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On the Square, Mitch clashed with Karen's son Keanu and delivered him some home truths about needing to own up to his mistakes.
In Karen's flat, Karen spoke honestly and emotionally with daughter Bernadette Taylor (Clair Norris), asking her to join her. However, Bernie rejected Karen's offer, deciding her life was in Walford and recalling how their family has been so altered in recent years, following the murder of older sister Chantelle Atkins (Jessica Plummer) and the departure of older brother Keegan Baker (Zack Morris).
Bernie also admitted that she has felt like a spare part in recent months and did not want to go with her mother just to help with childcare. Promising that she would visit her mother, Bernie and Karen shared an emotional goodbye and the latter encouraged Bernie to not hate Keanu for what had happened.
In the Queen Vic, Mitch spoke to best pals Tom "Rocky" Cotton (Brian Conley) and Harvey Monroe (Ross Boatman) about the situation and their words on his closeness to Karen made him realise how much he loved her and always had.
Returning to the flat, Mitch professed his love for Karen and revealed his intention for him and his daughter Bailey Baker (Kara-Leah Fernandes) to join Karen and their grandchildren.
As the episode concluded, Karen, Bernie and Mitch dug up the memorial tree for Chantelle and put it in a van with the rest of their belongings before making their getaway.
An anguished Keanu noted the tree was missing and ran after the van to stop them going and Phil noticed too and yelled that it wasn't over and he would have his money.
Yet, despite this, Karen and Mitch sped out of Walford with the three Baker kids and spoke about plans to head to Spain.
Karen joked that if Mitch marries her she is still keeping her name as she will "always be Karen Taylor".
The episode closed with the emotive piano theme known as Julia's Theme as they left Walford.
Have Karen Taylor and Mitch Baker left EastEnders for good?
The BBC has now confirmed that this was the final appearance of Karen Taylor and Mitch Baker, as well as Bailey Baker, Mia Atkins and Mackenzie Atkins.
Including the emotional Julia's Theme and the script being penned by the Taylor family's creator Daran Little certainly adds to that sense of finality.
Writer Daran Little also tweeted confirmation that this was indeed Karen Taylor’s exit.
Little penned: “Karen Taylor lived in my head for a year before I was able to bring her and her clan to screen.”
He added that Lorraine Stanley “put the flesh on her bones and made her brilliantly whole. Was very sad to write her exit but wow, does Lorraine deliver!! A five star heart wrenching performance x”.
Karen and the Taylors first debuted in the soap back in 2017.
Fans were already aware that actress Lorraine Stanley was being written out of the soap this year, but actor Roger Griffiths and the actors portraying Bailey, Mia, and Mackenzie had not been announced to be leaving.
Executive producer Chris Clenshaw previously had teased surprises with Karen's exit, noting: "The Taylors have been a fantastic addition to the show since their introduction, which I think was about six years ago now.
"But what I can say is that, yeah, Karen's exit will be full of drama, in true EastEnders fashion, and yeah, there will be some twists and turns that I don't think viewers will expect…"
While the characters remain alive, anything is possible in EastEnders.
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EastEnders airs Mondays to Thursdays at 7.30pm on BBC One and from 6am on BBC iPlayer.