When it was first confirmed that Shona McGarty would be leaving her EastEnders role as the long-suffering Whitney Dean, we campaigned for her happy ever after. Well, she got it – but not before a whole heap of misery beforehand. As if she hadn't been through enough!


The news that Patsy Palmer was returning as Whit's stepmum Bianca Jackson was music to our ears, given that the character had started her journey on the BBC soap alongside the mouthy, iconic redhead. But Bianca let Whitney down at the final hurdle, as she chose to keep quiet about the latter's fiancé Zack Hudson (James Farrar) cheating.

Bianca's actions were, of course, nothing compared to Zack sleeping with another woman right before Whitney was due to give birth to their baby – and the woman in question being Whit's best friend Lauren Branning (Jacqueline Jossa). Yet, however well-meaning, Bianca failing to tell Whitney the truth felt out of character.

It goes without saying, but we'll say it anyway: Palmer's onscreen reunion with co-star McGarty was a joy, and it simply wouldn't have been right to conclude Whit's story without the woman who raised her. But why did EastEnders have Bi keep such a big secret, tainting the tribute that Bianca's presence should have been to Whitney?

Scott Maslen as Jack Branning holding Jacqueline Jossa as Lauren Branning back as Shona McGarty as Whitney Dean looks furious in the background in a wedding dress beside James Farrar a Zack Hudson in a suit for EastEnders.
Whitney attacked Lauren in the wake of her discovery. BBC/Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron

Thankfully, EastEnders allowed time to salvage Whitney and Bianca's relationship one day, albeit off-screen, as Whit made it clear she would always love her. She then shared a touching farewell with Zack, who will still get to be the father he's always wanted to be.

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As for Lauren, though, even Whitney's declaration of a ceasefire wasn't enough to save their friendship. When she made her comeback, Lauren seemed like the loyal, moral pal Whit needed, and now she's destined to be compared to her philandering father Max Branning (Jake Wood) everywhere she goes.

The bottom line? Just like that, one of Whitney's most enduring bonds has been destroyed, and it never needed to happen.

Zack's mistake was also unnecessary, when for months it's been startlingly obvious that he and Whit weren't compatible, and they could have set up a co-parenting arrangement without all this heartbreak.

We can't ignore that the show piled misery for misery's sake on Whitney, rather than giving her a true happy ending. But that's not to say that she should have had a man on her arm for her swan song.

It was empowering to see Whitney step away from romance in favour of raising baby Dolly and foster daughter Britney Wainwright (Lola Campbell); realising that yes, she could have a family of her own at last, without a partner by her side.

Patsy Palmer as Bianca Jackson in an orange blazer with a ponytail speaking to groom Zack Hudson played by James Farrar in EastEnders.
Bianca chose not to tell Whitney about Zack's fling. BBC/Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron

But did those around her have to commit such deeply hurtful betrayals in order to make this happen? Surely not. It was heartening that Whitney tied up all loose ends and got closure with everyone before she walked away, but the occasion could, and should, have been much more uplifting.

Of course, the fallout of Zack's infidelity gave McGarty some powerful material. We'll never be able to get that bouquet slap out of our minds, or Whitney's devastated sobs as she wondered just what she had done to deserve all this pain.

Yet we also got to witness the actress's sterling work when Whitney gave birth to Dolly; the most joyous moment in the character's entire tenure. A moment that did not need to be overshadowed by the cliffhanger of young Britney hearing all about Zack and Lauren's scandalous secret.

McGarty's final episodes were a masterclass, and it was touching to see Whitney get her hard-won fresh start as we're led to believe that happiness beckons. But EastEnders' plot twists prior to that last goodbye prevented this from being the perfect exit it should have been.

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