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Eastenders: A gripping story of death and weddings in the Square

Who killed Archie, the latest bad guy to haunt Albert Square? Who cares? There was no way last night was going to live up to the relentless hype that accompanied the last few weeks of this endless storyline in EastEnders (BBC1, 8pm).

Having failed to learn the lesson when the entire BBC was given over to David Tennant at Christmas, the corporation climaxed 25 years of unnecessary celebrations of the soap with this live edition. You wonder why, say, Coronation Street never used that wheeze to mark its 40th anniversary. Oh, it did?

Actors doing the whole thing live. Big tickle. This is what worse paid actors do night in, night out, up and down the land, and what they used to do with TV drama before someone invented video.

But it doesn’t matter how many stunts, whizz-bangs or guest stars they use, the only thing that matters is the story. It’s why the Dot Cotton single character episode worked.

Last night certainly had plenty of story. Death and weddings, the life of soaps — and they really buried Archie’s character with Ronnie’s revelations to Roxy. All that was missing was someone going into labour.

Going live gave last night’s episode an energy it normally lacks, with great violence, excellent direction and every camera the Beeb has. It was hard to know if Bradley forgot his lines at one point, as he always looks like he could do with a dose of cod liver oil. But the story gripped so well you forgot to look for the cock-ups, before a genuinely shocking denouement that you never saw coming amid all of the hype. And the killer is

Doof doof doof doof doof-doof-doof doof doof doof.

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A triumph.


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