May is still cutting a very forlorn figure. Constantly complaining of headaches, she receives no sympathy from her daughter, Christine, who continues to believe that she’s putting it on. As we’ve seen before, once May is alone a rudimentary camera trick (zooming in and out of focus) illustrates her current low status. The grams operator is on their game today as they also help to indicate May’s current distressed frame of mind. The sound of clocks slowly increases in volume, eventually becoming unbearable, but as the picture cuts to the next scene at the corner shop the sound of the clocks abruptly cuts off to be replaced by the tinkle of the corner shop bell. A nice cut.
Florrie is bemoaning her appearance in the paper to Harry (she’s been fined one pound for selling goods out of time) but that’s not the main reason for this scene. They hear banging from next door (clearly the walls are paper-thin), so they – along with Elsie – go along to investigate. Given the abundance of strong female characters in the series it’s interesting that Florrie and Elsie hang back when they discover May’s body (Harry is the one who checks for a pulse and gently shakes his head to indicate that they’re too late).
So EastEnders wasn’t the first soap to pile the misery on at Christmas. This is bleak stuff, especially Christine’s tearful reaction. Luckily for her, the ever-practical Esther is on hand to help her through – but there’s nothing she can do to ease the guilt Christine feels. It’s a heart-breaking moment.
If the grams operator was on form today, then some of the other cuing was a little off. The most notable example occurs when a huddle of residents are awaiting Christine’s arrival back from the hospital. They react to Christine’s reappearance, but sadly they’re a few seconds early (when the camera cuts to the outside of the corner shop, Christine’s yet to walk around the corner). You win some, you lose some.
Dennis’ transformation into a less threatening and more gormless character starts here. Sans trousers, he’s stomping about the house looking for his tie. He won’t say at first why he’s smartening himself up, but even given his non-committal nature Elsie can’t help but be a little indulgent towards him ( by shining his shoes). He’s got a nice line in sarcastic retorts today, telling Linda that he’s applying for a job in “a place where they make crutches for lame ducks”. That 1960 was very much another era is demonstrated when Elsie turns her nose up at his aftershave, calling him a big Jessie (“if you go out reeking like that, people’ll be saying things about you”).
Ena looks to have met her match with Dr Tinsley (Cyril Luckham). This is another of those wonderful Ena scenes – which kicks off with her unable to speak, due to the fact that a thermometer’s been wedged in her mouth! She’s convinced she’s come home to die, but Dr Tinsley has news for her – there’s nothing life-threatening about her current condition, its simply old age (or as he more brutally puts it, senile decay). Ena agrees that the best years of her life are behind her (reminiscing about how she was a beauty in her youth – with long hair and a remarkably thin waist) but Dr Tinsley cuts these maudlin thoughts short by curtly telling her to “shut up”!
A pity that Luckham only appeared in two episodes as it would have been lovely for him to have crossed swords with Ena a few more times. I like the way that Ena reacts to his sharp tongue – with a faint smile, she clearly respects the fact that he’s not cowed by her. This suggests that Ena’s prepared to steamroller weaker opposition but respects anybody who will take her on.
Ena and Martha continue their face off. Martha is in possession of Ena’s own personal feather duster – uh oh! Ena then tells her former friend to sling her hook. “It’s time for you to abdicate, I’m back!”
Dennis returns from his new job (at a nightclub) and drops a bombshell. He’s seen his estranged father in the club ….