When TV Soap Becomes Tragedy
Eastenders tonight (the Danielle-reveals-all-at-wedding-then-gets-knocked-down-by-Janine episode) was as close to perfect tragedy as we get on TV in modern times. So many tragic characters in one show all coming to terms with their own particular moments of hubris all at the same time – Archie, Peggy, Jack, Stacey, Ronnie, etc.. – and while all this stomach tingling stuff is going on, there’s Billy getting butterflies about his best man speech and Ian fretting about his invoice getting paid. All lovely comic irony. The only sorry aspect of the show is that we couldn’t be left with the happy ending of mother and daughter being reunited – but tragedy is tragedy, and the writers took us mercilessly all the way to the heart-wrenching conclusion, by sending a distraught Janine behind the driving wheel of her getaway car ploughing straight into little Danielle just as she is finally recognised as the Mitchell daughter she really is.
It is gratifying to know that great writing is alive and well and living in our TV soaps, Eastenders in particular. The challenge of constantly reaching dramatic highs week after week revolving around the same characters, the same families and the same basic plot lines is a formidable one, but somehow they manage it. The moment when Ronnie discovers the locket in the glass, the final proof of Danielle’s legitimacy, was postponed to the point of excruciating suspense and when it arrived fully justified the wait. The acting was brilliant, the painful denouement following years of lies and manipulation on the part of Archie, coupled with Archie’s own helplessness in the face of truth, dramatic art at its best.
Thanks Eastenders, more of the same please!