Last Night’s TV – EastEnders: Café Explosion

Bradley tries to reason with Nick but is it going to blow up in his face?

"No more plates need to get hurt Nick! Let's talk about my shocking anorak and frightening pants instead eh?"

I’m a big fan of EastEnders and hardly ever miss an episode, so given that fact, I feel able to state with certainty that this was the worst episode of EastEnders – and indeed most soaps – that I’ve ever seen, and the ‘big’ siege and subsequent explosion was a massive anti-climax.

During the café-hostage scenes, the acting couldn’t have been more wooden if the entire cast was made up of Pinocchio look-alikes with the characters being operated by strings. And the special effects were about as convincing as a child’s science project; the flickering flames licking the camera were laughably bad, and despite the fact that I like John Altman very much, his acting was especially horrific.

Ditto Molly Conlin as Dotty and Lorna Fitzgerald as Abi Branning I’m afraid, but given they’re children, I guess they can be forgiven, but perhaps EastEnders’ bosses should give serious thought to not giving child actors such significant parts unless they’re truly up to the job.

In fact, the storylines and acting in general seem to have gone radically downhill in EastEnders of late. What’s the stupid thing with Shirley doling out giant portions in the café all about? For someone who’s desperate for a job, she’s clearly not trying very hard to keep it is she? Maybe it’s supposed to be amusing or some kind of statement about the inability of alcoholics to hold down a job? I’m not sure what it’s about but it’s stupid.

Equally as unbelievable is Dawn and Garry being an item. He’s a dullard clutz and she’s a vain material girl but nonetheless, she’s punching well below her weight with Gal who should realistically be paired with someone like Heather.

However, I digress, so back to last night’s episode; the very worst of the acting began with the hideousness that was Nick and Dotty’s kitchen scene which you can see here. It was actually cringe makingly bad.

Then of course came the big moments of the siege and the explosion which you can see again in the following clip, if you can bear to watch it again that is…

Not only was the acting horrific inside the café, there were also the ludicrous scenes outside; for instance, while Max was kicking the door in, Bianca randomly shouted “Ricky!” for no good reason whatsoever while wearing what can only be described as THE most hideous top in all of Christendom. Not even someone truly Biana-esque would be seen dead in it and actually, throughout the last few episodes when she’s been wearing that top with leggings, she’s looked like the entire cast of Rainbow and a leopard have exploded on her.

And there was Max ‘kicking in’ the café door, or trying to. First of all, given the entire frontage shook with the slightest of kicks, it seemed a tad unlikely that the door wouldn’t give, and secondly, didn’t it occur to anyone at all that right above the wooden bit he was ineffectually hoofing there was a big glass bit which, with a little imagination and a rock, could easily have been broken thereby giving access to the lock on the inside?

While that was going on outside, whenever someone inside ignored Nick’s repeated request to “siddown”, he’d smash some more crockery which filled the hostages with fear… The “One false move and the plate gets it” scenes were a new low, truly.

Then there was Abi being all terrified when Nick ordered her to hand over the key to mystery man’s car and Bradley told her, “Alright Abi listen to me. You get that key, you give it to Nick and you come straight back to me alright?” So with that, she took the tentative three steps into no man’s land and handed Nick the key before taking one stride backwards and clinging onto Bradley. Jeez, thank god he gave her that jewel of advice eh? She might’ve hoofed it off to Barbados or something otherwise…

Just where did he think she might go without his words of guidance?? Given they were in a room about 10ft square, her options as to where to go included two or three steps back to the gathered and whimpering hostages or hanging out in the area where all the tableware murdering was going on. Even she’s not that dumb.

However, once mystery man had punched Nick in the kidneys and when the fire was well underway, all the hostages got out, and things got even worse…

“If you hadn’t smashed his face in, we’d have been toast in there” said Whitney. Toast, café… oh the subtlety of gentle comedy.

And then the big climax; while everyone’s standing round trying to look tense amidst a grey fog of smoke, Bradley, mild mannered real estate bloke by day, Super Ginge by night, goes boldly back into the smouldering café to rescue Nick who – despite being well enough to fight Bradley off while uttering words that were as clichéd as “You’ll never take me alive copper” – was initially just sitting there but then escaped out the back door while Bradley argued the toss over his being stupid. Likely? Not in the least.

If you were being big and brave Super Ginge, surely once you’d realised that nobody needed saving, you’d do a rapid evac? But no, he stood in the middle of a burning building trying to make Nick see sense. Then, when he saw the Bunsen burner like gas escape, did he hightail it out? Nope, he watched it for a few seconds first before it blew up…

Truly, this was a terrible episode. I don’t know if there are new writers about or someone on the writing team has gone sick and they’ve replaced him/her with a partially trained baboon, but something’s not right with the writing of late. But please EastEnders, stop insulting our intelligence and get back to writing decent drama that isn’t akin to a substandard amateur players theatre group.

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.