How EastEnders' incredible year culminated with a truly revolutionary episode

The final ‘Doof Doof’ of the year brought with it a truly impeccable episode of EastEnders, as Linda Carter’s (Kellie Bright) reliance on alcohol spiralled out of control in a special instalment told entirely from her perspective. The episode featured a shocking revelation, as we learned that both she and Martin Fowler (James Bye) are hiding a deadly secret, but — while that very secret was no doubt a great one — it was the sublime episode itself that proved the highlight of the evening.

If it were producers Kate Oates and Jon Sen’s aim to finish out their first year on EastEnders on a high, then it’s safe to assume that they accomplished their mission after the sheer brilliance of what we just witnessed.

The BBC One soap has certainly thrived under their leadership over the last year — boasting improved pacing, compelling storylines, wonderful new dynamics, and new narrative techniques — the latter of which was on display once more during tonight’s episode.

Yes, it’s been quite a year but, given the remarkable feats that the serial drama has accomplished — not to mention the promise of what’s to come with the 35th anniversary — Kate and Jon could’ve easily ended their first year with a relatively ordinary episode, and nobody would’ve really batted an eyelid.

Instead, the pair went above and beyond once more — and ended up delivering something truly incredible in the process.

Yes, the final instalment of the year — and of the decade — centred around one of the soap’s most important storylines, as Linda’s battle with alcoholism received the sole focus.

The aim of such an episode was to highlight the harsh realities that come with alcoholism —including the way in which it not only affects the individual, but also their families — and it’s safe to say it accomplished just that.

Simon Ashdown’s stellar script didn’t shy away from the horrifying reality of alcohol addiction, which was highlighted via Linda’s harsh and cruel words towards Mick (Danny Dyer) — not to mention the way in which her generally caring demeanour was altered when she was under the influence, and a much darker person took over.

While the script itself was superb, it wasn’t the only noteworthy thing on display, as the ways in which the episode deviated from the norm were instrumental in making Linda’s struggle all the more authentic.

Yes, from the quick cuts — which were utilised to demonstrate the lapses in time our protagonist was experiencing as a result of her intoxication — to the sublime direction, courtesy of Thomas Hescott — the episode successfully put us in Linda’s shoes, and thus managed to truly highlight the harrowing consequences that come with being so horrifyingly drunk.

Perhaps it’s an ideology more often employed in film — or on general telly — but visual presentation is as much a part of telling a story as any script.

While the direction in EastEnders has always been top-notch, the show’s cinematography and overall visual presentation has improved rather dramatically over the past year, which is likely a result of Jon’s influence, given the fact that he’s as much a director as he is a producer.

Speaking of the visual representation, tonight’s episode boasted a somewhat different colour pallet to that of your average EastEnders instalment, which cleverly put us in unfamiliar territory — much like Linda was in for the duration of the instalment.

Speaking of unfamiliar territory, this isn’t the first time this year that the soap has thought outside the box. Mel’s (Tamzin Outhwaite) car accident — and subsequent death — was an extremely ambitious move for the serial drama, but that didn’t stop Kate and Jon from going for it, and the end result was something truly spectacular, and — for lack of a better word — cinematic.

Linda’s perspective episode was equally as cinematic, and — in many ways, perhaps even more so — and thus, coupled with the incredible script, make it a contender for the best episode of the year.

Mind you, such an episode wouldn’t have been achievable without an actress of Kellie Bright’s calibre.

From every slurred word to the general look of confusion and fear in her eyes, Kellie exceeded all expectations — and those expectations were incredibly high to begin with. Her finest work on the serial drama to date, without a doubt.

EastEnders is as powerful and as hard-hitting as it ever was when it comes to telling important stories, but tonight’s episode also highlighted how using visual means as a method of telling those stories can be as powerful as any amount of dialogue and subtext, and — as we move further into the streaming era — it’s strides such as this that will ensure the BBC One soap remains on our screens for another 35 years.

EastEnders continues New Year’s Day at 8pm on BBC One.

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