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7 lessons EastEnders can learn from Cindy return episodes

EastEnders spoilers follow.

EastEnders has just wrapped up a big week of episodes, as Cindy and Ian made their much-anticipated return to Walford.

Cindy was unveiled as George's missing wife 'Rose' in a huge twist back in June, with Michelle Collins reprising the role after 25 years away. It was then confirmed that Cindy would be coming back to the show, alongside her ex-husband Ian Beale (Adam Woodyatt) and their son Peter (Thomas Law).

After weeks of anticipation, there's no denying that the scenes were worth the wait and have created quite the buzz online.

With this in mind, we've been taking a look at the reasons the episodes worked as well as they did, and the lessons bosses could learn from this in future.

1. Revisiting a classic storyline

eastenders who killed lucy beale
BBC

The 'Who Killed Lucy?' plot is unquestionably one of EastEnders' most memorable stories of recent times, but who would have thought the writers would be adding more layers to it nine years later?

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When Lucy was killed back in 2014, the show took viewers on a mystery ride until her brother Bobby was unveiled as the culprit during the show's 30th-anniversary episodes 10 months later.

Both the build-up and aftermath of the reveal gave us a multitude of twists, turns and OMG moments, and yet 2023 has delivered us one of the biggest of all – Cindy was alive, and came back to Walford at the time.

Cindy's return has provided us with a whole new dimension to the 'Who Killed Lucy?' plot, given that it ultimately acted as the catalyst as to why she left the Knight family in the first place.

We are also now exploring entirely different fallouts, such as how Cindy is going to navigate living alongside Bobby, and how Gina and Anna will deal with this too.

2. Don't be too tied down by the soap calendar

george knight, ian beale and cindy beale in eastenders
BBC


Long-term fans will know by now there's a certain formula to soap storylines. While Christmas obviously stands out as the pinnacle, May is often a big month as well due to Soap Awards voting, and the back-to-school week in September has notoriously become a dependable watch for fans.

And when Cindy's return to Walford was first confirmed back in the summer, it seemed highly likely it would coincide with this.

But it didn't. Instead, EastEnders tore up the proverbial rulebook and aired Cindy and Ian's much-anticipated comeback at the end of summer.

Not only has it set the show up well for a dramatic autumn period regardless (more on this to come), but it highlights that the show can stand on its own two feet when the story is engaging enough, and doesn't always need to be tied to the usual soap calendar.

3. Finding new ways to surprise us

fatboy eastenders
BBC

Had it not been leaked, Cindy's return from the dead had all the right ingredients to be one of the biggest soap shocks of all time. Despite the leak, all was not lost, as the story has still found new ways to surprise us.

While we knew about Cindy's reunion with Ian ahead of time, Peter's recast reversal came as a pleasant, yet subtle, surprise, while this week's episodes have given us plenty of moments to get excited about.

Tuesday's episode saw viewers transported back to April 2014, as part of Cindy's explanation to George about why she had to leave him.

george knight, ian beale and cindy beale in eastenders
BBC

Through this, we learned that Cindy had returned to Walford the night after her daughter Lucy died, and watched from afar as Ian prepared to tell Peter about the tragedy.

However, the best surprise of all came when former character Fatboy made an unexpected appearance on a Walford side street, where Cindy was having a tense conversation with her witness protection handler DCI Mary Nicholl.

Ricky Norwood's character Fatboy hadn't been seen on screen since he supposedly met a grisly end in a shocking story back in 2015, but the flashback element allowed this to work as a twist which had no added dimensions or complications.

His unexpected cameo had been kept out of spoilers beforehand, this created a much-deserved buzz, and simply served as a nice opportunity for the show to have some fun with some otherwise heavy scenes. Although, if they did want to find a way to bring him back full-time then we wouldn't be against it.

4. Fixing Peter (and past problems)

peter beale in eastenders
BBC

EastEnders delighted long-term fans back in June by bringing Peter back to the soap with an unexpected casting twist.

Ian's son had only been gone a year but his return scenes saw former star Thomas Law reclaim the role of Peter rather than the more recent actor Dayle Hudson.

While Peter actually returned to Walford in last week's scenes, the Cindy episodes allowed the show to correct some of the past mistakes with his character, and map out a way forward where fans are rooting for him again.

Through his conversations with Ian, Kathy and Bobby, viewers have seen a softer, more mature Peter, whose intentions are honest and clear: a stark contrast to the one who left under a cloud last year.

Crucially, we were able to be reminded how Peter wasn't actually in the wrong when it came to his feud with Ben (who, if you remember, had attacked him!) – something that the narrative at the time seemed to occasionally want us to forget.

5. Knowing where to draw the line

cindy beale and ian beale in eastenders
BBC

With so much to delve into, EastEnders could probably be forgiven for going a bit bonkers this week. And, while we have certainly had moments of extravaganza, it's fair to say that writers also applied a level of restraint.

Because Cindy being alive and well was most definitely enough of a shock for one day, some revelations had already been unveiled retrospectively off-screen, and some could-have-been explosive moments were appropriately downplayed.

Having Cindy aware that Bobby had killed Lucy felt necessary to keep the momentum going, while taking the understated approach to Ian's reunion with Sharon and Phil hit the right notes as well.

Cindy's return centring around Anna's birthday in The Vic also meant that there was a strong sense of community and allowed some of confusion from newer characters to fill in some of the blanks for us as well.

6. Clever writing and emotive performances

george knight, cindy beale and ian beale in eastenders
BBC

Try as they might, but EastEnders had a challenge on their hands when it came to writing Cindy back into the show in a way that wasn't entirely nonsensical.

Given that Ian's mum Kathy had suffered a similar soapy fate, it's best just to allow an element of creative license in instances like this and with some of the clunky dialogue that inevitably follows as a result.

While the show still isn't perfect (what show ever really is?), we have seen better continuity, better scripts and a much stronger sense of community in the past year alone.

peter beale and ian beale in eastenders
BBC

But amid all the madness, we were still handed some really emotive moments that soaptastic stories like that can often miss the mark on.

Bobby's reaction to seeing Cindy has given us some of Clay Milner Russell's best ever performances, while George's scenes with Gina in the hospital were also very moving.

Cindy's complex reunion with George, Gina and Anna was led on emotion as opposed to explosive outbursts, while Alfie and Ian's friendship being revisited felt nostalgic and almost felt normal.

7. A strong aftermath

kathy beale in eastenders
BBC

A strong aftermath is invariably where things begin to go wrong following a week of episodes such as this one, but the early signs are indicating that it could be avoided this time.

While the focus will shift back to Stacey's story next week, Cindy's return episode have still paved the way for a handful of new plots to carry us through autumn.

From Freddie and Anna's secret passion to Cindy and George's unresolved feelings, and Ian's new feud with Kathy and Rocky there is so much to be explored. Next week's scenes will see Cindy make another attempt to reconnect with Gina and Anna, while Ian cooks up a way to get her a new business.

Show boss Chris Clenshaw has previously teased a big Beale Christmas, and it opens up new possibilities in terms of the flashforward scene as well. Could Cindy be someway involved with The Six? Nothing would surprise us anymore.

EastEnders airs on Mondays - Thursdays at 7.30pm on BBC One. The show also streams on BBC iPlayer.

Read more EastEnders spoilers on our dedicated homepage

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