'EastEnders': Retribution at last for killer Gray Atkins

·4-min read
Toby-Alexander Smith as Gray Atkins in EastEnders (BBC)
Toby-Alexander Smith as Gray Atkins in EastEnders (BBC)

It may have taken far too long for our liking, but EastEnders villain Gray Atkins (Toby-Alexander Smith) has finally been forced to pay for his sickening crimes.

In a week which promised to deliver justice for Gray’s victims, things got off to a slow start; and the plot might have benefited from EastEnders cutting down on other story strands.

Although we often need lighter scenes to balance out the dark, in this case the sensitive material needed our full attention. Thankfully by the time we reached Thursday’s instalment, that’s exactly what happened.

Read more: Next week on EastEnders

Gray began life in Walford as an abuser, putting first wife Chantelle (Jessica Plummer) through years of physical violence and psychological torture before brutally killing her.

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 01/03/2022 - Programme Name: EastEnders - January-March 2022 - TX: 07/03/2022 - Episode: EastEnders - January-March 2022 - 6446 (No. 6446) - Picture Shows: ***EMBARGOED TILL TUESDAY 1ST MARCH 2022*** Gray Atkins (TOBY-ALEXANDER SMITH), DI Arthurs (IAN BURFIELD) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron
Gray was questioned by DCI Arthurs as the week began (BBC)

Actors Smith and Plummer won great acclaim for their compelling performances, and there was no question that EastEnders had crafted one of its most powerful storylines in years.

But by turning Gray into a serial killer, the soap took the narrative away from its original, far more important story. Having said that, producers knew what they were doing in making us wait for Gray’s downfall with growing impatience.

The first half of the week unravelled Gray’s lies, with the standout performance coming from Linda Henry as a raging Shirley Carter.

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 01/03/2022 - Programme Name: EastEnders - January-March 2022 - TX: 10/03/2022 - Episode: EastEnders - January-March 2022 - 6449 (No. 6449) - Picture Shows: ***EMBARGOED TILL TUESDAY 1ST MARCH 2022*** Karen Taylor (LORRAINE STANLEY), Gray Atkins (TOBY-ALEXANDER SMITH) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron
Karen initially tried to protect Gray (BBC)

But Gray’s long-awaited comeuppance didn’t truly get underway until Wednesday, when Mitch Baker (Roger Griffiths) discovered Chantelle’s ordeal.

The domestic abuse plot took centre stage again as Whitney Dean (Shona McGarty) talked Mitch through all that she knew in one of the most impactful scenes of the week.

Mitch was left broken all over again over the loss of his beloved daughter, and headed off to tell Chantelle’s oblivious mum Karen Taylor (Lorraine Stanley) who was still very much Team Gray.

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 01/03/2022 - Programme Name: EastEnders - January-March 2022 - TX: 09/03/2022 - Episode: EastEnders - January-March 2022 - 6448 (No. 6448) - Picture Shows: ***EMBARGOED TILL TUESDAY 1ST MARCH 2022*** Karen Taylor (LORRAINE STANLEY), Mitch Baker (ROGER GRIFFITHS) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron
Mitch warned Karen that Gray was dangerous, and had killed their beloved Chantelle (BBC)

Read more: EastEnders stars tease new set and Gray's final showdown

On the other side of the Square, Gray told new wife Chelsea (Zaraah Abrahams) a fabricated version of how he killed Chantelle. Standing in the very same spot where Gray pushed Chantelle to her death, there was a terrifying moment in which Chelsea came close to meeting exactly the same fate as she nearly fell into the open dishwasher.

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 01/03/2022 - Programme Name: EastEnders - January-March 2022 - TX: 09/03/2022 - Episode: EastEnders - January-March 2022 - 6448 (No. 6448) - Picture Shows: ***EMBARGOED TILL TUESDAY 1ST MARCH 2022*** Chelsea Fox (ZARAAH ABRAHAMS) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron
Chelsea returned home to find Gray waiting for her (BBC)

Credit must go to Smith for capturing the essence of such an evil character, while Abrahams has also excelled in her role over the past few months as alter ego Chelsea was worn down by Gray’s manipulative manner.

During their altercation, Gray spotted Chelsea’s phone with an ongoing 999 call and attempted to strangle her, only giving up when he realised the police were nearby. Gray fled to Karen’s once again, but this time his mask had well and truly slipped.

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 01/03/2022 - Programme Name: EastEnders - January-March 2022 - TX: 07/03/2022 - Episode: EastEnders - January-March 2022 - 6446 (No. 6446) - Picture Shows: ***EMBARGOED TILL TUESDAY 1ST MARCH 2022*** Whitney Dean (SHONA MCGARTY), Mick Carter (DANNY DYER) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron
Whitney told Mick the truth about Tina's death (BBC)

In a chilling scene, Gray gloated over leaving Chantelle to die before heading out into the night - but he pushed his luck at the Queen Vic, where Shirley dealt him a few punishing physical blows for murdering her sister Tina (Luisa Bradshaw-White).

Shirl was left unconscious when Gray hit back, and his last confrontation was with Whitney as he made a futile attempt to escape by climbing onto some scaffolding.

There’s been a lingering question mark over why EastEnders chose Whitney to play such an integral role in Gray’s final chapter - but now we understood why.

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 01/03/2022 - Programme Name: EastEnders - January-March 2022 - TX: 10/03/2022 - Episode: EastEnders - January-March 2022 - 6449 (No. 6449) - Picture Shows: ***EMBARGOED TILL TUESDAY 1ST MARCH 2022*** Gray Atkins (TOBY-ALEXANDER SMITH) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron
A tense chase through the Square ensued as Gray tried to evade police (BBC)

After a life blighted by abusive men, Whitney wasn’t about to let Gray get away with what he had done - and actor McGarty shone in the captivating scenes.

Read more: EastEnders: Tina's body is finally discovered

Even when he revealed he had killed her fiancé Kush (Davood Ghadami), Whit stopped Gray from falling to his death. With help from Mitch, Gray was pulled to safety just in time to be handed over to the police. But not before Mitch stared into the eyes of the killer, a range of emotions passing over his face.

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 01/03/2022 - Programme Name: EastEnders - January-March 2022 - TX: 10/03/2022 - Episode: EastEnders - January-March 2022 - 6449 (No. 6449) - Picture Shows: ***EMBARGOED TILL TUESDAY 1ST MARCH 2022*** Gray Atkins (TOBY-ALEXANDER SMITH) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron
Gray failed to escape as police caught up with him (BBC)

Karen was seen collapsing to the ground as Gray signalled that he would be watching her, before he was driven away from the Square. Actor Stanley’s haunting depiction of her character’s fresh grief was the perfect note to end on.

After a rocky journey, EastEnders delivered an outstanding conclusion to the storyline. It was a true ensemble piece of television that is sure to stay with viewers for a long time to come.

Watch EastEnders star Toby-Alexander Smith discuss filming Gray's downfall

Viewers can find support for domestic violence by visiting Refuge or calling the 24 hour National Domestic Abuse helpline on 0808 2000 247, or visiting the site here.

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