EastEnders: Cindy Beale’s epic comeback was everything and more (spoilers)

Spoilers ahead for EastEnders' early BBC iPlayer release

EastEnders,28-08-2023,6757,Anna Knight (MOLLY RAINFORD);Gina Knight (FRANCESCA HENRY);Elaine Peacock (HARRIETT THORPE);George Knight (COLIN SALMON);Cindy Beale (MICHELLE COLLINS);Ian Beale (ADAM WOODYATT);Kathy Beale (GILLIAN TAYLFORTH);Peter Beale (THOMAS LAW);Bobby Beale (CLAY MILNER RUSSELL),***EMBARGOED TILL TUESDAY 22TH AUGUST 2023****,BBC,Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron
Cindy Beale has been reunited with faces from her past in EastEnders. (BBC)

Spoilers for Thursday's BBC iPlayer release of EastEnders, which has not yet aired on television

It was the moment we had been waiting for ever since EastEnders revealed that Cindy Beale (Michelle Collins) was still alive.

The infamous character finally stepped back into Walford this week, bringing with her enough drama to keep the BBC soap going for years.

EastEnders loves a good resurrection story and executive producer Chris Clenshaw and the team have pulled out all the stops to make this latest offering everything we needed and more.

After an iconic slanging match with ex-mother-in-law Kathy Cotton (Gillian Taylforth), Cindy had a sudden reunion with her ex, George Knight (Colin Salmon). Via flashback, the events of the night she abandoned him and their daughters Gina (Francesca Henry) and Anna (Molly Rainford) finally came to light.

EastEnders,29-08-2023,6758,George Knight (COLIN SALMON);Cindy Beale (MICHELLE COLLINS);Ian Beale (ADAM WOODYATT),****EMBARGOED TILL TUESDAY 22ND AUGUST 2023****, BBC, Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron
Cindy was stunned to recognise her ex, George Knight. (BBC)

In 2014, a call to Cindy from DCI Mary Nicholls (Penny Layden) broke the news that eldest daughter Lucy Beale (Hetti Bywater) had been killed. Footage from EastEnders’ archives was edited together with Collins’ freshly filmed scenes as Cindy rushed to Walford in the aftermath.

Read more: EastEnders’ Michelle Collins reveals 'terrifying' and ‘surreal’ return as Cindy Beale

Once again, we followed Lucy’s father, Ian Beale’s (Adam Woodyatt) harrowing journey as he prepared to tell Peter his beloved twin was dead. Peter (then played by Ben Hardy) had screamed in Ian’s arms, and the haunting moment could be heard in the background as Cindy was forced to hide out with Mary in order to remain safe under witness protection.

If we weren’t already impressed by these seamlessly interwoven scenes, we were then treated to a shock cameo from beyond the grave.

Arthur ‘Fatboy’ Chubb (Ricky Norwood) had been living happily with Dot Branning (June Brown) back in 2014 and was yet to face his untimely off-screen death.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 23: Ricky Norwood attends the National Television Awards at 02 Arena on January 23, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Stuart Wilson/Getty Images)
Ricky Norwood at the National Television Awards in 2013. (Stuart Wilson/Getty Images)

Apparently living his best life, Fatboy approached Cindy and Mary’s car to ask for the time, baffling Mary with his trademark lingo before merrily going on his way.

That brief glimpse of the popular character was a triumph; bringing an authenticity to the notion Cindy was indeed in Walford at that time, and making us long for a permanent comeback for Norwood — and a rewrite for Fatboy’s fate.

EastEnders,31-08-2023,6760,Kathy Beale (GILLIAN TAYLFORTH);Rocky (BRIAN CONLEY),****EMBARGOED TILL TUESDAY 22ND AUGUST 2023***, BBC, Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron
Ian returned to form and kicked Kathy and Rocky out. (BBC)

Meanwhile, the confused Anna and Gina heard Cindy’s story, but their feelings of rejection were too raw and Gina overdosed on drugs to numb her pain, coming close to death herself. The Knights’ part in the narrative kept things fresh for those who craved it, while the week was balanced out with just enough nostalgia.

Read more: EastEnders fans wowed by 'iconic' scenes as Cindy makes dramatic return

Less favourable moments from EastEnders’ past were tactfully — if a little too swiftly — addressed in this brand new era. Having been missing in action, Ian followed Cindy home. An awkward chat with Sharon Watts (Letitia Dean) reminded us of that surreal time the soap’s most enduring bond was torn apart.

EastEnders,29-08-2023,6758,George Knight (COLIN SALMON),****EMBARGOED TILL TUESDAY 22ND AUGUST 2023****, BBC, Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron
George listened to Cindy's story. (BBC)

The last time she saw Ian, Sharon had tried to murder him in revenge for his role in her son Denny Rickman’s (Bleu Landau) fatal drowning. Sharon now wanted to hold onto what they had, and it looks like she can. But can we erase that mental image of her hovering over a plate of poisoned carbonara? That remains to be seen.

Read more: EastEnders spoilers: Theo holds Stacey captive while Lily gives birth

The notoriously selfish Ian was back on form. After exasperated mum Kathy refused to let him move Cindy into the family home, Ian kicked Kathy and new husband Rocky Cotton (Brian Conley) out. But Ian may come to regret it, as his fears that Cindy would leave him for George may be well-founded if the lingering looks between the pair are anything to go by.

EastEnders,28-08-2023,6757,George Knight (COLIN SALMON);Cindy Beale (MICHELLE COLLINS);Ian Beale (ADAM WOODYATT),***EMBARGOED TILL TUESDAY 22TH AUGUST 2023****,BBC,Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron
Could a love triangle be brewing between Cindy, George and Ian? (BBC)

The final instalment of the week also saw Cindy share a brief, tense first meeting with Lucy's killer half-brother Bobby (Clay Milner Russell). Cindy soon revived her original persona to mark her territory in Walford, as she shed her undercover name 'Rose' once and for all.

We had so many questions ahead of this eventful week, and it still feels a tad unbelievable for Ian to forgive Cindy so easily for having him shot. But with 25 years between that story to this one, it’s somehow not as jarring as asking Ian to forgive Sharon.

The return of Cindy Beale was handled with a real love for the soap genre: sometimes in gloriously camp fashion, sometimes with a real poignancy.

Michelle Collins nailed both elements, providing a winning formula for whatever EastEnders throws at Cindy next.

EastEnders airs on BBC One Monday to Thursdays, and streams on iPlayer.

Watch the latest EastEnders spoilers