After last week’s emotional announcement that EastEnders icon Dot Branning (played by the late June Brown) had passed away, her step-granddaughter Sonia Fowler (Natalie Cassidy) has had the task of organising her funeral.
Meanwhile, life had to go on. Various members of Dot’s extended family had their own personal dramas to contend with.
Dotty Cotton (Milly Zero) is public enemy number one after conning Harvey Monroe (Ross Boatman); Jack Branning (Scott Maslen) struggled over his daughter Amy Mitchell’s (Ellie Dadd) devastating self-harming, and Whitney Dean (Shona McGarty) has just discovered she is pregnant.
But tonight, they all came together to support Sonia as Dot arrived home for the final time. It was a poignant moment amid a week of episodes that, at one stage, fell short of the sensitivity required in the aftermath of both a beloved character's death and the hospitalisation of a vulnerable teenager.
With Jack waiting to hear whether he had lost his police job, Amy was feeling guilty. This shame stemmed from the fact that she had reported her dad for attacking her on/off boyfriend Denzel Danes (Jaden Ladega), despite the fact that Jack only had himself to blame.
Hearing that Jack had been sacked — which turned out to be untrue — Amy rushed home and harmed herself again. Little brother Ricky (Frankie Day) was terrified when a bleeding Amy shouted for help, and she was rushed to hospital.
There were powerful performances from Dadd, Maslen and co-star Diane Parish, who plays Amy’s stepmother Denise Fox. But EastEnders let the story down by combining this plot with the loss of Dot in an unsavoury fashion.
As Sonia discussed Amy’s trauma with close friends Sharon Watts (Letitia Dean) and Martin Fowler (James Bye), she suddenly inhabited Dot with the classic line “I ain’t one to gossip!”
Unfortunately, said gossip happened to be that Amy had been seen with cuts on her arms. Yes, Dot loved a gossip and the above was indeed one of her catchphrases. But it’s hard to imagine that she would have talked about Amy in this way, who was also her adored step-granddaughter.
Add to that the fact that Sonia was talking so casually about her own cousin, and that it was a rather ignorant way to talk about anyone regardless of family, and the whole thing left a bad aftertaste.
Had the context been different, the subsequent teasing Sharon and Martin dished out to Sonia over her channelling of Dot could have been the perfect tribute.
Meanwhile, Whitney tried to celebrate her 30th birthday after telling Zack Hudson (James Farrar) that she would be raising their baby without him. Eventually, Zack stepped up and revealed that he wanted to be a dad, but the parents-to-be would just be friends.
Jack was happy to learn he still had a job after all — a frankly shocking development given his many mistakes.
At this point, Dotty arrived at the party to ask Jack and Whitney to visit an upset Sonia. The episode concluded in a suitably moving scene as they all watched over Dot’s coffin, which had just arrived at her house ahead of her funeral.
Beautifully played by all involved, this was the right way to end the week after that problematic hitch. Complete with alternative music playing alongside EastEnders’ end credits, this gentle scene hit the tone perfectly.
Viewers identifying with Amy's story can find help and support at BBC Action Line.
EastEnders airs Dot’s final farewell in an extended episode on Monday 12th December at 7.35pm on BBC One