EastEnders spoilers follow.
EastEnders is currently firing on all cylinders and has just delivered another huge twist in tonight's episode (October 30).
Dean's return will kick off a handful of brand-new stories in the lead-up to Christmas, and will firmly place him on the list for the flashforward death.
With less than two months until Christmas, Digital Spy recently caught up with EastEnders boss Chris Clenshaw to get some early teasers on the festive episodes, and much more, in an exclusive chat.
Firstly, let's talk about Dean's return. Why have you decided to bring him back, and what is that going to mean for Linda?
"I think we always knew that we were going to bring Dean back for Linda's story this year. He is a character that has such historical connections to the show and to the Square. As we know, he didn't get any comeuppance for what he did and, understandably, Linda is going to struggle in the wake of his return.
"Obviously, you've seen the episode where Dean returns and it's Halloween, and he's also revealed to be Cindy's secret business partner and the new partner of Beale's Eels. Cindy wasn't quite aware of who she was getting into business with and she quickly realises the mistake she's made but the contracts have been signed, so there's no backing out now. It will probably therefore come as no surprise that Dean is a potential body at Christmas. He was always going to return at some stage this year."
There's lots of excitement around the Christmas flashforward episode and The Six. Are we going to start seeing more clues throughout autumn? And are you planning to narrow down the suspect list as time goes on?
"Good question! I think at the moment it really could be any of them, couldn't it? It could be any man in Walford. But as we head towards Christmas, it will become apparent and it will become very clear who the potential body is – not who the body actually is, but who the potential ones we're looking at are and the ones that it could be.
"So yes, you're right in terms of it will be narrowed down – it will be clear who it could be from a small number of people. At the moment it literally could be anyone from Winston to Grant, let's say, but it will become more apparent on who the potential, or the potential bodies are, yes."
Is the Christmas death going to be a culmination of ongoing storylines or the start of a whole new one?
"There's obviously The Six and the six women and all of their stories will build up towards Christmas. But what is quite interesting, even though they're called like The Six, which is something that I just referred to them as when we were planning this story in the beginning...
"I think it was in the first meeting I called with the women to tell them about the story, rather than calling them by their names we called them The Six, and then these things just start – but they're not The Six at the moment. They only really become The Six from Christmas and from the huge consequence of what happens at Christmas. Each of those women will become The Six from Christmas Day onwards."
Are you planning to tell a different story for the New Year episode?
"We have some episodes after Christmas before New Year, which will be dealing with the aftermath of Christmas. And then our New Year's episode, we actually do have a different story, where we will not only be seeing some returning characters, but we will also meet some new characters."
What storylines should we be keeping an eye out for between now and Christmas?
"I think we should keep a close eye on Kathy and Rocky and their relationship. Kathy's currently unaware of the financial struggles that Rocky has found himself in. We do know that there's going to be a huge fire in the cafe and that event will have huge repercussions for the Beales as lives are left hanging in the balance. I think really you need to keep an eye out on each of those Six women.
"Sharon is currently planning to move to Abu Dhabi and we know that Keanu has got a plan in motion to kind of keep her in Walford under false pretenses. In the next couple of weeks, Keanu will attempt to put his plan into action, but it will backfire and lead Keanu to stage an abduction of Albie, which I just think says so much about his relationship with Sharon, the dynamics and the differences between the two of them.
"I think it was all kind of fun and lots of mischief when they were having an affair a few years ago, but they're quite different people when it comes down to it.
"I think Denise and Jack's marriage has been on the rocks for the best part of this year since her kind of affair with Ravi and since she went to the hotel with him. There is going to be trouble for this couple as well. There is going to be an infidelity in the lead up to Christmas but I'm not going to say who, which one of them or who with.
"And then obviously Suki and the Panesars as well. Nish will discover Suki and Eve's relationship – he will discover the affair and obviously, when that happens, all hell will break loose. Stacey's storyline isn't over and there's still much more to come with Theo and that storyline. And we've obviously spoken about Linda already."
Can you share anything about Lauren's return?
"It's brilliant having her back. Obviously, Ian and Peter are back now and Cindy too. Now they're back in Walford, it felt right that Lauren should return as well. We obviously saw her in France with Peter and we were kind of hoping that they would reconcile and it looked like they might, only for her to then be horrified to find out that Cindy was alive. There's a lot for her in Walford to deal with.
"She was briefly here for Dot's funeral, but she hasn't really been back on the Square since Abi died after falling off The Vic roof. It's not going to be easy for Lauren when she returns. She also doesn't know that she has a sister living in The Vic. The first time we see her it won't be in Walford and I can also say that she won't be returning on her own."
We know that Whitney will be leaving next year. Can you tell us much about her exit story?
"I'm going to say quite tight-lipped about the exact details of Whitney's storyline, as we've still got quite a way to go with her. But yes, she will be leaving next year, and what I will say is that her and Zack have a little Christmas/New Year miracle."
Chelsea has had a fairly quiet year so far. Is there anything coming up for her?
"Chelsea does have something coming up next year but I can't say too much else about it right now..."
What about the Mitchells? Obviously we know that Phil is keeping some fairly major secrets…
"Things in Walford don't stay secret forever, do they? While Kat is happily married, Phil slept with Emma and Alfie knows about it. You can expect fireworks when that's revealed – and it will be revealed."
"Linda Henry is currently on a break from the show. She walked out of Walford last year with Lady Di in the wake of Mick's disappearance, but it won't be the last you see of her. And Sam will be making her way back to the Square this autumn, actually, and in typical Sam Mitchell fashion, she finds herself in a troublesome place and has to ask big brother Phil to help her out of a sticky situation.
"Lots has happened since she's been away – obviously she's got a grandchild, Charli, but Ricky Jr. isn't happy that his mum has been so absent. I think the great thing about Sam is that she's very much a character that can kind of turn up at the Mitchells at any time, cause mayhem and leave them to sort out her mess every time. There's a lot of fun with Sam."
Has bringing Cindy back from the dead inspired you to do this with any other characters who were killed off?
"That's an interesting one! I think because Cindy didn't actually die and it was easy enough to believe that she hadn't actually died. Has it inspired me? I think while there might be people that are really sad that some characters have died in the past, I don't think you can do that with every dead character.
"You have to make sure that the story does stack up and that there is a plausible way around it. There's like an unwritten rule in soap that if a character's died off-screen, then you've potentially got the ability to do it. Obviously, Cindy had died off-screen, so we found ourselves with an opportunity where we could do it in the same way that Kathy had died off-screen in South Africa.
"Whereas Reg Cox died in episode one and we could see that he was dead, so I don't think we could try bringing him back anytime soon!"
Finally, have you got any early teasers you can give us on the 40th anniversary in 2025?
"We've got a very, very exciting 2024 planned. We are fielding to our 40th anniversary. I'm obviously going to say quite tight-lipped because it's over a year away, but I suppose I can guarantee that it'll be a huge celebration. We are currently planning it, we are currently in discussions with it. We do work quite ahead of time. We are planning it as we speak."
EastEnders airs on Mondays - Thursdays at 7.30pm on BBC One. The show also streams on BBC iPlayer.
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