EastEnders. I love it. But sometimes I can’t forgive the BBC One soap for toying with our emotions in the most spectacular of fashions.
And they have really done a lot of that recently…
On Monday night, viewers were left devastated by the shock death of lovable Paul Coker, who was found beaten to a pulp in central London following a night on the town with his boyfriend, Ben Mitchell.
Last night, many avid ‘Enders fans took to social media to share their grief and heartache over the brilliantly-played episode, which saw Ben and Paul’s grandparents, Les and Pam Coker, learn of the former hairdresser’s death.
With viewers tweeting that they were sobbing, inconsolable messes following the ep, I reckon it’s pretty safe to say that Paul’s death is arguably one of the most heartbreaking of the soap’s history.
In fact, I’d go as far as to say that it has so far been even more emotional than Peggy Mitchell’s dramatic death storyline earlier this year.
Don’t believe me? This is why.
Paul Was So Young
Let’s get this one out of the way, it is always tragic when a character dies but all the more so when they’re young. Paul was in his early-twenties with his whole life ahead of him; he was taken far, far too soon.
And to rub salt into the wound, all of his previous scenes had shown him excitedly planning his future as he prepared to take over his grandfather’s business with Ben – the love of his life.
It Was Out Of The Blue
Although we knew that Jonny Labey, who plays Paul, was leaving the soap at some point over the summer we had no idea exactly when or how. There was no build-up to Paul’s demise; he was actually mid-storyline with his estranged mother recently returning to Albert Square and his gran gearing up to tell him that she’d been hiding letters from his mum since he was an infant.
In contrast to Peggy’s much-publicised death, there was no time for viewers to prepare themselves to see his lifeless corpse on Monday night’s episode – we thought he had a couple of weeks left at least.
But, I suppose, that’s the point – death is out of the blue, it does happen mid-storyline, and there isn’t anything that anybody can do about it.
We Still Loved Him
Whilst most EastEnders’ characters end up being hated by the public at one point or another, Paul had only been in the show for a year and although he’s had plenty of drama he hadn’t been in Walford long enough to become evil and bitter.
He was still as happy-go-lucky and fresh-faced as when he arrived on the Square, perhaps one of the most inoffensive and lovable characters since… Well, since FatBoy.
Pam And Les
Pam and Les have already had more than their share of heartache after burying their son, Paul’s dad, Laurie and now they will have to bury their grandson too.
Les’ agonising cry at the end of last night’s episode was enough to tug on the heartstrings on even the most cold-hearted of viewers and its tragic to think that the last funeral they ever undertake will be that of their own grandson.
He Wasn’t Supposed To Be Out That Night
Speaking of Pam and Les, if they had just been a little bit sterner and a little bit stricter Paul might still be alive. He was supposed to be having dinner with his grandparents on Friday evening but was encouraged to “go out and have fun” when Ben turned up for a night on the town.
If he had just stayed home and had that bloomin’ lasagne none of this would ever have happened.
Speaking of Ben, although he is obviously heartbroken and devastated by Paul’s death many viewers noticed that he looked as though he was hiding something last night, with a new theory proposing that Ben had actively run away and left Paul when they were set upon in the attack.
Were Paul’s final moments his heart being broken by Ben’s betrayal?
The Way He Went
A car accident is tragic, but an accident. With murder there has always been some kind of motive, and the killer is usually another character that we know. Illness and suicide usually comes following a long storyline that allows viewers to come to terms with it… Being beaten up and left for dead in what appears to be a homophobic attack is just a little bit harder to swallow.
What makes it all the more harrowing is the knowledge that these kinds of attacks do happen and members of the LGBT+ community do lose their lives at the brutal hands of homophobic thugs.
It’s horrific, its unfair, it’s horrendous to think about… But it happens.
To conclude, as devastated as we all are to bid farewell to Paul Coker, we have to take our hats off to the soap’s producers for creating a storyline that has managed to affect us in such a raw and emotional way.
In fact, I don’t think that I have the strength to watch the rest of this week’s episodes without sobbing our way through a truck-load of Kleenex.
RIP Paul – we will miss you.