EastEnders is about to enter its White Lotus era

Mike White, beware – EastEnders is about to come for The White Lotus crown as the hottest whodunit on TV.

BBC’s flagship soap celebrated its 38th year on our screens on Monday (20 February).

To mark the occasion, the episode ended by breaking its usual format and showing viewers a flash-forward to a mysteriously bloody incident at Christmas 2023.

Picture the scene: six of Walford’s finest female characters sit in a closed Queen Vic, bonding over their sour experiences with the men of Albert Square.

One by one, Sharon, Denise, Stacey, Linda, Suki and Kathy toast to those who’ve let them down, given them false hope and hurt them in various ways.

“To all the scumbags we’ve been stupid enough to let into our hearts,” Sharon (Letitia Dean) declares, finishing the speech with: “To men. May they get what they deserve.”

They raise their glasses. Everything turns black – and then, it’s Christmas 2023. The ladies are back in the pub, but the tone is completely different.

Shocked, Linda, Kathy, Suki and Denise stare at a man laying still on the ground. Stacey has blood on her hands, and Sharon’s standing in a white wedding dress, blood smeared on the front.

She bends down and checks his pulse, flashing an amber cufflink on his wrist.

“He’s dead,” she tells the women sombrely.

But who is the dead man? Who killed him? And how?

The women of EastEnders stare at a mystery dead body (BBC / YouTube)
The women of EastEnders stare at a mystery dead body (BBC / YouTube)

It’s giving Big Little Lies. It’s giving “Cell Block Tango”. It’s perfect.

Having someone meet an untimely demise during the festive period is nothing new for EastEnders – Christmas and New Year’s past have seen the deaths of Mick Carter, Pauline Fowler and the Mitchells Archie, Ronnie and Roxie.

And if there’s one time in the year when EastEnders is guaranteed to be the talk of the nation, it’s on 25 December.

So, if the grim reaper at Christmas is what we’re all really here for, EastEnders making the entire year a big lead-up to their most important episode feels like a genius move.

Fans have unanimously reacted with delight, with many praising the soap’s writers for taking a fun chance with its narrative structure.

“A long-running whodunnit is exactly what EastEnders has been missing in recent years,” says one fan, adding. “I don’t even care that we have to wait until Christmas.”

Meanwhile, social media authority on all things British camp, “loveofhuns”, captioned the image of the six women: “It’s giving The Saturdays meets The Real Housewives of Walford. Utterly obsessed x”.

We have the better part of a year to wait before we find out exactly who dies in the Queen Vic, along with the killer’s identity. But now that we’ve already got our suspects lined up, dressed Cluedo-style in their different coloured dresses, makes each episode leading up to it that much more important.

Whether this innovation will bring a boost to EastEnders’s overall viewing numbers is left to be seen, but for now, their choice to spice up their normal plot 10 months early is surely something to celebrate.