Save the Surprise: Kat Slater and the Hand of Fear

Over in EastEnders, Kat Slater (yes, technically Kat Moon now, but like all soap characters her true name remains the one she had when the public first fell in love with her – you can keep your “Bet Gilroy”s and “Dot Branning”s, thanks) is having an affair.

Affairs are a soap’s bread and butter (check: mixed metaphor?) and so to make this one more memorable it’s been decided we shouldn’t yet find out who the secret shagger is. Instead there have been a series of remarkable scenes in which Kat pouts and drops her knickers for an unseen force. Particularly startling was the one in which it appeared as a silent shadow on the walls of the Queen Vic’s cellar. Even allowing for the ludicrous idea that any of Albert Square’s gobby residents could shut up for more than a couple of seconds, it lent the affair an odd air of telefantasy – like Sapphire and Steel if they’d left boxes of cheese and onion crisps lying around.

Since then we’ve seen her simpering at a disembodied, twitching hand and glancing guiltily at a sinister creeping FOOT from beneath the bedclothes. It’s all very exciting. Or it would be if, as viewers, we had any investment at all in wondering who it is. We’ve been presented with a series of suspects, each of whom keeps smugly fondling their phone whenever Kat composes a saucy text. But the mystery’s meaningless. ‘It’s been an affair that has left EastEnders‘ viewers playing detective,’ wrote the Daily Mail this week in a tedious article that I shan’t link to. Nothing could be further from the truth. There’s no detective game to play because there are no actual clues – each suspect is shown to be as equally likely as the others. Sure, we can guess at who it might be, but our guessing is based on what we think producers’ intentions are, not on anything generated organically from the characters. It’ll be much more interesting once it’s all out in the open and poor Jessie Wallace – an excellent actress who deserves a lot better than this – has someone to play against.

Secrecy’s pretty big on the telly this summer. EastEnders have loved a whodunnit since their first and best – the Who Got Michelle Fowler Pregnant? saga, which this current plot harks back to with the phonecalls business – but now it applies to big public events too. The audience at the dress rehearsal for the Olympics opening ceremony were asked to #SaveTheSurprise, and I’m glad they did – the two long hours of contestants proceeding in was sorely in need of the clever and moving pay-off it got with the metal petals. Meanwhile, those who saw the preview screening of Doctor Who‘s season opener were begged not to reveal that new companion Jenna-Louise Coleman appeared in it. I’m not so sure about that one – it’s not like her appearance was a big twist at the end of the episode, like River Song’s in A Good Man Goes To War or Rose’s in Partners In Crime; she was in it right from the start, and knowing that much counts as no more of a spoiler than knowing that the Daleks and their Asylum were too. The real surprise was in the exact nature of her appearance, and a press release along the lines of ‘You’ll meet the Doctor’s new companion too, but maybe not as you’d expect’ (and cue speculation) would cover that.

I don’t know, I think we’re too twitchy about spoilers generally, not that I’d ever deliberately spoil something for someone else if I could avoid it. If something’s worth watching then it can’t hinge solely on its surprises, and it should be just as enjoyable if not more so the second time around. That was true for Asylum of the Daleks, and for the Olympics opening ceremony, but sadly not, I’m afraid, for Kat Slater secretly shagging a silent cellar shadow.

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