EastEnders characters aren’t generally allowed to enjoy happiness for very long. But even by those standards Ronnie Mitchell’s time on the soap was alarmingly glum and unlucky. You can count the moments of true, untainted happiness she had in Albert Square on the fingers of one hand, assuming you’ve had all the fingers on that hand amputated.
Ronnie’s staggered through her time in ‘Enders like Tess of the d’Urbervilles, blighted by rape, betrayal and the loss of a child (or three). She’s been at the mercy of heartless men, she’s made terrible decisions and she’s been the victim of cruel, cruel fate. Always with the cruel, cruel fate. Even Thomas Hardy would have sucked his teeth in and thought twice before subjecting her to some of the tragic ironies she endured. As Samantha Womack said in an interview recently, she’s had to cry and scream every day for years. Well it’s been a great performance and some unforgettably miserable times, and I’m going to miss her.
In 1991 Samantha Janus (as she was called back then) represented the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest. Let’s let her uplifting message play as we consider how different Ronnie’s life might have been if she’d followed the advice in the song…
Half the world is hungry, just through being born.
And every day is a compromise, for a grain of corn
Despite the world’s booming overpopulation problem, Ronnie’s been characterised more than anything by her obsession with getting fertilised and having a child. Having given away her baby as a teenager, and later tricked into believing her daughter had died, she was desperate to get pregnant again. And she’d do anything from piercing her boyfriend’s condoms to seducing a man convicted of trying to kill his own daughter to get there. Generally it was Jack she turned to for sperm, and fair enough, as he had already fathered children with Ronnie’s sister AND her cousin. It seemed like a good biological match.
And half the world have too much, their only hunger is their greed
Through politics and ignorance, half the world’s in need
It was Ronnie’s dad Archie’s greed for power that did in for her. Whether he was raping her, tricking her, or causing her miscarriage by pushing her into the bar of the Queen Vic, it was always a laugh-a-min when they got together.
A message to your heart – it’s alright
Say a little prayer And sleep tonight, oh…
Tomorrow you’ll still be in paradise
Poor Danielle. The BBC spun the storyline out for the best part of a year — that Danielle was Ronnie’s long-lost, presumed-dead daughter but wasn’t sure enough of her mother’s affections to tell her so — and then concluded the plot with the most affectingly evil masterstroke imaginable, as the truth came out and the two were reconciled JUST as Danielle got knocked over and killed. I didn’t go as far as all the fans who petitioned the Beeb to bring Danielle back (er, how, exactly?) but I did have a little sniffle.
A message to your heart, walk on by
Till you hear the voice of conscience cry, oh…
There but for the grace of God, go on
If only Ronnie HAD walked on by on New Year’s Eve. The baby-swap plot, as Ronnie put her dead son in Kat’s crib and sneaked off with her friend’s healthy baby, was quite possibly the grimmest thing the BBC have ever shown on a festive occasion. It certainly attracted more complaints than any other storyline has ever done. I’m glad everything got resolved so elegantly tonight for Ronnie’s last episode. And I bloody hope she comes back.
They don’t see the children with hunger in their eyes
And the time has come for changes, though for some it’s much too late
A message to your heart indeed. Terry Wogan didn’t see that coming.