DEN AND THE DIVORCE PAPERS
EastEnders has had so many earth-shattering moments over the years - think people being shot on their doorsteps, slammed into by cars, or exposed as filthy love rats by secret recordings - that it's funny to think the single most famous scene in its entire history simply consists of a man showing a woman a folded bit of paper. The man: Dirty Den Watts. The woman: his wife Angie. The paper: a letter announcing that he was filing for divorce. A quiet, simple scene, but never has the EastEnders end-of-episode doof-doof been so... doof-doofy.
It's because of the context. Den and Angie were the Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor of Walford, their rocky relationship becoming a TV sensation in the 1980s. And when Angie decided to fake having a terminal illness just to stop Den from divorcing her... well, it was only a matter of time before he would find out the truth and have his revenge for being lied to. Brandishing those divorce papers was the supremely satisfying culmination of a globe-trotting storyline which included a romantic trip to Venice and a ride on the Orient Express, but which ended with the couple facing off by the Queen Vic's cramped stairwell. Happy Christmas, Ange.
THE CHRISTMAS DINNER FROM HELL
Picture the scene: a big, lavish, traditional Christmas dinner set out in the Queen Vic, with a happy family all around the table. You're getting nervous already, aren't you? And with good reason, because things did indeed get as EastEndersy as you can imagine. This particular festive apocalypse was kicked off by Dirty Den's son, roguish hunk Dennis Rickman, who was shacked up with Zoe Slater but actually in love with Den's adopted daughter Sharon. Now, they weren't blood relatives so it wasn't illegal or unnatural or anything, but try telling that to Den Watts, whose eyes bulged with such fury that they looked in serious danger of popping out of his head and landing in the roast potatoes.
To be fair, announcing their secret, pseudo-incestuous affair over Christmas Day probably wasn't the most tactful move by Dennis and Sharon. Especially when you factor in the unbelievably smug look of lusty satisfaction directed from Dennis to Sharon, while the heartbroken Zoe sat RIGHT NEXT TO HIM. But it certainly made for a classic bit of Walford carnage, with yelling, screaming, and lots of really tasty looking food going uneaten. Such a waste.
THE MAX AND STACEY HOME VIDEO
Gathering around to watch Christmas Day telly is one of the most cherished festive traditions. Will it be a Hollywood comedy? The Queen's speech? A classic Only Fools and Horses Christmas special? Or... how about that mysterious DVD someone left under the tree, which contains home footage of a squalid affair between a man and his own's son young girlfriend?
Ah, yes. The Max-and-Stacey affair storyline was one of the most riveting in Albert Square lore, and - after all the steamy sneaking around under poor Bradley's nose - the couple were exposed by a DVD lovingly created by Max's daughter Lauren. And we do mean exposed: the whole family were sat around "simply having a wonderful Christmas time", as Paul McCartney might say, when the DVD was put on and they were treated to the sight of Max telling Stacey he loved her in that husky, man-about-to-have-phone-sex tone of his. Turns out there ARE worse things that can happen at Christmas than overcooking the sprouts.
THE MURDER IN THE VIC
Remember Archie Mitchell? He was basically a loveable Cockney rogue, except by "loveable" we mean "frightening" and by "rogue" we mean "scumbag". Beneath that affable exterior and old school charm, he was a controlling, manipulative, psychological tyrant and made life a misery for his family. The fact that he was such an all-round bad 'un made him the perfect corpse for a soap opera whodunit, because there were more potential suspects than you can shake a bust of Queen Victoria at.
Speaking of which, it was just such a bust which did for Archie, when he was clobbered over the head in the pub while momentarily distracted by a pretty little snow globe. Any film buffs watching the scene would have nodded appreciatively at this clear homage to classic movie Citizen Kane, in which a lonely and power-hungry old man dies while holding a snow globe. Everyone else would have just been shouting "Flippin' heck, Archie's been killed by Queen Victoria!"
KAT AND ALFIE'S BIG GOODBYE
OK, so EastEnders at Christmas is synonymous with tragedy, heartache and recrimination. But sometimes, just sometimes, nice things can happen as well. More heartwarming than a big cup of eggnog was the moment when Alfie turned up outside the Vic with his car, standing in the snow and ready to whisk his beloved Kat away for a new life of adventure far away from Walford.
As Kat tearfully walked to him, barefoot in the snow, he looked her in the eyes and said: "I've got a half tank of petrol, I've got furry dice, I've got about 83 quid in my pocket, and I'm off to see the world. You fancy it?" She wept, said yes, and was driven away while the rest of the EastEnders frolicked happily and had snowball fights in their wake. Nobody got shot, nobody suffered a sudden heart attack, nobody was exposed as a cheat. It was just... lovely. And what could have been more shocking than that?