Eworm since the day I was born, Ian Beale has been there on the outskirts of my reality, sobbing. That’s the strange thing about Ian Beale, the liminal space he occupies in the British collective mind. Even if you don’t watch EastEnders week after week, even if you skip the Christmas specials every year, you still vaguely know what Ian Beale is up to – to remarry, to divorce again, to have his children murdered, to be homeless. , crying on a couch as Phil Mitchell turns more and more to stone – whether you like it or not. EastEnders is just propaganda from Ian Beale, actually, designed to let you know that Ian Beale exists and – whether you watch him or not – he’s in pain.
All of this is relevant in the fall because, since the lockdown was lifted and EastEnders started afresh, a series of heavy Beale stories have seen him play the role of Square’s ascendant villain, and the day’s storyline of Noel is about to see him mysteriously attacked and left crumpled. , causing a classic thriller. I can recap for you his various oxen – Dot Cotton knows he is responsible for the death of Dennis Jr! Max Branning is furious that Ian still owes him thousands on the Vic! Kat Slater is pretty annoyed that she traded her £ 20 on a bar shift! Suki is furious that she sold her questionable transactions to the Walford Gazette! Phil and Ben barely escaped arrest thanks to Ian’s report to the police! Kathy was fed up with relying on her financially! Basically everyone in the square hates it because it’s tight! – but that’s hardly about it. Ian Beale is the villain, not because the actor playing him has one of the most lockable necks in history, but because the soap gods ordered him to be.
There is something cosmic about soap villains: their wickedness increases and decreases. Ian Beale is in a cycle of villains now, but he just might be backslid soon. The villains of EastEnders die, go to jail, are so hated by the public that they have to leave; or they mellow out, become a bad-boy background piece, convert to religion and come back well. Sometimes they stop being mean a bit because they had such a good panto offer.
In five years, Ian Beale may well be a soft-edged father again, alarmed to find he has a sixth or seventh child in love, a grown adult who has never texted him once before today, who then turns out to be fully trained to scream. to him in a laundromat. Or: after a series of questionable transactions, with Phil holding the keys and waving to him from the shore, Ian Beale knocks on the windows as his escort boils down the Thames. Hard to say. It’s out of our control.
The point is, it doesn’t matter if Ian Beale is a villain now, as Albert Square’s constants aren’t ‘who’s bad’ and ‘who’s good’ but rather the underlying obscurity of Walford himself. Someday, soon, the old magic that shines under E20 will kick in again, and Ian Beale will be back in his place – casually dropping egg mayonnaise into baps while Max Branning ignores paying him to discuss ‘recent divorce – and it will all be forgotten. For now, he plays an important role: on Christmas Day 20 people will hate Ian Beale enough to want to attack him. There is again a balance in the universe.