|Portrayed by||Ray Brooks|
|First appearance||19 August 2005|
|Last appearance||26 January 2007|
Joseph "Joe" Macer is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by Ray Brooks. He made his first appearance on 19 August 2005. He was the second husband of Pauline Fowler and her accidental killer. Brooks was axed in July 2006 and Joe was killed off on 26 January 2007.
Joe was widowed in 1982, and has two daughters, Megan (Niky Wardley) and Shelly, from his first marriage. Joe meets Pauline Fowler (Wendy Richard), a dancing companion at their salsa dance club, and they become good friends. Joe falls in love with Pauline and proposes to her once in The Queen Victoria public house. She turns Joe down but he does not give up, and asks her again in February 2006 after falsely telling her that he will leave for Dubai; this time she accepts. On their wedding day on 17 February 2006, Pauline has doubts about remarrying, but goes through with it any way. However she chooses to keep her surname as Fowler as she doesn't want 'a new identity'. Soon after, Joe admits his former criminal career to Pauline, revealing that his lifelong friend Bert Atkinson (Dave Hill) served time in prison for Joe's crimes, and that he still owes Bert. Joe refuses to choose between Pauline and Bert, and Pauline throws him out of the house. After he and Bert convert Pauline's loft, Pauline forgives him and lets him come home, but their relationship remains uneasy as she becomes obsessed with her irrational vendetta against her daughter-in-law, Sonia (Natalie Cassidy).
In December 2006, Pauline falsely claims that she is dying of a brain tumour. When Joe goes to the hospital and discovers this is untrue, he leaves Pauline. In one final encounter, Pauline tells Joe she never loved him, insults his lovemaking and tells him she wants nothing more to do with him. Joe responds in kind by calling her "a block of ice in bed," and then smashes her family photographs, insulting in turn her late husband Arthur, ("a criminal"), her dead son Mark ("diseased") and her daughter Michelle ("little scrubber"). The scene ends with Pauline smashing a plate on Joe's head. Joe leaves to spend Christmas with his daughter, and when he returns on Boxing Day he is at first shocked to find out that Pauline is dead, but later gets drunk and tells everyone he is pleased she is dead. When the police arrive at Pauline's funeral with news of a murder inquiry, Pauline's son Martin (James Alexandrou) first believes Joe must be the suspect, and tries to strangle him, until Sonia owns up and announces it was her the police are investigating. Joe later packs his belongings and goes to live with Megan. He promises Martin he will return for Pauline's second funeral, but he later claims that his car broke down on the motorway, so he was unable to attend.
On 25 January 2007, Joe unexpectedly returns to the Fowlers' house, much to the horror of Pauline's friend Dot Branning (June Brown), who is inside the house at the time. Joe reveals to Dot that he had gone back to the house on Christmas Day to try and patch things up with Pauline, but that she harshly told him that he [Joe] was leaving, not her, and continued to insult him and his ways. He told Pauline he felt like lashing out at times, and she dared him to "be a man" and hit her. Joe then describes how, In an anger, he picked up a frying pan and hit Pauline hard on the head with it. He left the house after the incident, at which point Pauline was fine, and that was the last time he saw his wife, who later died due to a brain haemorrhage caused by the blow to the head Joe had given her. Dot then proceeds to try and convince Joe to tell the truth but he refuses. She then attempts to ring the police but Joe snatches the phone out of her hand and throws it away. Dot's husband, Jim (John Bardon) meanwhile, arrives at the Fowlers' house to find Dot. Seeing that Joe is holding Dot captive, Jim rushes over to save her and a struggle that follows results in Joe falling back and crashing out of a window and falling through a market stall. Jim looks out of the window as Joe lies on the street, dead.
Character creation and development
The character Joe Macer, played by Ray Brooks, was introduced in August 2005 as a love interest for the long running character, Pauline Fowler (Wendy Richard). The characters were shown to meet at salsa classes, a relationship was quickly developed and despite Pauline's initial trepidation the year 2006 saw her marrying Joe after almost a decade since the death of her first husband, Arthur Fowler. Their marriage was an attempt to give the character Pauline a "new lease of life" and her wedding day was screened to coincide with EastEnders' 21st anniversary. Richard was openly opposed to her character remarrying, but she was eventually convinced by the executive producer and battled—successfully—for Pauline to keep her surname, Fowler.
In July 2006 however, Wendy Richard announced that she would be leaving the show. She said she made the decision to leave when the producers of EastEnders revealed that Pauline was to remarry. Richard thought it was "disloyal" of Pauline to her beloved first husband Arthur, commenting: "I think it's the most terrible shame, I really do. I thought in my heart of hearts it was wrong." Richard felt that she did not have the same chemistry with Ray Brooks, who played Joe, as she did with Bill Treacher, who played Arthur. She rejected producers' opinions that Pauline and Joe "looked good together" and felt that she and Brooks had to work very hard to turn them into a "realistic-looking couple."
Following Richard's announcement that she was quitting, the BBC announced that actor Ray Brooks was being axed from the soap in September 2006, with one insider commenting "With Pauline going, there’s not much more we could do with Ray’s character...it’s going to be a dramatic exit." Brooks was said to be "fine with the decision" having endured a "challenging working relationship with unhappy EastEnders legend Wendy Richard."
Just two months after the wedding was screened, Pauline and Joe's marriage was shown to sour after Joe's criminal past was uncovered. Their relationship steadily deteriorated throughout the year, and in episodes that aired in December 2006 Pauline ended the marriage—removing her wedding ring and informing Joe that he "was half the man that Arthur had been, that she had never really loved him and that their sex life was a sham." The resulting row saw Joe insult Pauline's family—suggesting that her "perfect marriage" with Arthur was "nothing but a fantasy" and brandishing Mark "diseased", Michelle a "slapper" and Arthur a "con"—to which Pauline responded by smashing a plate over his head. Wendy Richard has commented "It was not just the memory of Arthur that stopped the marriage to Joe being a success. He was proven to be a weak and untruthful man. That is what caused the marriage to be a non starter. Pauline was not mean to Joe, he used her…and lied to her."
The destruction of Pauline and Joe's marriage was part of the build-up to the exits of both characters. Pauline was killed off in a "shocking" and dramatic storyline, which saw her collapsing and dying in the middle of Albert Square, leaving both characters and viewers in uncertainty about the cause of her demise. The storyline—dubbed "who killed Pauline?" by the British press—continued through 2007, as first Pauline's funeral was interrupted by the police in order to perform an autopsy on her body, and then Pauline's former daughter-in-law Sonia Fowler was arrested for the murder. Following the screening of the suspected murder, bookmaker Ladbrokes listed odds on the suspects with Sonia being favourite at 2/1, Joe Macer and Pauline's son Martin both at 3/1 and outsiders Peggy Mitchell at 10/1, and Dot Branning at 20/1.
However, Sonia's arrest proved to be a "red herring" and it was later revealed that the killing blow had actually come from Pauline's husband Joe, who broke down and confessed to Dot Branning that he had rowed with Pauline on Christmas Day (off-screen) and, in a fury, struck her across the head with a frying pan, causing a brain haemorrhage that claimed her life. The plot's eventual climax in February 2007 led to the exits of several established characters connected with Pauline. This included Martin, Sonia and Joe, who was dramatically killed off after confessing to Pauline's murder—he fell out of the Fowlers' first floor window while trying to apprehend a hysterical Dot.
In popular culture
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- "BBC1 posts its worst Christmas Day ratings ever". London: Daily Mail. 26 December 2006. Retrieved 31 May 2007.
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- "Episode guide—Tue 02 Jan 2007—Pauline's funeral". BBC. Retrieved 31 May 2007.
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- "Torchwood - Magazine Article" BBC, 2007