Who Killed Archie?

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"Who Killed Archie?" is a storyline from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, which began on 25 December 2009, Christmas Day, when the character Archie Mitchell, played by Larry Lamb, was murdered by an unseen person. Events leading up to and following the murder put several characters in the frame, in the style of a whodunnit mystery. The culprit was kept a tight secret within the production crew as well, with only seven people knowing the identity of the killer. The murderer was revealed as Stacey Branning (Lacey Turner) during a live episode titled "EastEnders Live", broadcast on 19 February 2010, the show's 25th anniversary. Turner was told thirty minutes before the broadcast that Stacey was the killer, and actors rehearsed several possible endings. Finally, a two-hander episode between Stacey and Max on 26 March 2010 explained how she killed Archie.

Storyline creation and development[edit]

Archie Mitchell was murdered inside The Queen Victoria.

The storyline was created in spring 2009 during a story conference, where executive producer Diederick Santer, storyliner Dominic Treadwell-Collins, series consultant and lead writer Simon Ashdown, series producer Lorraine Newman, script producer Sharon Batten, and Controller of BBC Drama Production John Yorke[1] were considering what to do for the Christmas Day 2009 and 25th anniversary episodes. They discussed the character Archie Mitchell and how everyone hated him, and decided on a storyline with characters' hatred and anger towards Archie building up before Christmas, with a peak on Christmas Day when he is killed and another for the reveal on the 19 February 2010 anniversary. They decided to keep the killer's identity a secret within the small group and decided to reveal it during a live episode so that the secret could be kept for as long as possible,[2] and managed the story on a need-to-know basis.[3] The live episode's director, Clive Arnold, became the seventh person to discover the identity of the murderer.[1] They went through the characters to decide who would create a "shiver" moment, and decided against Janine, even though she could have done it, because she has killed before. The killer was going to be Archie's wife Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor), until producers discovered Windsor had planned to leave the show, so they decided on Stacey.[4] Although scripts initially diverted attention away from Stacey, Santer realised that drawing attention away from her too much might make it more apparent.[5]

Santer said there were three big clues to the killer's identity, "one in the Christmas Day episode, one more recently than Christmas and there's another one that, if I were to tell you where it was, would perhaps give it away too easily,"[6] however, in a chat with Sharon Marshall shown on This Morning on 18 February 2010, he said the second clue was about halfway through the investigation and the third was "on screen but not necessarily in the programme".[7] He also said that the outcome would be "surprising", "satisfying" and "in retrospect, inevitable", adding that "it makes sense".[6] Santer confirmed the clues in an interview on the EastEnders website: on Christmas Day Stacey disappears and it is never explained why, and then reappears on Boxing Day appearing "not quite with it"; Stacey is the only character still sufficiently angry enough to spit on Archie's grave at his funeral; and Stacey is the first character to feature in the Christmas Day trailers.[5]

Plans to broadcast the first ever live episode of EastEnders were announced by the BBC on 15 September 2009.[8] Santer initially refrained from discussing the episode's plot, but commented that it would resolve a "big storyline" which would "keep the audience (as well as the cast and crew) guessing until the very last moment."[9] Santer confirmed that Archie's killer would be revealed in the live episode, and that their identity would be kept secret until the night of broadcast, even from the cast member playing them.[10] The EastEnders cast and crew had two weeks to rehearse the episode prior to its live transmission.[11] The script was issued on the afternoon of 5 February 2010, written by Simon Ashdown. The first read-through took place on 8 February 2010, though producers held back the part of the script revealing Archie's true killer.[12] Ten different possible endings were scripted and rehearsed, each showing one character confessing to the murder. The ten characters were Janine Butcher (Charlie Brooks), Jack Branning (Scott Maslen), Ronnie Mitchell (Samantha Womack), Max Branning (Jake Wood), Ian Beale (Adam Woodyatt), Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden), Billy Mitchell (Perry Fenwick), Ryan Malloy (Neil McDermott), Peggy and Stacey.[13] Santer reiterated that the actor playing the killer would only be told so thirty minutes before the broadcast.[14] He explained that the killer "may be revealed to the audience rather than the Square", preserving secrecy as the crew began filming episodes to be transmitted after the live broadcast. Brooks, who plays Archie's former lover Janine, found the secrecy difficult to work with, explaining: "In the episodes to be shown afterwards, you're being told to look or speak a certain way, but not why."[15] Santer confirmed that the cast found the episode challenging, stating: "They are as desperate to know who did it as the viewers."[15] Actor Charlie Clements, who played Bradley Branning, announced in November 2009 that he would be leaving the soap in 2010.[16] It was later revealed that Bradley would make his last appearance in "EastEnders Live", urged to flee Walford by his father Max and uncle Jack after becoming the prime suspect in the investigation into Archie's murder.[17]

The moment Turner was told Stacey was the killer was filmed for a live reaction show broadcast immediately after "EastEnders Live" on BBC Three,[18] though it was not broadcast.[1] EastEnders Live: The Aftermath was presented by Lamb's son George and included other behind-the-scenes material.[18] Turner received a call to see Santer about 20 minutes before the broadcast, where she was told that Stacey was the killer. She explained that she had no idea her character was the murderer, even after receiving the call. She hoped viewers would sympathise with the character as she not only has to deal with the guilt of killing Archie but was also inadvertently responsible for Bradley's death.[19] Wood was also told as he supported Turner in the final scene in which she was revealed as the killer.[3] Santer also brought in Maslen and McDermott as decoys in case other cast and crew members realised.[5] Following the live episode, a two-hander episode featuring Max and Stacey was announced.[20] The episode, broadcast on 26 March 2010, explains how and why Stacey killed Archie.[21]

Later development[edit]

Although the true identity of Archie's killer is kept a secret between Max and Stacey for several months, Max's daughter Lauren Branning (Jacqueline Jossa) becomes suspicious in November 2010 when Max tells her Bradley was innocent. Lauren suspects Max killed Archie as she becomes paranoid about his anger. Jossa said in an interview with website Digital Spy: "[Lauren]'s thinking about Archie's murder and realising that if Bradley didn't do it, it must have been someone else. As far as she knows, her dad is the only person who knows that Bradley didn't do it, so she's trying to put this puzzle together and it's all adding up to Max being the killer, because everything he does seems to lead to a lot of aggression."[22] However, Lauren soon works out that Stacey is the murderer after speaking to her.[22] Jossa said she was excited that her character was one of only a select few to know the true identity of Archie's killer.[22]

Suspects and motives[edit]

Woodyatt said it would have been plausible if his character Ian had been the murderer.

There were officially ten suspects for the murder,[14] though the ten were not known to viewers or cast members, who speculated about the identity of the killer. On Christmas Eve, storylines showed Archie evicting his wife Peggy, daughters Ronnie and Roxy, Peggy's son Phil and Phil's son Ben (Charlie Jones) from their home, The Queen Victoria public house, after he became the landlord. Ronnie had a further motive as Archie had caused her to suffer a miscarriage and she blamed him for the death of her daughter Danielle Jones (Lauren Crace) earlier in 2009.[23] Peggy discovered that Archie had paid her daughter Sam Mitchell (Danniella Westbrook) to skip bail, thus plunging the Mitchells into debt, and Sam returned on Christmas Day to discover she had been manipulated.[23] Phil was also a suspect after failing to kill Archie on Peggy's request earlier in 2009.[23] Simons explained that the killer was likely to be the most unsuspecting person, and stated that Roxy was "pretty much the only non-suspect,"[24] but said she felt the character would not go so far as to kill her father, even though she had seen his true colours.[25] Woodyatt said his character, Ian Beale, would have done anything to stop his wife Jane (Laurie Brett) from finding out that he had sex with Janine, so it would be plausible if it turned out that Ian had killed Archie.[26] Archie had a laptop recording of Ian and Janine together that he had threatened to give to Jane. Janine, who was engaged to Archie, also had a motive as Archie had been using her to gain ownership of The Queen Victoria and threw her out on Christmas Day. She was seen holding a knife before Archie was killed.[23]

McDermott said his character, Ryan Malloy, "probably would have the balls to kill Archie" and it would be a possibility due to the character's past, although he accused Janine of the murder, making it unlikely unless he was "quite conniving." He stated Ryan's only motive would be out of love for Janine.[27] Glynis Barber, who plays Archie's first wife Glenda Mitchell and was not seen in the programme until after the murder, said her instinct was that Glenda did not kill Archie, even though she had been told it was possible.[28] Bradley Branning's motive came from the discovery that Archie raped his partner Stacey, and Clements said that if other characters knew, it would give Bradley a motive and the fact that Bradley punched Archie would make him a prime suspect. He stated that he hoped Bradley was not the killer,[29] though in an interview with daytime television show This Morning, he stated it would be "quite historical to go down as the one who killed Archie Mitchell".[30] The rape also gave Stacey a motive, and before she was sectioned in 2009 for bipolar disorder she accused Archie of trying to kill her.[23] Jack Branning's motive came from his love for Ronnie and hatred of Archie, and he threatened Archie on Christmas Day.[23] Maslen said it would be "great" if Jack was the murderer, but added that he may have taken the blame if Ronnie was guilty.[31] Other possible suspects included Peggy's son Grant Mitchell (Ross Kemp), Billy Mitchell and Tracey the barmaid (Jane Slaughter).[23] Slaughter said Tracey's only motive would be to protect The Queen Victoria or one of the Mitchells.[32]

Odds on the killer's identity changed frequently in the fortnight preceding the transmission of "EastEnders Live". On 5 February, the clear favourite was Stacey Slater, with odds at Bodog of 2/1.[33] By 9 February, Stacey's odds had shortened to 6/4,[34] though the character dropped into third place by 12 February, usurped by her brother Sean Slater (Robert Kazinsky), who was last seen in the soap on 1 January 2009, at odds of 9/4, and Ben Mitchell at 7/2.[35] On 14 February, the unlikely favourite became Tracey the barmaid, a background character whose odds shortened considerably from 40/1 to 11/4.[36] Sean moved back into first place on 16 February, with odds of 2/1,[37] and remained there until the eve of broadcast. Stacey Slater's odds fell to 16/1.[38] William Hill had Sean as the favourite on 18 February with odds of 4/7,[39] though on the morning of 19 February, Ben became the bookmakers' favourite.[40] Polls on both the BBC website[41] and on Digital Spy[42] that ran in the week leading up to the live episode showed Bradley Branning as the person viewers most expected to be the killer, followed by Jack Branning.

Plot[edit]

Events leading up to the murder[edit]

On Archie and Peggy's wedding day, the true identity of Danielle Jones as Ronnie's daughter is revealed. Archie has told Ronnie that her daughter, who he gave up for adoption as a baby, has died. Moments after Ronnie realises the truth, Danielle is hit by Janine's car and killed. Peggy throws Archie out and asks Phil to kill him, but Phil just forces him to leave.

When Archie returns, he attempts to reconcile with Peggy, but comes up with a plan to steal the Mitchells' business, The Queen Victoria public house, with Janine's help. However, Janine, along with Ryan, plans to steal it from Archie at the last minute. Peggy's daughter Sam, who has been in Brazil on the run from police due to her involvement in the murder of Den Watts (Leslie Grantham), returns to Walford, thinking the charges have been dropped. She is subsequently arrested, and the Mitchells put up £250,000 bail to have her released. Archie convinces Sam to leave again, paying for her to go. Phil is then forced to take out a loan from Ian. Ian accepts, on the condition that if the loan is not paid back within a certain time, he becomes owner of The Queen Victoria. Archie and Janine learn of this and try to get Ian to sell the loan to them. When Ian's wife Jane leaves him, Janine gets him drunk and has sex with him, making an audio recording of them together. Archie and Janine blackmail Ian into selling them the loan and Archie tells the Mitchells they are trespassing. Ronnie stands up to him and he pushes her into the bar, not knowing she is pregnant, though Roxy then reveals it. Ronnie has a miscarriage and Peggy tells Archie he has killed another of Ronnie's children, warning him to stay away from her. Peggy eventually hands over the keys and the family of Peggy, Phil, Ronnie, Roxy, Ben and Roxy's baby Amy leave on 24 December 2009.

On Christmas Day, Archie tells Ian the CD of the recording is under Ian's Christmas tree for Jane, but Ian fails to find it. Archie tells Janine that they should skip Christmas dinner as he has made a surprise treasure hunt for her. Janine eventually finds an envelope containing a one-way ticket to Poland and Archie throws her out onto the street telling her he knows how she and Ryan tried to double-cross him. Archie is visited by Jack Branning who threatens to kill him if he hurts Ronnie again. Archie finds Ian searching his living room for the CD and Archie says it is on his laptop and he can make copies at any time, threatening Ian with a phone call to Jane, before ejecting him from the pub. Sam returns and attempts to confront Archie but he shuts the door on her. Ronnie then arrives and tells him with no emotion that he will not make her care for him and she would not care if he died. Archie throws her out onto the street reminding her that it was the exact spot she pushed Danielle onto the night she died.

Archie is visited by Peggy and he pleads with her to come home to him as she is the woman he loves. Peggy says she is not just a sweet and innocent old lady and that he has no idea who he is messing with. She tells Archie if he does not leave the pub that night he will regret every cruel and evil act he has ever done. He tells her that unless she returns he will have the pub converted to flats. He then becomes emotional as he tells Peggy that he will be waiting for her as she walks out on him. Bradley walks in and punches Archie in the face twice but accidentally punches the bar as well, cutting his hand. He tells Archie to stay away from his girlfriend Stacey because she has said Archie raped her three months previously, and Bradley leaves. As Archie picks up his snowglobe from the floor, the bust of Queen Victoria is pushed from the bar and hits him over the head.

After the murder[edit]

Ronnie finds Archie on the floor of The Queen Victoria and he apologises to her before he dies. When the police are notified of the death they arrest Ronnie, but later release her without charge. DCI Jill Marsden (Sophie Stanton) investigates the rest of the Mitchell family. Phil is given a false alibi by his friend Shirley Carter (Linda Henry), who finds a blood-stained shirt amongst his belongings. Phil explains that he found Archie dead and lost his balance, falling into the blood, but did not call the police because he panicked. They burn the shirt, and when Marsden visits them again, asking to see the clothes Phil was wearing at Christmas, Shirley produces a freshly laundered one. Shirley's flatmate Heather Trott (Cheryl Ferguson) reveals that Phil was not really with Shirley on Christmas Day, prompting Shirley to make an anonymous call stating she saw Janine enter The Queen Victoria on the day of the murder, deflecting suspicion from Phil. Peggy and Phil attempt to pin the murder on Sam, who retaliates by blaming Peggy. Both are questioned by Marsden at the police station, and though Peggy is released without charge, Sam is arrested for breaking her bail.

Ian has Archie's laptop, and though he deletes the audio file of him and Janine from it, it later comes to light, and he and Jane throw the laptop into the canal. Janine attempts to blackmail Ian, and when he rebuffs her, she tells the police about the recording and the laptop, leading to his arrest. Ian admits to stealing the laptop from The Queen Victoria on Christmas Day, but denies murder. The police charge him with murder, but when Janine admits the truth, the charges are dropped.

Marsden and her colleague DC Wayne Hughes (Jamie Treacher) attend Archie's funeral, but do not see Stacey spit on Archie's grave. Jack, a former police officer, tells Hughes he can help out with any "local information" they might need. Jack later learns that Archie raped Stacey, that she is now pregnant with what she believes is Archie's baby, and that Bradley punched him on Christmas Day. Jack urges Bradley to tell the police what he did, desiring to keep Ronnie out of trouble. Marsden reveals she has a new forensic profile and a DNA screening process will begin. She asks all white males to volunteer for DNA screening, and when Bradley complies, Jack bribes Hughes to make the samples disappear.

A ring Roxy inherited from Archie, which went missing at Christmas, is planted in Janine's flat. Marsden receives an anonymous tip-off and Janine is arrested after the ring is found in her teapot. She is interviewed, but is released due to lack of evidence. She realises that Peggy planted the ring in an attempt to frame her. When Shirley thinks Phil is seeing another woman, she tells him she is only interested in her for her alibi. He says it is not true, but she drunkenly threatens to withdraw the alibi, and walks to the police station. Roxy accuses Ronnie of murdering Archie. Ronnie denies it, but tells her that Archie once raped her. Peggy tells the two of them that when Archie was murdered, she found him lying on the floor, took her divorce papers from the bar and left him to die. Phil tells Peggy about his alibi, the shirt and that he found Archie dead on Christmas Day. Shirley then returns and says Phil has got away with it as she has not told the police anything.

Jack receives a call from Hughes to say that Bradley is about to be arrested and urges Bradley to leave Walford as quickly as possible. Bradley and Stacey quickly pack their bags at home. Max says an emotional goodbye to his son and Jack agrees to help them escape. They leave via the back door as Max delays the police at the front, and hide a few streets away. Jack also leaves by the back door but Marsden sees him and he is unable to meet Bradley and Stacey, who are nervously waiting. Bradley says they should go without Jack, but when they go to get a taxi, Bradley realises he has left the passports at home and goes back to get them, leaving Stacey to wait. However, Stacey grows impatient and phones him. The police notice him when his phone rings, and in a bid to escape them, he runs up a fire escape and crawls across the roof of The Queen Victoria with an officer following him. He shouts at Stacey to run, but stumbles and falls backwards from the roof to his death. Max and Stacey are devastated, and he pulls her away from the body. She tells him it is her fault, as Bradley did not kill Archie, she did. The following day, Marsden says the police will no longer be pursuing the investigation. Stacey then goes missing, and on the day of Bradley's funeral, Jack receives news that a court has found Bradley guilty of Archie's murder.

Max tracks down Stacey to a flat where Stacey explains that she was angry at Archie and was worried about what Bradley would do to him after he found out about the baby. A minute after Bradley confronted Archie, she found Archie on the floor and pushed the bust onto his head, but ran after his fingers twitched, fearing he would call the police. Max eventually tells Stacey that nobody else needs to know that she killed Archie and sends her home. Several months later, Stacey confesses to Peggy. Peggy wants to call the police but after a fire at The Queen Victoria, Peggy tries to convince Stacey to admit to arson as the sentence would be a lot less than that for murder.

Max's daughter Lauren becomes angry at Max for never mentioning Bradley, leading to his confessing that he knows Bradley did not kill Archie. Lauren starts to suspect Max as he has become violent towards other people, but he tells her he promised to look after the real killer, who is no longer a danger. When Lauren sees Stacey dancing with Max, she accuses her of trying flirting with Max, but Stacey says they are just friends and he promised he would always look out for her. Lauren realises that Stacey is the killer and tells Max she knows this. She confronts Stacey, who confesses, and Lauren records it on her mobile phone. Lauren later hands the recording to Janine as Stacey and Ryan have been having an affair. Max wipes the recording so Janine publicly announces that Stacey killed Archie. Stacey is then forced to flee the country with her daughter Lily.

In 2014, Stacey is found living in London using a false name. Her cousin Kat Moon (Jessie Wallace) brings her back to Walford. Stacey is wanted by the police for stabbing Janine, though in fact Janine had stabbed herself in order to frame Stacey. She is eventually seen by Ronnie and Roxy. Roxy threatens to call the police but Ronnie convinces her not to. However, Stacey later decides that she needs to clear Bradley's name, so tells the police she killed Archie. She is subsequently sentenced to five years in prison.

Reception[edit]

Overnight figures showed that Archie's murder on 25 December 2009 was watched by 45.9% of the viewing audience for that time, an average of 10.9 million and a peak of 11.9 million. It was the most watched TV show on Christmas Day 2009 in the UK.[43] The following episode where the murder was discovered was also the most watched show of the day, with overnight ratings of 8.1 million, representing a 37.9% audience share.[44] The investigation storyline helped EastEnders become the most watched soap opera on British television for the first time in three years, with average viewing figures for January 2010 of 10.8 million (40.4% audience share) compared to Coronation Street's 10.4 million (38.2%).[45] Overnight figures for the live episode indicated that it averaged 14.91 million viewers and a 54.6% audience share, peaking at 16.58 million with a 59.4% share in the final five minutes of broadcast when Stacey was revealed as the killer. The 10:30 pm repeat of the episode on BBC Three drew a further 1.42 million viewers, attaining a 7.7% share. EastEnders Live: The Aftermath drew 4.3 million viewers and a 15.9% audience share, becoming BBC Three's highest rated programme ever, as well as the most-watched multichannel programme of the day. The documentary attained a further 1.21 million viewers and a 9.4% share upon its repeat at 11 pm.[46] Santer was delighted by the viewing figures, stating: "To get this incredible response from the audience is truly remarkable – these numbers go far beyond what we ever hoped for. I am so proud of our cast and crew for their incredible performance last night. This rating is the icing on our silver anniversary cake." Jay Hunt, controller of BBC One commented: "[The] extraordinary live episode was a fitting celebration of 25 magnificent years for EastEnders. The audience were clearly gripped by one of the greatest soap whodunnits ever." Discussing the ratings for EastEnders Live: The Aftermath, controller of BBC Three Danny Cohen appraised: "It is an amazing testament to the EastEnders team and the brave and brilliant drama they provided."[47]

Archie's murder was compared to that of Den Watts in EastEnders in 2005 by Polly Hudson of the Daily Mirror,[48] while Nancy Banks-Smith of The Guardian called it a rip-off of Citizen Kane.[49] Andrew Grimes from Manchester Evening News said the Christmas Day episode was "in every sense compelling, and to my utter astonishment, a complete and utter joy",[50] and John Gibson of Edinburgh Evening News gave the murder discovery episode on 26 December 2009 a negative review, saying "Hard to tell what was most horrific ... the murder, which was bloody, the acting, which was dire, or the script, which was torture."[51] Tim Teeman of The Times called the revelation of Stacey as Archie's killer a "genuine surprise",[52] while Pat Stacey of the Evening Herald felt that revealing Stacey as Archie's killer was "a slight let-down" and "a little bit predictable".[53] The storyline was nominated in the Killer Secret category at the 2010 All About Soap Bubble Awards.[54] It also received a nomination in the Best Storyline category at the 2010 British Soap Awards[55] and the Best Soap Storyline category at the 2010 TVChoice Awards.[56] Real life police detectives criticised the portrayal of detectives in the show, saying that viewers who see them talking to residents about the case and accepting bribes may believe they operate that way in reality. The BBC insisted that a police consultant was used, adding that "this is heightened fiction and all the things that we show might not always represent real life."[57] The storyline was referenced by Prime Minister Gordon Brown when referring to allegations of bullying, saying "The only thing I haven't been accused of is murdering that guy Archie Mitchell in EastEnders."[58][59]

Bookmakers estimated that over £1 million would be spent gambling on the outcome of the storyline.[60] Ladbrokes experienced its busiest ever 24 hours of gambling on a television series ahead of the episode's transmission, taking £100,000 in bets on 30 different characters, while William Hill took £500,000, surpassing the amount placed on Dallas's Who shot J. R.? storyline in 1980. Spokesman Rupert Adams commented: "The BBC were amazing keeping this quiet. We have broken even which in a market like this is amazing. We have had a roller-coaster but have enjoyed every minute."[61]

References[edit]

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