It’s the most wonderful time of the year! That is, unless your name happens to be Joanie or Zak Dingle. This year’s Christmas episode was a fairly low-key and happy affair with even the Thomas family finding happiness despite Ashley’s illness, but there was a lot to enjoy about the episode so I thought I’d share my best bits!
The music montages! The REAL snow!
The episode opened like the perfect Christmas movie, with Mariah in the background and Aaron’s happy little family of Robert and Liv enjoying the flurry (and throwing a few snowballs in Carly’s direction). We cut to Zak seeing signs to do with Lisa at every turn, and Lisa herself snuggling with Alfie and Moira woke alone. It was the most festive opening to an episode you could ever hope for. And it continued throughout the episode, with a Last Christmas montage of dinners and happiness and loneliness, to a final music moment at the end with Zak slinking away cold and alone.
The little touches
What made this Christmas episode so good was the little moments we could all relate to. Things like: Sandy wanting a selection box breakfast, Dan being more interested in Kyle’s present than he was, Adam’s saucy present for Vic that he didn’t want her to open in front of his mum, Jimmy struggling with the little screws and a lack of batteries, Chas’s insistence that everyone wear a paper hat, drunken charades! These all made our beloved characters come to like in instantly relatable and believable scenes. They were great character moments that made these feel like real family Christmases.
With Christmas comes alcohol and giggles and there was no shortage in this episode either. From Pete’s awkward mince pie judging competition, which Ross made fantastically uncomfortable (plus Emma is just as good at comedy as she is unnerving villainy!), to Jimmy’s kettle angst, to Harriet’s realisation Pearl is trying to turn her into a Mini Me, to Chas being drunkenly touchy feely with Aaron and Robert in their loathed Xmas jumpers. Thankfully all the humour came from a fun place and didn’t involve Kerry madness, but let’s face it the turkey/peacock plot thread was a weird one!
There were a number of moments where my heart was sufficiently warmed like a big mug of mulled wine in the Christmas special. Ashley’s brief reprieve where he joined in with the carol and Gabby found the heartfelt gifts he’d prepared when his condition wasn’t so bad were particularly emotive moments that brought home the tragedy of their family situation. Little Elliot King also warmed hearts as he cuddled up to Nicola, wishing that she was his mother. Total Christmas fluff and exactly what this episode needed.
The end of Zak and Joanie (and Lisa fighting back)
One of the big plot points for the episode was the dissolution of Zak and Joanie, exactly a year since the wishbone debacle and the reveal of their affair (to which this year’s episode had a lot of callbacks!). Denise Black gave an impressive performance in the subtle way she showed Joanie’s heartbreak and isolation amongst the Dingle clan as Zak obliviously slipped into old habits and shut her out. Their end of episode confrontation was charged and finally gave Joanie the backbone she deserved in the face of Zak’s uselessness. Lisa too came out of the episode looking strong and powerful as she rejected Zak and fumed as she told him it was too late for his regrets. Well executed and a nice symmetry to last year’s scenes.
Hope for Cain and Moira
Another storyline in the episode which offered a feeling of warmth was the thawing atmosphere between Cain and Moira. Despite her claiming their night together was a mistake, Moira still listened to the mixtape he left her and there was definite chemistry between them when Cain bought Kyle to see the reindeers. She might not be ready to let on that she listened to the mixtape, or give him another chance, but the feelings between them are lingering and there was all the slow burn magic between them that makes for a winning soap couple.