If there’s one thing soap fans are used to, it’s having to deal with the occasional out-of-character moments from our show favourites. With so many episodes, so many stories and so many writers, it’s easy to see how characterisation can sometimes get lost in the shuffle.
Sometimes, however, the out-of-character moments or plots destroy credibility and, in some cases, can ruin a character. So, let’s look at a few moments that had us rolling our eyes and shaking our fists.
1. Harold strangles Paul (Neighbours)
Picture it – Erinsborough, 2005, and Neighbours stalwart Harold Bishop faced a devastating tragedy when his son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter lost their lives in a plane crash. Grieving Harold then took his anger out on the person responsible for organising the trip – Paul Robinson – and strangled him.
Yes, you read that right, mild-mannered Harold is an attempted murderer. Neighbours tried to justify it as a grieving man’s mistake and Paul soon forgave him. The entire event was swiftly brushed under the carpet and never mentioned again. Harold going dark could’ve been fascinating but this was nothing more than a cheap season finale twist.
2. Pauline’s personality transplant (EastEnders)
Sharp-tongued but big-hearted, few characters represented gritty, east-end realism like Fowler matriarch Pauline. But when the time came for actress Wendy Richard to bow out, few fans were prepared for the character assassination of Pauline’s final few months.
Angry that her beloved son Martin had reunited with Sonia, Pauline faked having a brain tumour and grew increasingly nasty and bitter. On Christmas Day 2006 after being labelled a control-freak with no life (bit harsh there, Sonia) Pauline died in the middle of the Square – alone, ostracised and with no redemption.
Wendy Richard famously criticised her character’s final months, explaining: “I did say, promise me you won’t make Pauline nasty before she goes, and unfortunately they did. I wasn’t too happy with the way it was done. They were changing Pauline’s character.” She wasn’t wrong – a true EastEnders icon deserved much better.
3. Finn stalks Kasim (Emmerdale)
Speaking of personality transplants, what possessed Emmerdale to turn sweet Finn Barton into a stalker? Full disclosure, falling in love with a comatose man may not necessarily be the most normal behaviour in the world, but Kasim saw past the initial ick factor and things seemed on the up for unlucky-in-love Finn.
That was until Finn became a controlling stalker and broke into Kasim’s house – as you do. Emmerdale explained Finn’s behaviour by using the old ‘driven mad by grief’ excuse, but the whole plot did irreparable damage to Finn’s character. Often relegated to comedy plots, actor Joe Gill deserved a big, meaty story but this really wasn’t it.
4. Mick cheats on Linda (EastEnders)
Remember when the Carters descended upon Albert Square and viewers were promised that Mick and Linda would avoid the tired cheating plots that are all too prominent in soap? Us too. So, colour us disappointed when Mick… cheated on Linda.
Sure, it didn’t go further than a couple of kisses with Whitney but that’s no excuse. Mick’s devotion to Linda was unquestioned and after coming through Linda’s rape crisis together, it didn’t ring true that Mick was willing to throw it all away – even for a moment. It dulled the shine of one of soap’s modern golden couples and we’re hoping it’s a mistake that stays firmly in the past.
5. Steph and Toadie’s baby lie (Neighbours)
When you have long-term characters like Neighbours‘ Steph, Toadie and Libby, it makes sense to craft a big explosive plot that utilises their years of history together. What doesn’t make sense? Having characters jumping through plot hurdles to get there.
We never believed Steph would sleep with Libby’s ex-husband and even when she did, and fell pregnant, we certainly didn’t believe that she and Toadie would fake a relationship to hide the paternity and betray their best friend. Wouldn’t it have been much easier for Steph to say she had a one-night stand?
The reveal did lead to some great scenes, but it was the plot that led to Steph’s sad decline as a character and one that wasn’t put right until the character’s return in 2015.
6. Tanya buries Max alive (EastEnders)
You didn’t think we’d talk about out-of-character moments and not mention one of soaps’ worst, did you? Max Branning might be a bit of a scumbag, but did anyone believe that bubbly beautician Tanya Branning would plot to kill her husband in the most OTT way possible?
Just months after the epic Stax reveal, Tanya drugged her cheating husband and with the help of bad boy Sean Slater, buried Max alive – before quickly getting cold feet and digging him up.
The dark scenes prompted complaints to Ofcom and a half-hearted apology from the BBC referring to viewers who “did not enjoy” the scenes. Their statement said: “Tanya’s behaviour becomes out of character, and indeed that it’s Tanya herself who ultimately suffers because of her actions.”
If you ask us the viewers suffered too. Much as we love Tanya, we could forgive but never forget the character’s misjudged moment of madness.
7. Aaron doesn’t believe Liv about Lachlan (Emmerdale)
When Liv grew suspicious about village creep Lachlan’s involvement in Gerry’s death, you’d believe her, right? Wrong. Despite Lachlan’s run of seriously sketchy behaviour, Liv’s own brother Aaron refused to hear her out.
It’s a bit of a soap cliché for characters’ warnings to fall on deaf ears but this really took the cake. Sure, Liv’s idea to send Lachlan anonymous messages wasn’t the best decision, but given Aaron and Liv’s close bond, his accusations that Liv was making the story up didn’t ring true.
Knowing Lachlan’s history, there’s no way Aaron wouldn’t hear her out – and he certainly wouldn’t make her apologise. Just think, Rebecca could have been spared weeks of captivity…
8. Rhys cheats on Jacqui with Cindy (Hollyoaks)
The unlikely relationship between Rhys Ashworth and Jacqui McQueen was one that shouldn’t have worked. Yet thanks to the great chemistry between Andy Moss and Claire Cooper, the pairing became one of Hollyoaks‘ most popular.
Sadly, when the time came to write Rhys out of the show, Hollyoaks didn’t give the character the exit he deserved. In the character’s final weeks, Rhys jumped into bed with Cindy and in doing so, Hollyoaks threw years of character development out the window.
By the time Rhys perished in the wedding day bus crash, viewers were left feeling cheated. Wouldn’t his death have been that much more tragic if he had remained faithful to Jacqui?
Andy Moss recently spoke out on the controversial exit, revealing: “That actually wasn’t how my character should have gone out. The person in charge at the time was only there for a short period, and I feel we didn’t do the character justice — he deserved more after seven years on screen. They ruined the character towards the end and I did fight against it.” Sadly, the powers that be didn’t listen.
9. Zak cheats on Lisa (Emmerdale)
It’s hard to remember now but for many years, Zak and Lisa were one of Emmerdale‘s most stable couples. No matter what was thrown at them, they saw it through together and seemed like nothing could possibly break them up.
Imagine our disappointment when Joanie Wright did just that. Did anyone really believe Zak would throw away his marriage after so many years? Certainly not actress Jane Cox who plays Lisa, who candidly admitted: “The honest truth is that I didn’t like it. Lisa and Zak were the only characters whose relationship was as solid as a rock and I felt that was a good thing for the village.”
Though they’ve since reunited, things haven’t been quite the same. With Lisa currently missing in action, it remains to seen whether Emmerdale can fix the relationship that was once so loved.
10. Max leaves Jane to die (EastEnders)
No-one expects Max Branning to be the perfect friend and neighbour, but we’ll admit, we weren’t prepared for how dark the character would become when he made his return in 2016. Feeling burned by the world after being wrongly imprisoned for Lucy Beale’s murder, Max’s elaborate revenge ultimately left Jane Beale to burn… for real.
Now, we understand Max’s anger against the woman who lied to protect her own son from getting sent down – really, we do. But Max was more crooked love rat, less cold-blooded killer.
In hindsight it’s been made more disappointing by how quickly the revenge plot was wrapped up and how it’s led to a seemingly permanent exit for Jane Beale. It’s another example of how a great doof doof can do some long-term damage.
Digital Spy Soap Scoop video – hit play below for all the latest EastEnders spoilers, as Phil’s return leaves Sharon and Keanu in a panic, and Shirley kicks Linda out of The Vic.
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