Spoiler alert: Lucy Beale killer finally revealed after year-long EastEnders suspense
So now we know. It was chilling cherub Bobby who bumped off poor Lucy Beale on Good Friday 2014.
The rosy-cheeked schoolboy was revealed to be his sister's killer at the conclusion of an EastEnders double-bill deemed so unmissable that RTE shunted an interview with The Taoiseach by half an hour to accommodate fans of the soap ( -- and perhaps Enda Kenny, who may have been dying to know the identity of the murderer along with the rest of us).
The unmasking of the perpetrator made for dramatic viewing, with lots of cunning misdirection on the part of the producers. At one point, all the evidence pointed towards Lucy's stepmother Jane. Only in the final shot of a hysterically tense flashback episode did we learn she'd been covering up all this time for Bobby, after he coshed his sister over the head with a music box. “Whatever she says, she started it," he explained solemnly. "She made everyone unhappy.”
All told, it was a rough evening for Lucy. She'd earlier been mugged by ne'er do well pal Ben, had a drunken Jake spew all over her and become entangled in fisticuffs with Denise. "I think tonight's out to get me," she said at one point, a cheesy set-up for the final murderous flourish to follow.
The drama over Lucy's killer had gone on so long it felt faintly surreal to see the culprit finally exposed. Adding to the air of unreality was the fact that the broadcast was mostly live, part of celebrations marking the soap's 30th anniversary.
All week theories has raged as to the identity of the murderer. Many were convinced it was Lucy's half-sister Cindy, others felt the evidence pointed to nasty Ben, a friend of Lucy later found with the dead woman's bag and purse.
The reveal that Bobby was the guilty party was undoubtedly a surprise, no matter that homicidal children are currently rather voguish on television. But the pay-off was adroitly handled, the tension skillfully built through an earlier hour-long episode which had appeared to finger Jane for the crime after she was confronted by Lucy's father Ian. Only in the final seconds of the flash-back was the awful truth finally made clear. We were still taking it in as the credits rolled.
Perhaps the biggest shock, however, was public reaction to what was in many ways a clunky whodunnit straight out of Agatha Christie. We're forever told that, in a world of streaming and video on demand, communal television moments are a thing of the past. The degree to which Lucy Beale's murder gripped viewers showed this premise to be false, demonstrating that a mystery skillfully spun has the potential to transfix millions. All you need is a body, a rogue's gallery of possible villains and a community seething with unspeakable secrets.