Mick's abuse story in EastEnders shows the power of reaching out to a stranger

A year ago, Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) in EastEnders was living a completely different life to what he is now. He was running the Queen Vic with his wife Linda (Kellie Bright), as well as trying to support her through her alcoholism, but fast forward a year, Mick’s life has been turned upside down.

He’s living in a flat with Linda and Ollie, he doesn’t have a stable job and after coming face-to-face with his abuser Katy Lewis (Simone Lahbib), his overwhelming emotions have been growing in intensity every single day.

What started as a storyline that saw Mick discover Frankie (Rose Ayling-Ellis) was his daughter could’ve developed into a classic ‘I’ve got a secret child and had a secret affair’ storyline we have seen so often in the soaps.

However, EastEnders altered the route of this plot when Frankie learned Mick had been abused by her mum Katy.

Up until Frankie told Mick that Katy is her mum, he was minding his own business, living fairly happily with Linda and Ollie, and adjusting to life outside of the pub, but Frankie saying the name of her mother was the start of Mick’s past resurfacing, and memories returning that he had spent so long trying to bury.

It was the moment Frankie confronted him and told him that he was abused by Katy that changed the focus entirely.  This became a chance to learn about Mick’s past, something, after seven years of the character, we didn’t know a great deal about.

EastEnders has always tackled difficult subjects and delivered moving and ground-breaking episodes, and Mick’s historical abuse is no different, and tonight’s episode has proven this narrative to be one of the most powerful ones of the year.

Tonight’s instalment of the BBC One soap focused solely on Mick as he struggled with the enormity of his situation. Opening with Mick on the roof of the Queen Vic, we watched as he spoke to on the phone to Samaritans volunteer Joe.

Executive Producer Jon Sen recently spoke about Mick’s abuse, adding how working with the charity Samaritans was hugely important when developing this storyline, to ensure an accurate and sensitive portrayal to help people in similar situations to seek help.

He said: ‘we spent a lot of time talking to Samaritans about suicidal thoughts and depression, particularly with regards to people who have suffered abuse, just to really explore the finer details and the truth of what those feelings would be.’

We really learned the severity of Mick’s situation tonight.

Mick’s present day scenes on the phone to Joe were juxtaposed with two flashback narratives — one from Christmas just past, as he and Linda told Lee (Danny Hatchard) about their marriage ending, and the other featuring a 12-year-old Mick (played by Joe Roberts) being targeted by Katy.

Joe was calm throughout the entire phone call. Mick had so much internal rage and desperation to express how he was feeling, and Joe was there to listen. There was no judgement, Joe was simply there to provide a listening ear and help Mick get to the bottom of the reason behind the pain he was in.

It’s no secret that Mick’s relationship with Linda has took quite the hit recently. Linda has felt unloved, and has been having an affair with Max (Jake Wood), but despite Mick being fully aware of what Linda was doing, he hasn’t had the strength to react to his wife’s betrayal, and hasn’t been able to tell Linda why he isn’t fighting for their relationship. Mick accepted that he can’t give Linda what she needs, letting her have the affair with Max would have seemed like the best thing to do.

Many viewers have expressed their thoughts on the state of Mick and Linda’s relationship, questioning why Mick hasn’t told Linda what’s been going on. Mick and Linda were dubbed as the ‘perfect couple’ and ‘childhood lovers’, but it’s important to note that the very last thing Mick would have wanted to do is tell anyone about his abuse.  

Mick letting Linda grow closer to Max was easier for him to do than telling her about what’s going on his head. He will be so consumed with guilt, shame, confusion, and will have so many questions in his mind too: ‘will she even believe me if I tell her?’, ‘why did Katy hurt me?’. ‘why did she do it?’, ‘what did I do wrong?’, shattering his relationship and pushing Linda away is undoubtedly heart-breaking for Mick, but the thoughts in his head, and manipulation from Katy, would’ve made him think that was the right option to choose.

When it comes to telling Shirley (Linda Henry) and Tina (Luisa Bradshaw-White) Mick has found himself in a similar situation. Katy has isolated Mick from everyone, she knows exactly what to say to Mick to shut him down and prevent him from telling Shirley and Tina about his childhood.

As Stuart (Ricky Champ) previously said, Katy and Mick were always together, so Katy would’ve learned so much about Mick’s life that in present day, she can remind him about— such as the fact Shirley abandoned him. By using this, she pushes him away from his mum, putting a stop to any possible chance Mick has of telling Shirley the truth.

Having this ordeal happen to Mick is certainly a brave move for EastEnders. Viewers have spent so long under the impression that they knew about Mick’s childhood and how he was looked after Sylvie and Stan because Shirley abandoned him, but read further into it, and this narrative works incredibly well; we knew nothing about Mick when he was in care, it was a genius idea to look at his backstory and the triggers that created his mental health problems we have seen in the past year.

Talking about mental health is important, we all know that, and the soaps using their platforms to tell stories to encourage conversations is one of the most vital things these shows can do. In the past, we watched a moving performance by Rob Kazinsky when Sean Slater returned to Walford and contemplated taking his life, and it’s also been proven that these types of storylines have the power to save lives.

Telling Mick’s story has been a huge responsibility for Danny Dyer, and he certainly has delivered a sublime performance. Continuously we have seen Danny play Mick experience a wide range of emotions. We’ve seen Mick appear withdrawn to disconnect from everything as a coping mechanism, and seen the desperation in Mick’s eyes to tell someone what is going on, but equally we’ve seen Mick flick a switch and lie to people so often.

Mick has been in ultimate survival mode over the past few months. For him, with confusing and blurred visions of his reality, everyone became a threat, this was shown excellently in tonight’s episode when he was talking to Joe. Mick became convinced Joe was out to get him, and trying to get into his head, so he had to switch that masterful liar mode on to protect himself.

Danny has taken centre stage in a heart-breaking story and has consistently made it a captivating and compelling narrative. Mick’s story has shown us that whatever the issue, suicide is never the answer, and it’s incredibly important to offer hope in these types of plots – which EastEnders did perfectly.

If tonight’s episode taught us anything, it’s the power of talking to a stranger. Mick has spent months pushing his family away, feeling he was a disappointment, but picking up the phone and speaking to Joe, someone he has never met before, helped Mick to understand that he is a victim of abuse.

This storyline has spoken to so many people. It’s spoke to survivors of abuse, those that haven’t spoken about their abuse, those suffering with mental health problems, and, to quote Joe, the life saving Samaritans volunteer, Mick’s story has reminded anyone that no matter the problem, ‘this isn’t something you have to face alone.’

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