How Sam Mitchell’s return could breathe new life into EastEnders

EastEnders spoilers follow.

EastEnders has announced the imminent return of Sam Mitchell, with Kim Medcalf set to reprise the role.

Following in the footsteps of original actress Danniella Westbrook, Kim previously played the character between 2002 and 2005. During this time, Sam married gangster Andy Hunter, fell victim to con-man solicitor Marcus Christie and became embroiled in a murder plot.

News of Sam’s comeback has been well received, and has the power to revive the show while staying true to its rich history.

With plenty of reasons to make her way back to Walford, Sam is sure to be kept busy. Ricky, the son she shares with Jack Branning, is living a settled life with his father and stepmother Denise Fox – but Sam may wish to reconnect after several years of absence.

Sam abandoned one basic principle of the Mitchell code: family is everything, but she chose to walk away from her child. There could be a compelling story in exploring how she truly feels about that decision, and whether her fighter instincts will come out.

She should also be aware of the struggles within the dynasty she is rejoining. Big brother Phil is currently in the midst of his umpteenth run-in with the Old Bill, while Sam’s nephew Ben is in pieces after a homophobic attack brought back traumatic memories.

The Mitchells need a fresh new dynamic, and Sam is just the person to break the repetitive cycle her relatives continue to find themselves in. For a start, it’s high time another authority figure joined the mix. Residents may roll their eyes over Phil’s hard-man routine these days, but the presence of the sassier Sam will create the perfect contrast.

Since the untimely deaths of fan favourites Ronnie and Roxy, the clan has been lacking a strong female presence. Who better than matriarch Peggy’s only daughter to take the lead and re-establish her place in the fold? We’re in need of more edgy and entertaining drama and Ms Mitchell has previously proved herself more than capable of this.

Back in 2005, Sam famously dug up the body of murdered Den Watts, who she knew had been buried in the pub cellar. She and Zoe Slater were both implicated, but it was his wife Chrissie who struck the fatal blow and let the two women take the fall.

It was one of EastEnders‘ most memorable storylines, and Medcalf’s powerful performances during the peak of this plot were a hit with fans. Revisiting this piece of Sam’s past, perhaps through Zoe’s mother Kat – now the on/off partner of Phil – would be a great way to delve into the character’s soul as we welcome her back.

Beyond this, perhaps we could see Sam go head-to-head with Janine Butcher to get her hands on the Queen Vic. The place could soon be available again as Mick Carter is due to exit the show, and Sam is no stranger to running a bar.

Sam could succeed where Phil has failed in reclaiming the pub, once again making it a Mitchell family asset in honour of their mother. While the Carters have made the Vic their own in recent years, the Mitchells will forever be renowned for their attachment to the building.

Peggy’s legendary cry of “Get out of my pub!” will never be beaten. The likes of Mick and Sharon have tried to replicate it; but is there anyone more qualified than Sam to refurbish this catchphrase?

Of course, there’s an unforgettable legacy left by Danniella Westbrook, who first starred as Sam in 1990 and made her last appearance in 2016. The character earned her feisty attitude through Westbrook’s iconic portrayal, and it’s important we don’t ignore the impact of her work on the soap.

There’s a wealth of characteristics for EastEnders to draw from. Sam has always been full of energy and is never stuck for something to say. These qualities are essential and must follow her back to Albert Square, where she can easily make her mark once again.

We now await Medcalf’s second transition into the role; and eagerly anticipate what she can bring to the show. The character has only featured briefly over the last decade, popping home for events like Peggy’s funeral.

There is a wide open playing field in terms of which direction the soap can take Sam, because it’s been so long since she was given the room to grow.

She will be coming home to a host of familiar faces, and plenty of new ones who offer the opportunity for new links and relationships. Imagine a clash with Karen Taylor, or a fun friendship with current outcast Rocky Cotton?

Sam deserves a storyline that can not only restore the Mitchell name to its former glory, but also allow her to re-establish herself in the world of Walford.

If given her chance in the spotlight, Sam has the potential to breathe new life into the soap, shaking up the stale format to welcome in a new era of EastEnders.

EastEnders continues tonight (February 4) at 8pm on BBC One.

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