What we need from Sam Mitchell's EastEnders return

It’s a moment that we’ve all dreamt of for so long, and now it is almost upon us. Yes, that’s right, Sam Mitchell is imminently returning to EastEnders!

The iconic character will waltz back into Walford later this month, with Kim Medcalf reprising the role, taking over from actress Danniella Westbrook.

Kim had previously played Sam between 2002 and 2005.

Sam’s return will no doubt prompt a lot of questions within the show’s own universe, given that she hasn’t been seen in almost six years.

But for us in the real world, it’s been a long time coming, and it’s safe to say that expectations are high!

There are only a few weeks to go, and Metro.co.uk is just as excited as the fans, as we contemplate all the storyline possibilities that her return could offer.

So, we’ve decided to take a look at all the things we need to see when the legend herself sets foot back in Albert Square.

Care to join us?

A strong return story

A major return such as Sam’s needs to be pitched just right, otherwise it could run the risk of falling apart before it’s even begun.

We all love a bit of nostalgia, but that alone is simply not enough to warrant any comeback, let alone a monumental one. A strong and believable narrative needs to be at the core, so that the returning character – in this case, Sam – has more to offer to the show’s future than just exist as a reminder of how incredible it once was in the past.

EastEnders, however, is in a really strong position right now, with the culmination of the Gray storyline, the restoration of the four full-length outings, a new scheduling pattern and the return of Linda Carter having all led to better stories and more compelling drama.

Sam’s return, therefore, really couldn’t come at a better time, and with the show’s Senior Executive Producer Kate Oates promising an ‘explosive’ comeback, there’s little reason to doubt that it will be anything other than just that!

A nice blend of Kim and Danniella’s versions of Sam

Sam’s characterisation on the show is a unique case, given that two actresses have portrayed her throughout various stints.

Danniella Westbrook originated the character, playing her for 10 years between 1990 and 2000. Kim Medcalf then took over two years later, and featured in a number of memorable – and rather dark – stories, before she departed in 2005.

Sam returned to the Square four years down the line, but this time, Danniella reprised the role, and after a number of short stints, she made her final appearance in 2016.

Kim is now set to take on the mantle once more, but it will certainly be interesting to see which version of the character the producers and writers have opted for this time around.

You see, the contrast between Kim and Danniella’s iterations is so stark that when reflecting on Sam’s history, you’d be forgiven for mistaking them for two different people!

The question is: just who is Sam and what she will be in 2022? Will she solely possess the qualities of Kim’s Sam? Or will she more resemble Danniella’s latest version?

One would hope that, from here on out, a balance between both versions can be achieved, with the maturity of Kim’s Sam on display, but with a hint of the feistiness that Danniella brought to the role.

A strong female presence in the Mitchell clan

The Mitchell clan is arguably EastEnders’ most recognisable, but questionable deaths and bizarre storylines in recent years have led to them becoming less interesting than the other families on the Square.

Ronnie and Roxy, as viewers might recall, were introduced back in 2007 in a bid to breathe new life into the family and establish a new female dynamic, rather than going down the route of a new male Mitchell duo.

It was a successful move, with the two characters becoming some of EastEnders’ most iconic.

Their controversial deaths in 2017, however, resulted in the clan losing its two most interesting characters, and a significant lack of female presence has haunted the family ever since.

Sharon filled the holes left by the sisters’ demise for a time, but her affair with Keanu Taylor ultimately ousted her from the family, leaving us with just Phil, Billy and Ben to lead the Mitchells into the next generation.

Fans have long hoped for Sam to return in a bid to revitalise the family and restore that much-needed female dynamic that we were robbed of many years ago, and it’s safe to say that she’s got what it takes to do just that.

Less gangster storylines

The Mitchells have never been squeaky clean, but despite the clan’s penchant for crime and chaos, they’ve been at the centre of some of EastEnders’ greatest character-driven storylines – none of which were centred on dodgy dealings.

Peggy’s battle with cancer, the legendary Sharongate and ‘Who Shot Phil?’ are just a few examples.

In recent years, however, Mitchell family members have done little else but get up to no good, in plotlines that tend to involve gangsters and heists.

These narratives aren’t exactly compelling, and they’re usually short-term, used only for the purposes of driving a longer-term plot forward and re-iterating that one simply doesn’t cross the Mitchells.

Having Sam back in the fold is certainly a step in revitalising the family, and she could prove to be the cure to this never-ending cycle of crime.

Her reasons for coming to Walford remain uncertain, but it’s possible that she could find herself as the head of the Mitchell clan – that is, if Phil is intent on going to prison.

Her re-introduction could swerve the family’s focus from crime onto something a little more compelling, and given her rich history of storylines, it seems unlikely that the character will simply serve as a plot device to further the Mitchells’ dodgy dealings.

Kat’s way out of the Mitchell family?

Kat Slater, we absolutely love you, but you deserve better than to be tethered to Phil and the Mitchell family.

For those of you who maybe don’t know, Kat and Phil starting seeing one another last year, and their coupling has already gone down in history as one of the show’s most bizarre and unlikely pairings.

It’s just not a good match.

There is no way Kat would knowingly enter into a relationship with him, given how protective she is of her kids. Let’s not forget that, in August 2019, Phil threatened Tommy’s life in a bid to antagonise Kat, when he wanted her to tell him what Alfie had done with his cash.

What’s more, he became violent with Kat at the time, and threatened her too.

But flash forward two years and Kat is bizarrely devoted to him, so much so that she has been acting and behaving out of character, something which fans have called out on several occasions.

From allowing Phil to badmouth Isaac during his mental health struggles, to showing little to no interest in Stacey’s concerns about Jean, she’s a far cry from the Kat we all know and love.

It’s high time that she was restored to her formerly brilliant self, something which appears to have already been set in motion, as she’s finally starting to realise the negative impact Phil is having on her kids.

Here’s hoping that if Sam, upon returning, take over the family business, she will inadvertently free Kat from any obligation she might feel towards Phil once and for all.

Redecorating the Mitchell manner

Phil’s house received a makeover after the fire in September 2021, but to be quite frank, it’s in need of another one.

Sorry not sorry.

Sam will likely herald in a new era for the Mitchell clan, and what better way to kick things off then with a spot of decorating?

Sam’s relationship with Ricky

When we last saw Sam, she left son Ricky with his dad Jack Branning. As far as we know, she’s had little to no communication with her boy since, and therefore it’s safe to assume that her return will re-open a lot of old wounds for him.

The question is: will Sam make the effort to get to know her son properly? What’s more, will Ricky even want to forge a relationship with her?

Will Jack have any reservations about her coming back into his son’s life? How will he feel about his ex’s presence on the Square? Could it lead to conflict between him and Denise?

So many interesting questions!

Given that Sam has only made sporadic appearances in the last decade, we’ve not really had the opportunity to see her as a mother, so this is all new territory for the character – territory that could provide for some really great storylines and scenes.

Consider us excited.

The ruffling of a few feathers

Sam’s comeback will undoubtedly antagonise a number of Walford’s finest, especially given the secrecy surrounding the reasons for her return.

EastEnders has something of a reputation for tense showdowns and heated rivalries, especially where the Mitchells are concerned, so we can’t wait to see just who is going to go up against Sam when she sets foot back in her old stomping ground.

An alliance, or rivalry, with Janine?

Before Sam’s return to the Square, EastEnders fans were delighted to have Janine Butcher back in Walford.

Janine’s return story wasn’t explosive, per se, but rather it was a clever slow burn, setting the scene nicely for some great character work, which is paying off on-screen right now, putting the character in a great position for future storylines.

With Sam now making a comeback, it’s safe to say that fans are ecstatic about having two of EastEnders’ most iconic female characters on the Square at the same time.

It seems unlikely that we won’t see them cross paths at one point or another, but with both having incredibly strong personalities and penchants for getting their own way, can they co-exist together?

Or will battle lines be drawn?

We’d like to think that they could team up, and become a powerful duo that would take on the trials and tribulations Walford has to throw at them together., but if not an alliance, then an incredibly heated and powerful feud would make for great viewing too!

Sam Mitchell makes her return to EastEnders on Tuesday April 19 at 7:30pm on BBC One.

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