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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Nicole Vassell

From EastEnders to Neighbours: 6 of the wildest ‘back from the dead’ plots

BBC / Shutterstock / Channel 4

TV deaths are a big deal. Popular characters that get killed off too soon become the subject of petitions and online protests. When a villain gets their just desserts, however, viewers can’t wait to get the confetti out.

In the majority of cases, viewers can safely assume that, save for a flashback or a supernatural resurrection, we’re not likely to encounter any of these characters once they’ve been killed off onscreen. The exception, of course, is the “back from the dead” storyline adored by soap operas everywhere.

We’ve witnessed this most recently on EastEnders, the BBC’s long-running soap set in the East End of London. Twenty-five years after her presumed death, character Cindy Beale (Michelle Collins) made her dramatic return to Albert Square, complete with a new alias and a mischievous glint in her eye.

No, it’s not exactly realistic, and yes, you will need to accept these scenarios with a large pinch of salt for the sake of entertainment.

Even so, a good old-fashioned Lazarus moment is a tried and true soap trope. Here are some more of the most memorable “back from the dead” moments in TV.

“Dirty” Den Watts – EastEnders

Before Cindy’s comeback, there was one character resurrection that shook up the show the most – the shock return of “Dirty” Den Watts (Leslie Grantham).

The former pub landlord and father of Sharon (Letitia Dean) was thought to have died in 1989 after being shot by a criminal organisation named The Firm.

However, in 2003, the character returned to the programme, explaining that he’d faked his death and moved to Spain in the 14 years that passed.

Until 2005, Den was a major character on Albert Square – until he was killed, properly this time, in the Queen Vic pub as part of one of EastEnders’ best whodunit plots.

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Leslie Grantham as ‘Dirty’ Den Watts
— (Shutterstock)

Warren Fox – Hollyoaks

They say a cat has nine lives. Apparently, so do foxes, as Hollyoaks’ resident villain Warren Fox (Jamie Lomas) just can’t seem to be defeated.

After several near misses, Warren was thought to have met his grisly demise in 2009 when a ceiling mirror collapsed on him amid a property fire.

However, the following year it was revealed that Warren was alive and well. After a few more departures and returns to the show, Warren rejoined the show permanently in 2020.

Warren Fox on Hollyoaks
— (Channel 4 / screenshot)

Kathy Beale – EastEnders

There’s something in the water in Walford, as along with Den and Cindy, Kathy Beale (Gillian Taylforth) is yet another EastEnders character that has resurrected.

Kathy initially left the programme in 1998, and then apparently died off-screen in 2006.

But lo and behold, in 2015 she made a surprise return to the show as part of the show’s 30th anniversary celebrations. Apparently, she faked her death as part of an insurance claim plan for her family, inspired by the real-life canoe disappearance of John Darwin. Kathy has remained in the show ever since.

Kathy Beale (Gillian Taylforth)

Mercedes McQueen – Hollyoaks

In 2014, viewers said a sad goodbye to Mercedes McQueen (Jennifer Metcalfe) as she was thought to have died at the hands of her gangster nemesis Grace Black (Tamara Wall).

However, less than a year later, the soap staple returned, simply explaining her temporary absence from the neighbourhood as her spending some time on the French Riviera, in perhaps the most extreme self-care example ever.

Mercedes McQueen
— (Shutterstock)

Harold Bishop – Neighbours

As one of the Australian soap’s best-loved characters, Harold Bishop broke hearts in 1991 when he was seemingly washed away by a wave.

But five years later, we discovered that he hadn’t met a watery end after all – the incident had triggered memory loss, and in the time that passed he’d become known as Ted, and played tuba for the Salvation Army band.

Ian Smith
— (Getty)

Kim Tate – Emmerdale

Back in 1997, Kim Tate (Claire King) faked her own death after a lookalike sex worker with her ID was found dead behind a driving wheel.

She laid low in the Caribbean for a few months before making her grand return to her family home. Unfortunately for her husband Frank (Norman Bowler), the shock of seeing her brought on a heart attack, and Kim watched as he died.

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