EastEnders fans caught an unexpected glimpse of Max Branning following his release from prison in tonight’s (9 June) episode.
Max – played by Jake Wood – has been absent from the Square since October when he was wrongly imprisoned for the murder of Lucy Beale. But the conviction was overturned at an unseen court hearing in the saga’s latest BBC One airing, in light of Bobby Beale (Eliot Carrington) recently owning up to the crime.
Despite reports that a 12 month hiatus from the soap for Wood would entail a return to filming in September, Max made a surprise appearance at the end of the episode, as he snubbed his daughter Lauren (Jacqueline Jossa).
Earlier, viewers had seen Lauren opt out of attending the court hearing out of concern for her conflicted sister Abi (Lorna Fitzgerald), and instead decide to write Max a letter offering him support. The pair then waited for Max at the Vic but he proved a no-show.
Max did eventually pay a visit to the Square, but only to return Lauren’s letter – posting it through Dot’s letterbox where his daughters are staying. Seeing the letter, Lauren immediately ran out into the Square and called out to her father who was in a black cab. However, Max ignored Lauren’s pleas as the cab drove away from Walford.
Before beginning his sentence of twenty years, Max realised the truth about Bobby and also that Jane had been protecting him. It also dawned on him that Lauren was aware of the truth. His relationship with Abi is also in tatters after she cast doubt over his original alibi leading to his arrest, and his lawyer Marcus Christie suggested that Abi killed Lucy in court. It is unclear when Max will return to the soap properly, but Jake Wood recently said he would like his aggrieved character to cause some ‘havoc’ when he does. In a Q&A with a Bingo site he noted:
“Hopefully he’ll get out and cause some havoc. I’d like to see him coming after Ian Beale for setting him up, I think that’d be a good storyline. Hopefully he’ll come out of prison looking for revenge.”