EastEnders has unveiled its highly-anticipated Christmas trailer – and in keeping with soap tradition, the residents of Albert Square are in for a less-than-joyful time. The short 30-second clip, released on Thursday, shows Phil Mitchell's health taking a dramatic turn for the worse as he battles liver failure as a result of his alcoholism.
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Phil, who is rapidly deteriorating, looks wan in a Santa hat as he prepares to spend his "last Christmas" with his loved ones – including his heartbroken wife Sharon. But does he survive long enough to see in 2017? The clip also shows Billy Mitchell suggesting that something bad has happened to Phil, while pub landlord Mick Carter can be seen leading the residents in raising a glass to "absent friends" in the Queen Vic.
A teaser trailer for the EastEnders Christmas Day special has been released
Phil's declining health isn't the only major Christmas storyline. Max Branning also returns to the Square for the first time since his release from prison after his false conviction for the murder of Lucy Beale. At the end of the teaser, he is seen emerging from the darkness to greet Stacey, who is visibly shocked to see him.
The Christmas trailer will do nothing to dispel rumours that Phil will indeed be killed off. On Tuesday, viewers saw the longtime character, who desperately needs a liver transplant, being urged by his family to keep his spirits up, reassuring him that a last-minute donor will be found.
But it all proved too much for some fans, who even threatened to boycott the BBC soap over the storyline. "If they kill phil off eastenders I swear I'll never watch it again," one wrote, while another tweeted: "They can't kill off Phil. He basically is #eastenders." A third wrote: "Are EastEnders seriously going to kill off phil mitchell? Not on my watch."