01/01/2012 18:46 GMT | Updated 02/03/2012 05:12 GMT

Review: End Of An Earring - Pat Exits EastEnders

"I'm sorry about Pat, I know she can be a right old cow sometimes, but she and I go way back."

Big-eyed Mandy summoned up the mood in Albert Square last night, as EastEnders prepared to say farewell to Pat, a cornerstone of Walford for two and a half decades.

Anchored by reassuringly scenery-chewing performance from Pam St Clements, it was an unusual episode - lots of dramatic goings on, but with a much slower, more insidious sense of grief and doom hanging over everyone than usual, and no sign of Mike Reid and a revolving bow tie to lighten the load, even in flashback.

There was still time for the usual frantic shenanigans we've come to expect from the square's residents at this time of year. Even with Pat ailing upstairs, there was a fracas in the kitchen when Bianca discovered husband Ricky being 'comforted' by little Mandy.

Ricky went increasingly white around the gills, Bianca's freckles went bright pink, and Mandy had to go and confess all to a bewildered Ian.

Elsewhere, Janine was her calculating, distrusting self, intent on wrestling the house off Pat, until one look at her sallow face meant she swiftly changed her tune. "You can't be..." she wailed. Poor Jadnine has got one less human wall to knock her head against now.

Pat continued to hold court in the Victorian bedstead, dishing out words of wisdom to all her freshly reunited folk - Janine was "almost like a daughter" despite nearly having "the keys out of her withering hand" a mere ten minutes before, Ian Beale got a romantic lecture that served him all of ten minutes until he discovered he'd been betrayed again.

Finally, even Pat's estranged son David Wicks came in from the cold, causing consternation in the living room with his former lovers - mother and daughter both - and tears in the bedroom with his estranged mum.

There was a brief hiccup of resentment - something disturbing about young Wicks finding proof of his mother's prostitution on the stairs as a boy - but in the final furlong, he forgave his old mum, and Pat breathed her last.

"Not everybody has to part on bad terms," Pat had told Janine, and so it proved. Fade to black, and a special theme, courtesy of Simon May, to commemorate a 26-year soapy innings.

Pat finally said goodbye, with sadly no revolving bow tie to beckon her to the soapy afterworld, but both her mascara and earrings firmly intact to the end in this one.