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I'm gonna drag you all down, one by one!
~ Max Branning to Jane Beale, as he declares revenge against the residents of Albert Square over his wrongful imprisonment for the murder of Lucy Beale back in 2014.

Max Branning is a fictional character and central protagonist of the BBC British soap opera EastEnders. He first debuted on 27 June 2006 and became one of the show's central protagonists who later evolved into an anti-hero on certain occasions, as well as becoming the show's central antagonist/protagonist villain in 2017 before reprising his anti-hero status in between 2018 and 2021 respectively.

He is portrayed by Jake Wood.

Biography

Max Branning first came to Albert Square, in a fictional London borough called Walford, in June 2006 to start anew with his wife estranged Tanya and their children Lauren and Abi. It is there Max finds out that both his son Bradley and estranged father Jim are also living in the square. Max soon reconciles with them and begins to settle himself and his family from then onwards.

In 2007, however, Max cheats on Tanya and betrays Bradley by having an affair with the latter's girlfriend Stacey Slater. This continues even after Stacey and Bradley get married. Then on Christmas Night 2007, the entire family gather together for a special event; however, it ends in disaster when they accidentally watch a video of Max and Stacey kissing each other - thus exposing their affair in the process. Bradley responds by attacking his father and breaking up with Stacey, as does Tanya when she and her children resent Max for his actions.

In 2008, Tanya seeks retaliation against Max and teams up with Stacey's brother Sean to carry out their vendetta. They drug Max and take him to the woods before burying him alive, though Tanya later has a change of heart and rescues Max at the last minute. Later in the year, Max is run over by an unknown assailant and becomes the subject of a hit and run police investigation. Both Tanya and Sean are suspected of being the driver, alongside Max's brother and ex-policeman Jack himself. But it is soon revealed that Lauren was the assailant; she turns herself in the police to stop Tanya taking the rap, and is acquitted from a suspended sentence.

In 2009, Max attempts to reconcile with his family once more and agrees to cease contact with Stacey - who in the meantime has begun suffering from bipolar disorder after her best-friend Danielle Jones gets accidentally killed in a road collusion by her enemy Janine Butcher. But when it becomes clear that Max still loves Stacey, his wife and children leave him again.

In 2010, Max attempts to help his son and Stacey flee Walford after Bradley becomes the prime suspect in the murder of Danielle's villainous grandfather Archie Mitchell. This nearly works until the police catch up with Bradley, and he ends up falling over the roof of The Queen Victoria public house to his death, much to Max and Stacey's devastation. Moments later, Stacey confesses to Max that she killed Archie.

The follow-up of Bradley's funeral sees Max confronting Stacey over Archie's murder, to which she explains that she did it after Archie caused the events of her bipolar disorder before later raping her and getting her sectioned just to discredit her public image. Max forgives Stacey and agrees to keep her secret from being public knowledge. However, when the truth is exposed to the public on the year after Archie's murder, Max helps Stacey flee Walford with her daughter Lily.

In 2011, Max considers leaving the square with his older brother Derek but decides to stay after learning that Tanya has cancer. Max helps Tanya recuperate and the pair reconcile, much to Derek's displeasure. Max soon finds himself caught in the middle of the feud between Derek and Tanya from 2012 onwards, in which he initially supports his brother until the events towards Christmas, where Max learns that Derek has been terrorizing Tanya to the point of threatening Lauren and disgracing the Branning family. Max disowns Derek and gets Jack's support against him.

Derek retaliates by summoning a "special guest" over for Christmas dinner. The guest turns out to be Max's newfound wife Kirsty, who reveals that Max married her long before he reconciled with Tanya, thereby exposing Max as a bigamist. As Tanya and Kirsty confront each other over the situation, Max goes to confront Derek after realizing that his older brother had set up everything beforehand. Derek then lashes out at Max, calling him the runt of the litter and stating that he never liked him. Derek also reveals to Max that he locked him in a room when they were younger; Max initially thought that Jim did it. When the family eventually force Derek out of the house, they witnesses Derek suddenly collapsing of a fatal heart attack; Derek has died and his funeral later takes place.

Soon enough, Max faces problems that Derek posthumously inflicted upon him in 2013. Derek's associate, Carl White, is acquainted with Kirsty and begins to terrorize her and Max. Later on Carl incriminates Max as the perpetuator behind an incident in which Carl tried to kill the square's local hardman Phil Mitchell in a hit and run. However, Max is eventually acquitted and he and Phil team up to get revenge on Carl.

In 2014, Max has an affair with his daughters' friend Lucy Beale and is surprised when she is murdered shortly afterwards. In 2015 he becomes a prime suspect and is later arrested after Phil, having already become business rivals with Max, decides to frame him for the crime - even though the true culprit was in fact Lucy's youngest brother Bobby. After Max is found guilty, he escapes court and attempts to flee. But in the end he is arrested and sent to prison for a crime he didn't commit.

In 2016, Max is released from prison after Bobby is eventually caught out. Max vows revenge against Bobby and Lucy's father, Ian, alongside Phil and everyone else in the square for his wrongful imprisonment. Max puts his revenge plan to motion throughout 2017, in which he sets up Jack and later frames police informant Vincent Hubbard for drug dealing. He also blackmails Ian's stepson Steven into helping out with his plan, which culminates in Max ordering Steven to kill Ian's wife Jane during a fire incident. When Steven refuses, however, Max attacks him and as a result Steven is hospitalized, and Steven later dies of his injuries and Max forces Jane to leave Walford.

It is soon revealed that part of Max's revenge plan involves working for a company called Weyland & Co, as their leader James Willmott-Brown plan to monopolize the square and destroy it later onwards. Max helps James put his plan to fruition, only for James to later betray Max by denying him a payment. Everyone later confronts Max for his betrayal, in which Max reveals to his family that he did it to get revenge for Lucy's murder. Max then attempts to murder Ian and Phil unsuccessfully, before Stacey urges him for a reconciliation. However, she ends up turning against him when Tanya returns and reveals that Max killed Steven and tried to kill Jane.

Having lost everything, Max attempts suicide. His daughters attempt to stop him, only to end up falling off the roof of The Queen Vic themselves. Both are hospitalized and although Lauren survives, Abi is declared brain dead and she loses her life in 2018.

After Abi's funeral, Max vows to make things right and manages to get custody of Abi and Steven's baby Abigail. He also marries Tanya's sister Ranine Branning, but it later collapses after she falls in love with her lover Stuart Highway. Then later on Max seduces Linda Carter and they have an affair behind the back of Linda's husband Mick Carter. This is eventually exposed, but Linda reconciles with Mick after they declare their love for each other despite Max's actions - as Max ends up getting Linda pregnant as a result. Max is later forced to leave the square.

Trivia

  • Jake Wood (the actor who played Max Branning) has been awarded and nominated for several categories for both his character's performance and it's contributed high-profiled storylines.
  • The storyline in which Max is buried alive by his wife Tanya and love rival Sean Slater following the events of Max's affair with Sean's sister Stacey sparked controversy in television media.
    • The scene in which Max is buried alive sparked 167 viewer complaints, citing the inappropriate nature of the scenes, which aired prior to the 9.00 pm watershed. The BBC responded with the statement: "Whilst we appreciate that these episodes were dramatic, they were carefully filmed and edited in order that Max's ordeal was in the main implicit, rather than explicit, whilst still retaining their powerfulness." .The UK communications regulator Ofcom later found that the episodes depicting the storyline were in breach of the 2005 Broadcasting Code. They contravened the rules regarding protection of children by appropriate scheduling, appropriate depiction of violence before the 9pm watershed and appropriate depiction of potentially offensive content.

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