After being framed for Lucy Beale’s murder and wrongly imprisoned, a vengeful Max makes a shock return to Albert Square….

The Brannings and Beales are set for an explosive Christmas when a ghost from the past returns: Max Branning is back!

The wheeler-dealer car salesman will return to EastEnders after a year away, but one thing is guaranteed: it’s not going to be a happy reunion.

Viewers saw Max bundled away in the back of a police car in October 2015 after being wrongly accused of Lucy Beale’s murder.

Despite the beaten-down Branning’s desperate shouts that Bobby was the real killer as he was led away, Max was found guilty of the crime and spent six months behind bars for a murder he didn’t commit.

Justice came in May 2016 when it was finally revealed that Bobby was the true killer and the duplicitous Beale family had perverted the course of justice by covering for months for the troubled schoolboy who murdered his sister by clobbering her over the head with a jewellery box.

Max was duly released from prison and Lauren and Abi were hoping to be reunited with their father, however a bitter and betrayed Max made only a fleeting return to Walford before vanishing. Where has he been for the past seven months and what’s he been doing?

We’ll find out this Christmas when the ginger Lothario comes striding back into Albert Square intent on revenge.

Speaking earlier in the year about Max’s return, Jake Wood, who plays him, said: “I’d like to see him coming after Ian Beale for setting him up, I think that would be a good storyline. Hopefully he’ll come out of prison looking for revenge!”

What retribution has Max got in store? Should Ian and Jane be quaking with fear at his sudden reappearance and how will Max cope with the fact that daughter Lauren is now firmly ensconced with the enemy in the Beale household thanks to her baby with Peter Beale and her relationship with his stepbrother Steven?

Elsewhere, with alcoholic Phil’s health deteriorating rapidly, the anxious Mitchell family faces the prospect that this could be the ailing mechanic’s very last Christmas. Without a liver transplant time is running out for the frail Mitchell.

Phil’s not the only one struggling. At the Carters, Lee, who has been battling depression and mounting debts, can’t cope with the prospect of a big family Christmas. Weighed down with guilt that he’s been deceiving his family and new wife Whitney, and feeling listless about life, what desperate actions will the former soldier take next?

With shock revelations, dangerous decisions, twisted revenge plans and old scores to settle, one thing is certain: Christmas in Walford is going to be yet another explosive cracker!