Episode 5—Ramsay st is bleeding to death
The sun rises on the last day and the world of Neighbours is a toilet, sure enough. Our friends, still lost down the well, having developed sores on their lips and faces after one day of imprisonment, have given up hope and, like the rest of us, await the sweet kiss of death. The would-be bride locks herself away from the world and continues to rage in her wedding dress, stopping only long enough to eat a chicken burger (really). Somehow, Delta is gone without explanation. She has evaporated along with the rest of the ghosts summoned for the week, who stayed only long enough to remind us they’d been alive at all.
Obviously, we can expect some release after this agonising week: a reunion or a rescue, an explanation, an apology. Harold will be shot out of a cannon into the sun, or Toadie will be torn apart by wild dogs, or Susan will shoot Carl through the heart with a crossbow, or our trapped friends will finally, finally 69 each other into hell. SOMETHING.
Like all of life’s horrors, nothing on Ramsay st can truly end. A concluding plot would mean the slowing of this bastard machine, and if Neighbours slows for even a moment its lungs will fill with water. The old stories of our anniversary week, which shined with the golden light of promise on Monday, have already begun to be trampled by the new: Paul, refusing to honour funding for a new cancer research centre (this would be against his ethics as a Hitler), gets duped by a doctor into believing he has leukaemia. There are no tests, he just gets told, which is amazing. Unfortunately, this fails to take the edge off our disappointment. Instead of Friday being a climax, a great wave washing the streets clean, we’re given nothing. A storm has come through and left only trash on our lawns.
To be fair, this isn’t entirely for lack of trying. The writers have feebly attempted the shadow of an ending: Harold finally departs. While this might miss the desired impact, as it’s the fourth or fifth time he’s left the show, it’s comforting to see some effort being made to acknowledging the show’s naval-gazing: as he plays cards against Lou, gambling with skittles in a move obviously designed to kill one or both of them (any sugar would be deadly at this point), Harold says, “Susan told me I should live more in the present. But that’s not so easy. Not when you don’t know what’s next on the horizon.” Lou doesn’t look up from the game. “But Harold, this IS living,” his eyes seem to say. “Now deal the fucking cards, you coward! Send me to hell!”
But something of what Harold says does strike a chord. Like most of us, Neighbours is obsessed with its own history yet incapable of learning from it. It stares so long into the glories of the last thirty years that, instead of avoiding its missteps, it endlessly repeats them: too many assholes dying in impossible plane crashes; too many insipid DILFS being thrown from hotel balconies. Though it would never admit it, Neighbours truly lives in between, and for, these missteps. Amongst the nothing-scenes and incomprehensibly boring non-stories, the only promise the show can give is that there will be more: entire families will plunge off bridges and be replaced in seconds; loves will be lost and forgotten, tragedies will be eclipsed. Ramsay st has been bleeding to death for so long, but neither has it ceased eating its own dying body.
Harold leaves, driving away from a smiling Lou, with any luck straight to a cemetery (“One please, Mr Gravedigger,” he would say in an ideal world). Lou, in turn, retires to whatever dim forest he’s been murdering hikers in; we move on, and the cogs of Erinsborough continue to turn, breaking our fingers along with them. Even at this moment, straining as they are to satisfy our hunger for a finale, it’s impossible to consider an ending to Neighbours. Even if it wanted to, would it have the facilities to produce a functioning ending? Comparatively, at thirty years old, any narrative show is like a 150 year old tortoise, which at this stage can only waddle around a pen and shit out paste. It is blind and deaf and riddled with parasites, but somehow its big red heart continues to beat, mainly because zookeepers keep blasting adrenalin down the back of its throat with a hose. (Incidentally, this sums up much of Harold’s screen-time over the week.) We could let it die, but what would happen? What would the world lose? And would we even be able to kill it? If we did, its vengeful tortoise spirit would still haunt our dreams. It would snap at us with its sharp tortoise mouth and eat the lettuce off the plates of our hearts. It would remind us of our sins—All you needed was a little understanding, it would wail, All we needed was to be there for one another; why couldn’t you be there for one another? Wailing at us in its old tortoise voice, wailing in the voice of Delta Goodrum, and in the voice of ten million different title sequences. Wailing for release, wailing, wailing, wailing.
VERDICT: 2.5/5 STARS
Jack Vening writes short fiction in Brisbane. He has taught in the writing programs at UQ and QUT and has a tiny collection of stories, ‘Work For a Man or a Horse’, available through Momentum Books. He tweets @JerkVening.