Neighbours finale recap – last episode an emotional toast to the end of the Erinsborough era

by 24britishtvJuly 28, 2022, 10 p.m. 20
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The last ever episode of Neighbours begins with a Paul Robinson voiceover. “Ramsay Street,” he says. “It’s just an ordinary street in an ordinary neighbourhood … where extraordinary things tend to happen.”

And I’m crying already. This is it. We’ve reached the end.

I have my Neighbours finale bingo card at the ready: Madge’s ghost; no one moves out after all; and, as discussed, explosions. The episode is directed by Scott Major, a Neighbours cast alumnus (he played Lucas Fitzgerald) with a direct line to the heart and soul of this show. This is a good start.

But what do I need from the end? What do we all need? How do you finish a series that’s been embedded in our culture for 37 years? How do you bring all those strands together – past and present storylines; past and present stars – into a finale that captures its impact on those who love it and on those who love saying, “I didn’t even know it was still on?”

In the first scene, Susan Kennedy (Jackie Woodburne) wanders the street. Her disbelief is clear – how could this happen? The street is disbanding. Every house except her own has a “FOR SALE” sign up. We seem to have already broken the fourth wall – these look like Woodburne’s real tears. The line between the characters and the people who play them blurs.

Neighbours stitched itself into the tapestry of our lives. I watched on an ugly green couch in our rumpus room, mostly dropping whatever I was doing to make sure I was in front of the box at 6.30pm. Like many geriatric millennials, I ripped posters of Brooke Satchwell (Anne) and Dan Parish (Drew) from TV Hits, had strong opinions about whether Carmella was a convincing nun, and used the word “hufter” in everyday conversation.

We’re not the only audience, though. Neighbours has found a younger fanbase in recent years, including devotees of #Chelly (the romance between newcomers Elly and Chloe), Mackenzie and Hendrix, and Kyle and Roxy.

It’s has also been justifiably criticised – by commentators and the actors themselves – for its poor treatment and representation of marginalised groups, including people of colour and the queer community. The casting and story choices in the final episode are an effort to rectify this – but one wonders what a show so significant could have achieved by prioritising a more representative neighbourhood, and telling other stories? It is, of course, too late to find out now.

Back on the street, Toadie is marrying a woman dressed as an Elvis impersonator, Melanie, played by Lucinda Cowden. Cowden started on the show back in 1987, and she’s one of a number of former stars to have rejoined the main cast in recent years, alongside Annie Jones (Jane Harris), Geoff Paine (Clive Gibbons) and Melissa Bell (Lucy Robinson).

In some ways, it’s a jarring split between “oldies who’ve been here the whole time”, “oldies who used to be here and are now here again”, and “young people I don’t really know”. The final episodes have been the Neighbours equivalent of And Just Like That, in which the nostalgia factor plays out separately, a nod and a wink to the audience that’s distinct from the storyline. A fleeting on-screen glimpse is fun, but is it satisfying?

With that in mind, we’ve been promised a laundry list of past characters. We know these actors have other jobs (variously: starring in Hollywood blockbusters; being a paramedic; working in a pub), and their appearances will be determined by how much time and energy they can spare.

As expected, many of them “return” to give Toadie their best for his new marriage, as a floating head on a Zoom call: a tried and tested soap trope that’s never felt more timely. Here we have Libby (Kym Valentine), Steph (Carla Bonner), Beth (Natalie Imbruglia), Flick (Holly Valance), Stu (Blair McDonough), Tad (Jonathan Dutton, my OG Neighbours crush complete with filthy mo’), Lance (Andrew Bibby), Nina (Delta Goodrem) and others, right through to Joe Mangel (Mark Little) and beloved Billy Kennedy (Jesse Spencer).

There’s something genuinely touching about some grotesquely famous actors returning to their roots alongside those alum who haven’t had the same success. Donna (Margot Robbie) in particular doesn’t even seem to be in character as she gushes about what the street and its people have meant to her. It’s a reminder that, for some, Neighbours has been a true launchpad: a life-changing, career-making boon.

Not all the visits are virtual. We spot Toadie’s mum, Angie (Leslie Baker), in the crowd at his wedding, and Joel Samuels (Daniel MacPherson) is briefly back in fine physical form in the House of Trouser. Mike Young (Guy Pearce) plays out an entire storyline of his own, rekindling an old romance with Jane and confirming fan speculation that Sam (Henrietta Graham) has been his daughter all along.

Then, a green Mini pulls into the iconic court. Old fans of the show will know this can only mean one thing: Scott (Jason Donovan) and Charlene (our Kylie) are back. Their own song is playing on the stereo. No one’s home because they’re all witnessing Toadie’s latest wife agree to her own demise (he drove the first one into the sea, another was a sham, and he lost his soulmate to cancer), so Charlene decides to break in for old time’s sake.

Is the show toying with our hunger for nostalgia? Definitely. But is it also really, really nice? Yes it is.

As we head to the Kennedy house for the wedding afterparty, it starts to feel like the end. This is the scene where we’ll relive 37 years of love, tragedy, sadness and friendship.

Are you ready? Me neither.

With moments to go, we find ourselves where we always knew we would: on the couch with Susan Kennedy, who’s taking a moment to reflect on what the street has meant to her.

And so Neighbours ends the way it began: not with a fire or a tornado or an affair, but with its people. This time, when Susan once again wanders the bitumen, she’s smiling. She gazes fondly at everyone who’s gathered to celebrate Toadie’s wedding. They have all, independently, decided not to leave Ramsay Street – this has always been where they belong. There is a feeling of calm and community. Nothing has exploded except my own face, with tears. And bingo: Madge’s ghost is here.

In a cadence so familiar I will still be hearing it in my old age, a Susan Kennedy voiceover begins. “Everyone deserves a place in the history of Ramsay Street,” she says. “Even those who watched us from afar [that’s us!]. Together, we have been the perfect blend.”

And that old familiar theme music plays.

I was prepared – nay, eager – to be cynical about the end of the Erinsborough era. But I finished tonight’s episode with actual crying. Thank you, Neighbours, for so many years. I’m glad we got to become good friends.
• None Neighbours’ final episode will be broadcast in the UK on Friday 29 July at 9pm on Channel 5

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