Review : Neighbours Finale

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve never been a particularly big fan of Neighbours; my Mum would watch it, so I would too, but it was never particularly my cup of tea, never something I personally sought out. It wasn’t until I began my uni degree that I became aware of just how important Neighbours was, as an entry point into the industry for so many, a place for internships, filmmakers, writers, actors, to start their careers in film and TV, that launched the likes of Guy Pearce, Kylie Minogue, Margot Robbie, Delta Goodrem, Jesse Spencer, and god knows who else over its nearly four-decade run, and that’s just in front of the camera. So, while it may never have been my stomping ground, I developed a deep respect for the long-running soap opera.

On July 28 2022, Neighbours aired its final episodes. And I tuned in because of what a staple of Australian television it is, how important it has been and just to have a modicum of nostalgia for a night. The result is lovely. I mean, it is a challenge to try and wrap up 37 years of melodrama, as well as end the modern storylines, appeal to nostalgia and call back its storied history. For all that it is worth, this is a tough thing to do, and they pretty much pull it off. It’s a largely sweet, wholehearted, decidedly a tad silly, yet perfectly earnest piece of television that hits all the right notes in ending a long and storied series.

The finale primarily follows the wedding of Toadie (Ryan Moloney) and Mel (Lucinda Cowden), following which Toadie and Mel will pack up and leave Ramsay Street forever, alongside the departure of Paul (Stefan Denis) and Terese (Rebekah Elmaloglou) as they prepare for divorce, as well as the rest of the street besides Karl (Alan Fletcher) and Susan (Jackie Woodburne) prepare to sell. Meanwhile, Mike Young (Guy Pearce) returns to Erinsborough, reuniting with Jane (Annie Jones), who’s recently broken up with Clive (Geoff Paine), rekindling their romance. 

It’s a bit wobbly at the beginning; just from the perspective of it finishing up the current storylines, half the street is moving out, leaving Ramsay Street for good. Honestly, for a viewer coming in to see the end, it’s a little inaccessible, kind of surprisingly so. I mean, after some time, it becomes easier to work it out to a degree, but it took some real concentration. In some ways, it was oddly lacking the key soap opera element, you should just be able to jump in and get it. This is the biggest hurdle the finale had to jump; when there’s this much recent history to tie together in the finale, there’s going to be some disconcerted old viewers tuning in for the big event. That being said, if you’re going to go out with Neighbours, you gotta go out with an event that would bring people together, and is it really the end of Ramsay Street if there wasn’t one last wedding?

This is lovely. A clashing of eras, as new and old friends come together one last time, and all for a happy ending. And yeah, it’s corny, melodramatic and nonsense, but that’s Neighbours, it’s been 37 years, and that’s not going to change now. What does get to change is how it all ends. Some might say a disaster should befall the street, like so many times before, some might say that it should end in heartbreak, nothing new there. But truthfully, it was time for a true happy ending. Not no drama, Ramsay Street doesn’t know how not to be dramatic, but if Neighbours is going to go out, they were going to shower the street in love and happiness, and they did. It’s sweet in that way, righting past wrongs, reminiscing on the history, the nonsense, the scandal, the love, the friendships. And it does so in the loveliest, silliest, and most of all, most earnest of ways. As is to be expected with Neighbours, and by extension, soap opera writing, it’s simple and heart on the sleeve, but especially for an occasion like this, the sentimentality feels perfectly deployed. 

It’s hard not to get caught up in its sentimentality too. By the end of the finale, there’s something that feels magical to it all. It helps that Annie Jones and Guy Pearce show up and give it their all on in their romance storyline. Even as someone who wasn’t even alive when their storyline played out back in the 80s, the history is all felt in the writing and in their performances,of course that is partially aided by the fact that they are returning to this story as actors too, but there’s not an ounce of sense that any of this isn’t incredibly important to them, and it makes it all the more heartfelt. Meanwhile, Jackie Woodburne pours everything into this, particularly as the finale heads towards its final moments. Given Susan’s importance on the show during her nearly thirty years on the show, even in my years of lapsed watching, Woodburne’s performance and the importance of Susan as a matriarch of Ramsay Street, as the heart of the street, giving her such a central spot in the finale, while not narratively integral per se, felt so perfect, once again leaning into sentimentality, but somehow feels so perfectly emotionally played.

Neighbours wasn’t high art, but it didn’t need to be. That’s not what soap operas were for, they’re a bit silly, melodramatic, on the nose and over the top. And that’s okay. It’s not for everyone, but there’s something comforting about tuning into some nonsense every night to see what melodramatic stuff happens today. And this finale captured that. It’s sweet, and lovely, and you get a full romance arc in a single three-episode special. You get to watch these friends come together once more and celebrate, and old faces popping up one last time to say one last thing. Sure, it’s silly, and it is nothing like reality, but that’s the point, and that’s okay. Because it does it so earnestly and with such perfect awareness for its own heightened sensibilities. Most cancelled shows wish they got the chance to end with a nicer bow as Neighbours gets to, and boy is the bow Neighbours gets extremely lovely, not perfect, but a charming gesture to old, new and lapsed fans.

It’s weird to think that tomorrow, there will be no Neighbours on the screen. I haven’t tuned in for a long time, but there was a comfort to knowing that Erinborough’s interminable drama lingered on. There was something about knowing that the highs and lows of this preternaturally cursed Melbourne suburb was eternally playing out. There was something warm about knowing that Karl and Susan Kennedy, everyone’s parents even if they didn’t know it, continued to welcome everybody home. I may never have loved Neighbours, but I now kind of wish I had. But there’s comfort in knowing that in the end, these characters got a happy ending, that everyone involved got to bring closure to these characters in a way that honoured them and with reverence, getting to end with such an enchanting series finale.

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