Last night, in a split second, everything changed.
The writers of Offspring—Australia’s favourite TV drama—killed off their leading man—anaesthetist Patrick Reid— and sent audiences across the country into mourning.
For those who aren’t Offspring-addicts, Patrick (played by the handsome Matthew Le Nevez) was the partner of Nina Proudman (Asher Keddie) and the father of her unborn child.
Tissues were needed as Patrick was knocked to the ground during a seemingly minor incident with a car while crossing the road on his way to Nina’s baby shower.
When Nina collected him from the side of the road, they agreed to go to the hospital to check he didn’t have a concussion but in the minutes that followed his condition quickly deteriorated until he lost consciousness.
It seems strange that the death of a fictional character can affect us in such a way, but when writers create well-written, realistic, three-dimensional characters, it’s not surprising we fall in love with them.
With that attachment comes our reaction to their suffering and conflicts. And last night’s reaction was huge, #Offspring was trending on Twitter.
My first brush with the death of fictional character came with Daphne died in Neighbours. I was about four years old and was upset for days telling people Daphne had died.
Due to my reaction, people thought Daphne was someone we knew. (Awkward).
As you can imagine, Mum was mortified and quickly put a stop to my viewing of Neighbours. Forever.
Now that I’m an adult—and one who has experienced grief first hand—you’d think I could deal with the loss of a TV character, even one as sexy as Patrick.
And it wasn’t like a death was completely sudden; for weeks we have been tormented by ads asking ‘Who will Nina lose forever?’.
As an audience we begged for it not to be Patrick and took to social media to debate the merits of killing off Nina’s siblings—Billie and Jimmy.
Author Rebecca Sparrow put the first nail in Patrick’s coffin earlier in the week when she admitted that as a writer, she would kill of Patrick because happy couples don’t make good television.
Her logic made sense but Nina loves Patrick. We love Patrick (and we LOVE to look at Patrick—that smile, those tattoos … mmm).
Despite Bec’s warning, we all held on to a sliver of hope that it would be anyone but Patrick.
But from the moment I saw Patrick in Kate’s garage, where he had made something as a surprise for Nina and the baby, I knew it would be him to whom we’d be saying goodbye.
With each passing minute my anxiety deepened.
Well played, writers.
It made sense to me; his character dies and Nina is suddenly faced with being a single parent.
If they’re feeling particularly sentimental, perhaps Clegg will end up Godfather. And then there’s the gift; a beautiful and (I’m sure) heartbreaking final example of Patrick’s love for Nina.
The moment that hurt my heart wasn’t when Nina and Kate were told Patrick had died—I didn’t even shed a tear (I may have sat on the couch and praised my heart of steel).
I watched in awe of the talent of Asher Keddie and Kate Jenkinson.
But then it came; the moment Nina was alone in the room with Patrick. Her lips on his skin. And I lost it.
Anyone who has experienced that moment knows how hard it is to say that final goodbye. To have to stop touching the person you love. To let go.
This morning as I drove to work, my mind was a blur of thoughts; my own past experiences mixed with the events of last night’s show and that’s when I realised that we’re allowed to be sad, angry and hurt because we are human.
We feel empathy for the characters; we picture ourselves in their position and try to understand how we would cope in that situation. And the truth is, people have to cope with the sudden death of loved ones every day.
Life is unfair and sometimes you don’t get a happy ending—at least not when you want/expect it.
What I’m now interested to see is how the writers deal with the family’s grief. The best I’ve seen it done was on Packed to the Rafters with the death of Mel.
Ben’s grief—the shock, the silence, the anger and self-recrimination—was so realistic and the Rafters’ reactions and fear for him were also spot-on.
But mostly it was the ongoing feelings it stirred up as the series continued to progress; grief doesn’t expire at the end of a month, a season or a year.
It lingers and pops up unannounced; after your first kiss with someone else or when you realise that being happy means letting go of being sad.
I desperately hope the writers of Offspring take Nina through the same experiences because the audience will want and need to share in her grief.
The writers have certainly given themselves a lot to work with here; What will happen to Nina? Will Billie and Mick get back together? Will Nina get together with Mick? Will the baby be a boy named after Patrick? Will Billie finally get her shit together? And will Jimmy EVER have a haircut?
Now, best stock up on some more tissues before next week’s season finale … at least we know there will be some happiness in the episode with the much-anticipated arrival of Baby Proudman-Reid.