Neighbours delivered a truly explosive 35th anniversary week, but the drama doesn't stop now the Lassiters wedding expo and doomed island mini-break are over.
In an exclusive interview with RadioTimes.com, the Aussie soap's executive producer Jason Herbison provides a sneak preview of how life will change forever on Ramsay Street in the coming months following the deaths of Finn Kelly, Gary Canning and Prue Wallace - and teases some more huge Neighbours storylines on the horizon…
1. Elly jailed for Finn's murder?
Fiendish Finn's gruesome demise after his reign of terror will have "massive implications," says Herbison. "In the ultimate tragic irony, Elly ends up in the frame for murder, despite the terrible things he did. Elly will have a fight on her hands to prove her innocence and keep custody of her daughter Aster. Jodi Anasta is leaving the show and we are entering a final, intense chapter for Elly. It remains to be seen if there can be any happiness around her departure."
2. Susan V Sheila
"Susan continues to feel huge guilt over everything that's happened," he continues. "Sheila is devastated over losing Gary and will channel all her anger at Susan for bringing Finn into their lives, despite the fact Susan is already blaming herself. It will be a very long road to them getting a friendship back on track. Brace yourselves for some amazing Colette Mann and Jackie Woodburne scenes. Bea, on the other hand, will be the strong one - she makes a conscious decision not to be a victim any more."
3. New Canning
The Canning house will be a quieter place without Gary, but there are plans to populate the place with another member of the family soon. "With three characters gone we do have some new ones coming in, including the introduction of a new Canning." Herbison wouldn't be drawn on their identity but it sounds like someone we've yet to meet as opposed to a recast Xanthe or Naomi. Although Sheila's other grandsons, Dane and Harley, were seen in brief guest appearances almost a decade ago, could one of them fill the gap left by Gary and give Sheila someone to mollycoddle?
4. An old face is back for good
It was a coup to get so many ex-characters back for the anniversary and fans lapped up seeing the likes of Sky Mangel, Mark Brennan, Lucy Robinson and Des Clarke again. Could any of them move back to Ramsay Street in the future? "Just about every single one of them told me they are open to it," he smiles. "At this stage one of them will be coming back on a permanent basis – perhaps more in the future. They'll have another new character connected to them when they return…" We're hoping for golden era faves Jane Harris and Des Clarke…
5. Dee AND Andrea both back
Talking of comebacks, later this year Madeleine West reprises her dual roles of Toadie's wife who faked her death and the deceitful doppelgänger who turned out to be her long-lost twin. "It will be double trouble! It's a massive storyline for Toadie. With the Dee/Andrea story arc, we are now well beyond what we originally planned and it’s the gift that keeps on giving. This might upset a few purists but I just love Andrea, there is so much scope with her and she will always be connected to Toadie because of Hugo – which means she can always come back, same as Dee."
6. Another fan favourite returns
The comebacks just keep on coming as Herbison told us plans for more blasts from the past are afoot, seemingly unconnected to the anniversary returns, and there is one in particular who will please the audience. "Yes, we have another returnee who I'm very excited about it," he divulges. "She is a fan favourite and lights up every room she enters." Who could it be? Susan's flaky sister Liz? Terese's daughter Imogen?
7. Dipi and Shane's marriage on the rocks
It's not been an easy year for Shane and Dipi Rebecchi, once regarded as Erinsborough's perfect couple. Family ructions and indiscretions with Roxy Willis and Gary Canning put the twosome to the test, and there are more challenges ahead: "Dipi and Shane will be facing huge marital challenges which impact several households." Can they come through more obstacles?
8. More late night specials
Post-watershed anniversary spin-off 'End Game' was a triumph, giving an extra episode in a 10pm slot across the week injected with a darker, grittier tone. "It's part of our desire to keep Neighbours contemporary and move with the times," admits Herbison. "We purposefully kept the daytime anniversary shows warm and nostalgic and gave ourselves license to go darker at 10pm. I'm hugely proud of what we achieved and relieved with the audience response." Are more late-night specials on the cards? "We plan them one at a time but yes, I'm certainly thinking about what we are going to do next. There’s actually a playing area of the show that is featured heavily in the coming months that could warrant a spin-off."