Are we ready to talk about Sonya’s farewell yet?
Most Neighbours fans have known for a while that Sonya was not going to survive after being diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer at the start of the year. After nine years on the show, last week Ramsay Street said goodbye to Sonya in an emotional and pretty groundbreaking episode that probably coincided with a peak in tissue sales in Australia and the UK.
Eve Morey and Ryan Moloney have acted their socks off as Sonya and Toadie throughout this storyline, so it is entirely fitting that Sonya’s final episode would be a beautifully executed special, starring just the two of them.
First of all, before I get down to the nitty gritty, I’m going to pour some shade on Sonya’s specialist at Erinsborough Hospital. It’s amazing that they even have a specialist, since Dr Karl usually deals with everything from broken bones to impromptu brain surgery with a Black and Decker – but even when they do have a specialist, they don’t seem to be very competent. I understand that Sonya had to receive her prognosis alone for the storyline to have the maximum impact, but for a doctor to whisk a woman into a consultation room and tell her that she’s dying in the space of time it takes for her partner to buy a cup of tea from the canteen seems a bit much. Wouldn’t it have been better if Toadie had been unable to attend the hospital at all? That’s literally my only gripe in an otherwise flawless episode, but I had to get it off my chest.
After the hospital, Sonya and Toadie go back home, where she realises this is likely the last time she’ll be in their house, as they’re about to set out on a trip to the beach. Without telling Toadie what the doctor said, she silently says goodbye to Ramsay Street forever before they get in the car to join Jade, Callum, Nell and Hugo at the beach house. I thought this was Eve Morey’s standout moment, if it’s possible to pick one, and it’s the moment that I started to cry, which then continued soggily for the rest of the episode. Dialogue was entirely unnecessary to convey the sadness as Sonya stood in the street and soaked up the sight of her beloved home for one last time.
On the way to the beach, between blasts of actual recognisable songs which must have used up the entire music budget for the rest of the year, Sonya blurts out the things she needs to tell Toadie before she dies, while he gets increasingly more worried about what’s on her mind. From the heart-achingly sad request that Nell should sign up for football lessons, to the comedic, “It’s not like I hate your mother,” Sonya hurries to tell Toadie everything she needs to before it’s too late.
It isn’t long before Toadie realises that something is going on, and Sonya has to tell him that she only has, at most, days left to live, and the reality is that her condition is visibly deteriorating by the minute. Ryan Moloney deserves all the awards for his reaction – it was so raw and realistic, like he’d been punched in the guts. With no real time to properly process the news, Sonya asks him to take her to the kids.
They arrive at their holiday home to find that Callum has taken the kids down to the beach, and Sonya races to get there to see them, visibly weakening with every step. If you managed to see her arrive at the beach and whisper, “Our babies” when she saw Callum playing with his little brother and sister without crying, then you are completely dead inside. At least I think that’s what she said, I was too much of a soggy mess by that point to take any coherent notes. I was attempting to eat my dinner on the sofa while watching, but I kept finding myself with my fork suspended mid-air because I was so absorbed, and by this point in the episode my food was cold and the front of my Harry Potter dressing gown was getting damp with tears. I’m painting quite the picture of my homelife, aren’t I?
As Toadie cradled his wife in his arms in her final moments, I sobbed into a tissue and wondered why the heck I was putting myself through this. Normally I watch Neighbours for a bit of escapism and light relief, so this storyline has been a rough ride, but it’s hard to pick fault with it when it was portrayed so beautifully. It can’t all be haunted Christmas baubles and Sheila’s one-liners, I guess.
In interviews, Eve Morey has revealed that it was not her choice to leave Neighbours, and that her exit was solely due to budget cuts on the show. She might not have chosen to leave, but she did choose to have Sonya exit in this way, and as sad as it was, I think it was exactly the right call. What a final episode for an actor to bow out on – Eve absolutely smashed it. I wish her all the best for whatever she tackles next.