If you think the biggest drama only happens at the end of the year, think again.
When Shortland Street returned this year with a gritty new look, producer Oliver Driver promised to keep viewers guessing. This week he is making good on that promise, delivering three nights of intense, high stakes drama, the kind we only usually see during the annual Christmas cliffhanger. Shortland Street is giving us a mid-winter season of mayhem, as an active shooter roams the hospital corridors in epic scenes that will play out across three nervous nights.
Like every good drama, there’s a twist. Last night, we saw the shooter begin his evil rampage, with several Shortland Street staff caught in the crossfire. Tonight, we’ll see Wednesday night’s drama play out again from different points of view, and once more on Friday. Each episode will reveal missing pieces of the puzzle, building in tension and suspense to reach an emotional crescendo on Friday night. It’s dark (literally, most of the lights are out) and stressful and pretty full on, but you certainly can’t accuse the soap – now in its 32nd year – of playing things safe.
The shooter is a troubled teenager named Milo, a recurring character who lost his father in last year’s wildfires and his mother to cancer, and who ram-raided a store with TK Samuels’ daughter Tilly, then beat up TK. Milo blamed Marty with the Good Hair for his woes, which is unfair given the worst thing that boring old Marty has ever done is get slightly drunk and call his ex-girlfriend “Dawny-Dawn”. Milo was really mad. Maybe Milo should have stayed in the tin.
New paramedic Shazza was the first victim, shot down after several episodes of extreme bogan car chat. Her ambo partner Logan was next, the bullet piercing his thigh even though he recently gave bone marrow to a brother he didn’t know he had, one of possibly thousands of siblings created by a father secretly addicted to visiting sperm banks. Dressed in medical scrubs and a mask, Milo nicked Logan’s swipe card and snuck into the hospital, even though most hospitals are reported to have a front entrance that anyone can stroll through at their leisure.
The emergency lockdown sirens rang through the hospital, but the staff didn’t care. They’d already had a week of hoax alarms, and there was free cake in the cafe. As always, Chris Warner was the only one with the clarity of mind required for a situation like this. “Keep low, stay still, stay quiet,” he ordered his son Harry, as Harper screamed and ran off to save her kids. Nicole phoned Maeve, CC rang TK and Esther called the hotline to Marty’s heart. Won’t someone call the police, or at least put their ringtones on silent?
Meanwhile, surgical intern Quinn took a bullet while in the elevator, arguing with Maeve about their mutual love for Nicole. All the biggest Shortland Street drama takes place in that lift, and if those walls could talk, they would say: please, we need another wipe down. At this rate, there won’t be any interns left to compete for the prized role at Shortland Street, but who will want to work there now? There may never be free cake in the cafe again.
As TK ran around trying to save everyone (but ignoring a woman in labour), Marty’s voice boomed out over the hospital intercom, imploring Milo to meet him in ED. Of all the deathly implements Dr Marty had at his disposal, he chose to defend himself with an IV pole, but what could go wrong? Another gunshot echoed through the halls. “You need to hide!” Chris urged Harper, as they both stood in front of a window. If Leanne was there, she would have sorted this shit out in five minutes flat.
We didn’t get all the answers last night, of course. Who is Esther trying desperately to save, her lovely white shirt now covered in blood? What happened to surgical intern Parker? Does Logan survive, and who was the target of that final gunshot?
It’s only June, but already this year Shortland Street has brought back beloved characters, experimented with a dark new style and format, and resolved the lengthy, complex crimes of a poisonous megachurch. Now we have a Ferndale Shooter, which will surely go down in Shortland Street history as one of its most shocking and impressive storylines ever. Can the show sustain the level of heightened drama we’ve seen this year, and how will these episodes impact the rest of 2023? After all, there’s never been a crisis that Chris Warner hasn’t managed to safely smoulder his way through… or is there?
Shortland Street screens weeknights on TVNZ 2 at 7pm and streams on TVNZ+.