(Series 15, ep.52) Henrik Hanssen has been one of the greatest ever Holby characters. A mystery wrapped in an enigma encased by a formal suit, he was always intriguing and fascinating. The character was beautifully written, especially in the early days when odd little clues about his background were leaked out bit by bit, but it was Guy Henry’s stunning acting skills that really brought him to life. Having to work with the constraint that Hanssen was a character who didn’t really show emotion, his inner feelings had to be revealed by the most subtle acting, and by clever, telling details like the way he ate his sushi and arranged his pencils.
The exit episode for such a special character needed to be very good indeed, and last night’s episode was wonderful (beautiful writing by Nick Fisher). There had to be quite a lot of suspension of disbelief – that Digby was allowed to operate on the woman he loves even though he’d been a puking, shivering mess not long before; that no neurosurgeon was available at all (I’m sure in an emergency one could have been summoned from The Mythical St James’ or the Hadlington or somewhere if there really wasn’t one at Holby); that Ric Griffin took no part in the surgery to re-attach Malick’s hand even though he’s always been the go-to guy when veins needed sorting out; and so on. But, really, I wouldn’t have wanted to sacrifice any of the drama just to make things more realistic. Having Digby and Hanssen outside the operating theatre biting their nails while a Guest Artiste Surgeon did all the vital stuff wouldn’t have been the same as having them perform heroic deeds themselves.
The most touching scenes were the ones between Hanssen and Chantelle, whose sweetness and vulnerability completely cracked his cool facade. He went from telling Serena that Malick “doesn’t need warmth, Miss Campbell, he needs a cold clinical surgeon with nothing in his head but the job in hand – no pun intended” to promising Chantelle that he would save her and she would live to have babies of her own. As ever, Guy Henry conveyed that Hanssen was full to the brim with emotions just by the look in his eyes and a tremor in his voice.
Later, when Chantelle was recovering, they talked about how he was nasty to her last week. Chantelle suggested that he was actually quite nice when he stopped being Mr Hanssen. He said he was ashamed of the father he’d been and the grandfather he might fail to be – and he said it in that tear-swallowing way that he occasionally does that carries more strength of feeling than if he broke down and sobbed. “You’ll be great if you stop being Henrik Hanssen and just be Grandad,” she said, and he gave her such a lovely smile. “It’s high time I stopped being Mr Hanssen,” he said. “Please don’t ever stop being Nurse Lane.”
And then he packed up his office, passed on the Chair of Power to Serena Campbell, and caught a plane to Stockholm, where he finally met his son and his new grandson. And the sight of him holding this “most beautiful baby” would have melted any heart.
I haven’t mentioned Digby much in this, but it was a huge episode for him too, as he admitted to Hanssen, Chantelle and himself that he was in love with Chantelle and had been since the first time he’d met her (he did quite an accurate impression of the way she speaks as well). Once again he proved he’s not really what you’d call a cool head in a crisis, but he’s a gentle, sweet soul.
Jac and Jonny had the unenviable task of providing a secondary plot. It was a sign of the huge drama going on elsewhere that even the glorious Jac failed to completely capture my attention, because I just wanted to know what was going on with Malick and Chantelle. Jonny’s old friend Bonnie Wallace turned up as an agency nurse, which riled Jac a bit. My favourite Jac line was, “Will you stop flapping like a baggy kilt?”
But it was Hanssen’s episode. The end of a series and the end of an era.