(Series 18, ep. 35 ‘I’ll Walk You Home’ by Andy Bayliss) If you had dry eyes at the end of that episode, you’re a stronger person than I am. Was that a brilliant hour of television, or what?
Arthur Digby’s last episode was always going to be emotional, no matter which way it went (miracle cure, or slow decline with last few months spent travelling and off-screen demise, or… not). He’s a very well-loved character, not just loved by fans but by so many other characters in the hospital. He’s worked on several wards and come into contact with so many people who love and respect him for his sweet, gentle nature and earnest commitment to his job. So young, just at the start of what promised to be a glittering career. And just married to his soulmate. Whatever happened to him was going to impact on everybody.
The episode, beautifully written by Andy Bayliss, balanced carefully along the line between hope and despair for much of the time. That the half way mark included one of the most joyous and funny moments ever in Holby – the dance routine with even Ric Griffin and (hilariously) Hanssen joining in – and ended with the sadness of Digby quietly dying, surrounded by his friends, was extraordinary.
I loved the way Malick, Chantelle and Ethan were involved in the episode, to remind us that Digby has an importance that extends outside of the present story confines. I especially loved the hallucinatory sequences, which were strange, beautiful and tender. Most of all, I loved Morven’s parting speech to Digby. Ellie Fanyinka was incredible, delivering so much emotion and conveying all of Morven’s love for Arthur. Her line that he gave so much to so many people but kept a little bit back just for her was beautiful.
I’d expected Dominic to be the one to make me cry the most, but his reaction at the bedside was restrained, shrugging off Ric’s comforting hand and leaving the room. For once, Dominic didn’t want to do his emoting in public (though he had some lovely scenes with Digby and Sacha earlier in the episode, and nobody can be in any doubt that losing his best friend will have hit him hard). Zosia breaking down and Jac running to hug her was an intense moment of pure grief that will have finished off anyone who wasn’t crying already. The detail that had me in a messy heap was the close-up on Arthur squeezing Morven’s hand and her saying, “I know.”
Rob Ostlere didn’t physically have much to do in the final moments except lie still, but in the earlier scene where he collapsed in Hanssen’s office he was heartbreaking. One moment he was filled with optimism and a sense of freedom, but you could see him deteriorate second by second. When Hanssen promised him everything would be alright, you knew that he knew which way things were going to go. Hanssen almost lost his trademark composure during this scene. His lip actually wobbled at one point.
So it’s farewell to Arthur Digby, who’s given us plenty to smile about and plenty to worry about during his Holby career. I’m going to miss him and his rucksack with the horses on it, his love of a good pen, the banter with Dominic, the way he finds courage when he needs it most. Above all, I’m going to miss the most beautiful smile in the NHS.