Warning: This story contains spoilers.
Shortland Street ended its year with a bang during an hour-long finale which aired tonight, sending the show on its annual summer hiatus with a Christmas cliffhanger that had earlier promised that three characters would meet their demise.
The tension ramped up during the hour and fans watched excitedly as hottie Josh Gallagher (played by Chris Tempest) gave in to his Hero Complex, rigging a bomb at the Warner family Christmas party - the apparent plan being that he could save a few lives and redeem himself after a stint in jail.
The ensuing explosion destroyed part of the Warner's bach and left the fate of a number of major characters - including the show's long-running couple Chris Warner and Rachel McKenna - to be revealed when the show returns in January.
Earlier, the first confirmed death among the long-running shows cast of characters was revealed to be Travis Corfield (John Tui), the abusive ex-husband of central character Vasa (Teulia Blakeley) who was the victim of an apparent hit-and-run, and whose death will be a key storyline when the show returns in January.
"The purpose of the high point in a Shortland Street cliffhanger is to literally leave the audience hanging as to what will happen and this episode certainly does that," says producer Simon Bennett.
"The aim is to leave the fans with something to think about and to generate speculation and enthusiasm when the show is off air. The speculation over who has lived and who has died will hopefully encourage people to come back to confirm their suspicions in the New Year."
The Shortland Street Christmas Cliffhanger has become an annual tradition for the soap, with some dedicated fans contributing to a Wikipedia page about the special send-off episodes dating back to 1992.
The cliffhanger episode caps off a successful year for the show, which enjoyed a 45% average audience share in the key demographic, to the end of November - its second highest share in the demo since 2007, behind only last year's 20th anniversary celebrations.
The highly successful soap is the only local scripted show not funded by NZ On Air, and averaged over 290,000 viewers per night aged between 18 and 49 years old.
Shortland Street returns for its 2014 season in mid-late January.