In years past, the Shortland Street Christmas cliffhanger has been a welcome distraction from the tedium of the silly season.
With everything winding down for the year, seeing what tragedy would befall the residents of Ferndale each year was usually the most notable thing to happen that week.
That was during peacetime. Given all that has happened in New Zealand this year, there is little that the writers of Shortland Street could produce that would be more dramatic than the events of March 15 or the eruption of White Island.
You'd think, then, that something a little more cheerful might be in order. But no, in Ferndale, no day ever passes without something appalling and upsetting happening, and 2019 is no exception.
It just may have been nice had this year's cliffhanger not been quite so ripped from the headlines. The whole episode felt like some Madlibs creation pulling together all of New Zealand's most shocking and contentious headlines, tackling terrorism, the gun buyback and the urban/rural divide in 90 minutes that failed to read the room.
The biggest storyline revolved around racist, misogynistic ambulance officer Tim Myers, who, after being dumped by Shereez and fired and barred from the hospital in yesterday's episode, decided to enact his revenge a hospital filled with "haters and traitors".
He kidnapped Indian doctor Zara and put her in a suicide vest, similar to the one used by Greg Vickers earlier that year. Tim revealed himself to have been the mastermind behind the Vickers incident, and part of the same 4Chan-esque forum filled with angry men.
Tim said his group were "not just men with keyboards, we're a movement". He had an ally in River, a friend of Louis', to whom he gave a backup bomb to use for maximum destruction.
Tim held Zara, Chris and Boyd hostage as he prepared to blow up the hospital, speaking of restoring the natural order and gaining maximum attention.
He decried "foreign invaders", the gun buyback and the advancement of woman, at one point saying that "no one cares when a white man dies".
The bomb storyline alone was a little much, but the writers threw in another hostage situation. Shereez, Dawn, Cece and Sophia's planned "Man Ban" walk was ruined when Dawn stumbled across her ex-convict boyfriend Jake, who had just robbed a pair of farmers ripped straight out of Deliverance.
After shooting Jake in the shoulder, the five found refuge in a shed, before married farmers Bronnie and Pete showed up and demanded Jake return their weed. They held the hostages for hours with their possibly now illegal guns, clearly hoping to get in a few more kills in before the buyback ends tomorrow.
When it became clear to Tim that his ex-girlfriend was in danger, he knocked out Chris and took Boyd and Zara with him in a stolen ambulance.
Deciding shortly after that it was a trap, he parked up to plot his next move, unaware that acolyte River had backed out of his part of the plan.
Unfortunately, IT man Damo picked up the gift-wrapped bomb and added it to the pile of the presents in what may turn out to be the worst Secret Santa present of the year.
It was a lot to take in, even by soap opera standards. It was perhaps the most Shortland Street-y episode ever, and that includes the eruption two years ago.
In any other episode, the premature birth of Chris' grandson would be a central storyline, but even with a brief stillbirth scare, this was wheeled out of the way fast. The writers even found time to casually mention a collapsing balcony at a Christmas party — possibly a first draft for the cliffhanger, as that too was forgotten by the next scene.
It at least shows a recurring theme. Last year, Kylie descended into darkness and murdered two men in a rebuke of toxic masculinity.
While she seems to have escaped from that storyline scot-free, the gender wars elements remain. When the four women fought back against their captors, Sophia managed to set pervy Pete on fire, the episode ending on her smirking smile as the farmer burned before her.
Whether the four women escape alive remains to be same. Whether anyone survives remains to be seen.
In the final minutes, Tim detonated the suicide vest right as Boyd and Zara went to flee out the back of the ambulance. Their fates are left in the air, as are those of everyone in the hospital, with Nicole and Marty discovering the second bomb at the exact same time.
Given that that bomb ended up right in the middle of a children's Christmas party, one can only hope the writers aren't going to go so far as to blow up a number of children.
However, given this storyline has already tackled issues that would have felt extreme in years past, and now just feel uncomfortably close to home, who knows where exactly they are willing to take this next? It just makes one wistful for the time when a simple serial killer was all we had to worry about at Christmas.