When Home And Away came to a close in 2019, several lives were in peril during the hospital siege − while outside, their loved ones were desperate to save them.
Of course, there was also lots of heartache as relationships broke down and family members caused irreparable damage. For others, however, recent hardship led to reaffirming love.
As the summer season rolls around for another year, the drama in Summer Bay will be dialled up to a scorching heatwave as the town grieves two tragic losses, and a wedding brings the community together.
And that's just the beginning! In an exclusive preview, TV WEEK talks to Home And Away series producer Lucy Addario on what fans can expect, including the farewell that will break plenty of hearts.
In the 2019 season finale of Home And Away, an ordinary day at Northern Districts Hospital turned into a hellish ordeal when four armed men stormed the ward and ordered everyone to the floor.
Viewers quickly learnt that the Ouroboros gang had resurfaced and were hell-bent on terrorising the town. For Robbo (Jake Ryan), his worst fears were realised as the men targeted everyone he loves.
"Just when Robbo dared to dream of a perfect life with Jasmine, baby Grace and Tori – and then the added hope of having a baby with Jasmine – the tables turn again," Lucy tells TV WEEK. "Robbo will stop at nothing to put the safety of his family first and bring the bad guys to justice."
WATCH BELOW: Home and Away's gripping season finale leaves two favourites dead. Story continues below...
The white-knuckle episode saw several lives in jeopardy, including Jasmine (Sam Frost), Marilyn (Emily Symons), Alex (Zoë Ventoura), Mason (Orpheus Pledger), Tori (Penny McNamee), Robbo, Bella (Courtney Miller) and Mackenzie (Emily Weir).
"Our idea for the finale episode was to create one dramatic event every cast member was involved in," Lucy explains. "With the help of our amazing cast, it was a season finale we will never forget."In the final agonising moments, the terror came to a crashing halt when a gun was fired – but who was shot?
"Losing a fan favourite is always devastating – and, of course, the impact on loved ones left behind is heartwrenching," Lucy says. "But what I can say is that the performances in our season return are some of the best we have ever seen. Keep the tissues handy."
It was a tough 2019 for Ben (Rohan Nichol) and Maggie (Kestie Morassi). They suffered in the wake of Maggie's cancer diagnosis and battled financial difficulties.
After a tumultuous few months, Maggie's health was finally on the mend, but Ben was struggling mentally. With their marriage hanging by a thread, the pair will try to put the past behind them. But what if the past comes to them?
"In 2020, Ben and Maggie are in a wonderful place and are able to put the hardship of Ben's depression behind them," Lucy says. "But something or someone from the past could unravel everything."
After Ziggy (Sophie Dillman) left Summer Bay to follow her dreams, Dean (Patrick O'Connor) was left heartbroken and alone. But during that time, Ziggy quickly realised Dean was her future.
But as she returns home to win his heart, she's horrified to learn the River Boy is caught up in the siege.
"Ziggy is desperate to reach Dean and fight for their relationship," Lucy says of the couple's future. "Time away from the Bay has made her realise that nothing is more important than her relationship with Dean."
Will Ziggy lose Dean before she has a chance to tell him how she truly feels? And if she does, will he give her a second chance?
This teenage tryst unravelled in the most volatile of ways when Jade (Mia Morrissey) framed Ryder (Lukas Radovich) for releasing their sex tape on the internet. Ryder pleaded his innocence, oblivious to the fact a tape even existed, but the evidence was too strong. He was arrested by police as his family and friends watched.
"With the charges made against him, Ryder still has a battle to fight," Lucy explains. "But his family is there to support him through thick and thin. What Ryder didn't expect, however, is for Jade to sink her hooks into her next victim so soon!"
This unlikely pair surprised fans with a steamy kiss back in July, and despite trying to hide their fling, they both realised they wanted a lot more.
But as happy endings go, it's not without hurdles. In the finale, Leah (Ada Nicodemou) received a mysterious phone call. Days later, she disappeared without a trace. Now, Justin (James Stewart) is desperately trying to find her.
"Justin's strength is tested like never before," Lucy says. "He will be pushed to the brink trying to hold his family together, supporting his sister Tori as a new mother while also desperately looking for Leah."
While her fate remains unknown, there's always the chance she'll return. But with two lives lost, the question everyone's asking is: Is Leah alive or dead?
We can finally look forward to Tori enjoying motherhood and spending time with her baby girl.
It's been such a journey getting to this point.
Despite the drama that's unfolding in the Bay, one thing is for sure: Grace will be a source of joy and hope for everyone.
- BooksIVF, swapped embryos and unimaginable heartbreak: Why The Mothers has made us question everything
Australian Women's WeeklyJan 23, 2020