In Review

The Archers' fans stunned by stabbing in Ambridge

'Gut wrenching' development to saga of Helen and Rob, but is it all getting a bit EastEnders?

Spoiler warning: This article contains spoilers for Sunday night's episode of The Archers

Fans of The Archers have been kept gripped by a domestic abuse storyline in recent weeks, but its dramatic turn has left listeners reeling.

Sunday night's episode, centred on the abusive relationship between Rob and Helen Titchener, culminated in what appeared to be Ambridge's first murder in the show's 65-year history.

The situation reached its climax when Helen (Louiza Patikas) informed Rob (Timothy Watson) she was going to leave him because of his controlling behaviour. After threatening to hurt Henry, their young son, Rob handed Helen a knife, telling her it was "the only way out".

Silence then followed for a few moments before Helen could be heard telling Henry that his "daddy" is "asleep", before telephoning a friend to tell her she had killed Rob "to make him stop".

The "gut wrenching" episode sent social media into meltdown as tens of thousands of listeners expressed shock, reported the Daily Mail. One coined the hashtag: "The day #TheArchers broke Twitter!"

Many praised the controversial storyline, describing the way it highlighted the issue of domestic abuse as "a public service".

Others were shell-shocked. Listener Paul Trueman tweeted

Meanwhile, QC and Archers fan Nigel Pascoe leapt to Helen's defence

Others, however, were less impressed, suggesting the storyline was more reminiscent of another BBC soap.

But The Guardian points out that he programme, which is billed as "an everyday story of country folk", has not only received praise for taking on an issue but is also doing something about it.

The Archer's official Twitter account posted advice from Women's Aid and listeners have rushed to donate to the Helen Titchener Fund following last night's show. A page set up to raise money for the domestic violence charity Refuge has received £88,000 so far, just short of its £100,000 target.

The end of troubling storyline might be near, says David Sanderson in The Times, "possibly with the sound of money dropping into BBC coffers".

Amazon has a BBC-produced audio CD with "the complete story of Rob Titchener and Helen Archer" for pre-sale on its foreign websites, writes the journalist. 

The cited release date is October, adds Sanderson, saying this "may bring some relief to listeners upset at the unrelenting grittiness of the plot who feared that it was going to continue until Christmas".

Meanwhile, the show's current editor. Sean O'Connor, is due to take up a new post as executive producer at EastEnders in late spring.

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