Death came to Ambridge on Sunday night. And for once the nation’s eyes were dry. No keening or lamenting greeted the demise of Rob Titchener, the soap’s most reviled character by a country mile.
Helen, his ex-wife confessed she didn’t know whether to cry, laugh or throw up at the news that Rob was finally gone; she spoke for us all. It’s no exaggeration to say since he first turned up in Ambridge in 2013 like a bad penny, that evil, wily monster put us all through the wringer.
He sowed discord as he emotionally manipulated and abused his terrified wife, isolating her from her support network as he poisoned the very groundwater of Borsetshire with his malign presence. Frankly, if he hadn’t succumbed to a brain tumour – and let’s face it, for weeks now we’ve all wondered if his “terminal diagnosis” was yet another of his twisted fictions – the finger of blame might well have been pointed towards the highest family in the land.
Just last month, royal superfan Queen Camilla herself intimated the time had come to dispatch him. In a message to the editor of the long-running BBC 4 soap to mark its 20,000th episode, she said: “Here’s to the next 20,000 episodes – and, let’s hope, the end of Rob Titchener once and for all!”
And now he’s dead. Coincidence? Not really, what with the aggressive cancer and the palliative care. But it’s rumoured locals heard the unmissable sound of clinking crystal carrying over the walls of Highgrove House as the jaunty closing theme played.
And not just in Gloucestershire. Rob perished alone and embittered, abandoned by his egregiously unpleasant father, friendless and without seeing his son, Jack, who refused to meet him one last time. No wonder we raised a collective glass!
Thanks to Rob, Helen spent months on remand in prison after she stabbed him in self defence. She was acquitted. Then he tried to kidnap newborn baby Jack – whom he wanted to call Gideon, which in itself constitutes a hate crime. Oh do keep up.
Then he disappeared for years, ostensibly living abroad. But we didn’t forgive and we didn’t forget although, by the law of unintended consequences, some real life good did come of it.
Politicians talked about coercive control and campaigning organisations used it to increase awareness of domestic abuse. One fan started a page to raise money for Helen – or rather, for charity Refuge – and almost £175,000 was donated.
It was inevitable that Rob’s return earlier this year would cause utter dismay among Archers listeners. It’s no exaggeration to say the very sound of his, by turns arrogant and oleaginous, voice made our blood run as cold as the River Am.
Even as he grew frailer and weaker, he tried his best to control those around him, creating a firestorm by insisting he had found God and should be christened in St Stephen’s.
The resulting schism in the congregation has already hit the parish coffers hard; long after the strains of the funeral match die away, Rob’s toxic legacy of division will live on. It’s what he would have wanted. The blaggard.
Meanwhile, when Helen visited for the second time as he lay dying (don’t ask, that is why the Omnibus was invented) he wheedled and begged her to hasten the end by suffocating him with a pillow. It would be, he claimed, her ultimate act of revenge.
In truth it would be his; she would of course be caught and charged with his murder. Even local officer Harrison has heard of DNA testing.
But despite her feeble faffing (that sounds bad, but Archers aficionados will understand) Helen stood firm and refused to be manoeuvred into breaking the law.
Then she discovered via a text from Ron’s brother that it was over. She didn’t know how to feel. She was free, at last. We all were.
And to be honest, if Queen Camilla did happen to be passing through The Archers country on Sunday evening and looked in on Rob, I hope she used her own pillow and whisked away the evidence. But even if not, there isn’t a court in the land that would convict you, Ma’am.
Good riddance to you, Rob. Not a soul will mourn your wretched passing.