(Mild spoilers, including pics)
ALL TV soaps go through peaks and troughs.
Like waves on the shore, they take time to flow towards moments of crashing brilliance.
Footprints in the sand captured on screen to be remembered forever.
Tonight brings another high tide as the exceptional Katherine Kelly (Becky McDonald) takes her leave of Weatherfield.
“These episodes are as good as anything I’ve ever seen,” producer Phil Collinson told us before a London preview screening seven days ago.
“Not just on Coronation Street but on any drama on British television.
“They’re long anticipated and I’m really proud of them.”
Well he would say that, wouldn’t he?
The thought that ran through my head as the lights dimmed in the Soho Hotel cinema.
Forty-five minutes or so of classic Corrie later, I found myself nodding in agreement with Mr Collinson.
Dedicated Coronation Street fans are lifers, in it for the very long haul.
Till death do us part.
When the tide is out we have to put on the wellies to wade through storylines elongated beyond their natural lifespan in order to satisfy the demands of five episodes a week.
Our reward comes in moments like the two visits to the cobbles this evening.
Reminding us yet again of just how much skill, talent and dedication goes into making this drama – on both sides of the camera.
Hopefully without spoiling the episodes, one of the standout moments for me is Becky’s emotional farewell to Roy and Hayley outside the Rovers Return.
Those of us who have watched Katherine, David Neilson and Julie Hesmonhalgh together over the last five years will know just how poignant a goodbye that is.
“They were real tears for all of us,” Phil told me after the screening.
“It’s such a close team making Coronation Street.
“You have to be when you’re making that much television – working together that closely for that number of hours under that intense scrutiny and pressure.
“We’re all close. And it’s hard to lose somebody so integral to your team.”
Also emotional for viewers to say goodbye to such an iconic character?
“That’s the thing about this sort of television because you’re dealing with characters who people love and they get to know and they explore that relationship.
“And they see how much Becky loves Roy and they know how hard it is for Roy to love anybody. And they know how much Hayley loves him.
“It is the most amazing thing about working on a show like this, that you really are following the lives of people, shaping the lives of people that the audience absolutely fall in love with and adore.”
Becky’s exit is set against the backdrop of ex-husband Steve’s (Simon Gregson) wedding to Tracy (Kate Ford).
In classic Corrie fashion, Becky has a bombshell to drop.
But when will she choose to do it?
There’s so much to love about these two episodes directed by David Kester.
The first, written by Jayne Hollinson, begins with a poignant nod to the late Maggie Jones, who played Tracy’s grandmother Blanche.
A typical Corrie touch, closely followed by the comedic arrival of an unshaven Ken. (Bill Roache).
The cast are at the top of their games tonight, including the marvellous Stephanie Cole as Syliva, overhearing a conversation about online communication.
Then asking Sophie (Brooke Vincent): “What exactly is Spike?”
Leading to an exchange in Roy’s Rolls which deserves to win a BAFTA for best laptop-related script line.
Simon Gregson is his usual full value as Steve, with a comedy moment in the Rovers’ back room before later dramas at the church and beyond.
While Paula Lane has really blossomed as Becky’s younger sister Kylie.
But tonight’s two episodes belong to Katherine Kelly.
An outstanding actress who has already moved on to star in She Stoops To Conquer at the National Theatre.
Ahead of, no doubt, more triumphs.
Becky’s final scene is beautifully written by Debbie Oates, author of this evening’s second episode.
Including a perfect last footprint in the sand.
“It’s not very often that we get to say goodbye to such a brilliant, iconic character,” said Phil.
“Katherine is going to go off now and glitter and be at the National and be amazing.
“She’s a wonderful actress.
“But you never forget working on Coronation Street.
“A bit of your heart will always stay there.”
Coronation Street is on ITV1 at 7:30pm and 8:30pm tonight.
Vote for Coronation Street at this Wednesday’s National Television Awards
National Theatre: She Stoops To Conquer