Call The Midwife: “Season 6 Episode 1”

The entire production of Call The Midwife moved to South Africa for the Christmas Special, we left Trixie there and Barbara and Tom got engaged, but some how far, far more happened in this episode. I think this is the best and most jam-packed season premiere thus far. Almost every character has a story beat worth mentioning and we had a very good mother of week, new/expanded sets, a new character and new opening credits!

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After the new in-color credits, we get a feel for what was happening back at Nonnatus while everyone was gone. Sister Monica Joan (Judy Prafitt) turns on the television and then starts dancing (only a bit) to it. But her fun doesn’t last long before a nun we don’t know walks in turns it off and tells her she told her to replace the flowers.

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Good job, show. I knew Harriet Walter was joining the cast as Sister Ursula, a new nun who would be taking Sister Julienne’s (Jenny Agutter) position as the head of Nonnatus house. But, damn I did not suspect her to be so terrible so quickly. After taking television time away from Sister Monica Joan, she interrupts Patsy (Emerald Fennell) as she is fixing Delia’s (Kate Lamb) hair and seeing her off to work.

They grumbled at each other about her being in charge while everyone else was in South Africa and say they are glad she will be gone when everyone returns. Shortly after everyone returns, Sister Julienne gets a call from the mother house. She left her office looking so upset I was trying to run through the list of characters and who could have died. But, Sister Julienne loves her job that much and has to tell everyone she had been replaced by Sister Ursula.

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Sister Ursula’s long list of offenses include taking away the television, forcing everyone to do handy-crafts together, talking down to Shelagh (Laura Main), making Sister Mary Cynthia (Bryonny Hannah) cry and shipping her off the mother house instead of to Dr. Turner’s (Stephan McGann) suggested treatment, forcing Mrs. B to make a sad lunch, questioning Sister Julienne and overall be absolutely terrible. Or as the cast put it:

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There is so much going on in this episode, I am going to divide it by characters. So first off:

Nurse Crane and Trudy 

Our mother of the week is Trudy. We met her and her young son, Mickey, at the clinic. Sister Ursula’s new patient number system makes her late for her “obligations” as she tells Barbara (Charlotte Richtie). That turns out to be her picking up her husband from prison. He seems to be part of some group of thugs and gets a car from “the boss.” It hasn’t been mentioned in a while but way before this season started, we were told the Kray twins, gangster who were active in the East End throughout the 1960s, would be included this season. I think this guy was supposed to be in their gang.

We quickly find out that Trudy’s husband is abusive and her mother is fully on his side. He attacks her once in front of Mickey and locks her in their bedroom as he leaves. Trudy goes into labor and is able to make it to Nonnatus with Mickey’s help. Despite, Sister Ursula’s protest, Patsy, Sister Julienne and Sister Mary Cynthia successfully deliver her baby. She opts to go to the maternity home instead of the hospital, but after her husband find her there she flees home. Her husband tries to break in while Sister Mary Cynthia is there but Dr. Turner stops him.

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Sgt. Knoakes (Ben Chaplan) and Nurse Crane do their best to help Trudy, but she ends up leaving her kids at the police station and running away, wanting them to end up in foster care rather than with their father. They are able to find her and Nurse Crane convinces her she is their best chance.

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She spends some time in a women’s hostel but ends up being granted full custody and re-housed far away from her husband. Overall, it was a hard to watch domestic violence story line. Especially with the references to 5.6. So on to:

Sister Mary Cynthia 

Remember how 5.6 was the greatest episode of last season because Bryonny Hannah was given emotional stuff? So did the show. Sister Mary Cynthia has a rough episode. First off, Sister Ursula is the worst when Sister Mary Cynthia goes to her for spiritual advice (she is now in charge of that too) because she is about to take her life vows. Sister Ursula does everything wrong and drives Sister Mary Cynthia to tears.

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Sister Julienne tries to explain to her pitiful replacement that Sister Mary Cynthia needs encouragement and compassion, telling her that she wants nothing more than to please others and was attacked last year. Sister Ursula thinks it is good that she barely speaks of it. Sister Julienne begins to question if maybe it isn’t.

Our youngest nun is at Trudy’s when her husband is trying to break in and starts to break down. She barely gets home and gets actual help and comfort from Sister Julienne and Sister Monica Joan.

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Sister Julienne asks Shelagh and Dr. Turner to visit her, worried that she might need treatment for “mental instability.” Usually I don’t like when shows do mental illness story lines because they are normally unrealistic and handled poorly especially if you know anything about actual mental illness. But this show and Sister Mary Cynthia does so it is done incredibly well.

Dr. Turner visits Sister Mary Cynthia and tells Sister Ursula he has found her a spot in a “gentle” treatment program near her family. Sister Ursula tells him the order is her family and she sent her to the mother house, without letting anyone say goodbye. Dr. Turner runs into Sister Julienne on his way out and they are both concerned about the decision.

Barbara and Tom

This is going to be quick because 1) I don’t really care and 2) a lot of the comic relief falls on Barbara this week, which I am fine with because Charlotte Richtie is great at it but nothing was that important. After being asked by Patsy and Violet to see the ring, Barbara started thinking maybe she needed more than a piece of grass, regardless of how romantic she found it.

She drinks a cocktail with Patsy and Delia because vicars’ wives drink a lot together, which I only really mention because I like Barbara hanging out with them.

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There is some cute nonsense and then Barbara buys an engagement ring herself for the both of them. Tom (Jack Ashton) tells her that isn’t how it is supposed to be. Barbara says she knows but she is making a new way for them. And yay that decision had nothing to do with what Trixie (Helen George) said to Tom in South Africa.

Shelagh

Good call, Turnedette fans. There was been a want/theory/fanfic theme of Shelagh somehow overcoming the infertility she was told she had after getting TB and nearly dying in season two.

She spends most of the episode feeling sick but it is not until she nearly vomits at the smell of milk in front of Sister Julienne that anyone puts it together. Thankfully, the show does point out that and acknowledge the contradiction to it is making, so I don’t mind it.

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She also adorably tells Patrick by drawing a picture of a baby with Angela and asks Patrick to be its father, which is a callback to Patrick proposing by giving her a picture he made with Timothy asking her to be his mom.

Patsy and Delia 

Patsy and Delia were great in this episode. They didn’t kiss but then again neither did the Turners for some reason. Apparently we are only giving kisses to the couple with no fans. Whatever. Did everyone notice that Delia was literally tying a knot on Patsy’s finger in the handy-crafts scene?

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It seemed like an unavoidable spoiler that Patsy was going to get news about her father being sick in Hong Kong.

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In perfect internalized-homophobia Patsy way, she reads the letter, tries to act cool around the other nurses, snaps at Delia and then slinks into her room to apologize. Delia mentions that she has lost count of the number of times Patsy has sneaked into her room. We see about half of their conversation through the mirror. Remember all those what the world sees versus what is true mirror metaphors we used to make in season four?

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Patsy tells Delia the letter was from her father’s nurse. He has been paralyzed by a degenerative nerve disease and wants Patsy to go to him. But, she isn’t sure if she wants to.

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Nonnatus House and Poplar 

I am including the setting as its own character because I feel like it is and I wanted to comment on the direction and possibly higher budget this episode had. The show has been renewed through its ninth season, so I’m not surprised if the BBC is giving more money for new locations, like the outdoor scene with Nurse Crane and Trudy:

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Or wherever this was supposed to be:

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But, I’m glad the show is remaining humble and not above reusing sets:

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This episode was directed by Sheree Folkson, who also directed 5.3 and 5.4 that I both really liked. We got different views on familiar spaces:

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And I don’t know if this was Folkson’s choice or an excuse to use some CGI but hey this is a new shot:

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All that silliness aside, I am really excited for this season. This premiere shock up a lot of things. Sister Ursula is here. Sister Julienne is no longer in charge. Sister Mary Cynthia and Trixie are gone. Patsy is probably going to leaving. The Turners are pregnant. And we haven’t even met that new nurse yet (save for in the promo for next week), but after how awful Sister Ursula is I’m probably not going to be that hard on her.

See you next week.

 

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