Call the Midwife: “Season 7 Episode 8”

The whole season could have been this. All of season seven could have been as good as this episode, if one thing was different.

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What? A writer who has actually written for the show before?! What a novel idea! And I understand it is Heidi Thomas and episodes she writes are always really good, but the characters, the actions, even the sets felt familiar and brought back what this season has been missing.

So, let’s get into this.

We somberly move through Poplar as everyone prepares for Barbara’s funeral. Val (Jennifer Kirby) and Lucille (Leonie Elliott) help Nurse Crane (Linda Bassett) get ready as Fred (Cliff Parisi) goes to help Tom (Jack Aston). Nurse Crane stares at her black dress and talks about how a wedding dress was hanging there a year ago. I cried more during this episode than I have in the rest of the season combined.

At the church, we pan through everyone looking sad. I don’t know where they could have put it in without it seeming forced but I would have appreciated a line about Trixie, Patsy, Delia, and Sister Mary Cynthia’s absences. But, I stopped thinking about that when Nurse Crane walks up to the podium and we linger on this shot of the alter.

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That is the spot where Barbara sang for the BBC broadcast after Trixie convinced her to wear make up. That is where Barbara got married. And now its where her funeral is. Good job, Heidi Thomas and director Syd Macartney.

Nurse Crane chokes up during a poem about happiness and not lingering on those who have gone. Val and Lucille are doing their best to keep things together at the wake at Nonnatus. Nurse Crane is hiding up in her room, when Lucille gets called out. Nurse Crane points out that the world hasn’t stopped despite what has happened. And I liked how the episode just went with that. Barbara’s death loomed over this entire episode, but this was also in places just a normal episode.

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The Turners go home and Shelagh (Laura Main) breaks down about planning Angela’s birthday party, which is the perfect Shelagh reaction. They realizes they are just throwing all their efforts into party planning.

During the party, Shelagh gets a call that a nearby maturity home is being closed and all the patients have been refereed to them. They agree to handle that after the 4-year-olds have had their cake.

It ends up being a false alarm when Lucille goes to check on Olive. She left her cheating husband and is currently staying with her dad, Stanley. Donald also stops by, he seems slightly forgetful and Olive calls him uncle. I loved this story line and its very subtle reveal that was very much like 4.2.

This episode did a great job of showing different methods of how everyone is grieving. Sister Monica Joan (Judy Parfitt) is fixated on getting the television fixed, she then sneaks off to the movies so she can watch the newsreel to figure out what to pray for. Reggie (Daniel Laurie) thinks Barbara’s grave looks lonely as he and Fred are planting iris’s on his mother’s grave. Tom is sitting alone in the chapel and says he will go stay with his parents for a week but then he is coming back. Sister Julienne (Jenny Agutter) sobs while she wipes Barbara’s name off the call board.

At the clinic, Val is helping young and happy mother, Josie. She doesn’t seem bothered by things; she isn’t married, despite being a teenager her mother is never with her, and she is giving her baby up for adoption. Lucile is back at Olive’s and Olive asks her about getting a council flat because she doesn’t think her father’s home will be good for her baby. Donald then wanders in thinking she is Stanley’s wife. We had followed Donald as he walked around Poplar looking confused. He was getting nasty looks but we don’t know why until he gets inside and Lucille sees that he isn’t wearing pants.

He wonders away before she can stop him. She goes to Sgt. Wolff to report him. Thankfully, Gruff McNewCop calls Dr. Turner (Patrick McGann). He thinks he has dementia. Sgt. Wolff tells him that he has two prior convictions of gross indecency, which we and Dr. Turner know from 4.3 means he’s gay. Stanley then arrives asking about his “neighbor” Donald.

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Dr. Turner’s is great in this scene. He tells Sgt. Wolff that he doesn’t care if Donald is “a homosexual” or not, the dementia is what is important. He also diagnoses him later and reacts out of sympathy when he sees the true nature of Donald and Stanley’s relationship.

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Olive is not really as okay with it. She screams and gets grossed out at her father and then arrives at the maturity home with all her stuff.

Tom comes back from his parents’ house and finds a stack of sympathy cards. He opens one of the cards and I really wish it would have been from Patsy and Delia. They could have just briefly shown their names written in it. There was no references to them this episode and it seemed a little weird. Tom then takes all of Barbara’s clothes over to Nonnatus house and to try and donate them. Sister Winifred (Victoria Yeates) is a bit confused and concerned. She says he would tell a grieving husband that he is moving too fast.

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Okay, Jack Ashton has been on the this show for a very long time and he has been in some emotionally heavy storylines but in those he is usually connected to Helen George or Charlotte Ritchie or Linda Bassett. Women, who give really great, really strong emotional performances. But, he is on his own in this one a lot and it doesn’t feel all that well acted. It really was jumping out at me in the scene with Sister Winifred. Victoria Yeates, who has never been given much to do, acted the hell out of that scene.

Moving on, Sister Winifred agreed to keep the clothes until Tom is certain. She couldn’t bring herself to put them in storage and takes them into Val’s room, where she is hanging out with Lucille. They agree to keep them in that room and Val’s says they should have a glass of sherry for Barbara. And I’m crying again.

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That room was never Barbara’s. But it was Jenny’s and Trixie’s and Patsy’s and they are all gone. Why didn’t you write this entire season, Heidi Thomas?

With all the extra patients, everyone is called to the maturity home. Josie is freaking out while listening to another mother give birth. Nurse Crane tells her she will be her midwife. She wanted one of the nice, young ones, which Nurse Crane is nice about. This episode was also really well directed. There are about four births going on at once.

After Olive’s is born, her father and Donald come to see her. She is far less mean to them. Donald can’t remember who she is but knows that she is someone they love. Olive decides the three of them can show her son what a family can look like.

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Nurse Crane has been having back pain since the funeral, which at times felt a bit too comical in the wake of Barbara’s death, but it goes away after Josie’s daughter is born. Josie is saying her daughter is still important to her even if she wasn’t in her life for very long. She names her Barbara, because it just popped into her head, like it was in the air or something. And I’m crying again.

Reggie knocks on Tom’s door because he has a present for Barbara. They go to her grave together and Tom places the carousel on the grave.

After turning off the radio broadcast about the Kennedy assassination, Sister Monica Joan gives an impassioned speech about how they cannot continue living in sorrow. They must cherish life and time on Earth and know Barbara is in a better place. This gives everyone else the idea to make a movie of pictures and archival footage of Sister Monica Joan for her birthday.

Everyone gathers in the community center to watch it. It’s all happy and everyone is laughing until the first photo with Sister Evangelina. Then there starts being photos that have Barbara in them. But is also includes a clip from Trixie in Italy and Mature Jenny starts saying how everything turns into a memory but that those memories don’t have to always be sad.

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The whole season could have been this good. I don’t know why almost all the writers were new to the show this season, but I really hope that doesn’t happen again. And hopefully we keep this cast for a while. Tom mentioned Barbara’s father wanting him to come to New Guinea and do mission work with him. So, I’m guessing that is how Jack Ashton and Helen George are going to switch off parenting duties. Barbara’s spot at Nonnatus will need to be filled, so I guess that will be one of the new nurses. Patsy and Delia are just travelling so that keeps open the possibility of them returning, which I really hope they do. This episode saved this season for me and I’m excited again about seeing more Call the Midwife.

 

 

 

 



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