TV Review: Call the Midwife, Season 5, Eps. 4 and 5

Call the Midwife Season Five

Episode 4

Summary

A young man receives a scholarship to attend university, but his dreams are jeopardized when his girlfriend reveals she is pregnant.  Meanwhile, Sr. Julienne is called to the local hospital, where she struggles with the detached care expecting mothers received, and Barbara struggles with dating Tom, knowing that she is hurting Trixie.

Review

Episode 4 was one of the best of the season, delivering a series of emotional of emotional punches as a young man wavered between his dreams of a better life and his duty to his girlfriend, Trixie struggled with releasing Tom a year after they ended their engagement, and Sr. Julienne witnessed the almost callous care given to young mothers at the local hospital.  The fallout of the thalidomide prescriptions also continued, meaning that while Dr. Turner and Shelagh struggled to find the cause of the series of malformed babies being born, Sr. Julienne had to deal with the very real consequences–watching a limbless child die alone and exposed because the hospital decided it could not be saved.  Call the Midwife  has a track record of dealing with difficult topics sensitively and honestly.  This episode continues in that tradition.  While it was emotionally gutting to watch, it also felt worthwhile.

Episode 5

Summary

Left alone to monitor the phones, Delia finds herself coaching a Roseanne, a young first-time mother, through the delivery of her baby as Phyllis races to attend her after her car breaks down.  Violet injures herself and must rely on Fred to run her shop.  Timothy attempts to convince his father and Shelagh that cigarettes are linked to cancer.

Review

Episode 5 felt a little more erratic than most installments.  Typically the various plot threads interweave with each other to create what feels like a coherent whole, but here it seemed more like I was watching several different episodes.  Dr. Turner was trying to get a new clinic, dealing with a patient who was refusing care, and being pressured by Tim to give up smoking.  Fred was trying to run his wife’s shop while she was laid up in bed. Delia was coaching a mother over the phone.  Then the mother went missing.  For some reason, it felt like far too much was going on, and I didn’t feel very invested in much of it, though watching a mother give birth alone on the floor literally took my breath away, and it was about time we saw more of Fred–he’s hilarious. But the bright spots didn’t work together to create a whole.  Hopefully next episode will be better.

Krysta 64

TV Review: Call the Midwife Season 5, Ep. 2

Call the Midwife Season Five

Summary

As the birth of their baby draws near, a young couple finds their marriage falling apart due to financial stress.  Another mother struggles with breast feeding, but is convinced by Sr. Evageline that good mothers do not use formula. Meanwhile, Barbara continues to flirt with Tom while Trixie looks disconsolately on, and Phyllis might have found a beau of her own.

Review

Call the Midwife has finally decided to give Nurse Barbara Gilbert a character–and it’s about time.  She has been so nondescript that I often find myself looking up her full name because I cannot even remember it.  Unfortunately, I find her interactions with her patients still a little bland.  She seems invested in them, but I never feel her interest or her pain like I do with the other nurses.  Instead her characterization right now is leaning on her budding relationship with the pastor, Tom.

I admit Barbara and Tom make a lot more sense than Trixie and Tom did, especially since we know that Barbara’s father is a vicar and she understands what is expected of a family in ministry, but it is painful watching Trixie observe her friend falling in love with her ex.  And, truthfully, Trixie and her heartache are still far more interesting than Barbara fawning over  Tom is.  I feel no chemistry between Barbara and Tom.  I rather wish the show would give Trixie a new romance instead.

Because the show is handing out romances.  Phyllis Crane of all people seems to have found a charming man in this episode!  I could not believe my eyes, but I loved every moment of it.  The best part, however, was seeing how the girls came together to support Phyllis.  They gave her privacy, they helped her put on make up without making fun of her, and they offered her sound advice and a friendly ear throughout it all.  Female friendships are so under-served in media, but they are the heart of this show.

In fact, nevermind Barbara and Tom.  Let’s just watch the girls hang out together, support each other, and do their jobs like the totally incredible midwives they are.  Let’s see more of Cynthia and the sisters.  Their camaraderie and chemistry beats anything else the show has to offer.

Krysta 64

TV Review: Call the Midwife Season 5, Ep. 1

Call the Midwife Season Five

Summary

It’s 1961 and the world is changing–perhaps a little too fast for the nuns at Nonnatus House, who find themselves scandalized by the leotards Trixie dons for her new fitness class.  Meanwhile, Mrs. Turner and Patsy deliver a baby whose appearance shocks them.  This is only the beginning of the tragedy that will strike many homes as a result of doctors prescribing thalidomide to their patients.

Review

Call the Midwife is back and it brings all the heart and humor we have come to expect.   Things are changing rapidly for our characters–viewers will remember that in the last season Delia lost her memory and Patsy her lover, Trixie broke off her engagement as she struggled with alcoholism, and Chummy departed for a time–but somehow the show manages to make the world seem as familiar and charming as we left it, even as it breathes new life into the plot lines.  It is, after all, the 60s!

The last season, I admit, worried me.  Delia’s amnesia made Call the Midwife seem like it might be jumping the shark and Trixie’s alcoholism, while hinted at previously, still seemed to come a little out of nowhere, as if the show had to shock viewers to keep them coming back.  Meanwhile, the show has to deal with a constant turnover in it is cast.  It lost its main protagonist awhile back.  The new arrivals since have been charming, but perhaps a little lifeless–Sr. Winifred and Nurse Gilbert, for example, are still difficult for me to describe.  They’re nice.  Quiet.  Sympathetic.  I don’t know.  They’re around.  And Phyllis?  I like her, but she appears infrequently, usually for laughs.  Despite all this, season five manages to turn everything around and bring the show back to its roots–the drama at the heart of midwifery.

This episode nicely balances its heart and humor.  The show is beginning to tackle the thalidomide tragedy, which saw a rise in birth defects in the babies of mothers who were prescribed the medication for nausea.  A baby born with shrunken limbs disconcerts the medical staff, who are unsure how to handle the matter, and shocks the parents, who are unsure if they can bear to bring the child into their home.  This heartbreaking story is juxtaposed with the story of Trixie’s new fitness class, which sees her and her the other nurses donning leotards, to the dismay of the nuns.

The episode really focuses on its characters, celebrating Trixie as she works to overcome her alcoholism, sympathizing with Patsy as she stands poised to lose Delia once more, even hinting at a romance for Barbara.  And, of course, Sr. Monica Joan is there to provide good times and eat all the dessert.  If the show continues in this vein, I am will remain a devoted viewer.   Watching this episode felt like coming home.

Krysta 64

Call the Midwife: Season 4, Episode 3 (Mini Review)

Call the Midwife Season 4

Spoiler Warning

This episode of Call the Midwife is one of the most intense, and one of the most potentially controversial, since the show’s inception. Tony Amos is caught by the police engaging in “indecent acts” in a public men’s restroom (i.e. attempting to have sex with another man) and suffers from the fallout both at home from his pregnant wife Marie and in public from the Poplar community.

Although the episode’s persistence in drawing parallels between the treatment of homosexuals in the community and the treatment of disease-infested rats (i.e. extermination) is a bit heavy-handed, the show does attempt to add nuance to the situation. Reactions range from Tony’s wife’s simple refusal to acknowledge anything has changed, to some local women’s outright belittling and ostracizing, to Patsy’s righteous indignation at the prejudice. Trixie equivocates more than any other character, but also raises a pertinent point: this situation is not only about sexual preferences; it is about the fact a man cheated on his wife. No one in the show addresses the fact that the “indecent act” was not actually consensual; Tony was attempting to rape someone. (As far as I can tell, the undercover cop never used any type of signal he was in the restroom to find a hook-up; he was simply jumped while reaching for a paper towel.) The storyline thus introduces more problems than it is apparently invested in addressing.

The episode ends on a somewhat hopeful note as the community begins to behave more welcomingly, at least to Marie, who was never personally “at fault.” However, there is an underlying implication that Poplar is not ready for a major change in perspective, and the issue at stake is really left open-ended. It seems as though the show is leading towards Patsy’s revealing her own relationship with Delia, so this leaves a lot of questions about how the show will handle that. Because Patsy is a recurring character, her story will not be able to be boxed into a single episode and then shipped off; the writers will have to find ways to explore it across episodes.

What are your thoughts on this episode?  What did you think of the portrayal of Tony?  How will Patsy change from watching everything unfold?

Call the Midwife: Season 4, Episode 2 (Mini Review)

Call the Midwife Season 4
Spoiler Warning

Episode 2 of this season of Call the Midwife moves quickly: several characters experience a character arc that one might normally expect to play out over the course of an entire season, or at least two episodes.  Trixie begins to morph into a bridezilla, wanting her and Tom to have the perfect engagement and wedding, and one begins to wonder whether she has completely forgotten Tom is a vicar on a budget.  No worries, though; she has her priorities straight by the end of the hour.  Similarly, new midwife Phyllis Crane opens the episode as superior and unlikable, but ends by symbolically donning the Nonnatus House uniform she had previously refused and professing her intention to belong.  While it may be relieving for the audience to know they will have to deal with less of Phyllis’s attitude during the remainder of the season, her transformation does raise the question of why she gets tons of character development in one episode while Barbara gets close to none in two full episodes.  Hopefully Barbara’s time to shine is yet to come.

The birth story of this episode is a mix of triumph and tragedy, a usual for the show.  It is truly impressive how the show manages to cover and present thoughtfully the stories of so many different types of parents and so many types of births.  Here, the Bisettes must learn how to be joyful about the birth of their son, when his twin sister has died.  Their situation raises profound and moving questions, but Tom is ready to help answer them.  The final scenes of the episode are not easy, but they say a lot about life, death, and dealing with grief.  Once again, Call the Midwife incites tears.

What did you think of this episode?  Did it move too fast?  Did Phyllis grow on you, or do you need to see more of her?  Which character stole the show?

Call the Midwife: Season 4, Episode 1 (Mini Review)

Call the Midwife Season 4

Spoiler Warning

Season 4 of Call the Midwife starts at a gallop.  Although a new midwife, Barbara Gilbert, arrives to fill some of the space left empty by the departures of Jenny, Chummy, and Cynthia, it is Trixie who takes center stage in this episode.  She opens by cheerfully delivering a baby in a car (a first for Nonnatus House!) and goes on to take a keen interest in a mysterious young boy and his sisters, whom the audience eventually learns are suffering from abuse/neglect by their mother.  This is a fresh topic for a show that often (of course) focuses on pregnant women and newborn babies, but it tugs at the heartstrings just as much as any previous storyline on the show.  It also allows Trixie to open up more about her own troubled childhood and continue her development into a more nuanced character.  She still has all the cheer and charm audiences have grown to love her for, but they are paired with clear fortitude and strength.

Trixie’s engagement at the end of the episode is moving, though certainly not the most moving part of a truly heart-wrenching hour.  That is fitting for the show, however; it presents Trixie’s engagement as a joyous event in her life, but not the main event.  The show does not aim for a surprise engagement/wedding to end the season, but rather builds the scene into the story arc.  Audiences can hope for a dash of romance throughout the rest of the season, and possibly some fun as Trixie learns tot live with a clergyman.

What did you think of episode 1?  Is Barbara going to be a great character?  Or will Trixie continue to steal the show?