Like the best episodes of Call the Midwife, Season 4’s finale is at once uplifting and heartbreakingly sad.
And, really, if there’s anything the episode is about, it’s how the good always comes with the bad; it’s most explicitly stated in a single, brief conversation between Tom and Trixie: she on the way back from delivering a child, he on the way to talk to a dying man.
For the first time this season, Chummy’s back in the show. She’s not in much of it, though, and she’s sadder and more contemplative than usual. Miranda Hart’s charming energy brings something back to Call the Midwife that has been missing, but she’s here to decide where her mother’s ashes should be scattered and is worried that if she doesn’t get it right she’ll never let go. In the end, she chooses the one place in London that never changes: the river Thames.
As expected, Delia and Patsy’s relationship gets a heavier focus here. As much as we may wish it was, it was never going to work out perfectly for them. It just wouldn’t be honest to the history and the story being told here. So the show, in expert fashion, takes advantage of its slow and subtle build-up to twist the knife as it pulls them apart. They discuss moving in together (as Delia says, “lots of girls share flats, not even a nun would bat an eyelid”), consider the happiness they could have in secret and even find a flat, but then disaster strikes.
Seeing Delia knocked from Patsy’s bike in a road accident is Call the Midwife at its most devastating. And the hurt doesn’t stop there, making it feel like the whole world and every system in place is working against Patsy and Delia… which, really, it was at that point in time. It may seem like a bit of a familiar trope to hurl tragedy at TV’s gay couples (hello, Last Tango in Halifax), but the show just about gets away with it because of the time period it is set in.
There’s happiness in this episode too, as we see language barriers traversed for the second time this season as Trixie helps a deaf woman and her husband with the delivery of their first child.
The debate about whether men should be present at a delivery reappears, but is swiftly dismissed as we see how essential her husband is to her ability to communicate. And what might be the most moving scene of the episode is a simple one where she wonders how she’ll be able to tell her child of the love she feels towards him. It’s marvellously done, all sold by simple body language and beautiful spoken words.
The whole episode is structured around Fred and Di’s wedding, with Fred’s daughter serving as a minor antagonist by getting them to predictably doubt their relationship before things resolve. It’s ultimately a cute, small plot within the finale. What hits almost as hard as the pain of what happens to Delia, though, is Trixie’s realisation of the extent of her drinking problem.
The episode closes with her tearfully calling the Samaritans before Sister Mary Cynthia is able to give her the help she needs. It’s really raw, emotional material, and it shows how successful this season has been in deepening Trixie’s character and making her alcoholism feel honest to her character.
If anything, this season ends with more characters than ever in upsetting and painful positions with only a slight possibility of healing and recovery. Let’s hope they’re able to make it through with the help of their friends.
Aired at 8pm on Sunday 8 March 2015 on BBC One.
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