Call the Midwife ended the third season by putting itself in a very tricky position, although it at least managed to get people very interested in how things were going to continue.
The last season ends with Jenny getting a new perspective on life when Chummy’s mother dies, and the result is that Jenny decides to leave Nonnatus House. There’s something both fantastic, and completely insane, about the move, especially considering that it’s supposed to be her story, and it’s her voice-over walking us through everything. It actually becomes a little unnerving to continue listening to Vanessa Redgrave talking about what’s going on as the fourth season plays out.
You have to expect big things to kick off the season, which is hard to put into perspective, because the show is nothing if not subdued in its overall progression.
For a show like Call the Midwife, injecting new life into the series means new midwives, putting old midwives under the microscope, and babies.
The first episode introduces us to Barbara Gilbert (Charlotte Ritchie), a new nurse who can’t catch a break. Her entry to the show is somewhat reminiscent of the show’s first episode actually, as Barbara is eager to make a good impression, and said eagerness leads her somewhere just to the side of anywhere she wants to be. She wins out in the end, largely because her heart is in the right place, and she tries like hell.
With Chummy leaving the house temporarily, and having all the skill at automobiles that she had with bicycles, we are left to put Trixie through her paces. This comes by way of a group of kids who are regularly left to their own devices, which has Trixie reliving her past.
Plus, Sister Evangelina finally deals with the pain she’s been having, and the older caretakers of the show call our attention to the fact that they are the older caretakers of the show.
As is more or less the norm, the season continues with the social issues of the day hitting home while we dig into the attempts at a private life by those in the house, and it has rarely been a more volatile mix than in the fourth season. We have Trixie’s relationship, Cynthia’s return, Chummy’s long absence, and dysentery, new medicines, the breast/bottle debate, homosexuality, and much more.
Despite the loss of its main focal point, the show continues to grip viewers by way of its oddly charming storytelling. By the time the fourth season ends you would need a map to keep all the things that happened straight, which is a statement that calls to mind something closer to a soap opera than a serious, dramatic period piece. It’s a show, in fact, that makes you wonder, if you’ve ever taken the chance to try to explain the first couple of seasons to the uninitiated, how it manages to relay such a sense of reality. I suspect it’s the attention to character, which will make entering the fourth season a real test for fans, as they will have to go into things ready to be convinced again.
Don’t miss the show when it hits on March 29th at 8/7c, and if you need to, you can binge up on season three at PBS.org
In the Season 4 premiere, a new arrival earns respect after helping a new mother; Trixie faces an emotionally draining case; the Turners broker a domestic deal; and Sister Evangelina agrees to undergo tests for her abdominal pain.