If I were to use one word to describe this week’s Call the Midwife season finale it would be “emotional." Whether brought on by hormones or resulting from events both tragic and joyous, if you didn’t cry during this episode you may not be human. It was jam packed with sentiment and served as a lovely gift for those fans who endured the dark days of Sister Ursula earlier in the series.
Need a refresher on last week’s episode? The recap’s this way. If you're good, then let's begin with the traumatic story shall we?
The Ill-fated Tale of Wilma Goddens
Wilma (Olivia Darnely) is excited to be moving on to a new stage in her life. Her youngest has just turned one and she’s eager to return to work as a Constanza corsetry consultant. (Yeah, I was confused by what that was supposed to be as well).
Anyhow, in order to restart her career, Wilma must take care not to get pregnant any time soon. Therefore it’s no surprise that Mrs. Goddens is one of the first in Poplar to visit the new neighborhood contraceptive clinic. While meeting with the doctor, she reveals that she hasn’t told her husband of her plans to get on the pill since he’s still hoping for a son. The clinic physician Dr. Eastwell (Naomi Capron) tells Wilma she doesn’t need his permission to get the pills nor does he even need to know. So Wilma pops them in her bag and goes merrily on her way.
At the Goddens’ house Wilma is embracing the newfound freedom and confidence the contraceptive pills are providing . She’s smartened up her look and is clearly an ambitious saleswoman. Her husband Trevor (Matthew Wilson) compliments her appearance, but it’s obvious he’s not totally on board with having a working wife. While Trevor’s nowhere near the Neanderthal that I thought he might be when Wilma called him “a man’s man”, the power he’s losing by not being the only breadwinner is a bit concerning to him.
When Wilma replaces their well-worn settee with a fashionable new one, Trevor is miffed because a) his wages didn’t pay for it and b) it had sentimental value to him. He soon relents as an amorous mood descends upon him and it is assumed that the couple have “christened” the new sofa before falling asleep. When Wilma awakes, she panics about being late with her pill and foolishly takes two doses instead of one.
As foreshadowed by various pains, one morning a very ill-looking Wilma collapses upon the settee. Dr. Turner arrives to find Mrs. Goddens in distress and having difficulty breathing. While Patrick first suspects a heart attack, Trevor mentions her leg hurting which leads the doctor to discover a very red and painful area on Wilma’s calf. Dr. Turner wants her transferred to hospital immediately. Wilma can barely speak, but tells Trevor to get her handbag – the hiding spot for her pills.
Once she arrives at St. Cuthbert’s (where Trixie happens to have been recently seconded) the heart specialist determines that Wilma has suffered a pulmonary embolism. They will try to treat her with a blood thinning drug but Nurse Franklin gently asks Trevor if Wilma has any children and if they are nearby indicating there is not much hope that his wife will recover.
In an attempt to help with her breathing, the doctors perform a tracheotomy. Wilma’s daughters are brought to the hospital and Tom is called in to administer the last rites (if that’s what the Church of England calls it). Trixie questions Trevor about whether his wife had been taking the contraceptive pill, but he’s baffled why she would do that since he still wanted to try for a son. It’s not until Trixie tries to make the unconscious woman less scary for her children that she finds a partially used packet of pills in Wilma’s handbag.
Shortly afterwards the Goddens family come in to say goodbye to Wilma though the girls are only told their mother is tired and won’t wake up. Later while Trixie is removing Wilma’s rings and other belongings she breaks down briefly for the loss of a wife and mother who just wanted something for herself.
Was Wilma wrong to keep secrets from her husband? I don’t think Trevor would have threatened or abused her for doing this, but she must have felt the best way to keep peace in the family was to keep him in the dark. This story represents the very human complexities that accompany any new medical advances.
The Arrival of Baby Turner
Now on to happier, but just as poignant plotlines. Shelagh has made it to the final stages of her pregnancy and her emotions are beginning to spill over. After a meltdown at the clinic, Nurse Crane takes the weepy Mrs. Turner aside and reassures her that she is like any other mother and that it’s all right to feel some trepidation. She also suggests that Shelagh should stop working and make some decisions about where should would like to have the baby and which midwife she wants to attend her. Shelagh thanks Phyllis for being a good friend and agrees that the time has probably come take leave from her job.
Soon afterwards, Mrs. Turner appears at Nonnatus House with a delivery of insulin and the news that she is now officially off work. She also makes the announcement on her choice of midwife which happens to be Sister Julienne. Though this should really come as no surprise from a former Nonnatus sister, Phyllis is obviously disappointed though Barbara seems to be the only one who notices (more on that later).
Shelagh continues to make plans for the big day and informs Patrick that she doesn’t want him in the room with her while she’s having the baby. It would be too much like their work and she wants him to be her husband, not her doctor.
When labor begins, it is a long and arduous business. Shelagh acknowledges that being a midwife hasn’t prepared her as well for the actual labor as she thought it would have. She imagined she would be braver but she wants drugs. Sister Julienne calmly encourages and tries to get her patient to relax. Dr. Turner calls and paces and worries just like any other expectant father.
As the process drags on, Sister Julienne suggests that Shelagh sing to get her mind off things. Shelagh says the songs she can think of remind her of the woman she was. Julienne tells her that every woman is “the sum of all she ever did and felt and was” a truth that she just now realized herself. Mrs. Turner gives in and begins to sing Secret Love. Outside the door, Patrick hears his wife and so, very adorably I might add, begins to join in to let her know he is there for her. Shelagh changes her mind and asks him to come in. Baby boy Turner arrives with both parents present and with a heartfelt blessing spontaneously bestowed by Sister Julienne. You can’t help but feel privileged to witness such a happy and private moment between two very deserving characters.
Barbara and Tom’s Wedding
I didn’t realize until this week that Tom and Barbara hadn’t set a wedding date or, if they had, it was still quite some time off in the future. But when Barbara receives a letter from her father about his upcoming missionary assignment to New Guinea she is more than a little distressed. She tells Tom that while most girls dream of white dresses, her only wedding wish was to have her father officiate her ceremony. The couple make a change in plan and announce to all Barbara’s colleagues that they will marry in three weeks so that Canon Gilbert can take part.
Nurse Gilbert’s first order of business is to recruit her bridesmaid and she makes a very smart and touching choice indeed - Nurse Crane. At first Phyllis refuses insisting Barbara should ask one of her friends. But as her roommate for the last two years, Nurse Crane has taught her more than anyone else how to live alongside another person and has been the very best friend she could have. Aww! Phyllis is visibly touched.
Short notice plus a decidedly small budget make arranging the wedding rather stressful. Her family never had much money and Barbara tells Tom a story of the time she begged her dad to take her to the fair. He could only afford one ride on the carousel, but it was such a lovely memory of her childhood with her father watching and waving at her.
What follows is a humorous visit to the contraceptive clinic and a wayward diaphragm. Also Barbara attempts to make her own wedding dress only to find that the nylon lace is too much for her. Her practical side considers asking her sister to borrow her “cream two piece” but the midwives are having none of that. They have a whip-round to collect money so she can buy a dress instead. And in another fortuitous turn of events, it turns out Barbara delivered the breach baby of the woman who runs the flower stall so Phyllis and Valerie are able to get a great deal on roses!
As the wedding day draws near Barbara’s father, Canon Gilbert (Simon Chandler), arrives and their close bond is evident. As they practice their father-daughter dance, Barbara asks him for marriage advice since he and her mother were happy for so many years. He takes some time to think on this.
On the groom side of things, Fred shows up at Tom’s door with some lads from the parish men’s group informing him they have a stag night planned that includes a drink at the Black Sail and some action at the races. The next morning we find Fred staggering out a shed looking quite rough. He appears again at Tom’s door this time with a wad of cash that the vicar won whilst betting on the dogs. He tells him to buy something nice for the missus with it.
Over at Nonnatus House the midwives have brought Barbara breakfast in bed with a Happy Wedding Day song as accompaniment. Barbara’s father finds her waiting her turn for the bathroom and tells her she doesn’t need his advice because she finds joy in the simple things and that’s all love needs to thrive. Could a father and daughter adore one another more?
The wedding itself must be a rather chilly affair. Everyone is wearing coats inside anyway. Barbara makes a lovely winter bride in her white cloak with fur trim. But the highlight of this whole event is the surprise Tom has in store for his brand-new wife after the ceremony– a carousel set up outside Nonnatus House all for her because everything he does is for her. No man in Poplar is going to be able to beat that grand gesture anytime soon!
Other Notable Events
Violet is suffering the change of life and her symptoms are multiplying rather rapidly. Worse than the hot flashes, concentration lapses and headaches, she feels like she isn’t anything anymore now that she’s not a young mother. Violet does however have one good thing going on in her life and that’s a thoughtful partner in Fred. Didn’t you just tear up when Reggie appeared at the door with flowers for his second mum?
Trixie and Christopher are still going strong and he wants to bring their relationship to the next level by having Trixie meet his daughter Alexandra. Nurse Franklin says she’ll consider it, but won’t meet her if she thinks it’s not good for the little girl. After a nudge from Tom, Trixie finally agrees and she and Alexandra hit it off over knickerbocker glories, nail varnish and pet rabbits.
Nurse Mount is still missing in action and Delia is despairing more than a little. We see her at a lesbian hangout talking to another woman about how she feels she has vanished because no one else knows who she really is but Patsy. On the night of the wedding, Patsy appears just out of sight of the wedding festivities, but Delia catches a glimpse of her. Patsy tells her that she left Hong Kong the day after the funeral. She was always coming back and wherever she goes from now on she’s bringing Delia with her. Sounds as though our secret lovers may be leaving for more tolerant pastures. Time will tell.
For me, this episode was chockablock full of friendship, love and plenty of promise. Shelagh and Patrick have the child they longed for. Tom and Barbara are man and wife with a life full of sharing the simple joys ahead. Trixie is in a happy place in her personal life and may have finally found her match. Please share your favorite storylines and characters as well as the more difficult and poignant moments this season visited upon us. And a very big thank you for joining me for this wonderful season of Call the Midwife recaps.