Call the Midwife Season 3 Episode 4 Review

In future years, humans will google “devastating television episode” and episode four of Call the Midwife season three will pop up. The brilliance in the emotional gut punch is that it takes a familiar scenario: a lover’s quarrel followed by a horrible accident and then refuses to follow the rules. The laws of TV state either Alec should have died from the fall, leaving Jenny with the knowledge that the last thing she ever said to her boyfriend were harsh words, or he should have lived, leading to a lovely hospital bedside reconciliation scene.

We got the reconciliation scene and it came after we learned Alec, who so loved to dance as the Gene Kelly to Jenny’s Debbie Reynolds, foot was beyond saving. After he survived the fall and lost his foot, it seemed the trauma was over. Our duo would make their trip to Brighton as soon as Alec’s health improved and Jenny would stay by his side as she helped him cope with the loss of his foot. The final scene between Jenny and Alec was joyous. They were filled with gratitude and hope for the future. Less than an hour later he was dead.

From the outside, Call the Midwife appears to be a treacly show, full of life-affirming messages, but viewers know the gentle exterior hides harsh realities. Life rarely goes as planned and loss comes swiftly, without warning even when the danger appears to have passed. Jessica Raine gave a sharp, solemn performance as we watched Jenny attempt to absorb the news of Alec’s sudden passing. Her rage at the injustice of it all hummed beneath the surface as she demanded to be allowed to go back to work. Last week, Jenny showed a reluctance to become too involved with Alec in fear of losing her career and in this episode we see her attempt to cling to work as a way to drown out her sorrow. However, the Sisters will not allow Jenny to go back out in the field until she has grieved.

The horror of Alec’s death coincides with our patients of the week with a thematic relevance that made this episode one of the series absolute best. A Jewish agoraphobic woman who had not set foot outside of her apartment in 12 years is keeping her daughter bound to the East End. Both the woman and her daughter were held in a Nazi prison camp, but since their escape, the mother had suffered from episodes of dizziness and an inability to leave their home. With her daughter expecting and her son-in-law receiving a new job offer, the family was presented with the opportunity to move to a nicer neighborhood…if the mother could find the strength to leave her apartment in the East End.

Call the Midwife played the mother as a woman of great strength. She was battling a painful, debilitating mental issue, but her integrity and spirit remained. Season four’s newest character Sister Winifred, who has been unable to find joy in the medical part of her job was given a chance to shine as she handled the daughter’s birth on her own, overcoming her fears and showing the mother that she too could draw on her inner strength to step outside.

The two stories intersected in a profound scene in which the woman comforted Jenny by telling her she would learn to live again and hurt less, but it would take time. As always, the entire community came together for Alec, including the newly reformed Poplar Choir now headed up by Shelagh. However, no comfort could be found for Jenny in the East End and the episode ended with Sister Monica Joan tearfully reciting a beautiful bit of poetry to Jenny that I could not identify because I was sobbing uncontrollably.

This episode was a game changer for Call the Midwife given the impact it had on Jenny’s life. I am uncertain as to where the series can take us next, but I hope it never tries to top the sorrow of this outing.

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