Call the Midwife Season 3 Finale 2014 Review

Relationships between women are powerful. Whether it is the bond between a mother and child, the friendship of your peers, the guidance of our elders or the love of a community of women who provide support and care for one another, these bonds sustain us, define us and on some occasions plague us. Call the Midwife is the rare series on television that examines all of these bonds in their beautiful, messy and vital forms. Nowhere was the series’ gift on display more than in the season three finale, which saw departures and fresh beginnings for the women who breathe life into Nonnatus House.

As if to prepare us for life without Jenny, Call the Midwife primarily had the final leg of Jenny’s journey happen internally. Our point of view character begins the episode with a difficult delivery and blood smeared on her cheek, and ends it with the realization that she feels a call to care for those whose lives are ending rather than continue to bring new life into the world. Perhaps it was not being with Alec when he slipped away that spurred her decision, or the process of grieving, or the pain of watching Chummy deal with her mother’s slow death. Whatever it was, by the episode’s end, Jenny set off to care for the dying, leaving Nonnatus House behind in body, although not in spirit. In the voiceover at the end, Jenny revealed she marries the cousin of her final patient as a midwife and has two daughters of her own. She also assured the audience she would continue to tell the stories of those she left behind.

Indeed, even as Jenny made her own life-altering decisions, the lives of those around her rushed on. This was especially true for Chummy, who was forced to face her contentious relationship with her mother with help from Sister Monica Joan. Chummy was not alone in having a troubled connection with her mother. Thinking of her own mother’s passing triggered an episode for Sister Monica Joan as she lamented the severed bond between her and her own mother. Clutching her mother’s pearls, a relic from another life that grounded her and brought her back to reality, Sister Monica Joan commented on how very cold they were before setting her mind not to allow Chummy to follow in her footsteps.

The work Judy Parfitt does on Call the Midwife is criminally under-recognized, at least it is stateside. Her wisdom, pain and calming presence carried Chummy through the hardest moments of her life so far. Even as Chummy clung to her nurse uniform as an armor, it was fear and a long history of bitterness and disappointment that truly kept Chummy from allowing herself to be her mother’s daughter until the very end. In what was to date the most wrenching scene Call the Midwife has produced, Chummy who could not bring herself to touch her mother in a non medical compacity granted her mother’s last wish at Sister Monica Joan’s urging. Lady Brown requested a manicure, a luxury that was a comfort during her time in India, and Chummy cautiously obliged. The moment Chummy took her mother’s hand, a gesture she has never felt comfortable doing before, was brimming with emotion from all parties. When Lady Brown reached up and stroked her daughter’s hair, the weight of their history and the ache of both women for connection was palpable. In the end, Sister Monica Joan and Jenny were with Chummy when her mother passed. Jenny finally convinced Chummy to strip away her nurse’s armor, pull on her husband’s robe and crawl into bed with her mother to hold her in her final moments. Watching the scene play out was almost unbearable, but it was also one of the most rewarding scenes of television I watched this season.

With Jenny leaving and Lady Brown passing, the finale could have been filled with nothing but sorrow, but the episode played up the triumphs as well. Lady Brown did not die alone, as she had sentenced herself to, Jenny found a renewed sense of purpose, and Shelagh finally found the missing piece to her family. After it seemed like the Turners would not be approved to adopt a child, a teen mother decided not to keep her daughter and the agency reached out to the Turners. Shelagh will never give birth, but the moment Dr. Turner put their daughter in her arms was as pure as any other moment we watched a mother meet her child for the first time.

The cycle of life and death were in full force as we said our goodbyes to the characters until Christmas at least, and to Jenny for good, barring a guest appearance by Jessica Raine in the future. It was a bittersweet farewell to an extraordinary season of television, and the beginning of what will surely be a graceful season four.

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