Call the Midwife: Monica Dolan shines in the strongest episode of series 2 so far
In last week’s Call the Midwife we saw Miranda Hart temporarily depart the show meaning Chummy took all of her hilarious comedy sequences with her. This week’s episode of Call the Midwife is devoid of all the usual slapstick and instead survives on character-driven plots and that’s perhaps why I personally feel it is the strongest episode of the series so far.
Part of the reason for that is because of guest star Monica Dolan, a BAFTA winner last year for her role in Appropriate Adult, who stars as market-stall holding twins Meg and Mave Carter. The twins are infamous in Poplar as they are supposedly married to the same man who has now got Mave pregnant however Meg is paranoid that the midwives are out to get them and is overly-protective of her sister. Instead of taking up Cynthia’s offer of an appointment at the clinic, Meg would rather take the advice of ancient herbalist who advises the use of various natural drugs and that Meg be strapped into a birthing chair. However after suffering a surge of the bladder the twins attend the clinic only to be put off by the strange modern implements and revert back to their traditional ways but it is clear that Mave needs help and she eventually seeks out the help of Sister Evangelina. As Mave starts to give birth Trixie, Sister Bernadette and Dr Turner all turn up to successfully deliver her baby not realising that she, like her mother before her, is giving birth to twins. As we learn earlier from Monica Joan, who was present at the birth of the twins, pushing out the second daughter is what killed of their mother and both twins fear that Mave could die following the birth. This provokes a violent response from Meg who could in fact jeopardise the birth and indeed it is a race against time to save both the baby twins and Mave herself.
The Meg and Mave situation is exactly the kind of thing that Jenny Lee would try to interfere in however she doesn’t have a chance to meddle in the plight of young mothers this week as she is transferred to the men’s surgical ward at the London Hospital. Thankfully Jenny’s new role still gives her the opportunity to meddle firstly in the personal life of her old friend Jimmy who as we learnt last week, got a girl knocked up and is now planning to get married to her. Jenny believes Jimmy, who is currently being treated on the men’s surgical ward, doesn’t love his new girl and is only marrying her because he got her pregnant and indeed it appears as if the two both have feelings for each other. As well as interfering in Jimmy’s situation she has to deal with the fact that the ward surgeon Mr Tracey doesn’t really like her after she corrects him in the operating theatre. Jenny’s superior tries to hammer home the fact that she needs to respect rank in the hospital however Jenny’s fears could be warranted as he notices Mr Tracey’ hand shaking as well as lapses in his memory. Both of these stories come to a head as Jenny is left relieved and heartbroken in general measure but I’m sure she’ll be back interfering in the lives of expectant mothers come next week’s instalment.
Elsewhere in this episode Chummy’s replacement arrived not in the form of a nurse but rather in the form of a new medical orderly Jane Sutton. Jane, who used to work in a mental institution, is a lady of few words and seems to be intimidated by everyone around her and, in the words of Sister Evangelina, is neither use nor ornament. Indeed when Jane is sent out to the Carter twins house in an attempt to deliver some medical implements she is thrown out by Meg who damages all of the equipment that Jane has bought with her. It appears that Jane’s only ally may be Monica Joan as the two are essentially both social outcasts and bond over the latter’s latest attempts to knit Pinky and Perky. Monica Joan also has a few pivotal moments in this episode in which she snaps at both Dr Turner for trying to have her committed in the last series and at Sister Julienne for making her fritter away her days at the convent. Finally we have the ongoing story of Sister Bernadette’s longing for Dr Turner as the two share a cigarette and a romantic moment however the Sister realises she still has a loyalty to God. But it is clear that Sister Bernadette is questioning her faith and if any of us weren’t sure about it then the writers hammer it home as they have her stare at stained glass windows every two minutes.
It may well be coincidence that Chummy’s temporary departure has resulted in the best episode ever but I feel that the lack of her well-meaning comic moments meant this instalment had a bit more gravitas to it. Monica Dolan also helped as her performance was extraordinary giving two very distinct characters to the respective twins with Meg being forthright and stubborn while Mave was a bit more reserved. Dolan inserted some comedy into her performance but coupled it with some really powerful drama in the birthing scenes and the subsequent aftermath. In addition I feel the inclusion of Jane the orderly will offer up some new storylines and I also like her connection with the often forgotten Monica Joan who also demonstrated that she doesn’t always want to stand in the background. I do hope her scenes in this episode mean there is more to come for Judy Parfitt as at times I feel she is under-utilised and there is much to explore with a character who once a great midwife but whose dementia is now getting worse. Once again we were given little between Bernadette and Dr Turner so I get the impression that this story will conclude in the final episode of the series.
Overall this was the best episode of Call the Midwife I’ve seen in quite a while mainly due to the performances of Monica Dolan and to a lesser extent Judy Parfitt. The fact that there was no Chummy and there was a change of scenery for Jenny Lee both help to contribute to the success of the episode and if Call the Midwife is as good as this every week then you won’t hear me complaining so much.
Did you enjoy tonight’s Call the Midwife? Did you think this was the best episode of the series so far? Leave Your Comments Below.
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