By Kate Norrish
“Call The Midwife” is a long running PBS drama following a group of female nurses and midwives and its most recent season 11 didn’t disappoint.
The characters work in a convent trying to improve life in an impoverished area of East London in the late ’50s and early ’60s.
The show can be sentimental at times, enough to disinterest some viewers, but not overly so. In fact, one of the appeals of the show is how it emphasizes the positives and negatives of life - trying its best to portray domestic life as a beautiful thing.
For example, main character Lucille Elliott is recently married, and trying for children as her husband is applying for jobs. During episode 4, the characters assist a homeless victim during an economic crisis.
Typical episodes include multiple plotlines supporting each other, and it was best done in this episode - which has heavy focus on a Holocaust survivor having mixed feelings about the Jewish traditions his newborn child is experiencing.
In the 52-minute run time of the episode, he and each member of his family struggle with an internal conflict as well as a unique outlook on how they feel their culture should come into play when celebrating the birth of the baby. This is impressive considering the episode also has three other plots, which are just as complex.
I am also extremely impressed with the way the show portrays disabled characters. Reggie, a side character who works with his guardians at the local haberdashery, has Down syndrome, and his character was well received by The Down Syndrome Association - although they did mention that for the ’60s, he is in a good situation compared to typical treatment at the time.
Down syndrome was discussed in further depth in previous seasons, with similar audience perception.
Episode 5 also shows possibly the first work of fiction I’ve seen which portrays a disabled parent not only trying, but succeeding at being a good parent. The paralyzed victim of a construction accident does the best he can to raise his two daughters, despite a controlling wife.
Despite this show’s many strengths, I also feel it should be mentioned that over time, the show has become far more graphic.
While in the first season, little more was shown than the breaking of a woman’s water, this season contains both imagery of a baby’s intestines spilling from its body, as well as a rotted leg falling off of a living man’s body. There is also frequent, less graphic imagery of women giving birth. I find this to be the biggest flaw of the show, and it may be a minor sign that its content is going downhill.
Additionally, others may find fault in the season finale where there is a train crash, causing serious injury to major characters.
This viewpoint is understandable. However, the train crash, while dramatic, is still grounded in reality, enough so that the flaws within that scene do not feel big enough to be worth mentioning.
If one is aware of the type of show “Call The Midwife” is, and is willing to put up with a little bit of sappiness, I would recommend checking it out, especially for those who often complain about unprofessionalism in medical dramas, or want some solid disability representation.
Although there are more flaws this season, it is certainly not a let down.
B+ Enjoyable period piece that can be graphic.