As soon as the Call the Midwife titles rolled, Jenny was back on her bike, riding through the poverty-stricken streets of east London.
Our leading lady was celebrating her first birthday at Nonnatus House, naturally marked by a spectacular array of baked goods. Married life was suiting newly-wed Chummy, who in an attempt to become a domestic goddess, spent the opening minutes failing miserably to steam a sponge. And Trixie was in Sister Evangelina’s bad books after always being late – or, as the disgruntled nun put it, “bringing up the rear like a poodle at the circus”.
Cake and a trip to see something dreamy at the cinema over, work at the convent began. Jenny was tasked with looking after Molly, a heavily pregnant mother who was missing her appointments. The discovery of a bruise on her upper arm and an overheard shouting match later, our well-meaning midwife was in the midst of the family’s drama, even putting herself in danger.
Alongside dishy Dr Turner, Chummy was sparking debate with her gas and air demonstrations. The newfangled pain relief was endorsed by the younger midwives – “this is 1958, sister” – but the more experienced midwifes were of the opinion that mothers just needed to grin and bear it. That was until the drug came in handy for Sister Evangelina…
Meanwhile Trixie proved she wasn’t just a pretty face when the midwives were called onboard a cargo ship where the captain’s daughter was about to give birth to an unexpected arrival. The situation seemed shadowy when Trixie and Sister Evangelina were chaperoned to the harbour in the dark of night with a rickety ladder as the only means of getting on the boat. And when sister Evangelina dislocated her shoulder climbing on board things took a turn for the worse. Trixie was left to handle a complicated birth and an all-male crew who didn’t speak much English all on her own.
Back at the convent all this talk of travel got Chummy thinking of warmer climes and her previous dream of working in Africa as a missionary, a dream which by the looks of next week’s preview might just be about to come true. While Sister Bernadette got herself a fancy new pair of glasses, and secretly sewed buttons back on the doctor’s coat – do we sense a budding romance?
As fans of the first series will be aware, Call the Midwife’s cosy and nostalgic appearance is deceiving. This Sunday night drama isn’t all 50s styling and Victoria sponge, and this episode wasn’t afraid to set a precedent for the series’ darker themes, namely women who are battered, bruised and exploited. Not only did Jenny’s patient suffer at the hands of a violent husband, she also fed her babies spiked milk and ended up jailed for neglect while Trixie’s ship-bound patient was being prostituted out to the crew by her own father.
Yet Heidi Thomas’ sometime rose-tinted sometime gruelling picture of fifties London makes for perfect Sunday night viewing. Those still searching for a Downton Abbey replacement need look no further. Sorry, Mr Selfridge.
Next week promises more drama and perhaps a little love interest for Jenny. So on with series two, no shilly-shallying.
Call the Midwife continues on Sundays at 8:00pm on BBC1