Call the Midwife Season 9 Episode 8 Recap: Fireworks

Welcome to the final episode of season 9. Can the show recover from that horrible episode last week? Let’s see!

We start with Julienne getting some bad news: the health board has slashed the Nonnatus budget in half, seemingly arbitrarily considering the Nonnatus staff are busier than ever just now. Oh, and the council is also jacking up the rent on the Nonnatus building by something like two thousand percent because … I guess they’re just terrible and like screwing with nuns and nurses?

They appeal to Violet, who’s not much help at all but does manage to get them five minutes in front of the board to state their case. They circulate a petition and Sister MJ digs up a giant box of thank you letters from grateful patients going back decades. Trixie makes an impassioned plea to the board, pointing out how many actual human beings only exist now thanks to the skill of the Nonnatus crew. They show them some of the letters and the board agrees to reinstate their funding and not increase the rent for a year. Well, that’s something, right? Considering the place is likely going to be pulled down in a year anyway, that’s probably the best they could hope for.

Meanwhile, McNulty has gone full-bore drug addict. He’s shooting up so much his left arm looks like it has smallpox, and multiple people are starting to notice a sudden shortage of pethidine. He finally passes out in the surgery, and Turner finds his messed-up arm and realises what’s been happening. McNulty will go off to rehab and probably keep his license and be fine. He just needs to learn to deal with the more difficult parts of being a doctor, like having patients die. Glad that random storyline got the attention and subtlety it deserved.

Oy.

On a sad note, Val’s gran has esophageal cancer. And it’s bad. So bad, she gets released from prison early so she can go home and die in her own bed, attended by her granddaughter.

Val remains at her side, making her gran as comfortable as she can, but the woman’s in agony. Val keeps suggesting she take some of the pethidine that’s been prescribed for her, but Elsie finally says that she’s taking this pain as a sort of penance, for the pain she inflicted while performing abortions without any painkillers (because none were available for her to use, not because she’s a monster). That’s … quite a thing.

As the end draws near, she tells Val that she’d like to see her in her midwife’s uniform again, as it makes her so proud. She also wants a man of god to attend her. But not the local priest, because she doesn’t care for him. Val and Lucile decide to get Cyril involved. Aww, that’s kind of a nice circle round to his call to ministry.

Sister MJ comes by for a little while too, and sits by the woman’s bedside, holding her hand. She recalls, while she’s there, how Val’s gran was there the day Val was born, handing Sister MJ warm towels and water (did we know before that MJ was the one who delivered Val? That’s a lovely detail! And it calls back to just how entrenched the Nonnatans have been in this neighbourhood for so long, and how their care pays off down the line, in skilled and necessary additions to this world.)

MJ quietly observes that the bringing of healthy life into the world seemed to bring the gran so much joy, and now they know exactly why that is. There is no judgement here, just a quiet observation.

With Lucile and Cyril at her side, gently moving her forward to the next life, Val’s gran passes away. It is sad. Farewell, Elsie. You tried to do a good thing, and to help people, and you did help people, but sexist, draconian laws too often catch up, and punish those who don’t deserve it.

Shall we move on to our mums of the week? We’re dealing with them simultaneously because, well, you’ll see.

There’s Petra, who’s about four months pregnant and joyfully planning her shotgun wedding to longtime boyfriend, Eddie. Eddie seems like a nice guy. He’s got that kind of face that makes you think, ‘yeah, he’s a nice guy.’ He even charms her slightly pushy mother. All good.

Then there’s Bonnie, who’s a really sweet proto-hippie. She’s vegetarian, wants a totally natural home birth, and is preparing by listening to recordings of women actually giving birth. Some carefully curated recordings, I might add, because these all seem to be very pleasant, non-screamy births.

She’s pretty much about to pop. She tells the midwives that she has a boyfriend, but the two of them just haven’t got around to ‘getting the piece of paper yet.’

(As a personal aside, I really, really hate it when people refer to marriage as ‘just a piece of paper.’ Ok, maybe it’s not important to you, and that’s fine, you do you, but dismissing it like that is pretty offensive. It means a great deal to a lot of people, which is why many of them have fought so hard for the basic right to even be married at all. Think about that before you sniff about it just being ‘a piece of paper.’)

Anyway, sorry…

A little while later, we get to meet Bonnie’s boyfriend. It’s… Eddie.

I think we all know how this is gonna go.

It’s only a matter of time before this whole thing blows up, and, predictably, it does.

This bit’s kind of convoluted, but bear with me:

Bonnie thinks that Eddie’s a little tense (no kidding), so convinces him to go to a pregnancy relaxation class with her. The class is held at the community centre in the evening.

The same evening, also in the community centre, is Violet’s regular ‘come chat with your local councillor’ evening.

Petra and her mum are so excited about her wedding dress material, they swing by Violet’s shop to pick it up, even though the shop is closed and she’s at the community centre. Fred lets them in and they check the material, only to realise it’s the wrong colour (pink instead of white). Petra’s mum is so enraged she marches off to the community centre to yell at Violet about the mix up and…

…Well, I guess Violet’s off the hook here, because all that rage gets redirected to Eddie, who finds himself pounded by his prospective mother-in-law’s handbag while the two women he’s knocked up stand by, completely crushed and confused.

I feel SO sorry for Bonnie and Petra. What an awful situation to find themselves in. Through absolutely no fault of their own. Eddie was clearly very carefully keeping these two parts of his life separate.

Unsurprisingly, Bonnie’s blood pressure shoots through the roof, so she’s admitted to the maternity hospital. And then Petra starts bleeding a bit, so she’s admitted too. And they’re put in beds right next to each other while everyone waits for a bed to become available at St Cuthbert’s for Petra. This is all starting to feel like a bit much to me. But whatever, we’ll go with it.

And then things just get worse when Eddie shows up with a bouquet of flowers for Bonnie. This prompts Petra to grab the vase (filled with dead flowers–come on, show!) beside her bed and pitch it right at his head.

This guy. How did he know that Bonnie was in the maternity home? And didn’t know that Petra was too? Has he not bothered to check on his pregnant fiancee at all? But he did check in with Bonnie? Just in case this is unclear: I’m not putting any blame here on Bonnie, who seems rightfully horrified by this whole thing. No, blame goes soely on Eddie. He’s awful.

But here’s the thing: the show starts working really hard to make him seem sympathetic. He has a talk with Crane where he goes on about how he was in care and really wanted a family and thought he’d find that with Petra. And, honestly, he probably would have. But then he met Bonnie and she was just, well, so cool! So different! So he had to sleep with her!

Yeah, no. First off, ‘mummy/daddy didn’t love me enough’ does not fly with me as an excuse for cheating. Control yourself.

Also: considering the dates of these pregnancies, he must have known that Bonnie was pregnant well before he knocked up Petra. But, even knowing that he was expecting a child with another woman (a woman who was clearly expecting a committed relationship with him), he not only continued with his engagement to Petra, he also kept sleeping with her. Good lord, man!

None of this is working for me: Eddie is a piece of shit. He was stringing both of these women along, without really caring about the consequences. And listen to how he talks about them: it’s all about what they could offer him. What they represented for him. No consideration for them and their feelings or what they might want or how they might see their lives going. Nothing, even, about their personalities or interests. It’s like they’re not even real people to him. Just the Cool Girl and the Housewife. What an asshole.

After the vase throwing incident, Petra starts wandering around at night, unable to sleep (understandably!). Bonnie joins her and Petra, sounding exhausted, says she doesn’t want to be like the women she saw growing up, brawling over a man in the streets. She says she loves Eddie, but she’s not going to fight Bonnie for him. Good. This guy doesn’t deserve to be fought over.

Bonnie goes into labour, and Eddie joins her in the delivery room, all proud daddy and supportive partner, while Petra listens in from the corridor outside. I yearn for someone to come along and hug the hell out of this poor young woman. Bonnie delivers a daughter whom she decides to name Daisy, after Eddie’s mother.

While they’re cuddling their newborn as if nothing has happened, Petra, weeping, tells Shelagh that she’s bleeding again.

She loses the baby, and my heart goes out to her. Miscarriage is a terrible thing to have to go through at any stage, but as Turner says at one point, at four months plus it’s extra traumatic. You think you’re in the clear, then. You’ve started to genuinely make plans and let yourself get excited. For her to have to go through that, on top of having her whole damn life come crashing down (in a very public way, I might add!) is so, so awful.

But the show apparently doesn’t care about that, because all we get is her returning the wedding dress fabric to Violet’s shop (oof!) and that’s it. She seems a little sad, but I guess we’re just supposed to think she got a lucky break. And now Eddie can go off and play house with Cool Girl Bonnie and there will be no further consequences for having totally mucked up some other woman’s life.

Ugh. I have to stop, because just talking about this episode is making me angry. Aside from the parts about Val’s gran, this was a waste of an hour. There’s talk of the show going on and on and on into the seventies, but if this is the sort of half-baked, insensitive nonsense we can expect than I’ll just take a hard pass, thank you very much.

But I guess this is the perfect capper for a season that has been really uneven. It’s like there was one really great episode, but most of the other storylines were just ‘eh’. ‘Eh’ at best, and enraging at worst. Things were dropped in out of nowhere (like McNulty’s drug addiction) and we were just expected to go along with it. Or they were touched on once and then never returned to (Sister Julienne’s Roman Holiday afternoon, Mae’s adoption limbo, the mother who feared her husband would go to prison). And miscarriages were treated as a good thing and an easy out of complicated situations. Twice. That’s appalling.

This show has done better. It can do better. I hope it does in season 10.

Thanks to everyone for reading. See you back here same time next year!



3 thoughts on “Call the Midwife Season 9 Episode 8 Recap: Fireworks

  1. Watching this episode as I write this comment. The plot with Eddie’s character is irritating; Petra deserved better.

    Val’s gran’s death was beautifully handled.

    As a viewer who dearly loves this series I sincerely hope that the creaters do not keep it going simply for the sake of doing so. As the East End and society changed Nonnatus House’ mission in that community came to an end.
    Viewers need to let the series go, too.

    1. Well spotted! Thomas Howes played William Mason, the footman who married Daisy and then died, in seasons 1 and 2 of Downton.

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