-->
Reviews

'Call the Midwife: Season Two'

The ways in which these women exercised their will, both individually and collectively, spoke to the importance of their role in London's dockside community.


Call the Midwife: Season Two (Blu-ray)

Distributor: BBC
Cast: Jessica Raine, Miranda Hart, Jenny Agutter, Pam Ferris, Judy Parfit, Helen George, Bryony Hannah, Laura Main, Cliff Parisi, Stephen McGann, Ben Caplan, Dorothy Atkinson
Extras: 5
Release date: 2013-06-18
Amazon

The second season of the BBC's Call the Midwife is set in 1958, just a year later from the first season. As the series continues, midwifery is, of course, the practice around which it revolves, but the pre-birth and postpartum care of the mothers, as well as their families, is also an integral part of the show. Jenny (Jessica Raine) remains as the narrator of the series, now more confident in her abilities, yet still eager to learn from the nurses and midwives in Nonnatus House.

The season also brings a great deal of change as Chummy (Miranda Hart) and her husband, Peter (Ben Caplan), leave for India, in order to fulfill her call for missionary work. It's only temporary, but they are gone for the middle part of the season and are greatly missed. Hart quickly became an integral part of the series and her unique perspective was often a welcome source of amusement, as well as poignancy. With her absence, Nonnatus House is short-staffed and in need of a replacement and Jane Sutton (Dorothy Atkinson) arrives to assist as a medical orderly. She is shy and socially awkward, yet eventually comes to be part of the group, almost in spite of herself. Jane is especially intriguing because she doesn't undergo some huge transformation, rather she gradually opens up, but still retains the core of her character.

Jenny, Trixie (Helen George), and Cynthia (Bryony Hannah) remain close friends and a constant source of support for one another. It's also nice to see Trixie play a larger role in this season, both professionally and personally. Her story assisting a woman on a Swedish cargo ship brings out Trixie's superficial and insensitive side (she repeatedly makes comments about the woman's size and her accommodations), as well as her eventual nonjudgmental help when the circumstances of her pregnancy come to light. It's a showcase for Trixie that fleshes her out more than any episodes in the previous season.

The excitement and joy of helping to bring a child into the world is always fraught with the possibility of complications. One episode focuses on a baby born with spina bifida, and sheds light on how such cases were often treated at the time. Cynthia, however, is the focus of an episode dealing with the loss of a newborn, making her question her abilities and her decision to go into midwifery in the first place. There's a terrific sequence in which she is in the midst of a panic attack while riding her bicycle through the busy streets of Poplar and her fear and guilt are palpable.

In addition to the work in Poplar, one episode has Jenny sent to a London hospital to work in a male surgical ward. It's an immediate contrast to her work amongst so many women in Nonnatus House. While in London, her ability is often called into question by a male surgeon clearly uncomfortable with the idea of women assisting in surgery. Her skills are only appreciated when her friend, Jimmy (George Rainsford), is admitted and misdiagnosed. Jenny's confidence is initially shaken, but she quickly rises to the occasion and proves herself when most necessary. Nevertheless, her return to Poplar is a welcome one, as she is back among colleagues and patients who respect her. The differences between working in a hospital and as an on-call midwife are striking in formality and expectation.

Aside from the younger nurses and midwives, the nuns who run Nonnatus House are also an important part of the series. In particular, Sister Bernadette (Laura Main) continues to struggle (that was hinted at in the first season) with her devotion to God and her desire for a more traditional life, especially as her romantic feelings for Dr. Patrick Turner (Stephen McGann) grow. Her doubt is complicated by a diagnosis of tuberculosis that sends her away from Nonnatus House to recover. The scenes between Main and Jenny Agutter as Sister Julienne are some of the best in the season, as Sister Bernadette's finally comes to a decision.

The second to last episode of the season brings the return of Chummy and Peter and she instantly reinfuses the series with Chummy's singular energy. Equal parts enthusiastically optimistic and self-deprecating, Chummy's return also marks a more personal stake in midwifery for her fellow midwives, as she is now pregnant. The birth is not without complications and because it is Chummy, the viewer's level of investment is much higher.

Call the Midwife continues to be a highly enjoyable story about a very specific and underrepresented group of women in a time when their independence and skill was the exception. The ways in which these women exercised their will, both individually and collectively, speaks to the importance of their role in the community. The series conveys the difficulties and triumphs of midwifery without ever veering into melodrama. Rather it presents the job as demanding – often leading the nurses and midwives to sacrifice a great deal of their personal lives for their jobs – yet their work is always worthwhile and rewarding.

The DVD release includes cast and crew interviews that give some background on the unlikely way in which the series came to be, as well as the importance of being true to the period.

8
Music

The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less
Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less
7

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image