Call the Midwife Christmas Special sheds new light on fan-favorite family

Call the midwife Special Christmas spoilers below

Call the midwife The Christmas special is arguably the perfect time to bring back one of the show’s most beloved families, the Mullucks clan. After all, isn’t a vacation all about welcoming old and new friends?

Yet in classic Call the midwife mode it’s a tearful of an episode. Despite the garland-adorned street and the cheeriness in sight, Poplar isn’t all a bucketful of festive cheer. Especially not for the Mullucks.

Bright and bubbly Rhoda Mullucks (Liz White) returns to the care of Dr. Turner (Stephen McGann) and nurse Shelagh (Laura Main) as an expectant mother carrying her first child since having Susan.

Fans of the show will remember that Susan was born without fully developed limbs, becoming Call the midwife’s first victim of thalidomide.

This isn’t the first time the Mullucks have reappeared on the show. The family resurfaced 18 months after Susan’s birth. In the episode, viewers saw how they were able to navigate Susan’s life and disabilities in the time after their initial shock.

Yet in the past, whenever the Mullucks were featured, the show focused heavily on Susan as a way to explore the impact of thalidomide on a family.


Whether it’s Rhoda’s determination to fight for Susan’s rights and well-being or dad Bernie’s path to acceptance. During his bumpy journey, Bernie (Chris Reilly) has gone from being contemptuous of the child he once called a “monster” to fearful of being overprotective, fearful of being the object of ridicule.

The show touched on how the situation has impacted the couple’s eldest children, Belinda and Perry, but the focus has always been on Susans and what life will be like for her. Well Named.

It was important to initially centralize Susan in her own story in order to better understand the difficulties that the real victims went through.

However, as the Mullucks’ story has progressed, the Christmas special offers a different perspective on the family experience by expanding it to explore the impact on family members as individuals, not only their interactions with Susan’s disabilities.

chris reilly as bernie mulluck, call the christmas special midwife


In doing so, the sanity of both parents is opened up to expose their struggles which are made more acute by the impending new arrival.

Rhoda’s ferocity has been eroded a bit. In the space of these fissures anguish fills up. She worries about the well-being of her unborn child, worries that the baby will have a fate similar to Susan’s.

Her nervous temper leads her to constantly seek reassurance, but that doesn’t stop her from continuing to fight for Susan’s right to have the same opportunities as everyone else.

This becomes apparent when she confronts Mrs. Avis, who is in charge of the church’s nativity and refuses to let Susan participate on the pretense of not wanting her to get hurt.

Yes, because singing and running lines is risky business. We get you Ms Avis *big eye roll*.

Liz White as Rhoda Mullucks, Call the Christmas Special Midwife


Mrs. Avis reminds Rhoda that “Susan is not like everyone else”, to which Rhoda retorts by saying:

“You have no idea how bad she wants to be.”

Along with her family history, this is the first time we feel like Susan is aware of her differences and we feel like she wishes she wasn’t.

This is brought up again later, but this time from Susan’s perspective as she watches other children playing in the snow. In her eagerness to participate, she takes her new prosthetic legs for a ride outside and injures herself.

The significance of this moment should not be overlooked. Until now, much of Susan’s experience of her disability has always been seen through the eyes of others. How they assume she will feel, how they expect it to affect her.

This is the first time we see his own personal lived experience. It’s his hopes, his vulnerabilities, his insecurities and that’s special.

chris reilly as bernie mullucks, emily webb as susan mullucks and helen george as nurse trixie franklin, call the christmas special midwife


Her fall earned her a trip to the hospital where she received stitches in her head. There, with Bernie by her side, Susan receives a devious compliment from another patient’s father. An insult “beautiful eyes, shame on his arms and legs” – which leaves a gash that no stitches can repair.

Her comment infuriates and hurts Bernie, whose fears are coming to life right now. Bernie sees how part of the world regards Susan, with pity and rejection. As if she’s inferior, “not normal,” and the stranger’s words highlight the nagging worry that contributes to his anguish, making him drink.

Although it is Susan, his feelings are not about how he relates to her, but how they have affected him personally and his ability to overcome life’s difficulties because of his pain.

The guilt over the choice they made for Rhoda to take the pills when she was pregnant gnaws at him and he spirals, drinking more and more until everything bubbles to the surface and he has Need help.

helen george, call the christmas special midwife


It is the recovering alcoholic Trixie (Helen George) who manages to reach him and convince him to attend an AA meeting. The trauma he’s been through over the years is brought to light, and he reveals that his love for Susan is a double-edged sword that has affected his ability to love.

It’s a wholesome scene made only in the way Call the midwife can. He talks about how he drinks to hide from the pain of the future that other people tell him Susan will have. A bleak future without a career or a family and how it saddens her deeply.

“I just want to love without hurting,” he admits. In the end, he vows to do better, to get his life back together so he can love in a healthier way.

The parents aren’t the only ones who have had to deal with the ripple effect of Susan’s post-thalidomide state. Although not explored in depth, a family feud reveals how neglected Perry and Belinda feel and how desperate they are for their mother’s attention.

It’s not the first time he’s been mentioned in the series, but it’s done with much more clarity, fleeting but brutal. Rhoda has to struggle with Belinda’s words:

“You never ask anyone for anything unless it’s about Susan,” and while there’s no conclusion to this, the heartfelt moment between the family in the episode’s conclusion implies that they all work for healing.

As Bernie takes a picture of her family, including the new baby, Susan is encouraged to hold it as Bernie proudly notes her new role as big sister in the family. This prompts Rhoda to say:

“We all change. You have to change too.”

The emotional roller coaster of an episode, but not everything is heavy. New squidgy babies are born, Trixie gets engaged, even the Mullucks are getting into the festive swing of things.

laura main, call the christmas special midwife


Susan may have been shunned from the nativity, but she gets a spot on Poplar’s talent show Poplartunity Knocks.

Alongside the Shelagh children, she is dressed as a rosy-cheeked snowman as they sing Frosty the Snowman to an elated audience. Guided by Shelagh, the children sing merrily and the famous lyrics: “And the children say he could laugh and play, just like you and me”, feel perfectly at ease.

the Call the midwife Christmas Special is available to watch now on BBC iPlayer. Season 12 of Call the midwife will air on BBC One on New Year’s Day.

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