Sunday’s instalment of Call the Midwife left fans heartbroken, as the men and women of Poplar were forced to say goodbye to one of Nonnatus House’s most beloved nurses.
Nurse Barbara faced a terrifying battle with septicemia and meningitis. And while at the beginning of the episode, it seemed things were looking up for the midwife’s health – things soon took a turn for the worst.
Towards the end of the show, Barbara’s husband Reverend Tom Hereward was called to come quickly to the hospital. And once there, he was told that there was nothing more they could do for his beloved wife.
Joined by Nurse Phyllis Crane, the heartbroken reverend was forced to say a devastating goodbye to his wife, as her condition slowly deteriorated.
The emotional scenes saw Tom struggle through a final prayer for his wife, his voice breaking as he spoke the words, ‘As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death’.
It was aruguably one of the saddest deaths the show has seen in all seven series. And it seems the heartbreaking episode hit Call the Midwife viewers hard, as many of them flocked to social media to share their devastation at the sudden death.
However, viewers also praised the show for playing out the scenes so sensitively.
One wrote, ‘#callthemidwife Barbara wow!! My heart literally hurts. Beautiful written. TV at its finest. I will now go sob myself to sleep’
While another praised the actor’s emotional performances.
They said, ‘I wasn’t emotionally prepared for this week’s episode of Call The Midwife. I’ve spent the last 20 minutes sobbing. The scenes between Barbara and Phyllis were so beautiful. Linda Bassett deserves all the awards for tonight’s performance. #callthemidwife’
A third viewer agreed, writing, ‘#CallTheMidwife such a tear jerker best programme ever!!!’
And a fourth commented, ‘Oh wow….. the nation is now sobbing into their cocoa. Heartbreaking episode tonight. Someone look after Phyllis, please. #CalltheMidwife’
Many fans also commended the series for highlighting the symptoms of sepsis and meningitis.
One wrote, ‘@CallTheMidwife1 Completely devastated that Nurse Barbara has died of menigococcal #sepsis. A massive well done to #callthemidwife for highlighting the signs and symptoms. This programme is amazing and so sensitively written and acted. @SepsisUK @Jason__Watkins’
While another agreed, ‘Congrats to all the cast @CallTheMidwife1 on an amazing episode, not a dry eye in the house! Not only was awareness raised of #meningitis + #sepsis, but as a #palliativecare nurse, I thought you portrayed end of life care sensitively and beautifully. Thank you. #callthemidwife’
The cast of the show also tweeted out their thoughts on the episode. Charlotte Ritchie, who played Barbara, thanks fans for their support on Twitter. She wrote, ‘Thanks to everyone for your lovely lovely messages. I will miss CTM more than I can possibly say.’
Helen George, who plays Trixie, also shared a sweet tribute to her cast-mate. She said, ‘RIP Babs. The bestest buddy a gal could wish for. #callthemidwife @Charitchie’
Charlotte Ritchie also spoke to the Radio Times in the wake of her departure from the popular BBC show, confessing that Barbara’s final scenes were gruelling to film.
She admitted, “There were scenes I had to do where I just lay in bed thinking about the fact that I was going to die. That was what the instruction was.
“It was really really weird. I had a bit of an existential crisis if I’m honest.”
However, she also revealed that she felt that – although heartbreaking – it was the right time to say goodbye to Nonnatus House.
“It seemed like a good time to go. I just didn’t want to get too comfy. I just think it keeps it fresh and keeps it alive if I keep going.”
“It felt like Barbara had gone through such a lovely journey…and she’s really grown up and become this adult. And it felt like such a lovely time, with her wedding to Tom, having found that happiness and reconciled with Trixie. It could be a good time to go.”