Black Cake – Season 1 Episode 7 “Birth Mother” Recap & Review

Birth Mother

Eleanor’s confessional recordings reach their last leg in Episode 7 of Black Cake. She had earlier alluded to meeting Gibbs a few months after arriving in London. However, here, she reveals that an entire year passed before that happened. Eleanor discovered after suffering symptoms like vomiting and dizziness that she was pregnant. She had nowhere to go in London, she didn’t know anybody…what could she do? The obnoxious doctor who breaks the news to her, informs Eleanor that she can take the option to abort. 

In a bid to think about it, she ends up at a church. Sister Madeline attends to her as she breaks down in tears explaining her predicament. Madeline is kind and offers Eleanor a warm meal and a place to stay. The church runs a house where they accommodate young pregnant girls and find responsible homes for the newborns. The boarding house is almost all-white…except Eleanor and Madeline. But Irene, one among them, takes an interest in her and shows Eleanor around.

While fixing a plate for her, Irene reveals that she plans to run away with her boyfriend Tommy when she has the baby. He is the father of the child and has sworn to start a new life with her. Madeline asks Eleanor to sign an authorization form that confirms she will hand over the child to the church. She doesn’t have much say in the matter – none of the girls do. It is a subtle nod to the church’s underlying sinister intentions as we get a sense of what they gain from this transaction.

The girls are treated like indentured labourers, completing all the chores around the boarding house in their dire conditions. The tasks have been guised as payment for the lack of an accommodation fee. It feels similar to the plot of Coyote, a sci-fi film released earlier this year.

Eleanor treads on a predetermined path. She knows that she cannot keep the baby. Hence, she tries to create a distance. She wants to treat the baby as someone else’s even before it is born. She advises Irene to do the same after her tall dreams are shattered when Tommy chickens out.

Irene takes it with a pinch of salt. But the natural motherly connection is tough to push away…even if the intent is there. She gives birth to a healthy baby girl, who is ruefully named “Baby Number Three.” Her identity is reduced to a serial number in the church’s list of offerings. Eleanor soon hits her third trimester and finds herself unable to work. As the episode progresses, the church’s inhumane and indifferent side is brought out. Irene – and the other mothers, as they become in due course – have to continue doing the chores after the birth. 

They’re only still fed and housed so that they can breastfeed the newborns. Eleanor is struck by this apathy. Gradually, she becomes attached to her newborn, whom she names Mathilde (Mabel’s middle name). Eleanor grows more disenchanted with the idea of giving away her newborn.

Irene, whose difficult behaviour has created a ruckus, is finally removed from the house. Eleanor comes up with a plan to run away with Mathilde but is stopped in her tracks by Madeline, who calmly talks her out of the situation.

Fearing that Eleanor has cold feet, Madeline ensures that Mathilde is placed with her adoptive parents as fast as possible. Eleanor is heartbroken at losing her child but there’s nothing she can do. Comparisons are drawn to how Eleanor’s mother abandoned her all those years ago. After Mabel is taken away, Eleanor is thrown out of the house. She spends a little more time in the city before running into Gibbs and conjuring up the will to “keep living life” and “make a fresh start.” 

In the present day, Mabel is comforted by B&B, who shows her Eleanor’s precious garden. In her recordings, she alluded to the bloom of the daffodils when Mabel was born. Benny remarks that she finally understands why the daffodil flower bed was so important to Eleanor. It was a reminder of Mabel, her firstborn. The episode’s epilogue marks the end of her story. It also reveals that Pearl poisoned Little Man. Eleanor asks the trio to find her mother and Bunny who can reveal it all for them.

The Episode Review

This is arguably the most emotionally compelling and well-crafted instalment in Season 1. Although it still feels disjointed overall, as a standalone lookback at Covey’s difficult time, “Birth Mother” will make a lot of sense, especially to mothers separated from their children.

Mia Isaac makes a chilling return to the screen after a brief hiatus. This episode truly belongs to her performance – and Elly Roberts, who guest stars as Irene. One of the most impressive parts of the underlying social commentary is how it unravels. The “wolf in sheep’s clothing” narrative really stands out as a complex storytelling choice. 

Despite not explicitly simplifying the church’s negative role, director Zetna Fuentes painstakingly builds it up gradually. The lack of a forceful push allows visual cues like the babies being numbered and the girls being made to work like indentured slaves to take their form and shape the story. 

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You can read our full Season 1 review of Black Cake here!

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