"I see women out with their babies, walking around like it’s nothing… I just want to yell out at them, 'You’re amazing!'" says Joanna. She’s not had a proper night’s sleep in months. She’s overwhelmed and exhausted. Her newborn baby cries relentlessly and her husband is about as paternally helpful as a tall, bearded coatstand.
BBC One’s new series, The Cry, has swooped in to fill the hole left by Bodyguard. It’s a similarly tense mystery that, even after the first episode, already has viewers transfixed by whodunnit and why (it’s not been 24 hours and conspiracy theories are floating around Twitter, guys). And though its positioning as a psychological crime thriller is what drew us to watch on Sunday night – the plot follows a new mum and dad who travel to Australia, and their baby suddenly goes missing – the show's honest presentation of new motherhood is what really struck the audience.
In the season opening, we're given a fleeting glimpse of how Joanna's life was reoriented after giving birth. And while we all expect huge change after having a child, the episode ventured into the difficult and complicated space of postnatal depression; viewers commenting on the show on Twitter were both impressed and grateful.
Joanna (played by Jenna Coleman) feels strained and isolated. "He's not a puppy!" she snaps at her best friend when she describes her son Noah as "adorable". On the painfully long flight from Edinburgh to Melbourne, she retreats to the plane toilet on the brink of tears and begs her baby to stop crying after a series of unhelpful complaints by other passengers on their flight. Her husband, Alistair (Ewen Leslie) wears earplugs and an eye mask throughout, and does little to help until Joanna snaps in the middle of the cabin and calls everyone a bunch of ass-heads. She very clearly feels like she's in it alone and our hearts can't help but ache for Joanna each time the people she interacts with make her feel just a little bit worse about her ability as a parent.
It's no secret that television has a way of glossing over the realities of womanhood, but The Cry manages to highlight how infrequently programmes accurately explore the life of new mothers, delving into the complicated reality of postnatal depression in the process. The series is haunting and speaks to many mothers' fear of judgement, too, prompting overwhelming responses from viewers at home. "I shed a tear watching it & yes you look at others and wonder why they seem to be breezing through it", said one person on Twitter.
One episode in and there's no blunt reference to how Joanna mentally unravels following Noah's birth, yet. Our understanding of it is primarily gathered from Joanna's disposition and when the subject is teased in scenes where the show jumps forward in time. Clips of conversation with a court-ordered psychologist about her "stability" pre- and post-pregnancy teeter on the parameters of mental health. And though there are hints of blame directed at Joanna for the apparent kidnapping of her baby, audiences have high expectations for how The Cry will continue to bring the widely shared experience of postnatal mental health to the forefront of conversation.
The Cry airs on BBC One on Sundays at 9pm