When a train derails and delays the arrival of much needed food, supplies and presents, Christmas in the settlement town of Hope Valley is in jeopardy. With the help of a mysterious visitor, a simple peddler who has a knack for helping people find what they need, Jack, Elizabeth and Abigail rally the town residents to come together in the true spirit of kindness and giving, proving that Christmas really is the season for miracles.
POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT
While I am extremely careful when it comes to revealing anything in advance of this show and do my best to never spoil the storyline, I do include official Hallmark photos in my reviews, and sometimes I inadvertently relate too much information. Therefore, if you are worried about spoilers, I highly recommend that you NOT read this review. If, however, you would like a sneak peek at what you will be seeing tomorrow (December 25) without revealing too much, please carry on.
Welcome back to Hope Valley for the holidays, and in truth, the writers have done an exceptional job of picking up almost right where we left off at the end of season three. As you can see, there is a new dog, Dasher (pictured above) as played by Rowdy. And yes, you will also catch of glimpse of RIP as played by Oscar. So dog lovers, we now have two adorable dogs to love, and I expect to see lots more from Dasher in this upcoming season.
You can also count on seeing many familiar faces returning. I will quickly overview those who figure at least minimally into the story as we anticipate their upcoming roles in season four.
I was pleased to see Larissa Alberquerque returning as Katie Yost, and she probably had more lines in this particular special than she did all last year in season three, so I couldn’t be happier for her! She had hoped for just such an offering, and I can hardly wait to see what else is in store for her and her father Ned Yost, as played by Hrothgar Matthews.
Though in passing, you will see Clara (Eva Bourne), Jesse (Aren Buchholz), Hickam (Ben Rosenbaum), Florence (Loretta Walsh), Dottie (Erica Carroll), and Molly (Johannah Newmarch), at least you can rest assured that they are in this particular special. These more minor characters have a strong following amongst the Hearties, and although you may not see much more than a glimpse, let’s hope for more in season four.
While many people from the settlement have moved on, I was pleasantly surprised to see Nancy Tucker (Natasha Quirke) and Wilma Lawson (Eliza Norbury) return. I wish we could have caught a glimmer of one other couple that I won’t name as I believe they are not in this season, but it was nice to see these two return. In fact, Wilma’s son, Timmy (Christian Michael Cooper) is there as is Nancy’s son, Harper (Callum Seagram Airlie), so it’s safe to say that these families are a viable part of Hope Valley now. In fact, one of these young ladies has an integral storyline in this special, and it will probably tug on your heartstrings as it surely did mine.
Another favorite returns to the town of Hope Valley, and I couldn’t be more enthralled for her. Remember Nurse Faith (Andrea Brooks)? She is back, and I absolutely adore the way her character has matured and even changed as she has found her footing. Before, she was known as the fiance of a rich, uncaring man. Or some may have been concerned that she had designs on Jack. But as she has reached out and discovered her true giftedness (and as Andrea has breathed such amazing life into her character and given her the most becoming new hairstyle), I believe she is going to have a more central role this season. Or at least, I hope so.
Of course, Mayor Gowen has returned. However, there is something different about him. Remember how he got in that car accident at the end of season three? He is still recovering, and like the “grump” that he is, he is keeping to himself and trying to make everyone as miserable as he is. He doesn’t want any help, and he just wants everyone to stay away.
Nevertheless, guess who cannot stay away. It shouldn’t be that hard to figure out, but this picture on the right should give you a clue. Abigail and Gowen have had their battles in the past, but this one is a bit distinct since Gowen has been knocked down a couple slots due to his injuries. Now, I love Martin as the “bad guy,” but it looks like redemption may be on the horizon. Regardless, I doubt that Gowen will ever be a fully trusted citizen of Hope Valley, but it looks like Abigail is on a mission to save this man.
But is a miracle even possible for our crotchety mayor? Time will only tell. The scenes between Martin and Lori are some of the finest in the show, in my opinion. Of course, I’m partial to Lori myself, but it’s nice to see her character reaching out to this shattered man who is in need of reformation. I guess if Scrooge was redemption-worthy, maybe Gowen is too? Time will only tell.
If you enjoy the kids of Hope Valley like I do, you have a genuine treat in store with this special.
Cody has a truly difficult decision to make in this special. He has to determine what is sincerely important in life–momentos or people. In fact, the lesson that Cody learns is a lesson with which most adults still grapple with in this day and age. It is a veritable delight to see Carter reprising his role as Cody, and we can trust that somehow, some way, he will make the right decision.
After all, Abigail has instilled her values in him over the course of the time he has been with her. His scenes with Terence as the peddler are some of the most poignant in the film because I think all of us can relate to Cody’s dilemma. But the peddler makes him face the issue and reach a conclusion that is in keeping with Hope Valley and the real meaning of Christmas. And I think you’re going to be proud of the choice he makes.
With Elizabeth in charge of the Christmas pageant, there will be an indubitable overabundance of kids that are featured.
Some are well-known and beloved from years gone past…
…others are relatively new to the Hope Valley community.
But all are remarkable inclusions in what has become the most celebrated cast of young people to be featured in a series in many, many years. It just doesn’t typically happen, but it does in this show!
And did you ever think you’d see Bill as Santa Claus? You’ll understand why he’s playing that role once you see the special.
The night of the pageant is an unequivocally magical evening unlike any other, and what better way to show that than through the eyes of these sweet children?
Many of these children I have had the opportunity to interview and even meet in person (I was ecstatic when the Hearties
kids won that Joey Award last month!).
Of course, I’m probably biased when it comes to telling you who my favorite young people in the cast are, but in addition to Carter’s fantastic performance, watch out for Imogen, Gracyn, Genea and Ava. Oh, and who can forget Javien and Christian, right? Okay, so maybe I love them all, but no matter what, these children are impeccably wonderful, and Erin and Lori are the perfect ones to keep these little ones focused and professional while still reminding them about how to have fun on set.
One Hope Valley member decidedly has his work cut out for him–our beloved pastor. Mark has come such a long way in portraying this man, and now that his character is on the straight and narrow with God (and also developing quite a relationship with Abigail), he cannot rest until the morally right thing is done, no matter what is ultimately involved in rescuing anyone who may be lost at Christmas time. Remember what I said about one of those ladies who had an integral role? Here’s the other half of the story. I won’t detail what ultimately happens, but it is clear that our pastor is conflicted, and Mark has given him just the right demeanor and sense of responsibility in the way he plays him.
And what can I say about Bill? While he somehow “won” the honor of playing Santa Claus, he has plenty more scenes as he and Abigail continue to work out the business partnership they began during season three. In seasons one and two, I was desirous of Bill and Abigail developing a romantic relationship. While I do believe that will probably not happen, I am grateful that the writers have chosen to devise a way to keep these two characters in fun scenes together. And indeed, Jack and Lori are so entertaining on screen together. While their chemistry is no longer romantic, they have kept their interactions hilarious and sometimes tense between the two of them, and I look forward to seeing how things progress in this business partnership as season four unfolds.
So let’s talk Lee and Rosemary. I’ve made it clear that they are my favorite characters, and I can never get enough of Lee. As they have returned from their honeymoon, Lee (played expertly by Kavan whom I interviewed here) is settling into married life, but Rosemary does keep him at least minimally on edge. And why would that be?
Well, mainly because she is not in charge of the Christmas festivities this year. As much as Rosemary relishes the chance to serve in this capacity, she has allowed Elizabeth to step in this year so that she may devote herself to Lee. And you can imagine the humor that provides. There is an issue between these two, and poor Jack has to give counseling to both Lee and Rosemary at separate times. I found this lighter storyline a nice comic relief from the heavier storylines that sometimes comprise this special, and Kavan and Pascale are as dynamic a duo as they have been in past seasons. While their characters are married to each other now, it has not completely transformed their personalities. In fact, I believe that the interactions between them may be even more amusing at times.
While Rosemary and Lee have their moments of attempting to navigate their newlywed status, there is no doubt that the writers have given them humor, warmth and heart–exactly what Kavan requested at the end of season three. And the audience is going to take immense pleasure in the antics of these two.
So what about the favorite couple–Jack and Elizabeth? Oh, don’t worry, you will see much between these two. In many ways, these two have taken on even more effective leadership of the town. Mayor Gowen has been out of commission, and Elizabeth has discovered just how much she loves serving the people of Hope Valley. These two have become administrators in the town who are looked to when things get chaotic. Unfortunately, it has given them little time for romance, but everyone knows these two are meant to be together. They are just waiting for the right time to deepen their relationship. And maybe, Christmas will be the time when that happens.
I know there has been much speculation concerning these two, and I am not here to spoil anything for anyone. But I will say this Christmas special is not overwhelmingly filled with romance as much as it is brimming with these two working together. These two are growing ever closer because of their love not only for each other, but also for Hope Valley and its residents. What some may not realize is just how essential that is to the future of Jack and Elizabeth.
In real life, a couple cannot live on romance alone. While it’s fun to watch the interactions between this couple, seeing them labor side by side and make sacrifices for the good of the town is much more gratifying. Elizabeth is comfortable with the woman she has become, and Jack is realizing what an asset she is to the community and specifically, to him. While we will see tender moments, the day-to-day humdrum and saving Christmas for the town is a much more worthwhile gesture than spending hours canoodling on a sofa or out under the stars. These two have become so comfortable with each other, but they still hold each other in sweet affection.
In the case of Erin and Daniel in their respective roles, I’ve always made it clear that I believed they were expertly cast, but Erin does something extraordinary in this special. I have always adored her portrayal of Elizabeth, but as I watched Erin immerse herself even more fully in this role, I found myself relating to Elizabeth on a deeper level than I dreamed possible. I’ve always been the one who connects with the supporting characters more than the leads, but in this case, I can sense a deepened connection with Elizabeth that transcends what I have ever known.
And I can never say enough about Daniel either. Though he’s a bit young for me (and I rarely swoon over actors anyway), I can recognize the protective and strong way in which he plays Jack. He allows his character to be authentic around Erin’s, and I believe that in this season, they have so cemented their roles that in my opinion, I cannot conceive of having to wait past the end of this season to see an engagement between the two, but time alone will tell.
Towards the end, a simple romantic gesture captivated my heart in a special way.
Mountie Jack sends Elizabeth a rather unusual request, but thankfully, she responds to him, and this leads to one of the most romantic gestures to ever grace a television screen.
In my humble opinion, it just doesn’t get more romantic than that. I don’t want to ruin the story for you, but you’ll understand why I say this once you see the special.
So what are you doing tomorrow, December 25th? Well, while I cannot live tweet, I will be turning to the Hallmark Channel to watch When Calls the Heart Christmas, and I invite you to do so as well. When it comes to Christmas specials, I have always felt that the Signed, Sealed, Delivered Christmas special was the best. Nonetheless, in my opinion, the When Calls the Heart writers have provided Hearties with a Christmas special that rivals the reputation of my Postables devotion. I was overwhelmed with emotion and the feeling of the magic at Christmas time while still being reminded what the true reason for the season is. What a wonderful way to usher in season four!
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