Call the Midwife viewers were left in shock after discovering in series eight episode seven that Nurse Valerie’s beloved grandmother Elsie was the person responsible for performing dangerous backstreet abortions.
The truth was was discovered after Val (played by Jennifer Kirby) received a phone call from Aunt Flo, desperately asking for help in the pub where they live.
Accompanied by Trixie, the pair found a young girl fighting for her life after an abortion had gone wrong. Flo and Elsie had attempted the then-illegal procedure with a selection of household utensils and dirty towels.
Elsie had been introduced into the series as a kind-hearted elderly woman who still gave Val ice-cream money. Viewers were left in disbelief at discovering her dark secret.
“What you did in here was criminal, and I don’t just mean because it was against the law,” a horrified Val told her grandmother.
Elsie tried to justify her actions, explaining, “I’ve seen them cry. I see it all the time.
“The girls who are trying to feed five kids on a can of corned beef. Wives with black eyes covered in panstick, and a husband who drinks a skinful every night… I do it because they ask me to. Beg me to.”
To prove that the procedure wasn’t about the money, Elsie then set fire to the wads of cash she’d received from offering the backstreet abortions.
While the twist appeared to be a shock to some, writer Heidi Thomas has been expertly building up to this moment since the beginning of the series – Val had to help a young woman pass the remains of a foetus, while Trixie was left devastated after her friend Jeannie died following a botched abortion.
Nurse Val actress Jennifer Kirby thanked viewers for the “wonderful” comments, adding, “Feeling luckier than ever to be a part of Call the Midwife. Cozy, rose-tinted… me thinks not.”
Call the Midwife continues Sunday at 8pm on BBC1
This article was originally published on 25 February 2019