So, you know what happens when you get sick and the baby hits a sleep regression and a whole load of other things start popping up in your life, demanding your attention, all at once? You do stupid things like completely forget to recap an entire episode of one of your shows. And not just any episode–the season finale! Good heavens! So sorry about that, guys. And to make things super extra fun, by the time I realised what I’d done, it wasn’t available on BBC iPlayer anymore. Because of course not. So, if there are any holes here, I sincerely apologise.
This was a heavy episode, so we’ll start with the good stuff. Reggie has a girlfriend! She’s lovely and it’s adorable and we get to meet her at the big episode-ending dance! Also: Fred will live. Whatever is wrong with his waterworks, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be terminal.
But, speaking of terminal… Ok, here we go.
The patient o’the week is not a mother-to-be, but rather the daughter of a mother-to-be. Julie Schroeder is a lovely teenager who, sadly, has terminal cancer. Nobody’s coming right out and saying she’s going to die, but the doctors have basically said there’s not much more they can do. Sister Hilda is dispatched to help make her more comfortable. We haven’t had a chance to see much of Hilda in the field, and may I just say: can we have more, please? She seems to do a great job of marrying the practicality and plain-speaking of Sister Evangelina with the tact and tenderness of Sister Julienne, which is an excellent combination.
Hilda marries the practicality and plain-speaking of Sister Evangelina with the tact and tenderness of Sister Julienne, which is an excellent combination
Also, I just want to say: we learn that Julie’s stepfather, Alf, was a German POW who married her mother after the war. It’s treated as a bit of a throwaway, but my brain went, ‘Woah, hold on a second there! Can we talk a little more about that?’ Because can you imagine what it would be like to be a former Nazi soldier moving into the East End of London just after the war? What kind of horrible craziness must that family have been through?
We’ll never know! Because that’s apparently not all that interesting to CtM’s writers.
Julie longs to do normal teenage girl things, like attend the fancy dance that Shelagh is planning as a fundraiser/distraction from losing Mae. Her parents are hesitant, believing she’s not well enough, especially after a scare that sends her to the hospital. But Hilda steps in and is basically like, ‘What does this poor girl have to lose? Let her have her dance!’ And then Alf, who just so happens to be a glassworker, sets about fixing up the disco ball that Fred accidentally smashed so Julie can have her dance under the sparkly lights that she’s always wanted. It’s lovely! Yay!
Also: Julie gets to be her mum’s support at the birth of her latest sibling–a sister at last!
Oh, and speaking of sisters: Mae’s adoption predictably falls through at the last second, so the Turners get to keep her after all. Which is nice, but I have to admit I was never that invested in this storyline. Don’t get me wrong: I’m happy when a kid finds a loving home and I think Mae’s quite sweet, but this seemed so dislocated from the rest of the action that was going on this season. And the outcome was so predictable. Every time the Mae situation came up, I found myself thinking, ‘Oh, this again?’ Am I a monster? I hope not. I did think it was really sweet when Turner danced with both her and Angela during the daddy-daughter dance at the end.
And finally: the big story. Val’s grandmother.
Val and Trixie do what they have to do and report Elsie to the police. Elsie is arrested, and all of a sudden relatives start coming out of the woodwork to publicly abuse Val for turning her grandmother in. Apparently these are the kinds of relatives who care more for appearances and tribalism than preserving women’s actual lives. Sadly, there are a lot of those kinds of people.
The thing is, this means Val is going to have to testify against her own grandmother in court, and although she’s upset about what’s been going on, that is, understandably, something she’s reluctant to do. Trixie has no problem getting on the stand and undercutting her own expert testimony by bringing up Jeannie, despite the fact there’s no solid proof that Jeannie went to Val’s grandmother. It just makes Trixie look emotional, honestly. Which she is, and for good reason, but it doesn’t look great in court.
Sister MJ takes things in hand, tracks down Cath, and persuades her to testify. Cath agrees, although you’d think this would be dangerous for her, admitting to obtaining an illegal abortion.
Ultimately, though, none of it matters, because Elsie changes her plea to ‘guilty’, saving Val from having to testify at all. She’s sentenced to six years in prison, which could very well be the rest of her life, at her age. She and Val have a talk before she goes, and make their peace. Well, as much peace as can be had. Val still looks pretty glum at the dance, and she totally gets a pass for that. It can’t all be happy endings.
One thought on “Call the Midwife Season 8 Episode 8 Recap: Better Late Than Never”
You’re not quite fair to Valarie with how you describe the situation.
It isn’t Valarie who reports the situation, it’s Trixie, who tells Sister Julienne that she and Valarie have something to report.
Valarie’s grandmother clearly called Valarie hoping that she’d come alone, provide all necessary medical care, and help cover up her crimes. Now I don’t think abortion should be a crime – but I do think that is a tough thing to blindside your granddaughter with. The conundrum that Valarie’s grandmother wanted to put Valarie in is broken by the fact that Trixie insisted on coming along when Valarie was asked to visit and bring her medical bag. (And I’m glad, for Valarie, that she wasn’t forced to be the one to choose whether or not to report her grandmother.)
Valarie’s relative is quite unfair to blame Valarie for her grandmother being reported, although the relative might not have known the details of who did the reporting.
I can understand Valarie’s fears of getting in legal trouble. She’s a midwife, she has the knowledge and skills to perform a (safe) abortion if she chooses, and that would be illegal. It is natural to suspect that her grandmother would be relying on her for help with her illegal abortion enterprise. (As the grandmother actually tried to do.)
How many times was Valarie’s grandmother tempted to call Valarie for help, but held back? How many times would the woman having the abortion have been helped if Valarie’s medical skills had been available to her during her abortion? How much safer would these abortions have been if Valarie’s grandmother had consulted with Valarie about things like sterilizing instruments, hand washing, wearing gloves, etc.?
Valarie is in a terribly ambiguous situation. If her grandmother had called her earlier, and if she’d helped her grandmother in her illegal abortion service, a lot of women’s lives could have been greatly improved. But she’s stuck in the situation of seeing her grandmother perform (illegal) abortions with an infection that is deadly to the women she’s trying to help.
I find Sister Julienne’s choices interesting. She’s chosen to overlook botched illegal abortions in the past. Of course, in the situation in season one didn’t involve a series of serious infections, and the sterility that resulted from the botched abortion was welcome rather than a personal tragedy for the woman in question.
I do like the fact that it is pretty clear that, whether or not they think abortion is a good choice, all the midwives seem to be quite clear that they’d rather be performing the abortions themselves, safely, rather than having to clean up the aftereffects of illegal abortions while tiptoeing through a legal minefield.