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Call the Midwife drops the ball with Lucille's exit

The following article contains discussion of themes including suicide.

Call the Midwife season 12 spoilers follow.

Ready your handkerchiefs, Call the Midwife has some tearjerking news and we are not ok. It has been confirmed that Leonie Elliott has officially quit Call the Midwife. After six years on the show, fans were forced to say a rather abrupt goodbye to her character Lucille Robinson who exited after just two episodes of season 12.

The news came via Twitter where the actress penned a touching tribute to the show, cast and writers: "Thank you all for embracing Lucille and rocking with me on this journey, it is with a heart full of love and appreciation that I embark on pastures new."

"Having spent six years on a truly wonderful show, with a fantastic team, I have fallen deeper and deeper in love with Lucille. I feel honoured to have represented the pioneering Windrush generation and their incredible impact on British society.

"I would like to say a MASSIVE thank you to the brilliant cast and our uber talented creative team: Heidi Thomas, Pippa Harris and Annie Tricklebank. Thank you again for all your support, it is hugely appreciated. Super excited for what's coming next."

Her emotional goodbye was accompanied by a snap of clappers captioned: "Over and out precious."

This is truly the definition of bittersweet news. While the pursuit of new adventures will hopefully lead to fresh, creative challenges for Elliott, Lucille's blunt exit on the show is utterly disappointing.

Not because we are saying goodbye to a character that has brought so much richness to the shows' storylines – the writers have proven time and time again that they can deliver even in the face of integral cast exits. It's because, on this occasion, Call the Midwife, usually so refined in their storytelling, have massively dropped the ball.

When we last saw Lucille in the show she was on the brink of a mental health breakdown. A toxic cocktail of racial and societal injustice, homesickness, grief over her miscarriage and struggles to conceive had pushed Lucille towards suicidal thoughts. Her heartfelt goodbye to husband Cyril offered a glimmer of hope when she admitted to feeling conflicted about returning to Jamaica for her health.

zephryn taitte, leonie elliott, call the midwife
BBC

"I want to go but I don't want to leave," she'd told him then and the assumption then was that this would be temporary.

It quickly became clear that her hiatus may indeed be longer when, in episode five, it was revealed that she had taken on a job and was contracted for six months.

Then when Cyril returned to Poplar from visiting Lucille in Jamaica his words had more of a finality than we had realised at the time. "Lucille is still in Jamaica," he'd said to Violet and Fred Buckle. "She's fine, she's taken to her new job and it's doing her good to be with her family. She sends her love."

"I have a good job here and some good friends. This is my home," he added, and thus the gentle phasing out of Lucille was complete. Her six-year journey fizzled out without even the tiniest fuss.

zephryn taitte, leonie elliott, call the midwife
BBC

Fans were now expected to go cold-turkey and accept that her story arc would be left with one too many loose strings. Loose strings that tied the fate of her character to that of her husband Cyril.

Zephryn Taitte has been confirmed for season 13 which could mean a possible split for the two or a long-distance relationship. However the latter is unlikely to be sustainable, making the end of the marriage seem less than an if but when.

There's also a question of her mental health. Could all of her deep-seated problems truly have been solved by the balm of family? It's possible but a lot is left up to assumption where clarity would have been more befitting her departure.

Particularly disappointing is the handling of the Enoch Powell 'Rivers of Blood' storyline which felt as though it would be a lot more prominent than it turned out to be.

call the midwife, lucille robinson
BBC

Lucille's understandably personal and wounded reaction to his immigration and racial hate speech was the perfect opportunity to explore immigration relations in an impoverished society during the '60s.

It seemed as though the effects of such a pinnacle moment in British history would have a ripple effect throughout the season, and perhaps the most natural vantage point would have been through the eyes of Lucille and Cyril.

This seemed most likely given creator and writer Heidi Thomas comments regarding the storyline: "It was a big turning point for our society and the way we spoke of and behaved towards people who had come here from other countries, so that was something we felt we had to tackle."

Yet that ripple was more like a splash. It made a big impact when it landed but once the water had come crashing down it quickly settled without notice.

What's worse is that his very words were the catalyst for her departure thus manifesting, in part, his wishes. An oversight, there is no doubt.

zephryn taitte as cyril robinson call the midwife
BBC

In actuality though, the Powell story turned out to be the vehicle through which to ignite Lucille's leaving. It might as well have been the very boat shipping her off to Jamaica.

It was an odd move on the part of the genius creators to write her out in this lukewarm, unfinished way.

Call the Midwife is renowned and celebrated for its ability to tell beautifully, delicate and complicated stories. Stories with difficult social and emotional history tied to them. They've tackled homophobia, queer love, the impact of thalidomide on families, abortions, the introduction of the contraceptive pill and race. The list is long and their track record for success in delivering enriching, thought-provoking content impressive, which is what makes her exit feel like a betrayal of the character.

When the Christmas special arrives, we hope that the Call the Midwife creative team are able to salvage Lucille, and by extension Cyril's story, by provided a satisfying conclusion to a character that has meant so much to many.

All episodes of Call the Midwife are available to stream now on BBC iPlayer.


We would encourage anyone who identifies with the topics raised in this article to reach out. Organisations who can offer support include Samaritans on 116 123 (www.samaritans.org) or Mind on 0300 123 3393 (www.mind.org.uk). Readers in the US are encouraged to visit mentalhealth.gov or the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

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