All Creatures Great and Small (2020) s01e03 – Andante

This episode very nicely alleviates most of my (limited) concerns about “All Creatures,” even without bringing back Diana Ring for another guest spot.

As with the previous two episodes (so, all the previous episodes), new veterinary assistant Nicholas Ralph again has an arc where he needs to be worried about losing his position. However, it’s the plot here, not just a quick resolution or foil to move things along. The episode’s third act is just Ralph—and new pal Callum Woodhouse (they need to team up to cope with the boss, Samuel West) and housekeeper slash den mother Anna Madeley—freaking out about him losing his job. It’s even worse this time because everyone in town knows about it, so they’re either congratulating Ralph (because his latest potential mistake affected a bet) or mocking him.

It could all go wrong, and every episode going forward could have this same beat, but they finally seem to have it addressed here. West’s got a whole lot more agency this time around; he’s not just the overbearing boss, he’s the sympathetic colleague.

The other outstanding concerns—can Woodhouse be a non-competitive, not twerp effectively, and can Madeley get a real arc–also get answered. Both in the affirmative. Woodhouse gets a very amusing turn about trying to collect payment from the local farmers, and discovering the best way to do it involves getting them drunk before hitting them up. He even makes a new friend: bartender Mollie Winnard, who seems like his imminent love interest.

Meanwhile, Madeley’s arc involves babysitting Imogen Clawson so older sister Rachel Shenton can… do things. Clawson’s nearing her terrible teens and no longer minding Shenton, who’s had to play mom in addition to sister, and Madeley brings a new perspective to the entire situation. It also gives Madeley and West’s relationship some depth because they can bond over parenting, though West’s just older brother parenting Woodhouse. It’s an amusing arc, too; Clawson’s impetuous and overconfident, so Madeley’s got to contend with attitude.

Then West’s got an arc where he’s interviewing to be the vet at the local racetrack. Initially, he’s only able to get his foot in the door because of local rich guy Matthew Lewis (who we met last episode as Ralph’s rival for Shenton’s affections), but then he and stuck-up track owner Nigel Havers have a great bonding scene. It’s West’s best-acted episode of the series so far; it’s also the most significant real arc he’s gotten.

Ralph gets the veterinary procedural cases—a horse with colic and then a cow showing signs of heat exhaustion. Lots of terrific acting from Ralph on both cases, where his expertise is questioned repeatedly. Susan Jameson’s great as the nasty cow owner, who delights in mocking Ralph.

After the taut third act, there’s a nice resolution with West and Madeley. They’re quickly becoming the show’s most tangible, developed, and rewarding relationship. It’s particularly nice since they both have a strong episode apart, then bring it together throughout and at the end.

Hopefully, this episode will be the last time Ralph has an “am I fired” arc for a while. It certainly seems like they’re comfortable being done with it. Fingers crossed.

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