All Creatures Great and Small (2020) s01e06 – A Cure for All Ills

“All Creatures” has a very nice close for season one proper, which isn’t really a surprise; the show’s always nice. What’s so impressive about that quality is the show never gets saccharine about it. It’s full of British derring-do, just in a setting where that derring-do doesn’t, you know, go a-colonizing. Also, Samuel West. This episode, in particular, shows how important West is to maintaining the tone. He’s a sympathetic, good-hearted ass; West does a phenomenal job with that part. He spends most of the episode with a man cold, only refusing to acknowledge it until he can’t stay upright.

The episode begins following up the previous, with Nicholas Ralph heading out to less and less likely love interest Rachel Shenton’s farm as they send off their once prize bull for the slaughterhouse. Last episode, Ralph had to go back on vouching for the animal; he failed Shenton for principled reasons. The visit—and the vouching—will play into the main plot later on as Ralph finds himself in a not dissimilar predicament.

The visit also forces Ralph to see Shenton’s more enthusiastic romance with Matthew Lewis. It upsets Ralph so much he’s willing to let Callum Woodhouse set up a double date with some nurses (Harriet Slater and Charlie May-Clark). The setup’s actually a welcome development; at the beginning of the episode, it seems like Ralph’s just going to mope over Shenton the whole time.

Unfortunately, some of the reason he’s not moping over a broken heart is because of the main plot. Another animal he inspected at the fair last episode—a cow—has developed a breathing problem, and there might not be anything to be done about it. It’s the only significant medical case this episode and the most involved one on the show so far, eventually involving the entire regular cast. Anna Madeley steps in with a very simple gesture at one point, and it’s incredibly affecting. There are no stakes to the case but empathetic ones, to the suffering cow, to the potentially suffering owner (widower Alexis Platt, who spent his entire savings on the animal).

But Ralph’s veterinary procedural plot is somewhat secondary to the house-based stuff. The show’s balance between Ralph, the undeniable protagonist, and the rest of the cast is sublime. Though this episode’s a little different because the house-based story is often focused on him, even when he’s not there. Especially when he’s not there. Madeley and Woodhouse find out it’s Ralph’s birthday coming up and plan a celebration. Unfortunately, Woodhouse is ignoring his exams, which sends sick West on numerous tirades.

While the episode’s set up for Ralph to have the big arc, Woodhouse’s plot is the more effective. Ralph’s contending with reality, Woodhouse acknowledges and overcomes his own failings. And doing so under fire—West’s incredibly nasty when sick. It’s also the least showy part in the episode. Woodhouse does very well here.

There’s a little more with Shenton in the second half of the episode. While the episode doesn’t try to wrap up too much in the season finale, it’s definitely aware some elements need to get settled. Thanks to the plotting, the episode gets to do a couple resolution scenes, with the second one putting the cast and show nicely (of course) to bed for the season.