blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

All Creatures Great and Small (2020) s02e01 – Where the Heart Is

The season two premiere opens very similarly to the first episode, with Nicholas Ralph back in Glasgow. He’s visiting his parents (for Easter), so four and a half months after the Christmas special, and mom Gabriel Quigley wants him to move back home. There’s a job at the local vet office. The practice has the latest technology, serves household pets (a growing industry), and prospective boss Euan Macnaughton values Ralph’s opinion.

And dad Drew Cain is getting a little old for working on the docks.

So Ralph tentatively agrees to return home permanently for the job, which will be open in approximately six months. Potentially the present action of the season.

When he gets back to Yorkshire, he keeps this job offer a secret from everyone there. This episode’s all about secrets, big and small. The other big one is Callum Woodhouse not passing his veterinary boards and, therefore, not being board-certified. It’s unclear how much this exam result matters—can Woodhouse practice without the results—but brother Samuel West is noticeably uncomfortable when housekeeper Anna Madeley wants to get Woodhouse a gift recognizing the achievement.

So West’s lying to Madeley quite badly, and she suspects something’s going on.

Then Woodhouse—who’s mostly just stocking the dispensary at the practice—has his own secret. Thanks to a busy schedule, he gets to attend guest star June Watson’s parakeet. Except it drops dead, so Woodhouse gets the idea to just replace it with another, as Watson’s blind. It’s the comic subplot in the episode, also involving West and Madeley to fine result.

The other veterinary case involves Philip Hill-Pearson’s sheep and the neighbors’ dog. Unfortunately, the dog’s terrorizing the sheep, leading to some severe consequences. Complicating things is the dog’s owner—it’s Imogen Clawson, little sister to Ralph’s love interest, Rachel Shenton; both Clawson and Shenton are pals to the practice in general, so when Ralph finds out the dog’s in danger of being put down, he and Clawson cook up a scheme to save the pup.

Also, under the surface is whatever’s gone on with Ralph and Shenton since Christmas, when she canceled her wedding (at her wedding), leaving Ralph open to pursue her.

The arc’s got some humor thanks to Woodhouse and Clawson gently teasing Ralph about his crush on Shenton, but it soon gives way to a conflict between city slicker Ralph (who doesn’t think you should kill a dog for barking at sheep) and the country folk. West, Pitts, and even Shenton don’t take kindly to Ralph’s input on the matter.

Amid all the contemporary drama is Madeley wanting to make Ralph feel at home again on his return—he was away visiting a couple of weeks—and seeing how West’s aggressive attitude is affecting Ralph, without knowing Ralph’s contemplating that job offer.

Lots of quiet drama, genial humor, and fine acting. Ralph does particularly well with the personal conflicts, guest star Hill-Pearson’s great, and Clawson and Woodhouse are both excellent.

“All Creatures” is off to a somewhat strange start for the season—not sure there were any secrets in the first season—but it’s a good start.

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