This episode takes place in late September 1938. The episode opens with Nicholas Ralph and Rachel Shenton going to the movies and watching a newsreel about Chamberlain going to meet with Hitler. Shenton keeps telling Ralph not to worry about world events, which isn’t a great recommendation for taking Shenton’s advice.
The date’s not all doom and gloom, with a client, Mike Harding, amusingly hassling Ralph.
However, back home, Anna Madeley is similarly concerned with the possibility of war. She gets a bigger arc than usual, including going on what ought to be a romantic walk with love interest Will Thorp, except they instead talk about the looming conflict. Madeley’s worried her son will enlist for king and country. It’s a nice plot for Madeley, who rarely gets to talk to the veterinary boys about anything except them.
The main plot this episode is Ralph’s parents visiting. He hasn’t told mom Gabriel Quigley he won’t be going back to Glasgow, which the show also hasn’t expressly stated until this episode either. And it’ll turn out Ralph also didn’t tell some other folks he should’ve told about it. Waiting for him to break the news to his parents—which comes after another big announcement—is rather suspenseful, just because Ralph’s so bad at confrontation.
And decisiveness. Ralph’s other personal plot in this episode is the fallout from Samuel West telling him to hurry up and propose to Shenton, something Ralph hadn’t been planning on doing, what with Shenton leaving her last groom-to-be at the altar last season. It turns out to be a pretty good subplot for Shenton, who doesn’t get to talk through all of her feelings, but she does get to experience them on screen.
The veterinary case this episode is widow Amy Nuttall’s cows again. The episode breezes through her grazing land being infested with a parasite, and now they’re just worried about the cows having salmonella. The first scene with Nuttall and Ralph has a very brief recap of her last appearance and some catching up—the script, credited to Ben Vanstone, rushes through the specifics. Then it’s all fine, with the Nuttall plot working nicely into Ralph’s parents’ visit. It’s a nice redemption of Nuttall, who I dreaded after her last appearance, but that episode seems to be “All Creatures”’s season two (and series, actually) low point.
The main “house” subplot is whether or not Callum Woodhouse is going back to college to try for professional certification. Third time’s the charm, perhaps. West is pressuring him, Madeley’s telling West to leave him be, while Woodhouse is more concerned with finding a good home for a local stray. The stray story involves a local nomad, Frances Tomelty, who doesn’t see much point in veterinarians, and she and Woodhouse have a genially tense relationship. The story’s the most agency Woodhouse’s gotten on his own as a vet, which makes West’s ill-informed character attacks even more grating than usual. Intentionally and to good effect. There’s a lot of drama in the episode, even if the stakes are reasonably low.
Especially since they’re all set against the Munich Conference.
Quigley and Drew Cain (as Ralph’s dad) do particularly well in the episode, getting far better character material than ever before. Madeley, Shenton, Woodhouse, and Tony Pitts are the other acting highlights.
It’s a foreboding but reassuring—the great British resolve and all—close to the season. Well, save the Christmas special.