Like they heard my questions, this episode has Rachel Shenton returning to her family farm to check in on things. Sort of. There’s no discussion of whether or not she’s still working at the farm or what’s up with little sister Imogen Clawson (who doesn’t appear in this episode; I keep forgetting this season is a Rona-season). She’s instead going to ask dad Tony Pitts to get on board with Nicholas Ralph’s TB testing program.
Other than the visit with Pitts, Shenton spends her entire time this episode hanging out with Ralph. Mostly at work. Farmer Isaac Crawford wants Ralph to falsify a cow autopsy to collect on the insurance, but Ralph doesn’t think fraud is cricket. It’s a subplot for Ralph and Shenton, giving them something to do, while the main plot belongs to Samuel West.
The episode begins with a World War I flashback, which is never good. Andy Sellers plays the young version of Ralph, who’s in the veterinary corps and protecting the horses. They’ve just found an injured one they think they can help. It’s devastating. The flashbacks are recurring, too, because, in the present, Ralph’s going through a couple things involving his old war buddies.
Michael Maloney, playing the old man version of Ralph’s commanding officer, has a skittish racehorse giving him problems and wants Ralph to evaluate. Depending on Ralph’s report, Maloney might put the animal down. As the present-day story progresses, with West trying to rehabilitate the horse, the flashbacks show how Sellers and Jolyon Coy (as young Maloney) squared off about the horses back in the war. Again, devastating stuff.
The episode—script credit to Ben Vanstone—knows there are only so many times they can dunk the viewer into despair, so Callum Woodhouse gets the lighthearted subplot about trying too hard to restock the dispensary.
Anna Madeley plays support to Ralph’s arc, the only person he’s willing to confide in. There’s a brief mention of the current war at the beginning of the episode, but nothing for Ralph to do with it. Given how much the season premiere foreshadowed Ralph’s interest in enlisting (again, I haven’t googled James Herriot for spoilers), it’s weird quickly he’s forgotten.
It’s a particularly great episode for West, who rarely gets this kind of extensive focus and character development.
Besides Ralph forgetting he wants to join up and Shenton not getting to establish herself post-wedding, living with her husband and his coworkers, “Creatures” is checking all its boxes this season.