All Creatures Great and Small (2020) s03e06 – For Whom the Bell Tolls

In the way it has come for so many British television shows, movies, radio plays, and so on, war has come to “All Creatures Great and Small,” specifically the beginning of World War II. Or at least the King’s Speech beginning of World War II. The family gathers around the radio and everyone gets their demo reel clip. It’s exceptionally well-done. This episode is director Stewart Svaasand’s first “Creatures,” and it’s setting a high bar.

While everyone’s been worrying about the European conflict since the end of last season—with Nicholas Ralph moping about not getting to sign up for a few episodes, forced deferred because he’s a vet—it becomes real for everyone here. Great scenes for Samuel West and Anna Madeley, who get this quietly devastating arc about an abandoned dog. Someone drops him off at the vet’s, presumably on his way to enlist, and, while West is sympathetic as all hell, he doesn’t want people overloading them with abandoned pets.

Then Ralph and Rachel Shenton have a one-two gut-punch arc with the war coming, but also Shenton’s cattle coming in positive for tuberculosis. Not great, considering Shenton’s dad, Tony Pitts, was the one who vouched for the testing in the first place (and doesn’t have savings to get through a quarantine). Imogen Clawson’s around too, but entirely support for Pitts’s arc. Some excellent moments for Shenton throughout, especially an unexpectedly dramatic paperwork subplot.

Callum Woodhouse has the two fun arcs, obviously with significant caveats. He goes to dinner at girlfriend Sophie Khan Levy’s house and finds her father, Kris’s Dosanjh, not the villainous vet he’s been led to believe. Charming family dinner scene, setting Woodhouse up for his big reaction to the war arc. But first, he’s got to visit Patricia Hodge, who’s getting her house ready for the county to utilize in wartime. Adorable cameo from Tricki Woo (wonderfully essayed, as ever, by Derek), but he’s not the focus.

Adrian Rawlins (Ralph’s hard-nosed TB testing supervisor) and Will Thorp (Madeley’s not-romantic but romantic male friend) have great scenes.

It’s all very British and very good–script credit to Jamie Crichton.

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