blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

All Creatures Great and Small (2020) s04e01 – Broodiness

“All Creatures” returns with an Easter special. Because the show’s changed so much since last time—Callum Woodhouse is off in World War II (it’s 1940)—the episode’s less the start of a new season than a special, which is fine, just a peculiar start. Since last episode (a Christmas special, so just a handful of months later), the veterinary clinic has found a new normal, well integrating Rachel Shenton into the house as de facto bookkeeper. Things seem to be going well (enough), but it’s hard to tell because Samuel West has given up tobacco for Lent, and it’s almost over, and he’s jonesing for a pipe.

Meanwhile, Nicolas Ralph seems to be taking to co-ownership in the practice well, while Anna Madeley’s ready to get on with her life and divorce her long-absent husband. It’s unclear where things stand with Madeley and just pal Will Thorp; despite her getting a relatively big setup for her divorce subplot (which includes an intentional public shaming stage), the episode doesn’t reveal much about her experience. “All Creatures” continues to keep reveals about Madeley for special occasions. Not even Easter is special enough.

The episode starts with Ralph taking a leisurely drive back to town from country, with “Creatures” showing off the beauty of the English countryside, then almost hitting little kid Billy Hickey and his dog. Hickey’s going to be Ralph’s nemesis for the episode, a poor kid who Ralph profiles and decides is mistreating the dog, even as Shenton tells him to give Hickey a chance and not to be a dipshit. West’s got his own medical case about a ewe who rejects her lamb, and how West’s forgetting he’s not the only one going through things, and farmer Paul Hilton might have it rough, too.

Back at the house, Madeley and Shenton share a subplot about medical supplies while mostly playing support to the boys. West will give Madeley some support in writing her divorce statement, but it’s for the eventual benefit of his character arc. Shenton and West get some great scenes together as part of the episode’s antics. “All Creatures” spends the first quarter of the episode showing how life has changed since war began—men are just gone, with the town trying to continue in their absence—and it’s all very serious. Hickey’s a kid in an unsafe, if not dangerous, situation, and so his plot has a lot of serious.

Broodiness compensates with downright sitcom antics around the house, with West as the butt of the joke. It works out, especially juxtaposed against West’s subplot about the farmer. “All Creatures” manages to do a deft contrast of West and Ralph’s cases for the episode and how the duty of care relates to each. It’s a very nice, eventually rending morale.

“All Creatures” gives no indication of what it’ll be doing this season, but this first episode does reassure wherever they go, it’ll be more than worth the trip.

Speaking of… the drone shots. Not just when Ralph or West is driving around town, but for some of the establishing shots; they got themselves a drone, and they know how to use it. Nice directing from Andy Hay, great photography from Sara Deane.

It’s so nice to have “Creatures” back.

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