Photo: Helen Williams/PBS
Okay, straight at the top, I’ve gotta say it. The dog dies — but it’s gonna be okay! It’s going to be fine! WE’LL GET THROUGH THIS. In the grand and confusing traditions of UK shows brought to America, this is the season finale but not the final episode. There is a Christmas episode next week! But if this one feels a little “and that’s the end of that chapter!” then that is why.
We start off in line at the movies. Being the person I am, I did a lot of pausing and backtracking to figure out which movie James and Helen are seeing, and I can say with absolute confidence that it is the 1938 classic Bringing Up Baby, starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. What a great movie. I’m really warming to James and Helen as a couple, just in time for the end of the season. Helen is allowed into the Darrowby 2297 family, I have decreed it.
James’s parents know nothing of Helen. They are finally visiting the Dales and the chickens have come home to roost, so to speak, regarding James fessing up about his future. He is staying at the practice instead of moving back home because he has realized it is the best place of all places and why would you ever leave it, silly veterinarian man.
At the practice, Siegfried asks James why he doesn’t get married, and James sensibly replies that he has no money. Siegfried says he and Helen can just live there, and I technically know this would be crowded and inconvenient and afford essentially zero privacy since Tristan lives in the closet, but also maybe it would be amazing?
Meanwhile, remember Mrs. Dalby and her sick cows? The ones with husk? And then I looked up a bunch of parasite images and deeply regretted it? Well, they are back, but older now. Mrs. Dalby calls them “stirks,” which means young bulls or cows, and they are sick once more. But they are not sick with husk, which is great! James takes stool samples to have them analyzed, and I have to tell you about the stress I endured worrying about those stool samples. I was very convinced James would forget to have them analyzed (they had set up him messing something up and being scatterbrained earlier in the episode!), and then more of Mrs. Dalby’s cows would die and it would be so sad. So let me assure you right now — the stool samples are fine, and they are used solely for comic effect later.
James is distracted because of his parents’ visit and because he is very into Helen. He asks her on a romantic car ride to deliver the Dalbys’ stool samples. They drive along the winding road, and the camera angle made me very nervous?? It was very “we are about to get into a very serious accident.” And yes, I have falsely expected doom twice in this episode already, before we even got to the true, canine doom that’s coming for us. But James and Helen are fine! Except James says he laughed when Siegfried said he should marry Helen. JAMES. Helen informs James he sometimes overthinks things, and when he admits he’s worried that she would say no to marrying him, she tells him to stop the car.
James and Helen get out and walk to an extremely picturesque spot by some sheep. He tells her he wants to spend the rest of his life with her there in the Dales. They kiss. The sheep are uninterested.
So this is where I got worried about the stool samples. Because! Because they were on the way to deliver them and then they return to the farm to ask Helen’s dad about marriage, and I was worried James was so overwhelmed with happiness that he forgot about them! Or, as my notes say: “They drive back to see her dad?? But the stool samples!!” Love is all well and good, but let’s not suffer from dereliction of duty, James (James is very good and does not suffer from this).
Let’s hit pause on Helen and James, though, and return to the practice. We have never seen Mrs. Donovan before, but she peddles shampoos for dogs and cats that she claims are far superior to what the veterinary practice can do. I saw one article refer to her as an “Irish Traveler,” which I am not fully confident in, but it is definitely a possibility! She leads a peripatetic lifestyle and has a boat, which is fun. She also has a terrier named Rex in whom she is very invested. Rex is the dog. The dog we were all talking about earlier. Rex is hit by a car and he dies. I would quote my notes again, but they are just me writing “nooooooooo” in all caps many times. It is very distressing, and if for some reason you love reading recaps of a gentle veterinary show before watching said show, I’d recommend skipping it. Who can emotionally afford it in this economy? Mrs. Donovan is obviously crushed. It is all terrible. I can’t believe my best and favorite show did this in its finale.
This is a moment of true Tristan redemption from the Fields of Meh as he carries Rex all the way across town, over hill and dale, to bury him in the spot Mrs. Donovan picks. Good job, Tristan. You’re really stepping up in this episode.
Back at Helen’s dad’s (Mr. Alderson), his horse Candy is going into labor but having trouble. James says the uterus is twisted, which sounds absolutely awful? I looked up many diagrams of “uterine torsion,” and I still don’t understand it. Also, I know this is how all mammals work, but it’s so weird to think about a whole horse inside another horse. Siegfried and Tristan come to help, and they manage to untwist the uterus and the foal is born. And it just WALKS right away, like foals do, unlike helpless human babies.
Side note, but if you’re wondering what Siegfried grabbed before heading out from the practice, it was Greener’s Humane and Instantaneous Horse Killer. If, for some reason, you want to learn more about that (introduced in 1865!), here you go. Oh, and yes, Tristan was indeed reading Biggles Goes to Warwhich came out in 1938. The props people are really earning their paychecks this season.
James and Mr. Alderson drink in the kitchen and Mr. Alderson gives James his late wife’s ring, which is so nice. He also says it’s no use asking him because Helen will marry who she wants. Why is this show so good. Do we deserve it? Yes. Yes, we do. We also deserve MORE of it. Maybe season three could be released next month. I believe in them. They could do it.
The next morning, James gets a call from the lab saying nothing was found in the stool samples. He did drop them off! Really glad we closed the loop on that because I’m not sure you could tell, but I was concerned. This means that poor beset Mrs. Dalby’s cows are going to be fine. They just have a copper deficiency.
If you’re saying, “wait, didn’t you say James’s parents visit this episode,” you would be correct to be confused! They are not in it very much! When he greets them at the bus, his mother immediately mentions how great it will be when he moves back home. Classic parent move. He drops them at the inn and goes to see Helen.
Okay, again, I know I haven’t been the nicest about James and Helen as a pairing this season or ever, but I have warmed to them, and his proposal made me very “eeeee.” James is at the farm with her and tells her she has something on the back of her dress. When she turns away from him to look, he KNEELS, it’s so nice ahhh! I wish I had seen this move before I proposed to my wife so I could have stolen it. Helen gets emotional about her mother’s ring, of course.
So James’s parents still don’t know who Helen is and he’s now engaged to her. The confusion compounds further because said parents are waiting in Siegfried’s parlor with the whole gang except James and Helen, and James’s mom says Siegfried must be sorry to be losing him. Which, of course, just confuses the bejeezus out of Siegfried, who never knows what’s going on. James and Helen show up right after this intensely awkward moment, at which point he tells his mom he’s engaged to Helen and this is Helen and also, he is staying in Darrowby. He loves how every day is different (can you imagine, she said, two years into quarantine). “I love this place,” he tells his mom. YES, ME TOO, JAMES.
His parents are very nice about it, but the next day, his mom sobs on the bus back home. Good parenting job, guys. Support ’em to their face, cry out your feelings later. This may sound insincere, but it is not! Those are not James’s feelings to deal with!
“But what about the dog plotline?” you ask. Right! Tristan finds an Irish Wolfhound just wandering around, puts a leash on it, and tells Mrs. Donovan he’ll probably have to put it down, so of course she takes it. The dog’s name is Roy! Later, when they’re all at The Drovers, she tells him she knows what he did. But now she has Roy and they can take care of each other!
Everyone is at The Drovers, including Mrs. Hall! Just, my complete delight at seeing Mrs. Hall in there. Tristan says he’s going back to college (yay!), and when Siegfried goes to say something Siegfriedian, Mrs. Hall touches his shoulder (!) and tells him to be quiet, and after she removes her hand, Siegfried looks down at his shoulder. MY SHIP SAILS ON.
Tristan teases Helen about going through with the wedding and she hits him. Everyone is happy and together! I LOVE THIS SHOW. Bring on the Christmas episode!
• No, but seriously, what are we supposed to do after this season? Watch Euphoria? I don’t understand those children!
• I didn’t imagine an anachronistic fanfic where Siegfried and Mrs. Hall try to beat Wordle first, YOU did.
• Can we have an All Creatures movie like the Downton people got?