The All Creatures Great And Small Season 4 premiere reminds viewers that the shadow of World War II is now fully woven into the lives of the residents of Yorkshire. At Skeldale House, Tristan is sorely missed as there are plenty of farmers and pet owners looking for veterinary care. While the season premiere establishes that the series has not forgotten its roots in comforting television, the stakes for the health of the animals have never been higher. Let’s discuss how the characters are adjusting to their new reality.

James begins the episode with a tense confrontation: he’s driving distracted and almost runs over a local boy and his dog. The boy lashes out by throwing something at James’ windshield. Later on, James sees the boy messing with the other kids as they’re trying to race their wooden duckies down the river. James tries to talk to the kid, but he yells at James to go away. This kid is the rudest in Yorkshire — he then punches James for trying to examine the dog! During the confrontation, James realizes that his dog has distemper, which is potentially deadly and can spread to other dogs. He finds out that the kid’s name is Wesley Binks, and that Wesley is a known troublemaker in the village. James refuses to give up on helping the dog, Duke, and visits Wesley’s house. Helen remarks that this experience is preparation for future fatherhood.

James feels compelled to call the RSPCA after visiting Wesley’s house because his family clearly cannot take care of Duke. The RSPCA sends an officer, but Wesley runs away. The officer concludes that Wesley’s family is impoverished, not abusive. We’ve seen clients pretend that they’re broke before, but it’s clear that the Binks’ family are truly struggling. Likely Wesley is giving Duke some of his own food. James sees Wesley hiding and tells him to bring Duke to Skeldale because he still needs help. Wesley finally sees that Duke isn’t getting better on his own, and brings him to Skeldale for treatment. He’s scared that the dog will die, but James says he has better odds because he’s a mutt. Wesley doesn’t have the money to pay James for his services so he agrees to clean out the animal pens in lieu of payment. Siegfried is skeptical about the arrangement but Wesley is thankful that James was able to save Duke.

Speaking of Siegfried, he has a difficult farm case as well. Mr. Slaven is struggling with lambing season. One of his ewes is rejecting a newborn lamb, and the ewe isn’t responding to the usual treatment. Siegfried has to diagnose the condition without the aid of tobacco, as he gave up smoking for Lent. He also won’t admit it, but he’s missing Tristan, and not just for Tris’ ability to help with cases. Siegfried recommends that Mr. Slaven set up a bonding pen followed by monitoring feeds every 4 to 6 hours. Siegfried doesn’t realize that Slaven’s wife died, which means he has had to take care of the entire farm alone. He still follows through on the birthing pen plan, because he can’t afford to lose his main source of income. Thankfully the pen forces the ewe to bond with her lamb.

After James finds out about Mr. Slaven’s situation, he realizes that there’s an even better long term solution to the problem. Wesley clearly needs focus and purpose as he’s dropped out of school, so James suggests Wesley to Mr. Slaven as a farm hand. Now Wesley has his own source of money to care for Duke, and Mr. Slaven doesn’t have to worry about Wesley leaving for enlistment, because he’s too young to serve.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Hall is fighting a battle with her past. She has decided to officially file for divorce, as Mr. Hall is never coming back to live with her. Unfortunately, there’s some bureaucratic hoops to jump through. She is required to make a detailed statement of the events in her marriage, as well as provide documentation for review. The audience can see some of the details of her backstory over her shoulder while she writes. Mr. Hall left Mrs. Hall sometime after his return from World War I. Remembering all of the details is painful, and Siegfried accidentally reads about some of the proceedings. She’s nervous about him finding out everything, but he reassures her that moving forward with her life is the right thing to do. Mrs. Hall hasn’t decided anything about her future yet, but she does go to church with Gerald on Easter Sunday.

Will James and Siegfried hire another vet to help keep the animals of Darrowby healthy? What is Tristan’s experience on the battlefield? Will Helen and James become parents? We’ll find out next week on All Creatures Great and Small!