[Editor’s Note: Major spoilers ahead for All Creatures Great and Small Season 3, Episode 7, “Merry Bloody Christmas.”]
All Creatures Great and Small may not actually be TV’s nicest show, but it’s still marked by a certain stability: Even as its characters engage in new disputes and face unique obstacles, things always turn out right in the end. Viewers have come to count on this steadiness from All Creatures, but the Season 3 finale, “Merry Bloody Christmas” (which also serves as the drama’s annual holiday special) flips this expectation on its head with a series of stories that bring out new vulnerabilities in Siegfried (Samuel West), Tristan (Callum Woodhouse), and Mrs. Hall (Anna Madeley).
While Siegfried and Tristan unpack their complicated mix of brotherly love, obligation, and resentment — a season-long arc that concludes in Tristan leaving the Yorkshire Dales to fight in World War II, with Siegfried’s blessing — Mrs. Hall begins to create a life for herself beyond the walls of Skeldale House. In the wake of her emotional reunion with her son, Edward (Conor Deane), Mrs. Hall finally does something for herself and passionately kisses her longtime friend Gerald (Will Thorp) under the mistletoe. The moment comes as a shock after watching Mrs. Hall spend the past three seasons prioritizing the needs of everyone around her and using her estranged husband as justification for keeping Gerald at arm’s length. The big kiss also serves as a disappointment for fans hoping she and Siegfried would get together, though the look of devastation that appears on Siegfried’s face suggests this love triangle is just getting started.
For All Creatures star Anna Madeley, it’s been a delight to see Mrs. Hall navigate her feelings for Gerald, even if she shoves them down until the final minutes of Season 3. In an interview with Primetimer, Madeley reveals she’s particularly fond of Episode 4, “What a Balls Up!,” in which Mrs. Hall realizes the evening she and Gerald planned isn’t just a friendly outing, but a date. When she sees Gerald holding flowers outside the venue, she panics, telling him she “feels safe with how things are” and wouldn’t want to complicate their relationship by getting involved romantically.
“I loved doing the scene with [Thorp] after our date-not date,” Madeley says. “Because we all thought, ‘Hang on. Mrs. Hall’s being a bit naughty here.’ But she’s like, ‘No, come on, [it’s not a date].’ I liked the idea that she had to face reality a little bit in that moment. That was quite hard.”
“Those scenes are so delicate and sweet. Their ability to be honest with one another in that very English way is kind of great,” she continues. “The gentleness of it is really, really lovely. I love when they allow each other a bit of dignity. They give each other the space — they just allow something to go unsaid.”
Of course, in “Merry Bloody Christmas,” the unspoken element of Mrs. Hall and Gerald’s relationship finally comes to the fore. “She suddenly behaves instinctively,” Madeley says of the kiss, “And stops thinking and stops being careful about it all, worrying if something is right or wrong or any of those things. And just responds.”
Mrs. Hall’s spontaneity takes Gerald by surprise, especially after their last encounter, in which he revealed he’s accepted a job in the port city of Hull. (“She’s sort of taken aback by that,” Madeley says of her character.) But perhaps it wasn’t so startling, after all: Madeley previously told Primetimer that Mrs. Hall’s willingness to put her heart on the line stems from her conversation with her son. “The idea that [a romance] might cause any further problem with Edward, she wouldn’t want to dig into something that made things worse. Whereas if her relationship with Edward is good, and he’s accepting of her decision to leave his dad, that’s a huge emotional shift,” she said. “It does make it easier. There’s still a lot of logistical things, but emotionally, it definitely buys her some freedom.”
As thrilling as this rare moment of intimacy may be, All Creatures Great and Small Season 3 concludes without offering any real resolution. Gerald is, most likely, still moving to Hull, and sharing a kiss on Christmas Eve might be as far as their relationship ever goes. And with Tristan gone, Mrs. Hall will have to spend even more time soothing Siegfried, who has a habit of taking out his anxieties on those closest to him. But no matter what the fourth season of All Creatures brings, Mrs. Hall has taken a huge step forward when it comes to opening herself up to love, and in doing so, she’s begun to reclaim the identity and confidence she lost long ago.
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Claire Spellberg Lustig is the Senior Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.
TOPICS: All Creatures Great and Small, PBS, Masterpiece, Anna Madeley, Callum Woodhouse, Samuel West, Will Thorp