Courtesy of the tv critic who tweeted days before the episode was shown that this week’s Poldark would feature “tin bath and tragedy,” I had already guessed that this would be the week that a certain member of the main cast died, so let me start by saying thanks a bunch for spoiling that for me.
Tweet or no tweet, though, I would have guessed while watching anyway, since everything was going so swimmingly (sorry) for Francis that there was no way the poor man was going to make it to the end. In the same way that a star burns brightest before it’s snuffed out forever, Francis (and the superb Kyle Soller) had an almost feverishly good week.
As a magistrate, he proved far more adept than his hotheaded cousin at manipulating the legal system, saving a man’s life and earning even Ross’s admiration in the process. As a man of pride, he vanquished the Warleggan Weasel with a speech so exquisitely cutting, I could see George bleed. As a mineowner, he finally reached the promised copper. And as a married man, he managed to get his wife to admit him to her bedchamber again – has it really taken a year? – even if she was thinking of the other Poldark the whole time (don’t think you’re getting a free pass on that one, by the way, Elizabeth, I’ll get to you later).
Three and-a-half out of four is pretty astonishing, given how ignominious a failure on all fronts poor Francis was in season 1, but tv law means that, of course, this incredible uptick in both his fortunes and popularity could only be temporary: death stalked poor Francis right from the opening flashback this week, just waiting for us to forgive him and like him, maybe even love him a little (if we hadn’t already succumbed, that wonderful scene with Eleanor Tomlinson’s Demelza would have sealed the deal) before snatching him away. Sigh. A few episodes ago, he was ready to shoot himself in the head and I wouldn’t have missed him, but now I’m wishing death had taken his appallingly self-centred wife, instead.
Yes, Elizabeth spent the week sniffing round her brother-in-law once again – after his carry-on at Christmas, it seemed to be her turn once again to lead the chase, with quite the dinner party come-on. “Did I think I loved Francis better? How soon I realised my mistake!”was clear enough to unsettle Ross, but just to make doubly sure – and no doubt give the unknown gentlemen sitting on her other side some terrific gossip to take away with him – she threw “Cannot a woman love two men? Cannot a man love two women?” into the mix as well, presumably because “How’s about it, big boy?” might have been a bit uncouth for Sunday night period drama.
To his credit – for once – Ross seemed more shocked than anything else, and very sensibly spent the night with his delightful wife instead of his brazen sister-in-law. In fact, before Francis’s demise, it was actually quite a sweet week for the Nampara Poldarks, all things considered. I mean, there was the obligatory spat over the smuggling and that soldier with the comedy Scottish accent (I live in Scotland, guys. That’s not how we talk.) but baby Jeremy was fat and safe, and, instead of Ross’s callousness and cruelty of the past few weeks, there was a lot of charming, giggly sparring; a joyously smiley, splashy, shirtless (I’m trying to pretend I don’t care, but I’m not even convincing myself) bath scene and a general feeling that things might actually be on the up.
However, tv law clearly had to intervene here too: just as Ross and Demelza were at their happiest again….. whoosh! Francis was dead, Elizabeth was back in Ross’s arms (innocently for now, but Demelza and the audience know it won’t be innocent for long) and the apparently unstoppable Warleggan Weasel had them all in his crosshairs once again, because he can’t resist Ross any more than Elizabeth or Demelza can, he just has a decidedly less agreeable way of showing it.
Unlike the lovely Dr Enys, bless him, who is as agreeable as the Cornish coastline is long. Having charmed everyone around him (including a girl with a leg problem who’s name is, I kid you not, Miss Hoblin – is it wrong that I laughed?) and cured Aunt Agatha’s hypochondria and the entire village of everything else, there’s still a big old hole in the good Doctor’s heart which only the feisty Miss Penvenen can fill. He’s adorable, she’s hat-over-hunting-boots for him too, and they finally tell each other that this week, which means that no matter what Ross and Elizabeth and the eminently punchable George Warleggan are all about to get up to, at least somebody in the show might have a chance at long-term happiness, even if the rest of the season is about to take a very grim turn.