The opening flashback to prequel-era Poldark – barely alive, in a field of comrades, wholly dead – makes me wonder, somewhat apprehensively, if this season is going to be about PTSD, which a) was hard enough when we went through it with Dwight and b) seems a bit late now, since Ross has been back from that particular war for years. Happily though, Cap’n Poldark is as far from traumatised as can be at the moment: in fact, he’s positively mellow and calm these days (and incredibly restrained and patient with the appalling George), which is lovely and long overdue, so we’ll see how long that lasts.
Since he doesn’t have any immediate crises of his own for now, though, the writers have to rustle up someone else’s for him to get involved with. So the flashback turns out to be their way of doing it, introducing us to the first of this season’s big problems/ opportunities to get into big trouble in the form of old friend Ned Despard: currently in gaol for taking from the rich and giving to the poor in an entirely appropriate, legal and “must be stopped” if you’re the rich, kind of way. ‘Twas ever thus.
With Ned designated an enemy of “the Government, the Crown, the Empire” and – since his wife Catherine is a freed slave – “the slave trade,” Dr Dwight, bless him, gently enquires (a number of times) “if it’s wise to become embroiled” in this particular storyline, but this just makes Ross and I laugh, since a) of course it’s not and b) since when does that make any difference? There’s Ned to save, slavery to fight and another 7 episodes left, so let’s just get on with fighting the power one last time, hey? And get on with it, we do. By the end of the episode, Ross has, surprisingly easily, managed to save the King from assassination, get himself recruited as a secret agent and free Ned as quid pro quo, but since Ned is about as likely to go quietly and let false charges of treason be bygones as much as Ross is, no doubt things will get a lot harder in early course.
As Ross fights slavery, meanwhile, Demelza tries, not quite as successfully, to soothe dissent among the latest workers fired by George (also a running theme over the years). Offering the chief agitator a job doesn’t quite do it, though. Somebody sets Nampara on fire anyway, which seems a tad unfair, and if Demelza believes Miss Tess wasn’t involved, she might be the only one who does, but we’ll see. No injuries, no casualties – so far – and Mistress Poldark is soon off to join her husband and his merry crew in London too.
Said band of buddies also includes Geoffrey Charles, who wants to leave school and join the military, but needs money to pay for it. Mad, mean George won’t give him a penny, but no matter; GC is soon distracted by one Miss Cecily Hanson who has very Poldark-friendly politics but a very non-Poldark friendly father who was instrumental in sending Ned to jail and is now going into business with George. Or trying to, his efforts being somewhat hampered by the fact that George can’t understand that Elizabeth is dead and wants to know what she thinks of the business plan. Oh God. I loathe George, but poor Valentine. Poor baby whose name I’ve forgotten. And poor, lovely Drake who just keeps finding himself in situations where George tries to have him killed. Argh. It’s a reasonable enough start to the season, and I like this new, relaxed Ross, but the Ned storyline is already boring me, Tess is awful, and there hasn’t been anywhere near as much Dr Dwight and Caroline yet for my liking. I’m not exactly on the edge of my
cliff seat waiting for the next instalment.