Poldark s3 ep 6

*SPOILERS (and toads)*

Oh dear. As soon as Drake and Morwenna melt back into each other’s arms, it’s󰀁 obvious that they’re doomed and it’s obvious how. Drake’s going to do something that puts him in George’s power, Morwenna’s going to have to sacrifice herself to save him, she’ll be distraught, he’ll be bereft… and so it proves. l’d have said the toads were going to be the culprits but Ross and Demelza aka Dempsey and Makepeace manage to extricate the younger Carne from that particular fix in impressively dashing fashion, so, alas and alack, it’s left to young Geoffrey Charles’s generosity to land Drake in toad-infested water, Morwenna in Slimeborne Whitworth’s clutches, and everybody (except George) in the suds. Sigh.

At least Cornish clifftop love isn’t totally hopeless, though. The survivor’s guilt/PTSD calamity which befalls the Enys-Penvenens may be just as predictable as the Drake/Morwenna disaster – so much so that we did actually predict it last week – but, after a bit of nobody telling Caroline what’s wrong and everybody making things worse, Ross (who is a terrific friend, and on the way to being a decent husband again) hits on the happy notion of Soldiers Anonymous: that nice Lt Armitage and Doctor Dwight talk out their troubles, Dwight stops “protecting” his wife and starts talking to her instead, and hey presto! Things at Killewarren end up looking significantly sunnier than they started out. Aw.

I don’t like toads or unjust imprisonment myself, but – apart from the impending doom and all – this is a fun episode till it, um, isn’t (poor Morwenna) and if George is evil, Elizabeth’s on her way to being as bad and Sam just needs to SHUT UP ALREADY, none of that’s new. Aunt Agatha’s awesome enough for everyone, there’s plenty of humour to offset the heartache and the horror – the toe-sucking, guys. Ewwwwww – and Drake and Morena will be together eventually, won’t they? Won’t they? Please.

Poldark s3 ep 5

*SPOILERS*

Intrigue at home and abroad this week, as Caroline pins her hopes for Doctor Dwight’s rescue on a French fleet she has somehow acquired (at least she seems to think so); Ross launches his own alternative rescue mission – a.k.a. Five Men and a Boat; and George takes the opportunity to indulge in a spot of anti-Poldark sabotage, because if Ross is doing something Ross-ish, the Warleggan Weasel just cannot leave it be.

If George is at his most George-like wafting around the ballrooms of the aristocracy with a sour face and an obsession with bouncy curls, though, he’s not the only one very much in tune with his inner self this week. Demelza is at her most steadfast and supportive. Ross is at his most brave, reckless and loyal. Caroline is at her most optimistic and naive. And Morwenna and Drake are at their most sweet and put-upon. All of which makes for a thoroughly entertaining episode, alternating between the excitement of Le Prison Break, the unshakeable (and entirely correct) feeling that somebody’s not going to make it back across the channel, and the irresistible urge to punch stupid, mean George in his stupid, mean face.

This latter pleasure is sadly not afforded to us but, unusually for once, it’s George’s scheme to climb another step up the social ladder which fails, while Ross’s completely demented plan works, to some extent, at least. On one view, Le Prison Break is a notable success, thanks to the broken-hearted Drake and the very pleasant Lt Armitage but, on another, it’s an awful tragedy, obvious as it is from the second poor, brave Captain Henshaw declares that “mining’s a risk, loving’s a risk, living’s a risk”, that he won’t be doing any of the three for much longer. Sob. Captain Henshaw is just the kind of steadfast, decent, down-to-earth character, a big, melodramatic romance like this show needs. And he was NICE, dammit. Why did he have to die? His funeral and all the singing is lovely, but it’s not like that makes up for it. Especially if Doctor Dwight is destroyed by whatever awful combination of survivor’s guilt and PTSD he’s about to put himself, Caroline and the audience through. Sigh. Still, at least we finally have Doctor Dwight back. And Lt Armitage by way of a bonus. And George looks like a total prat. Every cloud…..

Poldark s3 ep 4

Poldark is many things but subtle isn’t one of them, so opening this episode with a shot of stormy waves crashing against Nampara Beach instead of the usual tourist-friendly calm waters and sunny clifftop views seems like a very clear warning of bad times ahead. And so it proves, as the good people of Poldarkia have to endure “a failed harvest, the worst winter in 30 years”, starvation, unemployment, and George Warleggan on the bench behaving like Justice Trump.

Two-and-a-half seasons of character development pays off at last, however, as for once, the sorely-goaded Ross somehow manages the trifecta of refusing to rise to George’s bait, feeding the entire village and making George look like an idiot in the process. Hurrah!

Of course, none of this would be possible without a large dose of girl power. Once the indefatigable Demelza has given birth – working in the potato patch right up to the last minute, and scorning the “faddlings of Dr Choake,” the woman obviously has no truck with the concept of maternity leave – and Ross has had a couple of minutes to coo over baby Clowance, the Poldarks set about righting a variety of wrongs, with Ross visiting the crotchety but delighted Aunt Agatha; Caroline and Demelza parting the county’s rich men from their money to fund the Nampara Food Bank; and Wheal whichever-one-it-is taking on a bunch more staff because give a man a bowl of grain, he’ll eat for a day, but give him a job…. You know the rest.

While the rest of the family busy themselves with social welfare, though, the Carne brothers have other things on their minds. Preacher Sam, as usual, annoys everyone about everything, taking exception both to Ross’s scheme to feed the poor (FFS!) and to Drake’s feelings for Morwenna. Luckily, neither Ross nor Drake pay Preacher Sam any mind at all, which means the poor get fed and Drake and Morwenna are ON. Well, eventually. Before then, the poor girl has to endure a brief Christmas trip (yes, in July) to the Warleggan townhouse in Truro where desperate Elizabeth is knocking back the tinctures, and rancid George is planning a match based, like all of George’s schemes, on a combination of financial gain, social climbing and pure, unfiltered sadism.

The oleaginous, unspeakable Rev Collins Rev Osborne Whitworth and his proposal to Lizzie Bennett Morwenna may well be in the Poldark novels – I don’t know, I haven’t read them – but their portrayal and staging are lifted straight out of the BBC’s Colin Firth/ Jennifer Ehle version of Pride and Prejudice, and elicit a similar response from both the viewer and Morwenna herself – best described as a combination of “ewwwww”, “NO” and “get to f…Falmouth.” Having said that, Morwenna does very well to hide her glee at being sent back to Trenwith (and Drake, and a big pop-video-style kiss on the no-longer-stormy-beach!) to think about what she’s done, and if Demelza and Sam aren’t happy with the idea of a Carne-Chynoweth romance, they’ll just have to get happy, then, won’t they? Maybe chief shippers Ross and Geoffrey Charles can talk them round. But that can probably wait until somebody’s rescued Doctor Dwight and his beard of woe. Come on Ross, your pal’s been stuck in that hellhole long enough – allons-y!

Poldark s3 ep 3

*SPOILERS*

“Papa’s been gone a long while, hasn’t he? Where can he be?”

“Creeping moodily around rural revolutionary France” is the answer to that question, as Captains Poldark and Hook, neither of whom is blessed with the power of stealth, hang about les rues françaises as conspicuously as humanly possible, waiting for news of Doctor Dwight. Or for apprehension and execution by La Republique – whichever comes first.

Keeping a low profile proves somewhat challenging for Ross, who spends much of the episode visibly tamping down his have-a-go-heroic impulses as throats are slit, women are manhandled and other unsportsmanlike behaviour is rampant all around him, but this is the new, improved Ross 2.0, and he has priorities; “I’ve a wife, a child, and another on the way. I’ll be keeping my head down and my mouth shut.” Not quite shut enough, mind you – this trip involves a lot of standing on street corners speaking English and looking shifty – but it’s more the serial brooding that tips off La Republique – or more specifically, la femme at le Pub – that l’homme anglais who’s not-so-surreptitiously smouldering right there in the middle of la salle might be on more than just a cheese and wine run.

Thankfully, a quick bribe later and our man’s deported as opposed to transported directly to Doctor Dwight’s side in French prison. (Dwight’s not dead – Hurrah! But he’s in prison – Boo!) Un petit thing like the threat of imminent, intimate introduction to la guillotine isn’t going to stop our hero, though, oh non. “Tell my wife I’ve been delayed,” he drawls, handing Capt Hook his stupid triangle hat and diving off into the Channel, before procuring a green beanie and returning to le SAME PUB and le SAME TABLE to get caught by la SAME FEMME. Dude, FFS!

No more Captain Sensible this time, though. Having procured the information he came for at last, our homme can finally go full Captain Hothead and embark on what I was going to call Aidan Turner’s audition for James Bond till I saw Digital Spy had already got there first. Dammit. Anyway, let’s just say Ross makes up for all that earlier standing around clenching his fists by joyfully unfurling his action hero flag and taking out a troop of French soldiers entirely single-handedly – although it’s more like single-headedly, it being a lot less of a faff to head-butt people when you’re wearing a beanie than it is with the stupid triangle hat – and dashing triumphantly back to Cornwall with news of Doctor Dwight’s (temporary, I would have thought, unless someone gets him out of le prison tout de suite) survival.

While her husband plays action man across the sea, meanwhile, the very pregnant and increasingly fed up Demelza does every other thing that needs doing because she is a proto-feminist powerhouse and everyone else is no good to man nor horse. “Fiend for prayer”(Hee) Sam continues to smile beatifically while constantly, interminably sermonising but, since he can’t sort sermonising space for himself, Demelza has to do that as well. Twice. Drake continues to moon after Morwenna and it’s adorable, but, dude, your sister, who has provided you with a home, a church and all manner besides, is UBER-pregnant and still running a working farm essentially by herself, as well as running after you and your jobless brother – could the pair of you not do some scything or something for her, FFS? As for Prudie, well yes, she’s funny and supportive, and throws dough around with great enthusiasm, but she could stand to do a bit more of the heavy lifting, too, thanks very much.

Happily, Demelza recognises both her own worth and everybody else’s lack thereof, so when her handsome idiot of a husband eventually comes back and presumes to try and second-guess what she did while he was off playing soldiers, he’s made to realise his mistake very, very quickly, and peace (also temporary, I’m sure) reigns once again in the Poldark house reigns once as they – horizontally, and very enthusiastically – make it up to one another.

While Ross and Demelza work their way back to marital bliss, however, life at Trenwith is a tad less passionate. Elizabeth, being both awful and deluded, continues to blame Ross and Demelza (FFS girl, Ross I understand, but how is it DEMELZA’s fault you slept with her husband?) for the whole Valentine being, um, “much darker” than Geoffrey Charles situation. So, in a state of high dudgeon, off she trots with her appalling husband to Truro, only to remember that a) her husband is the worst person alive and b) her leaving Trenwith is the best thing that ever happened to everyone except her, with c) Aunt Agatha, Morwenna and Geoffrey Charles (now the proud owner of his own stupid triangle hat) now entirely free to swing from the chandeliers if they so wish, never mind associate with every Carne and Captain Hothead within a 100 mile radius. Hurrah! My brain says I should feel sorry for Elizabeth, since the existential horror of marriage to Judge Dread (no, I don’t mean Dredd) is such that it requires both ye olde anti-depressants and booze, but that would require humanity of Demelza-size proportions and I’m just not that awesome. Which is a shame for me on a number of levels, only one of which is really pertinent to this post: this season is much better than the previous one, this episode was a good one and I enjoyed it, but if the show hadn’t made Elizabeth and George such terrible, wretched people and I didn’t spend all their increasingly lengthy and annoying screen time wondering why they haven’t died already, I might have enjoyed it (and every other episode) even more.

Poldark s3 ep 2

*SPOILERS*

This week on Poldark, a grizzled, drunken old pirate with a hook for a hand and not too many teeth joins the cast and everyone pretends he’s irresistible to all the women of the parish. Given that said parish includes a host of handsome young men led by Aidan Turner who have a habit of taking their shirts off, it’s a little odd that Old Man Hook is singled out as the Clooney of the bunch but no matter. His real function is to make “Argh” noises and coax Ross back onto the high seas, and he accomplishes that with aplomb; we’ll come to that later.

First, though, the young men, which sounds creepy, but bear with me. Demelza’s two brothers have, in true Poldark fashion, moved into one of Ross’s cottages and got jobs down the mine, and, also in true Poldark fashion, started noising up the Warleggan Weasel, partly by accident and partly because it’s hard not to. Oopsy.

Brother Sam – I think, it took me half the episode to settle on which was which – is exceptionally tedious; given that all he ever does is preach, his principal achievement this week is getting on everyone’s nerves, including mine, Ross and George’s – who says you don’t have anything in common, huh, fellas? Brother Drake, however, more than makes up for his sibling’s shortcomings, being not only sweet himself, but sweet on Morwenna too, bless. She may hide it better but she’s just as smitten in her own way, and the pair of them are so delightful with their wildflowers and their shell bracelets and their wishing well, that both Geoffrey Charles and I are completely charmed (though possibly not in the same way the naughty Prudie is, hee) and shipping them forthwith. Which I imagine means another lovely romance doomed to end in disaster, so everybody brace yourselves.

Disaster being one of this show’s abiding themes, of course, this week we have the triple gut-punch of Doctor Dwight’s ship going missing at sea, Capt Blamey’s ship also going missing at sea, and the Warleggan Weasel becoming the new town magistrate, Ross having turned the job down for reasons which might make sense if you’re Ross, but are infuriating and short-sighted if you’re everyone else. I mean, yes, obviously it’s a tad surprising that the chief poacher’s been offered the head gamekeeper post in the first place, but if the guy who actually presided over his big show trial is willing to let bygones be bygones, couldn’t Ross? Sigh.

One problem at a time, though – there are missing sailors we need to find. At least Verity’s flying visit ends a lot more happily than I thought it might, with Capt Blamey safe and Mrs Blamey heading off to Lisbon to live happily ever after with him. “Will I ever see you again?” asks Aunt Agatha, tearfully, making me fear for Aunt Agatha and the odds of her surviving this season. “I promise you will,” says Verity, which in turn makes me fear for Verity, but get to the back of the queue, V, come on, now – it looks like our beloved Doctor Dwight might actually have been shot in the head, and if that’s true, both Caroline and I will be heartbroken. Sob.

Nevertheless, Capt Hothead Ross is on his way to France with Capt Hook to try and rescue his buddy, putting himself in amongst all the “riot and bloodshed,” because of course he is. And for the first time since this show began, I fear for him too – although Ross is still at the centre of things and there is still this endless, aggravating feud with the Weasel Warleggan to contend with, now that he and Demelza seem to be back on an even keel and suddenly there are all these new young men in the cast, ready to take on make-the-nation-swoon duties in his stead, this episode really feels like it could be the start of a shift towards the new generation. (Whether wee Valentine can hold out long enough to join them, mind you, given Elizabeth’s utter loathing for the poor mite, is still up in the air.) Can you have Poldark without, um, Poldark? I know I’m always criticising the big idiot, but honestly? I’d rather not find out. Come on, Ross. Make it back from France in one piece, you big lug. Please.

Poldark s3 ep 1

*SPOILERS*

We begin with a reminder that the course of love in Poldark, be it false,true or otherwise, runs not so much smoothly as at breakneck speed along actual clifftops, as Elizabeth’s alarmingly rocky ride on an alarmingly agitated horse is happily (albeit not in her opinion) brought to a safe stop by old flame Ross – a handy man to have around if you need something heroic done, but an utterly useless one if you’re married to him and just looking to get through the day in a reasonably good mood.

Since Elizabeth is actively trying to have an accident to avoid anyone finding out her baby might well be something of an accident too, she’s as ungrateful and as ungracious about her ex-boyfriend rescuing her as her repellent husband is, putting Cap’n Poldark in an even worse mood than he is already in. Which is both rotten and entirely unfair on poor Demelza who, having forgiven her errant husband for the unforgiveable, now seems to have to endure him being in a constant huff about it. Dude. Lighten. Up.

Just as well then that, before Ross runs out of roof to thatch and has to find some other way to vent his frustrations, another one of his heroic missions pays off and he manages to get Doctor Dwight home for 24 hours and Lady Caroline to the church on time. Hurrah! Everybody, especially the Poldarks of Nampara, loves a secret wedding! Even if the consequences of both theirs and Verity’s haven’t always gone entirely to plan…. Ross and Demelza are still romantics at heart though, and so is this viewer, so who can blame them/us for shipping the Doctor and the Lady? Awwww.

Not that this secret wedding goes to plan, either. All of a sudden, it’s medical emergencies all over the place as Elizabeth, who is always ruining everything, decides to stage a (pretend?) fall down the stairs to mask the onset of her labour pains, and Caroline’s Uncle Bergerac prepares to mosey on off to the Midsomer in the sky. Which means Dwight spends his wedding night delivering Elizabeth’s baby before heading back off to sea, Caroline spends her wedding night at her dying uncle’s side, and Ross spends what should presumably have been a quiet night with Demelza tiptoeing round Nampara and making themselves scarce, standing outside Trenwith’s windows and just asking to be caught instead. Ross. DUDE. Smarten up.

With Demelza’s dad on his deathbed as well and this show’s death rate beginning to remind me of Cranford – a programme so brutal that if you went to the loo during an episode, there was a real danger half the cast would be dead by the time you returned – I did wonder if Elizabeth and her baby were going to make it through the night but, despite the redoubtable Aunt Agatha’s warnings and some lovely shots of the Black Moon, they did. I suppose now the question is whether they make it through the rest of the season without George picking up on the hints everyone’s leaving all over the place and finding out who’s the daddy, but one problem at a time, eh?

No miracle recoveries for Uncle Bergerac, meanwhile, but he does hold on long enough to give the Caroline/Dwight nuptials his blessing, before peacefully passing on in the early morning light. Sigh. It’s a sad, sweet scene and we have to lose Sir Ray, it’s the kindest possible way for both him and his beloved niece. *wipes away tear*

Nobody’s crying for Demelza’s dad, though, except the nameless lady in the corner. (Nurse? Aunt? Professional mourner?) With nary a look back, Demelza’s brothers pack up their troubles in their haversacks and head off to Poldark country, with the amiable one (Drake?) already eyeing up Geoffrey Charles’s charming new governess, and the annoying one (Sam?) already getting a bit peremptory for my tastes. We’ll see how that goes, but Dude: there’s already one bloke at Nampara way too keen on giving orders. Maybe slow your roll.

Unlike the show, of course, which continues to batter through storylines and characters as quickly and ruthlessly as the waves thrashing on the beach – said beach this week being the site of Ross running moodily, Ross walking moodily, and Ross finally saying something nice to his wife, albeit it takes the entire episode and Demelza announcing she’s pregnant again for him to wake up and smell the pasties. (Speaking of babies, where on earth was Jeremy this week?) Taking a no doubt temporary break from brooding about Elizabeth, the Weasel Warleggan and the Black Moon Baby, our hero declares that “everything in the world is less certain, except for you.” Aww. That would have made me swoon two seasons ago. Now though, familiarity breeds not contempt exactly, but resignation. This is Ross’s M.O – he gets all mean and moody and STUPID; realises he’s an asshat and redeems himself by saying something adorable to his wife in the nick of time; gets me all excited that he’s finally learned his lesson; then goes back to being mean and moody and STUPID again. And with Warleggan flexing his muscles around all the Trenwith Poldarks and Ross being himself, I think we all know it’s only a matter of time. I like this show a lot, and this was a very good way to kickstart the season – fast, dangerous and romantic – but moodiness is only attractive for so long. At some point, Ross is either going to have to grow up or I’m going to have to stop watching. We’ll see which comes first.

Public Service Announcement 22 of 2017: Poldark

Given the lengthy gap between the irresistible season one and the difficult season two, I’m a little surprised and not entirely delighted to see that Poldark and his pals are back on our screens for season three so soon. It’s only been seven months since we last saw our hero and since he behaved like a complete asshat for most of the second run, only redeeming himself at the very end, he and I could frankly have done with a bit more time apart. And that’s just Cap’n Ross. The prospect of spending more time with Elizabeth and the Weasel Warleggan….. Argh.

I imagine showing the third season across the summer will pose its own additional challenges for the ratings as well – a brooding, clifftop romantic period drama is, I think, a dish best savoured in the cold, rather than in competition with the warm, light evenings of June, July and August, but hey ho. Regardless of my feelings on the matter, the Poldark posse returns to BBC 1 tomorrow (Sunday) night at 9pm, and I’m on reviewing duties as usual, so I should probably stop grumping about it, remember the things I love about the show, and be glad we’re getting a third season (and a fourth!) at all. Here’s hoping Ross is significantly less of a jerk this time around, though, or it’s going to be a very long nine weeks.