Poldark s4 ep 5

*SPOILERS*

After years of Cap’n Ross being a reckless hothead, it’s funny but also quite charming to have a whole week where he’s the calm, sensible one, sorting out Geoffrey Charles’s shenanigans and gently but firmly bringing home to Caroline the need to deal with her grief instead of ignoring it. I don’t know about you guys, but I felt quite proud of him. And not only that, but he also somehow manages to set up a kind of aristocrat-funded income support for Truro (despite the Warleggan Weasel’s vociferous objections) and apparently start the ball rolling for the invention of the modern welfare state. Dude! I was getting a bit fed up with the scenes of him making speeches with lots of rowdy MPs shouting over him, but this is much more like it. As is the scene where he turns the full power of his social justice stare (no words, just some really intense looks) onto Lord Falmouth and it works too. Yay!

While Ross and Caroline are living large in London, however, Demelza and Dr Dwight are having a significantly less luxurious time and wondering whether they might have been better off married to each other, as they fight a losing battle to feed the starving around them and stop fever carrying off half of Sawle. One of the depressing things about the episode is the concept of the “working poor’ – people who have jobs, yet whose wages compared to rising prices mean they cannot make ends meet – and the fact that it still exists in the modern UK, giving Poldark a modern political relevance I wouldn’t ordinarily expect to find in it, but then this episode manages to surprise me more than once. The death of the awful Osborne is perhaps the biggest shock – I knew it had to happen, but I was taken aback by how fast it was, and how it happened before Drake married Rosina rather than afterwards. Not that this worked out any better for Drake: she handled him jilting her with grace and kindness, but the rest of the town (including Tom Harry’s brother – what exactly was the point of getting rid of one Evil Mr Harry, if you immediately replace him with another one who’s exactly the same?) are less forgiving, and that psychopath George can’t wait to frame/punish/persecute Drake for it, yet again, in the absence of any evidence whatsoever. FFS, George. Change. The. Record.

At least Elizabeth has enough shame left to try and stop him, thanks to Morwenna putting her straight about exactly what kind of monster Mr and Mrs Warleggan forced her to marry. But it doesn’t really help: Drake’s business is burned down, Rosina’s dad wants to kill him, and Morwenna is so traumatised she sends the poor boy packing and her mother-in-law tries to have him horse-whipped. So the prospects of a tender reunion for the widow Osborne and Carne the Younger are not great, and the likelihood of one or both of them being unjustly prosecuted for murdering the Reverend seems pretty high. Especially if his appalling mother has anything to do with it. Oh dear. Thank goodness for Ross and Demelza’s very sweet, very brief reunion, or there might not have been any hope for love in this episode at all.

Advertisements

Poldark s4 ep 4

*SPOILERS*

This week’s episode opens with some charming family funtime as the Enyses and the Nampara Poldarks lark around on a lovely Cornish beach. It’s obvious from poor Dr Dwight’s haunted face that the laughs aren’t going to last very long, though. You know it’s a grim week when a mining disaster qualifies as light relief: a flood means terrible danger for everyone in the mine including our hero and all his pals, but it does also mean some very impressive Poldark heroics, excellent supporting work from Sam and a nigh-on miraculous save from Dr Dwight who is determined to save somebody’s life, since a tragic congenital heart defect means he can’t save his baby daughter’s.

It’s a desperately sad story, played out in a series of heartbreaking scenes where Caroline insists on “taking it in her stride with all the dignity and stoicism of a lady of breeding, Ross tries to comfort the distraught Dwight, and Demelza’s own wounds from the loss of her child are re-opened. The funeral scenes are traumatic and Caroline separating from Dwight because she blames herself for their loss and can’t bear to be reminded of it is incredibly sad, even if he and Demelza can try and console each other while their spouses head for the big smoke.

As far as the rest of the episode goes, it’s more of the usual – precious little cheer to be found anywhere. Geoffrey Charles, bless him, is a change and a ray of light, but he can’t make up for yet more of the odious George who continues to plot and scheme and consolidate power. I’m sick of him and the enthusiastically complicit Elizabeth, who seems to have lost all finer feeling and will now happily let Cornwall burn as long as her weasel husband keeps her in frocks and jewellery. The unspeakable Osborne continues to torture poor Morwenna, meanwhile, and this week – oh God – tries to get her committed to an institution because she won’t have sex with him. Despite his own troubles, Dr Dwight is magnificent at giving this short shrift – only just stopping short of pointing out that a person not having sex with Osborne is a sign not of madness but of one hundred percent sanity – and even Dr Choake is pretty decent about the whole business. Morwenna’s still in real peril from her appalling spouse and his brutal mother though; I really hope Rowella’s husband sorts him sooner rather than later, or the rest of the season is going to be a difficult watch. If Drake could just wait a little bit longer…. I have a horrible feeling, given the Carne brothers romantic haplessness, that Osborne will not be killed till after Drake marries Rosina so everybody will still be almost as miserable than they are now. (But, on the upside, at least Osborne will be dead.)

Poldark s4 ep 3

*SPOILERS*

Poldark the show tends to gallop along as quickly as Poldark the man on his horse, and this week is no different. We scoot through several months in the first few minutes of this week’s ep – Ross is in London making lots of speeches in the Commons, hanging out with the now teenage Geoffrey Charles and turning down some slightly scary female attention, till Lord Falmouth persuades him it’s time to go home with the bizarre suggestion that Hugh, of all people, would have told him not to neglect his wife and children. This doesn’t exactly square with anyone else’s recollection of Hugh, a man whose principal ambition was to separate Poldark from said wife and who didn’t give two twirls of his curls about said children, but something in what Falmouth says finally gets through to Ross and he heads back home to try and mend things with his wife.

Unfortunately, the first things out of his mouth are both unutterably stupid: “You look… thinner” and “What have you been up to?”, to which the justifiably annoyed Demelza retorts “Seeing to your mine, your farm, your household (and) your children, that’s what I’ve been up to!” and Operation Reconciliation Part Umpteen is not off to the best of starts. The night seems to pass relatively amicably however, so Ross heads down to the beach only to find that Dr Dwight has taken his “shirtless scene of the week” slot instead. Well! He’s forgiven though, because Caroline has had a baby girl, and since nobody has Instagram or Twitter in the 17th century, a guy’s got to have some outlet for his feelings, joyous or otherwise. (Sadly, given the decidedly worried face Dwight starts to sport around poor baby Sarah later in the episode, I think “otherwise” might well be the theme of his feelings next week. Gulp.)

Ross is of course delighted his buddy has become a father but less pleased that his old pals at the mine now seem significantly chummier with Dr Dwight than they are with their boss – absence has certainly not made the heart grow fonder. Happily, however, idiot Tholly almost gets himself killed by an angry husband and associates, which means a big ruckus, Ross getting to wade in with fists and feet, and everyone being delighted with each other anew. Hurrah?

It also somehow means Ross decides to pop round to Trenwith to wind up Elizabeth a bit, growling a bit at new sleazeball Capt Monk Adderley in the process. Although going anywhere near Elizabeth and Trenwith is an incredibly stupid thing to do, it does at least accomplish two useful things. One, it gets Ross and Demelza properly talking about the ghosts of past loves that are haunting their marriage and maybe – dear God, PLEASE – starting to find a way to move past them. And two, it livens up the latest instalment of the deeply tedious and irritating “George slimes his way about trying to increase his power over Poldark, Cornwall and the planet” for about two minutes. If I do give up on this show before season’s end, George will be a big part of the reason why, although the Poldark’s cyclical marriage woes and the awful Osborne storylines (his abuse of Morwenna, and the carry-on with Rowella alike) will both have played their part. Since I really like Dwight and Caroline, and I want to know what happens to poor baby Sarah, though, I’m sticking around for the moment. One episode at a time….

Poldark s4 ep 2

*SPOILERS*

“Give me hope.”

Give me strength. If I was supposed to be sad about Armitage dying, it might have been a better idea not to have him spend these entire first two episodes trying to blackmail Demelza into resuming her relationship with him on the basis that he’d die if she didn’t. And doing so quite blatantly in front of her preternaturally restrained husband, who does little more than wince and excuse himself in response. At this point then, it’s not so much a tragedy as a relief Armitage and his poems are gone, except that, as Dr Dwight points out, the big drip’s now “immortal in everyone’s memory and we poor souls will look pale in comparison.” Which I think means we’ll never be free of him, will we? Argh.

Eleanor Tomlinson plays Demelza’s grief beautifully, and it’s a smart move to link her feelings to her broader grief for Julia and “this sad, sorry, broken world” – Demelza being one of so many of us bewildered by the horrors around us these days – but it still doesn’t really move us away from the basics of this storyline which is yet another excuse to have Captain Poldark and Mrs Poldark fight a bit, make up a bit, talk a bit, and question their relationship some more. At least the talking’s calmer and more productive than it was last season and the season before, though, and it does result in Ross accidentally winning the election and becoming the local MP. On the one hand, this is great because it means weasel Warleggan isn’t the local MP any more and Ross can put those speeches he likes making to even more effective use. On the other hand, though, I also means Warleggan will be redoubling his efforts to destroy every Poldark/ Poldark-adjacent person in the vicinity, and I didn’t realise that it also means Ross and Demelza will spend most of his tenure apart so there’s your next excuse for fighting/ making up/ talking / questioning their relationship some more. Tin baths and steamy snogs are all very well as a distraction, but at some point somebody really needs to change the record.

As far as the rest of the episode is concerned, Dr Dwight and the pregnant Caroline are blissfully happy which is nice, but unlikely to last because this is Poldark. Evil Tom Harry is evil. The Carnes are unlucky in love. And lather, rinse and repeat. Caroline and Demelza’s political machinations are good fun, and the election and an adorable scene of secret brothers Valentine and Jeremy playing delightedly together (before their spoilsport mums split them up) shake things up a little, but as I said last week, we’ve seen all the rest of this before. I’m getting less and less keen on seeing it all again.

Poldark s4 ep 1

*SPOILERS*

“Things will be different. I am now different.”

Or not so much. George might have changed his ways towards Elizabeth now he (wrongly) believes Valentine is his, but he’s really just reverted to the second of his two main settings: assiduously, creepily attentive. As far as the most of the rest of the county’s concerned, however, he’s sticking to setting one: unmitigated, abject evil. Which means that, yet again, he’s trying to stick it to Ross Poldark by, yet again, trying to get a Carne or two killed and, yet again, Ross is trying to save them and the Cornish common man with a lot of galloping – clifftops, beaches, the usual – and another impassioned speech about mercy, poverty and general good works.

The unshakeable feeling that we’ve seen all of this before carries into the rest of the storylines as well. Sure it’s Demelza’s turn rather than Ross’s to think she loves two people and to try not that hard to distance herself from the one of them that she’s not married to, and Ross’s “I realised that day that (Elizabeth) never was and never could be what you are to me…. you are the better part of me” is very sweet and heartfelt but it could have been lifted straight from any of the other times Ross was exercising his brain and trying to woo back his wife last season or the one before. His patient, almost altruistic attitude to Demelza hanging out with Armitage is new, right enough, but perversely it’s a new thing I could do without: I suppose it’s a sign of Poldark maturity hard-won, and lessons hard-learned over the past few seasons so I should be happy about the new, understanding Ross, but the sappy, sickly Armitage with his soppy poetry, emotional blackmail and borderline stalking of Demelza drives me nuts. I know it would be a terrible, terrible idea for the Captain to punch him in the face, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t enjoy it. Unlike this “torn between two men, one of whom is on his deathbed” business we seem to be embarking on.

On a more positive note, Caroline and Dr Dwight are as delightful as ever; they’re lovely together and they even manage to liven up the Armitage awfulness – the scene where Dr and Mrs Enys and Ross all communicate certain feelings and views about the Lieutenant almost entirely by subtext is both brilliant and hilarious. And the show proves it can still pack a punch by shocking me with how close it comes to Carne-icide – Ross cut that plea for mercy pretty fine, and poor Zacky Martin’s pain at Jago’s death is heartbreaking. But Zacky, Caroline and Dr Dwight are not enough to keep me from feeling that even if Poldark the man is still full of vigour – as the admittedly impressive, but deeply cynical shirtless-Aidan-Turner-coming-out-of-the-sea scene is no doubt meant to demonstrate – Poldark the show is getting somewhat tired. Ross running for Parliament might be the change both of them need – let’s hope it happens.

Public Service Announcement 21 of 2018: Poldark, Dietland

Hold on to your tricorn hats: season four of Poldark kicks off tonight (Sunday) on BBC1, which means the usual frenzy about whether Aidan Turner has his shirt on or not. If I’m a little tired of the media clamour, I can’t imagine how he feels. Unfortunately, my weariness is beginning to extend to the show itself – although I probably preferred season three to season two and there was a lot I did like about it, there was plenty that I didn’t. I can’t say I’m looking forward to more of the Poldark’s marriage woes, more of Morwenna’s torture at the hands of the repugnant Osborne, or more of the unspeakably awful Warleggan starving the county because he’s jealous of Poldark’s bouncy hair. Having said that, I re-read a few of my season three reviews this morning and realised that I am looking forward to more Caroline and Dr Dwight, more galloping along Cornish clifftops, and – if it’s not wishful thinking – more of Ross and Demelza finding a way back to each other, so I’m not giving up on the show yet. Weekly reviews as usual. For now, anyway.

Anyone looking for something as modern as Poldark is old-fashioned, meantime, might want to check out Dietland on Amazon Prime. Adapted from the novel by Sarai Walker, it’s a very dark comedy about body image, media, gender politics and fighting back; Marti Noxon is the showrunner; and Julianna Margulies plays a merciless fashion magazine editor. In short, I would be all over it if I were an Amazon Prime subscriber but I’m not, so if you are and you give Dietland a go, let me know if I’m missing out.

Poldark s3 ep 9

*SPOILERS*

It’s the season finale and the prospect of a French invasion – we saw three ships come sailing by – has the gentry on edge, with Cap’n Poldark appointed to head up a band of peacekeepers, ready to quell riot and revolution quicker than you can say “sauvez-nous!” The main causes of agitation, both public and private, across the county are rooted firmly on this side of the Channel, however, with the only thing resembling an uprising arising out of George Warleggan’s determined and deeply annoying persecution of poor, sad Drake who now has a burnt-out business and a collection of serious injuries to add to his broken heart. “Tom Harry is a thug, and I want him dismissed,” too, Elizabeth. But your awful husband is just as bad.

The would-be revolt is nonetheless quelled by the dashing Poldark – only just, mind – with the crowd persuaded to disperse, not by the threat of gunfire and bloodshed, but by Ross graciously deciding that he will stand for Parliament next time he’s asked, since everyone’s so keen on the idea. I wouldn’t have thought this would be an immediately attractive short-term solution since George has only just taken up the only available seat, but perhaps elections in eighteenth-century Cornwall were even more frequent than they are today. Anyway, it may be a tad late to realise Sir Francis and Demelza were right after all, Ross, but better than nothing.

The politics are little more than a distraction from the real drama of the week, though, that being the tumultuous love lives of most of the main cast. Except for Caroline and Dwight who have settled into adorable bonbon-filled bliss, and long may that continue; now Dwight’s post-traumatic stress disorder has settled down, everyone else’s post-romantic stress disorders are keeping the writers more than occupied.

The Morwenna/ Osborne/ Rowella storyline I found so discomfiting last week gets even stranger this week, with Rowella’s plan turning out to be extortion to pay for her marriage to the librarian. Again, bafflingly, the show plays those scenes as if they’re funny; I presume I’m supposed to be impressed by Rowella’s moxie and pleased that the repellent Rev has been hoist by his own petard, but the idea (and the sounds! Ugh, the sounds!) of a woman literally using sex to blackmail her sister’s abusive husband while the wife is drugged to prevent her interfering is anything but amusing, as far as I’m concerned. Particularly when Morwenna’s plight is so horribly acute and distressing.

With any luck, Drake’s little posy might signal fresh hope for Morwenna in season four, though – please, writers, give them a break and a bit of happiness, would you? Osborne has irritated us long enough. As has George, whose villainy this week reaches such heights that even Elizabeth the enabler can take no more. Taking Poldark’s advice, she confronts her appalling husband, and for the first time in a long time, grasps back some of her own self-respect. Yes, marriage should be based on honesty and affection, so lying to your husband about the paternity of your child is perhaps not the best long-term strategy as far as most relationships are concerned, but since the repugnant George’s unhappiness tends to lead to poverty, famine and mortal peril for all the blameless ordinary people he likes to take it out on, it’s certainly the most constructive solution for this particular household.

Lying hasn’t worked quite so well for the Nampara Poldarks, of course, as Prudie – whose eagerness to push Demelza into the arms of the sappy, mopey Armitage and do further harm to her marriage utterly confounds me – spills what she thinks are the freshest beans about Ross and Elizabeth, and Demelza decides that she’ll finish what she started in season two, and get her revenge by cheating with yet another besotted soldier. All this could obviously have been avoided if Ross had told her the truth in the first place, but two idiots do not make a brain trust, Demelza – I hate this storyline, and the only thing that saves it from totally ruining the show for me is Ross’s reaction at the end, when, having regressed to season two standards of boorishness over the past couple of weeks, he suddenly remembers three years of character development and, with great sensitivity and patience, just takes her in his arms and lets her cry. Poldark is at its best and his best when Aidan Turner’s allowed to be the brooding but kind and caring romantic hero, and thankfully, in that very final minute, that’s what we got. Hopefully season four will bring us more of that best, less of the Warleggan worst and no more Reverend Osborne. We shall see.