Poldark s5 ep 1

*SPOILERS*

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.

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Public Service Announcement 46 of 2019: Poldark

The halcyon days of that heady first season may be long gone, and along with them any real excitement on my part about the continuing sun-dappled, shirt-optional adventures of Cap’n Ross, his friends, lovers and enemies, but we’re not quite done with 18th century Cornwall’s answer to Dynasty yet. Yes, Poldark and pals are back for one last hurrah: the fifth and apparently final (for now – nobody’s completely ruling out the possibility of something more, somewhere down the line, just in case) starts tonight (Sunday) at 9pm on BBC1 and I’ll be back, reviewing, and hoping against hope that Ross has become less of an idiot; he and Demelza manage one season without falling out; George has moved to an off-screen, never to be seen, different county entirely; and Dr Dwight and Caroline just get to live happily ever after. My chances are not good.

Poldark s4 ep 8

*SPOILERS*

“The process of recovery is not a straightforward one, but I hope that our abiding love for each other will mend what has been broken.”

Preach, Dr Dwight. As well as superlative medical skills and a lovely bedside manner, the nicest man in the county handily manages to summarises this entire finale in one sentence, as he and Caroline, Ross and Demelza, Drake and Morwenna, and, yes, even Elizabeth and George, try to love their way back to happiness, although in Elizabeth’s case, it’s not so much love as it is lie. Poor Elizabeth. Her scheme actually works, for a moment, but the price is too high and the collateral damage, for now, anyway, unquantifiable. George may be a better father as a result – the scenes in the bedroom and in the graveyard where he stands with Valentine at his side, contemplating their loss, are desperately sad and moving – but is he a better man? If he uses REDACTED’s death as another excuse to step up his feud with Ross and the Carnes even more, next season might be even more annoying than this one.

Since this episode is the tv equivalent of a very fast-moving registry office – birth, death and marriage all in the space of an hour – though, there is as much delight to go around as there is devastation, even if everyone has to go through a lot of grief to get their happy endings. Drake wins Morwenna back by being gentle, patient and selfless, and seals the deal by waving a very big stick at the appalling NotTom Harry. Go Drake! After the horrors she’s been through, and the setbacks he’s had, I’m so glad they’re happy for now, even if I know it’s only going to last till the start of next season because this is Poldark and nobody is allowed to be happy for very long.

I’m overjoyed for the wonderful Dwight and Caroline, reunited and looking to the future with hope and love again, too – they’re just so decent. And such terrific friends to Ross and Demelza, saving them from their own stubbornness more times than I can count. Caroline persuading Ross to come back to Cornwall with her is the kindest, most sensible thing she could possibly have done for him and Demelza, and it’s the first step in reuniting them too: a little chat, a lot of passion, and all’s right with the Nampara Poldarks once again, although obviously – see above – nobody should get too comfortable. The show has already spent four seasons having Ross and Demelza fight and make up and fight and make up, so I can’t see the next one being eight episodes of smiles and sunshine.

The Poldark formula has been tired for a while now, though. Fond as I am of a number of the characters, and impressed as I am by many of the performances, I’ve found this season something of a chore. The Ross and Demelza plot line isn’t the only recycled one, either; like I said, if the next season means yet more of George smugly scheming to destroy Poldark and his family, it will drive me nuts. As Ross put it: “What do you want, George? What more do you want?”

But maybe REDACTED’s death will act as a reset button and change all that. Could we see a softer, kinder George next year? Will he take responsibility for his own behaviour and change it? Will he honour his wife’s memory by reaching out to Ross in the end? *Shrugs* Yeah, no, I don’t think so either. But we can hope. “Poldark will return”, according to the end credits, and I’m ambivalent about that since I’m already bored with it but, in fairness this was a tremendous finale and I would like to see how the whole thing ends. I read somewhere that the fifth season is expected to be the last, and I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it really should be.

Poldark s4 ep 7

*SPOILERS*

Even if it hadn’t already been revealed in the trailer at the end of last week’s episode, it would have been obvious from the subtle-as-a-scythe “happy, happy, happy, SEE HOW HAPPY THEY ARE?” montage at the beginning of this week’s that everything was about to go horribly, horribly wrong for the Nampara Poldarks.

I mean, they’re living it up in London without the kids, loving it up in a bed bathed in beautiful sunlight, and laughing it up everywhere they go – the sheer amount of determinedly animated laughing (with no sign of any actual jokes) has to mean that something terrible is about to happen, and so it does, the something terrible being Monk Adderley, a man whose first name might not suit him but, since he’s utterly poisonous, whose second definitely does. Adderley’s insistence on seducing Demelza whether she wants him to or not is resolutely thwarted by the lady herself and her judicious use of the servants’ bell, but Ross is too jealous and Adderley is too much, so everything turns toxic anyway. Despite Dr Dwight’s best efforts – he is so sensible, I love him to bits – there’s a duel, it ends badly (or too well, depending on your perspective) and Adderley sort of redeems himself on his deathbed, but that won’t be of much consolation if Ross ends up on the gallows anyway. I do hope George and the writers take the advice of the pragmatic (and delightfully contemptuous of Warleggan’s sliminess) Attorney General and just let. it. go. We really don’t need Ross to go on trial for his life again.

Not that we need Ross and Demelza’s marriage to be put under strain again, either, but there we go. And just to add to the deja vu, Geoffrey Charles helpfully points out to George that Valentine is the “very spit and image of Uncle Ross!” so that storyline’s back again, too. Lather, rinse, repeat. When I said last week that Valentine’s parentage would eventually be revealed, I wasn’t expecting it to be quite so soon.

At least the Morwenna story is moving forward, rather than round in circles, although her utter devastation means it’s hardly a comfortable watch. Still, she’s away from the awful Whitworths at last, and she’s at least talking to Drake about what’s wrong, even if it’s terrible to hear. It’s a brave storyline for the show to tackle, and made far more powerful by the removal of the Rowella element that was always played in such a jarringly comedic, inappropriate fashion when juxtaposed with the torture heaped on her poor sister. Would some hope for Morwenna be too much to ask for, though? Will George leave the duel business alone and concentrate on freezing out Elizabeth and Valentine instead? And will the Nampara Poldarks ever laugh again, or was all this week’s hilarity their lot? We’ll see what next week’s season finale brings.

Poldark s4 ep 6

*SPOILERS*

Let’s get the sad stuff out of the way, first. Poor, traumatised Morwenna is utterly miserable and on the brink of a breakdown, despite Dr Dwight’s valiant attempts to help her and Drake’s one last attempt at wooing her. I don’t know if she’ll ever be ready, Drake, but I feel like it’s a bit too soon to be pushing the issue. Give it a few months, eh? And please don’t be so quick to try and pick things back up with Rosina instead. I mean, she’s lovely, but you’d still drop her in a heartbeat if Morwenna came calling, so maybe you could just try being single for a while, man. Get in touch with your inner Drake.

While Morwenna is desperately sad and possibly pretending to be pregnant, Elizabeth is reasonably happy and definitely pretending not to be, the plan being to delay telling George she’s with child so he thinks she always has babies at eight months. Whatevs. Valentine’s true parentage has to come out one day, so y’know, I can wait. Speaking of which…. New Sensible Ross is doing a grand job squiring Caroline around London, keeping a protective eye on Geoffrey Charles and impressing the Prime Minister with his charitable endeavours, but poor this leaves Demelza’s feeling much more like his long-distance workmate than his wife. She’s still in Cornwall running the house, the kids and the mine, and this week she’s also doing her best to save Pascoe’s Bank from Warleggan’s latest scheme to ruin the Poldarks and their friends. “It’s just his way,” says Marie Antoinette Elizabeth. “I’m content.” Well, that’s fine then, isn’t it? As long as you’re sorted, Elizabeth, I don’t suppose it matters if your husband destroys everybody else in Cornwall. *Rolls eyes*

Anyway, Demelza is terrific, and with enthusiastic assistance from Prudie, Sam and Zacky, and markedly less enthusiastic help from Lord Falmouth, almost achieves the impossible, only to be outmanoeuvred by the Weasel at the last minute. Hurrumph. In a rare instance of an episode of Poldark having a happy ending, however, New Sensible Ross returns home – reuniting Dwight and Caroline in the process, which is genuinely lovely – just in time to appreciate how splendid his wife is and set about trying to resurrect the bank and undo the damage George has wrought. When that doesn’t quite work, Reckless Hothead Ross makes a bit of a comeback and has me briefly yelling at him while Demelza and Dr Dwight have to physically restrain him, even though murdering George would be a true service to humanity (and to my Sunday night viewing) at this point. But actually that all works out brilliantly, because Reckless Hothead Ross stirs Sir Frances’s conscience in a way New Sensible Ross couldn’t manage and Pascoe’s Bank rises joyously from the ashes as the new and fabulous Cornish Bank, with Sir Francis and Cap’n Ross himself among the partners. Hurrah! Our hero ends the episode as an MP, a mineowner, a banker, a philanthropist and a very attentive husband, with his wife in his arms and his bed in London at last. Aw. I was dreading this episode when I read the EPG and thought George was going to win again but I ended up really enjoying at least the second half of it and I was delighted with the cheeriest ending we’ve had in ages. Unfortunately, that feeling lasted about ten seconds, though, because then the trailer for next week’s came on and that looks like it will drive me nuts. Oh, well.

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.

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.)