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.

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Poldark s3 ep 8

*SPOILERS*

What exactly is this business with Rowella?

On the one hand, we have a genuinely disturbing story of domestic abuse, with rape, violence and general horror visited on the poor, meek Morwenna; this week alone, she contemplates throwing herself off the same cliffs that everyone else gallops over, almost dies in childbirth, and is denied the choice even to nurse her own child. On the other, we have her younger sister playing minx and quite deliberately dangling herself in front of the vile Osborne as a sassy alternative, with the show bizarrely playing it for laughs as she does so. Since it’s virtually impossible to believe Rowella actually wants the appalling Reverend, are we to assume she is instead offering up her own body as a sacrifice to save her sister? Or is she just looking to spice up her life? Since both these options are not only profoundly unfunny, but deeply depressing, the only way to redeem this aspect of the story at this point would be for Rowella to beat Osborne’s brains out before he gets past her bodice. At least that would truly end Morwenna’s pain.

Mortification and discomfiture are something of a theme this week, though. Preacher Sam proposes to Tholly’s daughter in the most Preacher Sam-like manner, only for her to turn him down (entirely correctly) because no one wants to be told you just want their soul to save. The indeliby decent, discreet Doctor Dwight has to endure a series of exceptionally awkward and aggressive conversations about wives and sex lives with the two worst men in the county. And we all have to endure that shameless pup Hugh Armitage’s persistent, pathetic pursuit of Demelza, who has just enough sense to turn him down but not quite enough to properly send him packing. Top tip, Demelza: if you don’t want everyone, including the suitor in question, to think a chap other than your husband is in with a chance, maybe not sing him a love song at a dinner party in front of half the local aristocracy. Including your husband. And while I’m dishing out the advice, top tip for said husband: when you’re kissing your ex goodbye, don’t do it in front of an OPEN DOOR. FFS.

Of course, Ross’s scene with Elizabeth is meant to be a significant heartfelt turning point in their relationship. But since I don’t quite know what Ross was suggesting with the whole ‘give him another child’ pep talk – dude, firstly, there can’t be another child if George refuses to be in the same county as her, and secondly having a different man’s child is what got her in the fix she’s already in – and I spent the entire scene worrying that Tom Harry would pop up from behind a pew, the whole exchange had me more baffled than satisfied, only for that bafflement to turn to annoyance when I saw Prudie and the open door, relief when he “told” Demelza what had happened, and back to annoyance when it turned out he hadn’t. FFS again. At least your wife levelled with you, Captain Ross. If you can tell Lord Falmouth, of all people, how you feel about things, can you not do the same for her?

Poldark s3 ep 7

*SPOILERS*

A moment of silence please, first of all, for the redoubtable Agatha Poldark, who weathered war, sorrow and all manner of trials and tribulations, only to be undone in the end by a Warleggan gleefully cancelling her “100th” birthday party. That such pettiness is in no way unexpected renders it no less cruel; losing such a fiery, funny, feisty character is sad enough, but the Weasel scoring his only true victory over his fiercest critic by reducing her to begging and betrayal before finally consigning her to the nastiest, most spiteful of burials, makes it doubly so.

Still, at least we can take some consolation from the fact that she went out swinging – I know telling George the Valentine secret might be disastrous for Elizabeth, but it’s worth it as long as it’s also disastrous for George – and the fact that Ross, assuming he can spare the time between goodly works, stupid decisions and even stupider fights with his wife, will make him pay.

Even before Aunt Agatha’s demise, however, it turns out not to be the happiest of weeks for the Poldark circle. There is some light amongst the shade: Caroline and Doctor Dwight are sweetly, wholeheartedly loved up again, bless them both. And Tholly’s daughter joining the cast means Preacher Sam starts showing belated but encouraging signs of actually being human as opposed to being made entirely of religious homilies. But this is scant comfort when Drake and Morwenna are both laid low with post-romantic stress disorder, pining desperately for each other and the love that cannot be. (At least not at this moment in time, but hold on, dear hearts – with the death rate on this programme, there’s always hope of early widowhood.)

Of course, Drake’s symptoms are alleviated somewhat by brother-in-law Ross gifting him gainful employment in the form of his own blacksmith business. But poor, gentle Morwenna, having sacrificed herself and her body for the cause, not only has to endure the heartbreak of lost love but also the more pressing, less poetic reality of spousal abuse as Osborne turns out to be even more monstrous than we had suspected. Sigh.

Ross and Demelza, by contrast, start out joyfully enough; the first harvest from the field he gifted to the villagers last week (Ross is certainly doing a lot of gifting these days – perhaps Aidan Turner is auditioning for Santa Claus, rather than James Bond) is in, there’s some cheerful, charming post-coital canoodling, and they’re generally quite delighted with each other. As soon as Ross says he hopes this contentment will last, however, we know it won’t survive the episode, and to hasten its demise, Lt Armitage turns from sweet to sly, determinedly pursuing the wife of the Hero of Quimper (the man responsible, let’s not forget, for saving his life and bringing him home). Said wife is not entirely welcoming of these advances and nor should she be, since, hello, she’s married to the handsomest man in the county, but she’s not entirely dismissive of them either, so by the end of the episode, Lt Armitage’s prospects with Demelza are looking better than her husband’s, since she forgets all about Ross’s goodly works, Ross forgets to flirt with her and the pair of them end up having a fight that I could say comes out of nowhere, but I’d be wrong since it actually comes straight out of season 2.

Ross turning down the chance of political advancement and social change offered – again – by Sir Francis, especially when it’s obvious that George will take it instead and do terrible things with it – again – is obviously an idiotic decision. But the way it suddenly seems to rock the entire fabric of the Poldark marriage and apparently opens the door for the Armitage to advance with Demelza and for Ross to regress with SPOILER – if next week’s trailer is to be believed – is infuriating. I really thought we were past Ross and Demelza fighting and cheating but if we’re not, and if this doesn’t blow over very quickly with some grand romantic gesture and a lot of Poldark passion, I will be very, very annoyed.

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.