Poldark s5 eps 7 & 8

*SERIES FINALE SPOILERS*

After a night spent unconscious at the bottom of a mine, Ross wakes up in surprisingly good shape and not only manages to find the exit pretty easily but also stumbles upon the French plot that Jacka and Tess are embroiled in. Well done, Capt Poldark. When I say “surprisingly good shape”, though, I may be overstating the damage done to Ross’s head, given that the majority of his decisions in both these episodes suggest a selective form of amnesia: everything he‘s supposed to have learned over the past five seasons about not being a total idiot to his wife has been knocked right out of him. “Needless to say, Demelza cannot know” is pretty much the theme of every stupid, reckless, crazy thing he does – I was so sick of his nonsense in the final episode, that I almost switched off ten minutes in and gave up forever.

I stuck it out though, so here we are. On the positive side, apart from laying the groundwork for the absolutely infuriating episode 8, episode 7 is all right. Ish. I mean, it’s Sam‘s turn to pick up the idiot ball in relation to Tess, although everybody else is almost as daft, actually letting the woman who tried to BURN IT DOWN back in the house. Geoffrey Charles and Cecily run off together but, instead of running off to the other side of the planet, they go exactly where you’d think and get caught, despite Poldark and co’s best-laid plans to get them out of the country. This results in a lengthy, brutal beating for Geoffrey Charles, and in Cecily leaving the country anyway, sailing away with Kitty Despard who, fascinating though she may be to Dr Dwight, has long since outstayed her welcome with everyone else. Poor Kitty. Just like her deceased husband, she is a character who was written to make a point or ten, but the one-dimensional writing gave her absolutely no personality beyond that, and the Despards derailed most of this final season as a result.

While Geoffrey Charles mopes (Kitty’s resounding “YES!” when he asks “If we’re not together, should you wish to live?” is hilarious), episode 7 ends with Ross warning Dr Dwight that things are about to get weird and Demelza’s going to get upset, and so they do and she does, with this lunatic launching “the greatest gamble I’ve ever undertaken.” A high bar indeed.

Episode 8 finds us five-and-a-half months into this great gamble, otherwise known as Poldark going deep undercover with Tess and the French, and making his long-suffering wife’s life a complete misery as a result. The damage he inflicts in the name of “protecting Demelza” is catastrophic, to the extent that even Dr Dwight – whose own attitude to marital fidelity has, as Caroline points out, been somewhat flexible in the past – has had enough but Ross is adamant. The charade continues, with Ross letting Demelza walk out, while he tries to reel in the French. It’s not entirely clear, however, why the need for secrecy from everyone but his wife evaporates a few minutes later: suddenly, Ross has recruited half the town to help him out, on the strict proviso that Demelza still cannot be told. “Has he learned nothing?” the poor woman asks. “No, he hasn’t!” shouts at least one outraged viewer. “Dump his ass!”

His ass suffers no more than a momentary hit to the ground, however, when Hanson tries to rob us all of our happy ending. As if. Everything works out fine despite that, of course, as Demelza instantly forgives him, unbelievably persuades Toussaint to fight a duel with him instead of just shooting him in the face, and saves his life, with an assist from George Warleggan of all people because, if Ross were dead, whom could he be angry with all the time? So the Poldark Posse stops the invasion, Ross redeems himself with the Crown, and hands-down the best scene of the season is when Aidan “New Poldark” Turner gets Robin “Old Poldark” Ellis to lock up the villains. “Your servant, sir.” “And yours, sir.” Awwww.

It’s a lovely moment, but not quite enough to make me look kindly on a finale undone by sub-par spy nonsense and Ross’s irredeemable behaviour throughout. “I should never have kept things from you,” he says to his astonishingly tolerant wife, as if this is some sort of revelation and not something he has had to learn every season since the show started. As I said years ago, he’s lucky he’s hot, because there’s no other explanation for Demelza putting up with these shenanigans again and again. And again.

Anyway, it all ends well enough. Morwenna gives birth to a little girl, which is nice. Caroline confides in Dr Dwight about her baby fears and they finally properly make up, which is nice too. Rosina, having now been messed about by two Carne brothers, nonetheless proposes to Sam, which is baffling. Geoffrey Charles is accepted back into army school, which I don’t care about in the slightest. George leaves Cornwall, which is good, but gets Ross to stay out of Valentine’s life forever, which isn’t. And Ross and Dr Dwight are off to spy on the French, which is a great lark for them but sucks for the wives who have to put up with their continued carry-on, this being the theme of the whole series. And that’s it. It’s been a disappointing season, but then the show has never really recaptured the heady joys of that first year, when its melodrama and Ross’s bull-headed derring-do were charming rather than utterly wearing. Credit to the gorgeous Cornish coast and the wholly committed cast, though, who were game throughout. Everyone will have their favourites but, for me, Eleanor Tomlinson’s Demelza was a revelation; Gabriella Wilde imbued Caroline with heart and humanity; Luke Norris’s Dr Dwight was wonderfully, unflinchingly kind and noble; and Ellise Chappell and Harry Richardson made a sweet and vulnerable Morwenna and Drake. And as for Aidan Turner, well, I’ve been a fan since Being Human but I’m delighted Poldark showed the rest of the world what a star he is. “I swear to you, my love, I shall return,” is a nice promise for him to go out on but you’ve done your shift, Aidan. Maybe let Poldark go and return as someone else instead soon, hey? I’m looking forward to it.

Poldark s5 ep 6

*SPOILERS*

The BBC seems to be as keen to get this last season of Poldark over with as I am, burning off the last two episodes ever in something it’s calling a “double bill” but really isn’t. 8pm on Sunday (25th) and 8.30pm on Monday (26th) is just two episodes on consecutive nights, at different times, apparently to make way for new Peaky Blinders. It’s not entirely clear why new Peaky Blinders couldn’t have waited a week or even a day so Poldark could actually have ended with a double bill on Sunday, instead of this nonsense. Whether I’m fed up with it or not, Poldark is a big deal of a show for the BBC, every single episode before now has been on in the big deal slot of 9pm on a Sunday and people expected a similarly big deal of a finale, but this arrangement feels less like the BBC screening the last ever episode of one of its flagship dramas and more like the BBC finding a spare minute here and there between more important things to put its washing out.

Sigh. Then again, what do timeslots really mean in these days of streaming and catch-up services? Currently, the BBC is faithfully showing Keeping Faith season 2 one episode at a time on prime time Tuesday nights, but I and a whole lot of other people have already watched (and thoroughly enjoyed, as it happens) it all on iPlayer instead. People did the same with Killing Eve, and will no doubt do the same with plenty more shows in the future. Although, unlike those shows, episodes of Poldark aren’t on iPlayer till they’ve had their traditional tv airing, it’s not like these last two episodes are going out at 3AM on a Wednesday and, regardless, once they have gone out we’ll all be able to watch them whatever time we want. So maybe it doesn’t matter. But it feels like it does.

Enough about the schedule, though, what about this week’s episode? It was fine. Better than last week’s tedium by some distance as well. The culmination of Ned’s story re-ran a lot of elements the show has relied on before – a frame job; a wildly unfair trial; Ross making a very long, very passionate, somewhat irrelevant speech in court; Dr Dwight trying an unpopular insanity defence; even a desperate but ultimately pointless prison break – but actually surprised (and slightly bewildered) me by not pulling out a last-minute happy ending. I didn’t know quite what to do with myself afterwards. I mean, Ned and I haven’t seen eye to eye at all, but he didn’t deserve that. Goodbye, Ned. And sorry.

Sorry too to Ross who not only lost his friend but also came close to losing his life. I don’t believe for a minute he’s going to die too, but that whack to the head really looked like it hurt, which made it the second upsetting/ theoretically potentially fatal surprise of the night. Bummer. Still, it wasn’t all doom and gloom, though. Morwenna and Drake got all loved up. The rejuvenated Caroline lit the episode up even though she was only in it for a few minutes. And, unlike poor Ned, Cecily managed to avoid her own awful fate and stop her marriage to the unspeakable George, even if I might have a few quibbles about her choosing wet blanket Geoffrey Charles as her life partner. Don’t fret, Cecily! I know it’s all gone slightly wrong at the moment and your mad evil father has temporarily imprisoned you in your room, but I very much doubt the bad guys will get another big win – you and GC will be reunited soon enough. (There are only two episodes to go, after all.) And if that reunion could also involve something dreadful happening to George and to your dad, that would go some way to cheering me up, thank you. As would something equally dreadful happening to Jacka and Tess, and I don’t mean marrying Preacher Carne.

Poldark s5 ep 5

*SPOILERS*

What a chore of an episode.

George, a man utterly devoid of grace, decency or anything resembling humanity, decides it’s time to make a big splash in the House with a speech about the awesomeness of the slave trade. Said big splash is rightfully reduced to a dirty little puddle by one Captain Ross Poldark, whose counter-argument is particularly strong because of some insider info from Cecily, passionate because of his own innate ability to be anything else, and ruined because of his innate inability to Shut. Up. About. Stupid. Ned.

George, to whom character development is an alien concept, will not be stopped there, however. As his only two aims in life continue to be his own advancement and the utter destruction of everything Poldark-related (George, it’s been five seasons, my God, man, enough), he and the irredeemably slimy Hanson happily sign on to an unnecessarily elaborate plan to frame Ross and Stupid Ned for treason. I say “unnecessarily elaborate” since Stupid Ned is quite openly and more or less constantly shouting about how mad the King is and more besides, and all it takes for him to delightedly endorse a spot of regicide is a couple of ales and his inability to Shut. Up. Himself. So hiring an entire team to try and put a bit of paper in his pocket proclaiming his political sympathies seems somewhat surplus to requirements: he’s loudly announcing them to anyone who’ll listen anyway.

As well as being unnecessarily elaborate, the plan turns out to be somewhat easily foiled. The Ross part is derailed by Dr Dwight and Caroline who are both awesome, especially Caroline who very quickly gets over last week’s bout of jealousy, remembers how magnificent she is and sets about showing it. The Stupid Ned part, meanwhile, is derailed by…. gravity. Yes, the smoking gun super-crucial bit of paper, er, falls on the floor. Along with my eyes which roll clean out of my head. Do any of the constabulary searching for evidence of Stupid Ned’s treachery see the apparent documentary evidence as it lies there in PLAIN VIEW practically glowing? No. No, they don’t, so this plotline continues to be as ridiculous as it is ham-fisted, but there we are. It isn’t over yet, though: Stupid Ned ends up in jail anyway and liable to drag Stupid Ross down with him. Sympathising with either of them is becoming increasingly difficult.

Back in Cornwall, meanwhile, it’s just as difficult to understand why so much of this season is being taken up by Tess the Terrible’s carry-on, but once again, poor Demelza is stuck dealing with another of the permanently sulky one’s evil plans. Happily, she manages this reasonably efficiently with encouragement from Zacky Martin who is quite helpful and Brother Sam who isn’t much, but the show’s determined focus on the unspeakable Tess is still almost as annoying as whatever that muppet Geoffrey Charles thinks he’s doing going to Hanson for Cecily’s hand, which is a very, very high bar. Thank goodness then for the Enyses, and for Drake and Morwenna: without the four of them, this episode would have been wall-to-wall infuriating.

Poldark s5 ep 4

*SPOILERS*

After last week’s excitement, we’re unfortunately back to tedium this time around, thanks to the wishy-washy, epically uninteresting romantic travails of Mr Geoffrey Charles and Miss Cecily Hanson. This whole arc is a salutary lesson on the law of diminishing returns: the show keeps on returning to the same well (literally!) for these forbidden romance storylines, but that well must be just about dry if the best anyone can dredge up this time around are these two wet-wipes.

The do-over theme rubs off on everyone else this week too, as all the previous forbidden romances I actually care about seem to take two steps back to revisit previous storylines as well. Poldark may now be saying all the right, lovey-dovey “in this together” stuff to Demelza, but he’s also back to putting his money everywhere except where his mouth is: dude, I don’t care how honourable your motives are, STOP RISKING EVERYTHING YOU OWN. Just STOP IT. If I were Demelza, I would have been significantly less understanding about this fool putting my home and family at risk yet AGAIN.

On the opposite side of the coin, meanwhile, super-responsible Dr Dwight (far and away the week’s MVP) is busy gently and carefully bringing George back from the brink, tending to the troubled Kitty and generally being a beacon of good sense and grace. So, of course, we ignore two season’s worth of character development for Caroline and have her getting all jealous and debutante-y again because her husband likes sensible people and won’t tell her all the craic. Eh? I love these two, and they have suffered enough. Let them be happy, dammit!

And just to complete the set, the Carnes are struggling too, with Drake now secretly following Morwenna who is secretly following John Conan, and not so secretly stressing them and me right out. I don’t know if this resolves in a happy way, but I’m really going to need it to because Drake and Morwenna are lovely, the school is adorable and they have suffered enough too (dammit, again).

Speaking of suffering enough, however, it takes Tess inciting an actual riot at Trenwith – playing the astoundingly stupid Ned like a fiddle, my God – for Demelza to finally get the measure of her but it’s way too late for that now. Even if she weren’t in league with Hanson and hadn’t successfully set everyone up for ruin, she still knows where you live, Demelza (she previously set fire to your house!) and she just hates you even more now. Well-played, everyone. Well-PLAYED.

Poldark s5 ep 3

*SPOILERS*

In a bid to shame Cornwall society into treating Kitty better, Caroline throws a lavish party with the guest list about evenly split between people who’re already nice to Kitty and people who actively work at being appalling to everyone. So this plan is 100% doomed to fail, and fail it does, as well as giving Hanson the chance to further menace the woman, Lady Whitworth the chance to re-traumatise Morwenna, and Poldark the chance to settle some things with his fists. Just like old times then!

There’s a lot of Poldark redux this week, though. For a start, there’s another load of complaining from someone angry and defiantly unsympathetic, for things that aren’t Poldark or Demelza’s fault. Another few scenes of folk walking along clifftops (I miss the HORSE!, though). Another big mine disaster, resulting in another stupendously risky but successful Poldark Posse rescue. Another tender bathtub scene. Another awkward situation (more than one, in fact) involving mop-topped Valentine. And another forbidden romance, although Geoffrey Charles and Cecily’s scenes are not so much sweet or moving as arch and cringeworthy. (Also, somebody should fire Cecily’s chaperone.)

On the newish side of things, though, much more exciting stuff is happening. George, now wholly in the grip of his delusions, shoots his Uncle(!) and is horribly tortured by evil Dr Penrose, which leads to a dramatic, if slightly comedic nightgown-attired escape, a not-remotely-funny moment on the edge of a cliff, and more heroism (much quieter and gentler than Poldark’s style, but also more impressive) and kindness from Dr Dwight. Drake and Ross point out to Mistress Poldark that Tess has “I’m a BAD’UN and I’m coming fer ye, Demelza!” tattooed across her forehead, and Demelza continues to ignore it. Everybody realises that Ned, who somehow manages to make being a reckless hothead astoundingly dull, is both a liability and a terrible influence on Poldark (and anybody else who’ll listen), except Ned and Poldark. And, in my absolute favourite story of the season, Morwenna’s kitchen becomes the hottest spot for the village’s tiny tots. Awww. I love Morwenna, and the little kids sitting quietly outside her house in the hope of cake and picture books is just so sweet and lovely, I could cry. Best episode of the season so far, and I really do mean that as a compliment, even if the season so far has been uninspiring to an extent that it’s not a very high bar to clear.

Poldark s5 ep 2

*Spoilers*

The Poldark Posse have had a tumultuous couple of weeks. Fighting racism, slavery, injustice and corruption with a moral clarity that modern governments could learn a thing or two from is keeping them all very busy, but not too busy to keep Ross from tracking down the only witness – ! – who can exonerate Ned, or Demelza from getting him killed (oops) by the 18th century equivalent of making his testimony go viral. And, now that I think about it, not too busy to keep Dr Dwight from singlehandedly taking on the entire medical and legal (except that one guy who agreed with him) establishment and telling them they’re going about psychiatry all wrong, either. That’s some pretty impressive multi-tasking on all fronts.

Since all this activity means that a) Ross looks like he’s trying to bring down the rich and powerful (which he is) and b) Dr Dwight looks like he’s trying to save the King’s would-be assassin from execution (which he is), though, it just puts Team Poldark in an even more precarious position, when, let’s face it, their coats were already on a pretty shoogly peg as it was.

The only way forward, then, our hero decides, is to get the hell outta Dodge; so, after all of last week’s fanfare about everyone trooping off to London, everyone’s now trooping off back to Cornwall, this time with the added “bonus” of Capt and Mrs Despard in tow. Full disclosure: I find Ned annoying and Kitty one-dimensional, but the season’s big themes clearly revolve around the pair, and that really isn’t doing much for my entertainment levels.

Of course, since Cornwall is still actually in the UK, heading back there isn’t going to fix anybody’s problems with the Crown or the Govt, but at least it’ll give the Poldarks the chance to weigh in on a few additional ones like, say, this season’s forbidden romance, even if Geoffrey Charles and Cecily can’t hold a candle to Drake and Morwenna. Or, maybe, George’s hallucinations of his dead wife. Dwight’s sudden interest in psychiatry might well come in handy there. Or, perhaps most pressingly, Tess’s plan to Single White Female Demelza, albeit Tess is apparently skipping the part about ingratiating herself with anybody, and jumping straight to the bit about being crazy, scary and trying to take over Demelza’s clothes, life and husband. Sigh. Even with Elizabeth out of the way, I suppose a whole season of Ross and Demelza’s marriage not being in danger was always going to be too much to ask.

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.