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.

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Public Service Announcement 55 of 2019 – Darkness: Those Who Kill (Den som dræber – Fanget af mørket)

What did BBC Four do before Scandi-noir? Anyway, its insatiable appetite for the inventive murders of young Scandinavian women is fed tonight at 9pm with the first two parts of Danish drama Darkness: Those Who Kill (Den som dræber – Fanget af mørket). There’s a missing woman, a possible connection to a murder 10 years previously, and a determined detective (Kenneth M Christensen). You know the drill. As far as I can tell it’s quite good.

Incidentally, if the name rings a bell it’s because there was a first season of Those Who Kill a few years ago, but apparently it’s an entirely different cast this time round.

 

Private Eyes s3 ep 9

In theory, there are any number of things l could be talking about as far as this week’s Private Eyes goes. I mean, I could be noticing that Zoe’s appearances for the past few weeks have been scant, and in separate locations from her co-stars. Or for that matter, I could be speculating as to why we haven’t seen Maz in ages – Danica’s “he’s applying to join a secret taskforce” has to have been a meta joke about him being busy with Team Tat, no? (It made me laugh, anyway.) Or I could be saying something about the actual plot – quite a good one, as it happens, involving martial arts, snake venom and something called the “Iron Palm.” But who can focus on any of that THIS week, of all weeks? No, I’m not talking about the U.K. plunging into constitutional crisis, I’m saying Angie stayed at Shade’s! There was cooking! And coffee! And handholding (again)! And there was 100% about to be Shangie making out (I know you saw them leaning in), if stupid Don hadn’t come back home at just that stupid minute with his stupid gumbo. Don, FFS, man! THERE WAS ABOUT TO BE MAKING OUT! How could you DO this to us?! SQUEE!!!!!!!

The Blacklist s6 ep 12

This episode is the second leg of a double-parter, and it’s a little less satisfying than last week’s. I suspect that might be because it’s very evidently setting up the President’s consigliere McMahon as the Big Bad for the back half of the season. Mind you, she’s significantly more convincing in that role than the (nominal) President himself, a milquetoast who at one point is reduced to bellowing “I am the President of the United States!” at Cooper. Dude: if you have to say it…

Anyway, we pick up with Red still strapped to a gurney, needles in his arms, executioners waiting for the good word. And Cooper still trying to persuade POTUS to stay Red’s execution, because Red – and only he – knows where to find the person who killed Ava Ziegler, the murdered German diplomat (INSECTS). This works out, and Red is sprung having been given 48 hours to find the assassin, cheerfully admitting to Dembe and Liz on his way out that he has no idea where Ziegler’s killer is. 

Meantime McMahon is quarterbacking a search using Bastien Moreau, this and last week’s Blacklister, for the MacGuffin-y dossier which contains proof that she and POTUS are part of a conspiracy against America, or…something? It scarcely matters at this stage, I suppose; Red has already seen her for what she is. And when he and Moreau confront each other, he is able to use that information to turn Moreau against McMahon. Moreau, you see, is ideologically-driven rather than a gun for hire, and thought he was working in the service of a German nationalist group called, improbably, Black Fist.

Moreau is captured by Ressler, but shot – by another of McMahon’s operatives – before he can provide any useful intel. By then he’d dropped the dossier – in USB drive form – in an unsuspecting schoolkid’s bag. Red’s immunity agreement is restored, and the lovely Vontae is paroled as part of the deal. Answering my question from last week, everyone agrees to pretend that Red has broken out of prison, so that he can go back to being a CI: or, as Cooper puts it, “We have our work cut out for us. We know there are people plotting against our country. As is all too often the case, we’re looking straight down the barrel of what’s wrong with the world. But tonight, we’re also witness to something pretty great: the man we hate to love lives to fight another day”. Red, unsentimentally, remarks on how the Task Force office “reeks of stress and anxiety, coffee and deodorized body odor”.

So we’re back to normal. Except that McMahon herself is going to be overseeing the Task Force. And that Samar is leaving the FBI, because of her health. As ever I’ve tried not to look for spoilers, but it did feel like farewell. I hope not.

Public Service Announcement 54 of 2019: Instinct, Franco Building

I really wanted to like Instinct more than I do. I really, really, did. I even watched the first season all the way to the end. Unfortunately, this CIA-operative-turned-professor-turned-police-consultant procedural didn’t quite work for me, notwithstanding the presence of Alan Cumming in the lead role, and an interesting performance from Bojana Novakovic as the Beckett to his Castle. Even more unfortunately audiences seem to agree – this second season is also the last. A bit of a wasted opportunity (tonight, 9pm, Sky Witness).

More excitingly, though, tomorrow night BBC Four has Franco Building, a documentary about the architectural legacy of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, presented by the very great Jonathan Meades, a writer and film-maker of the highest calibre. This finally completes Meades’s remarkable quartet about Western Europe’s four most significant 20th century dictators: 1994’s Jerry Building (the architecture of the Third Reich); 2006’s Joe Building (ditto, but Stalin); and 2016’s astonishing Ben Building (Italian modernism during the Mussolini era). Some people don’t like Meades’s idiosyncratic presenting style, or his views on modernist architecture, but these people are idiots who shouldn’t be trusted. I fully expect this to be one of the television events of the year (Tuesday 27 August, 10pm, BBC Four). 

 

Private Eyes s3 ep 8

Hello again to Seth Byrne’s Deputy Eddie Conroy this week. Took me a minute to place him beyond “Haven’s paranormal tv guy”, but then I realised he was also, more pertinently, the floundering new local cop in one of the best Eyes episodes of last season. Well. And here he is again, taking on a significantly bigger role as he seeks Shade and Angie’s help in investigating the murder of an elderly friend, and making it two for two in terms of “best episodes”, if we’re counting. Yes, the worldly-wise, kind and overwhelmingly decent Shade and the enthusiastic, naive and slightly mad Eddie make a charming double act and, working with a smartly-plotted mystery and just a little pathos, they help make “The Conroy Curse” a real delight. Surprisingly, though, they also endure a lot more danger than your standard Private Eyes ep: the boys are in real peril at various points. I mean, intellectually, their fate is never really in doubt, but that river business is scary, which – BONUS – means Angie getting very worried, her and Shade actually holding hands at one point (don’t you think I didn’t notice, Everett, I NOTICED, SQUEE!) and Eddie making Shade acknowledge how he feels about her, even if, as usual, ol’Shadow is too scared to do it to her face. Dude. I loved this episode to bits but Eddie’s right: “Can’t wait forever, you know what I mean?”

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.