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.

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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.

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.

Poldark s3 ep 2

*SPOILERS*

This week on Poldark, a grizzled, drunken old pirate with a hook for a hand and not too many teeth joins the cast and everyone pretends he’s irresistible to all the women of the parish. Given that said parish includes a host of handsome young men led by Aidan Turner who have a habit of taking their shirts off, it’s a little odd that Old Man Hook is singled out as the Clooney of the bunch but no matter. His real function is to make “Argh” noises and coax Ross back onto the high seas, and he accomplishes that with aplomb; we’ll come to that later.

First, though, the young men, which sounds creepy, but bear with me. Demelza’s two brothers have, in true Poldark fashion, moved into one of Ross’s cottages and got jobs down the mine, and, also in true Poldark fashion, started noising up the Warleggan Weasel, partly by accident and partly because it’s hard not to. Oopsy.

Brother Sam – I think, it took me half the episode to settle on which was which – is exceptionally tedious; given that all he ever does is preach, his principal achievement this week is getting on everyone’s nerves, including mine, Ross and George’s – who says you don’t have anything in common, huh, fellas? Brother Drake, however, more than makes up for his sibling’s shortcomings, being not only sweet himself, but sweet on Morwenna too, bless. She may hide it better but she’s just as smitten in her own way, and the pair of them are so delightful with their wildflowers and their shell bracelets and their wishing well, that both Geoffrey Charles and I are completely charmed (though possibly not in the same way the naughty Prudie is, hee) and shipping them forthwith. Which I imagine means another lovely romance doomed to end in disaster, so everybody brace yourselves.

Disaster being one of this show’s abiding themes, of course, this week we have the triple gut-punch of Doctor Dwight’s ship going missing at sea, Capt Blamey’s ship also going missing at sea, and the Warleggan Weasel becoming the new town magistrate, Ross having turned the job down for reasons which might make sense if you’re Ross, but are infuriating and short-sighted if you’re everyone else. I mean, yes, obviously it’s a tad surprising that the chief poacher’s been offered the head gamekeeper post in the first place, but if the guy who actually presided over his big show trial is willing to let bygones be bygones, couldn’t Ross? Sigh.

One problem at a time, though – there are missing sailors we need to find. At least Verity’s flying visit ends a lot more happily than I thought it might, with Capt Blamey safe and Mrs Blamey heading off to Lisbon to live happily ever after with him. “Will I ever see you again?” asks Aunt Agatha, tearfully, making me fear for Aunt Agatha and the odds of her surviving this season. “I promise you will,” says Verity, which in turn makes me fear for Verity, but get to the back of the queue, V, come on, now – it looks like our beloved Doctor Dwight might actually have been shot in the head, and if that’s true, both Caroline and I will be heartbroken. Sob.

Nevertheless, Capt Hothead Ross is on his way to France with Capt Hook to try and rescue his buddy, putting himself in amongst all the “riot and bloodshed,” because of course he is. And for the first time since this show began, I fear for him too – although Ross is still at the centre of things and there is still this endless, aggravating feud with the Weasel Warleggan to contend with, now that he and Demelza seem to be back on an even keel and suddenly there are all these new young men in the cast, ready to take on make-the-nation-swoon duties in his stead, this episode really feels like it could be the start of a shift towards the new generation. (Whether wee Valentine can hold out long enough to join them, mind you, given Elizabeth’s utter loathing for the poor mite, is still up in the air.) Can you have Poldark without, um, Poldark? I know I’m always criticising the big idiot, but honestly? I’d rather not find out. Come on, Ross. Make it back from France in one piece, you big lug. Please.

Poldark s2 ep 10

*SPOILERS*

“My arrogance, my idiocy has been spectacular.”

Better late than never, eh? Even if “late” is something of an understatement since it’s not till the final minutes of the season finale, that the handsome, brave, yet unconscionably stupid Captain Ross Poldark realises that he’s been a total prat for most of the season, Demelza’s his true love and all Elizabeth ever offered was a fantasy, rather than a future in any meaningful sense of the word. DUDE. It certainly took you long enough.

So long in fact that, before we get there, we have to sit through yet another hour’s angst.

At least the Poldark finances seem to have steadied for now – even if, as I’ve said before, past experience suggests we’d best not get too comfortable – and the mine’s making money. As our man’s business prospers (for once), however, his brain apparently continues to atrophy through lack of use; somehow surprised and aggrieved that the admittedly unusual feel of cash in his wife’s hand isn’t cheering her up any, he ignores my advice to throw himself wt her feet and decides that whining is the way forward instead. “It was one night! How long will it take for you to forgive me?” would be bad enough, but to then move on to some nonsense about it being different for boys…. Oh, ROSS. You might as well punch yourself in the face this time, and save your wife the bother.

In fairness to Demelza, mind you, she chooses a verbal assault instead of a physical one this week, but her “sauce for the goose”-style account of the Captain MacNeil debacle doesn’t really help matters, as, now filled with self-righteousness to go with the aforementioned arrogance and idiocy, Ross is still not minded to grovel, deciding instead to re-join the army and run away, because that worked so well for his love life last time.

Before signing up, though, he goes on a sort of farewell tour, popping in to say thanks to Caroline and do some fervent matchmaking for an audience by now desperate for someone, ANYONE, in this show to make a half-decent fist of a relationship. It’s lucky then that, for one so hopeless at sorting out his own romantic affairs, Ross proves surprisingly adept at fixing other people’s, bringing Caroline and Dwight back together in a scene as glorious as it is unlikely and all the sweeter for it. Awwww. It’s just a shame Dwight has already re-joined the Navy (because even the nice male characters in this show can be numpties) in a misguided bid to forget about her but at least they get to enjoy one night together before he sails off to war. “Where is your room?” asks Caroline, a woman who knows what she wants and isn’t going to mess about waiting for it any longer – cf Elizabeth Warleggan, formerly Poldark, currently doing my head in. Dwight is, at last, delighted to oblige.

As Ross is away filming his own very special episode of Friends Reunited, meanwhile, Demelza heads off on a farewell tour of her own. Her first stop is Verity’s house to deliver her baby (which means all three cousins have children now, and the cast of Poldark: The Next Generation is complete), while the second is Elizabeth’s, to deliver her unvarnished opinion of that lady’s conduct and character in a speech as beautifully, damningly delivered as it is entirely well-deserved. Huzzah!

Despite having thus vanquished her principal foe, though, it’s not long before Mistress Poldark is heading right back across enemy lines, to warn them that there’s a literal mob with torches and pitchforks outside. The odious Warleggan, who has no breeding, simply insults her, and his ungrateful wife, who has no shame, isn’t much better; after two seasons of dithering, it looks like Elizabeth has finally picked a side. Of course, it’s the wrong one; Demelza is proved right almost immediately, and it’s left to Ross and his last-minute speechifying and smouldering – just like old times! – to save the day, or, more accurately, the night, as he stops the mob from finishing the job he started earlier and setting George’s face on fire. (Is it wrong that I’m a bit disappointed?)

Since Demelza has failed to pick up on Ross’s giant hint that he didn’t come back just for crowd control, it’s both unfortunate and ridiculous, albeit par for the course this season, that, when they get home, the first thing he mentions is his ex-girlfriend’s forthcoming baby – you’re killing me here, man – while failing to notice his wife actually PACKING HER BAGS around him, but it’s worth that one last moment of lunacy in the end as he finally declares that he’s been an idiot and a jerk, and thank GOD we can end the season with a good old windswept and soulful embrace on a Cornish clifftop – it’s been so long, you guys – between two of the prettiest people on tv. Hurrah! The title card and post-credits teaser say “Poldark will return!” and so will I, because Aidan Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson are tremendous, and Luke Norris and Gabriella Wilde wonderful, but if season 3 Ross could give up season 2 Ross’s habit of behaving like an unspeakable ass, that would be much appreciated.

Poldark s2 ep 9

*SPOILERS*

FFS, Ross. All you had to do was say “I’m sorry.”

As I’ve said before, I understand that romantic heroes should never be perfect. A little bit of edge, a few significant flaws – all of that makes them more human. But there is a fine line between making them more human and making them complete jackasses, and after watching him cross over to the wrong side of the line so many times this season, it’s insanely frustrating to see the BBC’s version of Ross Poldark double-down on the asshattery and give every indication that he has no intention of crossing back.

Dolefully wearing his Demelza–inflicted shiner with the air of a man who considers himself as much wronged as wronging (wrong again, dude), he spends most of this episode attempting to patronise her with various platitudes, each more insulting than the last. Adopting last week’s “you must see I had no choice” as his general theme, he trots out such infuriating gems as “I have never claimed to be perfect,” “your pride is wounded” and “perhaps I might have hoped for some understanding, knowing you as I do,” before the crowning glory of “I don’t blame you for your anger, but how does it serve us now?”

My God, man. Stop acting like you broke her favourite casserole dish. You cheated on your wife. Nothing short of throwing yourself at her feet and begging for forgiveness is going to even begin to cut it, but you don’t even offer up an apology?

Never mind asking for her “patience,” you’re lucky she didn’t give you her right hook. Again.

Not that Elizabeth is any better. While her paramour is moping around wondering how he can have his Cornish pasty and eat it, the widow Poldark is just as deluded, postponing her Warleggan wedding, not because she’s thought better of marrying a psychopath but because…. what? As the groom himself wonders, “What do you imagine will happen in the meantime?” Captain Poldark will move in? For heaven’s sake, woman. Get a hold of yourself. And take some responsibility for your own actions for a change. Having the effrontery to suggest that in NOT abandoning his wife and child, he’s left you with “only one possible choice” makes you almost as bad as your ex is.

Thank goodness then for Demelza, in all her wounded majesty, who lights up the episode like a firework on the fifth of November. Her trip to the Bodrugan party is ill-advised, her dalliance with the doltish Captain MacNeil – “your duty now is not to your husband, but to me”? Get over yourself, you odious little snake – unpleasant, but, like Prudie and Jud, I can’t find it in myself to blame her for either. Especially since (unlike her walking excuse of a husband) rather than breaking into a house to dishonour her marriage, she climbs out of one to avoid it.

Be it walking wearily on the beach in her sodden finery, offering sardonically to help her errant husband pack or even just standing quietly on a clifftop looking out to sea (both the clifftops and the sea get a lot of action this week, incidentally, presumably to reflect the precarious and potentially stormy moods everyone’s in), every shot of Demelza is like a painting and every expression on Eleanor Tomlinson’s face is mesmerising. For all this episode is about Ross’s behaviour and Elizabeth’s selfishness and yet another upturn in the Poldark finances (no point in getting excited, I’m sure there’ll be another catastrophe along in a minute), and for all Aidan Turner and Heida Reed are doing a great job in thankless circumstances, the main reason to watch is Demelza. She is tremendous.