Poldark s4 ep 2

*SPOILERS*

“Give me hope.”

Give me strength. If I was supposed to be sad about Armitage dying, it might have been a better idea not to have him spend these entire first two episodes trying to blackmail Demelza into resuming her relationship with him on the basis that he’d die if she didn’t. And doing so quite blatantly in front of her preternaturally restrained husband, who does little more than wince and excuse himself in response. At this point then, it’s not so much a tragedy as a relief Armitage and his poems are gone, except that, as Dr Dwight points out, the big drip’s now “immortal in everyone’s memory and we poor souls will look pale in comparison.” Which I think means we’ll never be free of him, will we? Argh.

Eleanor Tomlinson plays Demelza’s grief beautifully, and it’s a smart move to link her feelings to her broader grief for Julia and “this sad, sorry, broken world” – Demelza being one of so many of us bewildered by the horrors around us these days – but it still doesn’t really move us away from the basics of this storyline which is yet another excuse to have Captain Poldark and Mrs Poldark fight a bit, make up a bit, talk a bit, and question their relationship some more. At least the talking’s calmer and more productive than it was last season and the season before, though, and it does result in Ross accidentally winning the election and becoming the local MP. On the one hand, this is great because it means weasel Warleggan isn’t the local MP any more and Ross can put those speeches he likes making to even more effective use. On the other hand, though, I also means Warleggan will be redoubling his efforts to destroy every Poldark/ Poldark-adjacent person in the vicinity, and I didn’t realise that it also means Ross and Demelza will spend most of his tenure apart so there’s your next excuse for fighting/ making up/ talking / questioning their relationship some more. Tin baths and steamy snogs are all very well as a distraction, but at some point somebody really needs to change the record.

As far as the rest of the episode is concerned, Dr Dwight and the pregnant Caroline are blissfully happy which is nice, but unlikely to last because this is Poldark. Evil Tom Harry is evil. The Carnes are unlucky in love. And lather, rinse and repeat. Caroline and Demelza’s political machinations are good fun, and the election and an adorable scene of secret brothers Valentine and Jeremy playing delightedly together (before their spoilsport mums split them up) shake things up a little, but as I said last week, we’ve seen all the rest of this before. I’m getting less and less keen on seeing it all again.

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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.

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 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.