The Poldark series three finale (episode 9) airs on BBC1 next Sunday 6th August at 9pm
Recaps are from Digital Spy and Radio Times
— SPOILERS BELOW! — SPOILERS BELOW! — SPOILERS BELOW! — SPOILERS BELOW! —
The love lives of many of the show’s leading lights hang in the balance ahead of next week’s finale
The men in Poldark are just the absolute worst… and by Lord, the show wants you to know it.
The penultimate episode of series 3 is less a Sunday night drama and more a beautifully shot d-bag rundown: a chance to chart who’s the biggest tosser this side of Truro.
It’s a listicle that’s likely going to be hard for fans to agree on. Should it be lascivious bully Osborne (Christian Brassington) in the top spot, wily Warleggan (Jack Farthing), or power-mad, poor-hating, Lord Falmouth (James Wilby)?
And where should our ‘hero’ Ross (Aidan Turner) place? Because he certainly deserves a spot on the chart.
It comes to something when you start looking to young Geoffrey Charles (Jamie Marcus) for reassurance that the Y chromosome won’t be the exclusive preserve of mansplaining politicians and perverts. (Although from what he says tonight, his future will be him eating cake by the fire and ordering Drake to make wheels. ‘Not enough spokes, try again!’ he’ll yell through a fistful of sponge.)
There is no good news in this week’s Poldark, and the show knows it, from the opening gloomy shot of the Cornish coast to the closing pan over a sea the colour of the headstone missing from Aunt Agatha’s grave. The entire episode is doused in chilly grey tones, like an Insta filter in a tin mine. Remember when this show was all glistening abs in golden sunlight?
Putting a big cross in the box of ‘BLEAK FUTURE’, we see there’s only a choice between two evils in the Truro election. It’s communicated effectively but without any subtlety by Morwenna’s birthing screams being laid over the images of blokes casting their votes. George Warleggan defies the pollsters and beats Lord Falmouth in a result so surprising it registers 7.8 Dimblebys on the voter amazement scale.
But George can’t enjoy the win, because Ross is there to remind him that Valentine isn’t his child. Kids, eh? Nothing but trouble. Morwenna (Elisse Chappell) nearly dies giving birth to her son, John Conan Godolphin Osborne. ‘Conan’, presumably, because Osborne is an utter barbarian.
Back when Christopher Biggins played him in the ’70s incarnation of Poldark, ol’ Ozzie was one of the most hated characters on TV and likewise, Brassington ensures this new Osborne’s the biggest villain you’ll see on a Sunday night before the 10 o’clock news.
When told by Dwight not to flop on top of his wife like a randy manatee (Brassington ate 3,500 calories a day for the role, suddenly making Poldark a great ad for salad), Osborne is all too eager to move on to Morwenna’s sister Rowella (Esme Coy).
It seems she’s willing to throw herself on the flabby landmine to keep her sister from another three minutes of lurching. She’s even willing to rip her bodice. Yes, Poldark has literally become a bodice-ripper. Are we going to have to hide next week’s episode behind the scented candles and paracetamol in the beside table?
It’s just one in a spectrum of many unhealthy relationships – Warleggan’s paying too little attention to his wife, Osborne’s paying too much attention to his. Where is the Goldilocks middle ground, with porridge that’s just right and a bed where you won’t be sexually assaulted?
It’s not at Nampara, where Ross and Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) both know that they’re being tempted away from one another, and both are close to acknowledging it. The moment you think Ross does admit it – in a heartfelt but utterly misplaced confession about kissing Elizabeth (Heida Reed) in the church – you quickly realise you’ve been cheated.
It’s just a Poldark fantasy sequence. We’re not mad on those: between that and Ross’s dream sequence while rescuing Dwight, the show’s experimental touches in series 3 have felt off-key in relation to the general beat of the drama.
Thoroughly on-key however is Tomlinson. Wisely she’s once again given the opportunity to deliver a charming vocal performance, as Demelza sings at Lord Falmouth’s party. Unfortunately it’s a song dripping with meaning and directed at handsome Hugh Armitage (Josh Whitehouse).
Hugh’s making clumsy but increasingly obvious overtures at her, and though his sight is failing, he’s compensating for it by pointing his privates in Mrs Poldark’s direction like they’re a blind man’s cane.
Demelza’s not shy about admitting her attraction to him to Ross. To the audience, Ross seems remarkably chill about his wife admitting that she’d like to have one day to sleep with someone else, but then he’s a man who would like to sleep with Elizabeth. Honestly, the men in this show…
There is one man who emerges unscathed from this hot mess: the lovely Doctor-Do-Right, Dwight (Luke Norris). Far from the testosterone calamity of elections or societal dick-swinging, he’s just getting on with his life. He and Caroline are the Goldilocks couple of Poldark. Just right.
But from the incredibly dramatic trailer for next week’s finale, it doesn’t look like they’ll get much of a look-in. Nor does it look like we’re going to end series three with anyone smiling. With another series already commissioned, Poldark‘s going out with a bang… and a grimace.
watch Episode Three first HERE
Judas, as they say in these parts, that was an interesting episode.
It may have been bereft of major incident or death but it was still action-packed. And most importantly it shone an intriguing light into many of the characters’ hearts.
Or in the case of Aidan Turner’s Ross, it sort of did. Our hero appeared to have what would in modern terms be called a mature and honest conversation with his neglected wife Demelza. He had just seen Elizabeth in the church where they had been visiting Agatha’s grave and the two of them had had a heart-to-heart followed by a chaste(-ish) kiss.
But did he confess? Did he heck. Ross appeared to tell Demelza what he was feeling – that he had the ghost of a love for Elizabeth but that he was happy and content in his new marriage and was a new man.
But he said nothing of the sort.
The confession we saw was a fantasy with writer Debbie Horsfield pulling the rug from under us viewers, just as she did with the death of Francis (when he appeared to be saved from drowning only for us to realise that it was some sort of dream before he carked it).
So Ross essentially lied to Demelza, said he was sorting granite for Agatha’s grave and reported nothing of the kiss. He’s a complicated hero, our Mr P.
And in Poldark these things have a habit of coming back to bite characters on the bottom. Because lurking near the church gate was the unmistakeable figure of Beatie Edney’s Prudie who witnessed the intimate exchange between Ross and his erstwhile lover.
Ghastly George Warleggan also found out a few things about his wife. He consulted Dr Enys about the details of Valentine’s birth – wracked as he is with doubt over Agatha’s last words suggesting that the child is not his and someone else “got there first”.
“Damn you Ross, damn your blood,” George spat at his arch enemy in one of their many bar room tiffs (they like squaring off in pubs, those two). And it was a remark which was clearly double-edged: by his blood he clearly means young Valentine.
But being George he didn’t talk to his wife – merely cold-shouldered her and the wee whelp.
Although of course he had other things on his mind, namely what Brenda from Bristol (in more recent times) would have called “another” blimming election. But this one offered up some tasty plot developments.
George had been elected as the Burgess’ radical candidate of change in Cornwall and – to add to the irony – old right winger Lord Falmouth approached Ross to be his man.
Of course stubborn Ross would have been far better as the Burgess’ choice and it is hard to see him acquiescing with a toff who feels the “menials” have their place (by which he means on the ground, scrabbling in the dirt for a crust).
The terrible Osborne/Morwenna marriage is also going in a dangerous direction. Osborne keeps forcing himself on his poor wife and was actually caught praying for “a suitable replacement” while she suffering the agonies of labour. I may be wrong but this is not conduct straight out of the new man’s guide to being a good husband.
Quite what Morwenna’s sister Rowella is up to, though, is another question, with her constant flirtation with her toe-sucking toe-rag brother-in-law. Is she trying to keep him away from her sister by satisfying Ossie’s (as he seems to be called these days) lust?
Still, Ossie definitely has a rival. Drake’s fires of passion have been rekindled – and we saw him mooning outside Ossie Towers. Will he have the courage to make a swoop? And how can he get Ossie out of the way? Perhaps Rowella will get him into such a state he expires. One can only hope.
Probably least interesting are the flickerings of Hugh Armitage’s desire for Demelza. It’s not a story that has massively gripped me to be honest – his swooning, poems and sketches seem a little hackneyed. And it is a story we seemed to have seen already in the last series when Demelza was getting all that attention from Captain McNeil.
Although the tension Hugh’s ardour seems to have exposed in Ross and Demelza’s marriage is interesting.
The fireside scene where she confided to her husband that she would be up for a fling was bold, daring and rather modern. Question is: has she got the chops for it? And will Ross stand up for his marriage? It’s about time he did…
The Poldark series three finale airs on BBC1 next Sunday 6th August at 9pm