This week’s Poldark review must begin with a moment’s silence for Captain Henshawe (John Hollingworth), a man of the loyal, decent sort who didn’t deserve to meet his end at the hands of some trigger-happy French Republicans. It was perhaps inevitable that someone would get killed off during the daring rescue of bedraggled Navy doctor Dwight Enys (Luke Norris). Once dear old Hench (a nickname I have only just heard but which should have been used at least five times an episode) had more than the usual three or four lines of dialogue in the opening half, his odds of survival began to shorten before our very eyes. His palette of brown and beige topped by a tricorn hat may have caused him to blend in occasionally with Generic Miners #2 and #3, but it was Hench who finally gave me the chance to yell, “You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!” at Sunday night historical telly, and for that, he has my appreciation.
Last week’s “feed the poor” antics were a breeze compared to this week’s mission: Operation French Prison Break. Ross (Aidan Turner) was finally off to save his bestie before his beard went from ‘New York hipster’ to ‘Route 66 hobo’. Tholly Tregirls – a man who’s lucky he hasn’t taken his own eye out with his hooked hand – was in charge of navigation, but luckily Ross was able to produce top-secret blueprints from thin air. We were all too busy watching everyone creep noisily through the woods to notice niggles such as plot holes. It was pretty much worth all the nightshoot-induced squinting when Drake and Ross, like a pair of gymnastic swans, did a double reverse dive off a balcony onto some guards and for that shot of The Crew standing over Dr. Enys like a bunch of dishevelled Charlie’s Angels.
By the time writer Horsfield and director Woolfenden threw in a hallucinatory vision sequence (everyone take a drink!), it felt like they were just spoiling us. The music in Poldark is usually unexceptional fare, but some notable orchestral moments here heightened tension and an original acapella composition featured in a closing scene. Though Dwight’s reunion with Caroline (Gabriella Wilde) was too short, Aunt Agatha (Caroline Blakiston) was reading the tarot and planning her hundredth birthday party, making my suspicion that she is actually a witch look less outlandish by the minute.
Demelza’s brother Drake (Harry Richardson) had stowed away on the rescue (“I’m fearless and fierce,” he said, with all the conviction of a tiny beagle who thinks he’s a German shepherd) after some mournful clifftop gazing (this happens so often in Cornwall I swear it’s contagious) but it proved to be an insufficient remedy for his heartbreak over Morwenna (Ellise Chappell). She’d decided to try the ‘break it off with him for class pressure reasons but lie about it and pretend I don’t love him’ tactic, which has never worked out well for anybody in the entire history of period drama. Maybe she thinks they’ll implode if they dare base a relationship on anything but unnecessary miscommunication?
To be fair, her snooty employer Treacherous George (Jack Farthing) is reaching new levels of pantomime villainy, whether by clambering up the social ladder or trying to kick Ross right off the bottom of it. He faced some delicious comeuppance, when (in a twist I sort of called, though I hadn’t counted on just how satisfying it would be) the very rescue he was loudly slandering as rash and disgraceful saved the nephew of a man he was otherwise desperate to schmooze. Perhaps more importantly, it turns out that Lieutenant Armitage (a recently introduced Josh Whitehouse) cleans up quite well when he’s not being locked up in a rat-infested prison. We have a new contender for Best Hair This Side of Bodmin, though he’s going to have to work a bit harder, maybe get a little ruffled round the edges, if he wants to give Ross’ windswept locks a run for their money. If he truly does intend to take full advantage of his newfound liberty, I expect we’re in for a few more unbuttoned jackets this series…