Stormy seas heralded the opening shots of this week’s Poldark, as a failed harvest and a hard winter began to take its toll on the peasants of Cornwall. Some incredibly cumbersome dialogue and unwieldy exposition from Ross and Unidentified Background Characters #1, #2 and #3 later (one of them may have been Zackie Martin. I’m not sure. I didn’t even know his name until last week), we cracked on with the real ploy of the episode. Ross and his co-conspirators clustered around the kitchen table to plan Ocean’s Eleven: Feed the Poor Edition.
The objective? Stop five villages from starving to death. The mark? A grain ship (and George Warleggan, as an added bonus). The place? A small and otherwise unremarkable cove. Ross Poldark is Broody Scar, a man so unused to being solvent that he’s just looking for an unprofitable venture to invest in. Sam and Drake Carne are the Obligatory Brothers, seconds-in-command who are great for lifting things and complaining about storehouses. Demelza Poldark and Caroline Penvenen are Fiery Red and Golden Tresses, coming to a grand pile near you soon to charm you out of all your money.
In between all this, Drake and Morwenna were vying for most sickeningly cute couple this side of Penzance (“When he was saying ‘Miss Morwenna’, what he really meant was ‘I love you’…”). They finally made good on that promise of a kiss with not one but two games of tongue-tennis: first in the lowly church (#she tells me worship in the bedroom) and then in a classic slow-motion run across the beach. If writer Debbie Horsfield and director Stephen Woolfenden are out to get us all drunk on historical drama bingo, they certainly seem to know what they’re doing.
Elsewhere, Aunt Agatha continued to fuel rumours that she’s a witch by revealing a love for toads and a practically psychic ability to infer Drake and Morwenna’s romance; Geoffrey Charles was on a roll as best rebellious stepson ever to grace our Sunday night screens; and oh, childbirth’s getting easier and easier for our Demelza. Her newborn babe was revealed from beneath the bedcovers while Demelza reclined, looking as regal and refreshed as if she’d just come back from the spa. Next time she’ll be plucking one from the vegetable patch, or return from a trip to Tesco with a toddler underfoot. Not to mention Valentine Warleggan’s been knocked off the top spot in worst names to give a newborn this series, as he’s joined by his (probable) half-sister Clowance Poldark.
With Cap’n Ross up to his old tricks of sympathising with the poor and believing in fair wages again, it was up to new magistrate George Warleggan (Jack Farthing) to remind the underlings of their betters and hand out one-way tickets to Australia as if transportation were a prize in a raffle. He treated Morwenna as if she too were a prize to be won, offering her in marriage to a preening, lecherous and most un-reverend-like Reverend Whitworth. What I wouldn’t give for Demelza to come along and fell him with a nice heavy metal object. A whack from a frying pan or a skillet to the back of the head should knock him out easily enough. Mind you, Elizabeth wasn’t much better either, trying to convince Morwenna into a ‘suitable’ marriage like her own, if by ‘suitable,’ she means ‘I take opiates and my husband doesn’t even know what decent feelings are, but at least I wear fancy dresses.’
A busy episode, then, though it was let down by ever-unsubtle dialogue, ungainly pacing and some embarrassingly obvious scene set-ups in what looks to be a trend for this year’s Poldark, as next week Ross finally returns to France to rescue imprisoned and increasingly distressed best pal Dr. Enys. I sense trouble brewing for some of our favourite characters, but we must hold out hope that Poldark will someday have more than one or two vaguely upbeat storylines going on at any time.