This review contains spoilers.
Cooee Poldark! Isn’t that out-of-control dot on the horizon none other than old flame Elizabeth, belly fit to burst with the fruits of the illicit night you shared last series, on a runaway horse heading for the cliff edge? Make haste sir!
To take a heartless view, were Elizabeth and her under-the-table baby to gallop off a precipice into the crashing waves below, it might not be the worst thing in the world for Ross Poldark. His wife Demelza, despite her innate goodness, would be able to see the silver lining of such a tragic event at least. No more cosy chats in dark corners for Ross and Elizabeth, no more nights away from home for him, or nights at home wondering whether he’s picturing her while abed with you.
Of course, should Elizabeth die, Ross’ moping would only worsen. And should she die at sea, you’d never shift him from his favoured clifftop brooding place—the one that makes him look as though he’s in a water-damaged print hanging in the reception of a dated B&B.
Elizabeth’s near-death experience made for a bracing start to series three, which, it’s fair to say, is not messing around. Her perilous ride was quickly followed by a secret wedding, a difficult birth, a pregnancy announcement, two deaths and three newcomers. You’d be hard pressed to find an episode of television more densely packed with incident this side of 24 Hours In A&E. And that’s without even mentioning the trailer for next week’s episode, which promises all manner of turmoil.
Poldark needed to press the reset button after the controversy of last series, and this episode did just that. Fans don’t tune in to this show for antiheroes and moral grey areas; we’re here for the romance and unspoilt coastlines (I’m mostly in it for the pies and wildflowers, if I’m honest). TV’s full to breaking point of bad, complex male leads, let us enjoy this one idyll where the villains are easy to spot and the heroes are easy on the eye. That’s the point of the Sunday night period drama – to fortify us with romantic reveries into which we can retreat at the weekly staff meeting come Monday morning.
So thank you, TV Gods, for making the series three premiere so characteristically Poldarkian that its Latin nomenclature would be Poldark Poldark. We had sweeping coastline shots, dramatic clifftop gallops, star-crossed love, Aunt Agatha reading the tarot, George being evil, urgent notes sent between between Nampara and Trenwith, Demelza’s family trying to fetch ee ome, someone saying the words “mining’s in my blood”, and everything wrapping up with Ross and Demelza arm in arm against the world. The weekly ‘urgent clifftop gallop’ quota was fulfilled twice in the first ten minutes alone. All it needed was Jud to pop out from under the crust of a stargazy pie and perform his catchphrase for the greatest hits compilation to be complete.
With Dwight and Caroline now married, the star-crossed love baton has passed to newcomers Morwenna (“a lilting, musical name”) and ee of the fitty phizog, Drake, two younglings who, in true Poldark style, fall head over heels after a two-minute happenstance encounter on a stunning coastal footpath. Now that Nampara and Trenwith have gone all Montague and Capulet following Ross’ promise to stay out of George’s way, the course of their love promises not to run smoothly, which is music to our ears.
So it’s goodbye to John Nettles’ Uncle Ray, who died of the sugar sickness and will be missed, and to Demelza’s bullying born-again dad, who died of nastiness probably, and won’t be.
It’s hello to fresh blood the Carne brothers and to Morwenna Chynoweth, new governess to Geoffrey Charles – who may be a Trenwith Poldark, but proved to have a more than a little of Nampara Poldark rebelliousness about him this week. Good boy.
Another Trenwith boy with more than a bit of Nampara about him is baby Valentine Warleggan (the most unfortunate name in this series since bit player Paul Daniel, who entertains me with every magical mention). There’s an obvious reason for that which everybody seems to have worked out apart from George, thank goodness. What that weasel will do when he realises the heir to his fortune is a cuckoo in the nest doesn’t bear thinking about. Elizabeth was lucky her newborn didn’t emerge sporting a tell-tale tricorn hat, for more reasons than one.
Invigorated by fresh blood, but not too invigorated, Poldark is back and is most welcome. Whatever life sends, Ross and Demelza say they can face it together, which is exactly the way we like it. Now, let’s settle back and see what’s in store.