This article comes from Den of Geek UK.
Warning: contains spoilers for Poldark series 3.
Cornwall, 1794. Failed harvests. A harsh winter. War overseas. Across the Channel, France is simmering like an overheated milk pan, threatening to bubble over and invade the English coast at any second. Peasants previously seen gaily jigging in slow-motion through summer pastures have had to stop twirling, pick up a rolling pin, and ready themselves to defend their country. Many barely have the strength to pick up their rolling pins, on account of having already starved to death.
What they need, the Cornish commoners, is a good man in parliament. Someone who’ll speak up for them at Westminster and protect them from avaricious grain merchants and toadying magistrates who’d sentence them to hanging as soon as look at them. Why, they need Captain Ross Poldark! But will he stand as MP for Truro?
Will he heck.
Ross’ series three journey saw him run away from politics and towards danger. When his good friend Dr Dwight Enys’ navy ship went missing in Revolutionary France, Ross and his father’s roguish friend Tholly Tregirls went on a spying expedition to Brittany. There, they narrowly escaped the guillotine, but discovered that Dwight was being held as a prisoner of war in Quimper. Back in Cornwall, Ross mounted a rescue mission. They would bring back Dr Enys, or die trying.
Some of them died trying, including Captain Henshawe, the former Wheal Leisure mine captain who backed Ross’ ventures in series one and two. Demelza’s younger brother Drake (a broken-hearted stowaway) took a bullet but survived, and saved Ross’ life in the process. In addition to Dwight, Ross also rescued handsome young poet Lieutenant Hugh Armitage, which was good of him.
Safely back home, Dr Enys struggled to adjust to a life of eating marzipan and admiring his wealthy new wife Caroline Penvenen’s ever-magnificent hats. A few words from Lt Armitage though, and he shook free of the PTSD and was soon on the mend.
Rescuing Hugh proved a doubled-edged sword for Ross. First, because Hugh turned out to be the nephew of local aristocrat Lord Falmouth, who’d been pressuring a reluctant Ross to go into politics and was now even more convinced that Captain Poldark was his man. Second, because as soon as Hugh laid eyes on Ross’ beautiful wife Demelza, he fell instantly in love and spent the rest of the series writing her poetry with a view to having a go on her stargazy pie.
Ross’ reluctance to enter politics upset everyone, especially as it cleared a path for George Warleggan to first become a local magistrate, and then be elected MP for Truro. As a magistrate, George proved that social advancement mattered more to him than justice, and as his first act, exonerated an aristocratic rapist and condemned his poor victim.
Despite Ross being so busy with his French adventures and generally having no interest in whatever it is George was up to, George remained obsessed with his rival. We learned that he has a particular aversion to toads on account of Ross and Francis having put them in his breeches as schoolboys. To spite Ross, George closed down Wheal Leisure and flung 75 local families into poverty in the harshest winter Cornwall had ever known. Demelza and Caroline responded by shaking down the local dignitaries for cash to feed the poor, while Ross donated a strip of his land to the common-folk so they could grow their own food.
Demelza not being either a mine, a starving peasant or a parlous French adventure (his major interests), Ross failed to pay his wife much attention at all in series three. Even when she gave birth to their third child, a daughter named Clowance, she whelped her alone like a Labrador under a caravan. It’s little wonder Demelza found herself tempted by the flattery of handsome young Hugh, especially in light of Ross’ series two infidelity with Elizabeth.
It wasn’t only a series two infidelity – Ross and Elizabeth also shared a kiss in Trenwith church while meeting secretly to discuss Valentine and George. Nampara servant Trudie saw them, and reported back to her mistress Demelza. That, along with her draw towards Hugh who was losing his sight, sent Demelza conflicted into Lt Armitage’s arms. In the finale, she gave herself to Hugh on the beach, then returned home to Ross and asked him not to ask her about it.
The fruit of Ross’ series two infidelity arrived in the series premiere after Elizabeth went into labour and then threw herself down a flight of stairs as an excuse for the baby arriving a month earlier than expected. Well, a month earlier than her husband George was expecting. Elizabeth and Aunt Agatha knew exactly when to expect her second son, and the identity of his real father – Ross.
The baby’s not-real father, George Warleggan, remained ignorant of the fact his heir Valentine was a cuckoo in the nest until one tragic night. After subjecting Aunt Agatha to indignity after indignity while she subjected George to a continual parade of curses and snide remarks, the two finally had it out. Having discovered that Agatha was actually one year younger than she thought, and thereby not due her long-anticipated hundredth birthday party, George cancelled it. Agatha died in a fit of temper, but not before telling George “that were no eight-month baby”, planting a seed of doubt in his mind as to Valentine’s true parentage.George repaid Agatha by burying her with less ceremony than you’d afford to a pigeon got by the cat. She was given neither service nor headstone, while Elizabeth was given only suspicion and distance. Eventually, in the series finale, Elizabeth and George had an emotional set-to (proving that George did have emotions other than bitterness, insecurity and jealousy). She swore that Valentine (who has rickets) was his, and he swore never to mention it again. George also swore to stop all this ridiculous rivalry business with Ross Poldark and just get on with life.
To get on with her life, Elizabeth developed a sizeable opium habit, dropping the tincture into her glasses of sherry at most opportunities. On account of her husband’s promotion to local magistrate, she and Valentine had been removed from her home at Trenwith and separated from beloved son Geoffrey Charles (whose intimacy with his mother had threatened George).
Geoffrey Charles wasn’t left entirely alone at Trenwith. He had the companionship of new governess, Elizabeth’s young cousin Morwenna Cheynoweth. George had engaged Morwenna’s services to further drive a wedge between his wife and her increasingly rebellious Poldark of a first son, who was about to be packed off to boarding school.
Morwenna and Geoffrey-Charles hit it off big time, and spent their days happily wandering the coast and ignoring George’s strict rules about not setting foot on Nampara land. There, they ran into young Drake Carne, brother to Methodist lay preacher Sam, and Demelza. The Carne brothers had moved to be closer to their sister following their father’s death, and soon found themselves blamelessly falling foul of George who wanted no Poldark scum polluting his land. After being evicted from Trenwith’s church, Sam Carne set up a Methodist meeting house on Nampara land, further enraging George.
That summer, Morwenna and Drake fell helplessly in love. He gave her gifts—flowers, a seashell bracelet, a basketful of toads for Trenwith pond—and she gave him her heart. Then everyone told her that her heart wasn’t hers to give, Drake Carne was far too lowly a match, and she had to break up with him. Duly, Morwenna did so, breaking Drake’s heart in the process (hence him stowing away on Ross’ French rescue mission.)
Espying an opportunity for social advancement, George set about selling Morwenna to the highest bidder. That turned out to be an odious widower named Rev. Osborne Whitworth, who came with a familial connection to the aristocratic Godolphins, and a foot fetish. Morwenna refused him, of course, but when George framed her true love Drake for theft (of a valuable bible Geoffrey Charles had actually given to Drake as a gift) and sentenced him to death, Morwenna sacrificed her own happiness to save Drake’s life and agreed to marry Ossie.
Marriage to Ossie was a terrible ordeal. A rapist with an insatiable sexual appetite, he abused Morwenna throughout her pregnancy, and days after their son’s birth. Dr Enys intervened to insist that the Reverend leave his wife in peace to recover from labour, which sent Ossie into the bed of her younger sister Rowella. Scheming for cash, Rowella announced herself pregnant by her sister’s husband, and demanded £500 to keep quiet and marry the local librarian. In the finale, Morwenna stood up to Ossie’s attacks, threatening (falsely of course) to murder their son if he touched her again.
Drake and Morwenna kept a flame burning for each other from afar. After Ross set him up as as a blacksmith as thanks for his heroism in France, Drake forged Morwenna a pendant as a gift when her son was born. George’s hatred for the Carne brothers (the older of whom, Sam, had fallen for Tholly Tregirls’ rowdy daughter Emma) didn’t abate, and he had his thugs beat Drake savagely and set fire to his smithy.
That enraged the locals, who already hated George for hoarding grain until the price rose while the people of Cornwall starved. Led by Tholly Tregirls, they took up arms and marched on George’s grain stores, where they were met by Captain Ross Poldark and his militia, trained to defend the land from French attack and ordered to disperse the rampaging vulgars. Ross talked Tholly down in a rousing speech in which he promised to go into politics to fight enemies like George, the honourable member for Truro, member being the operative word.
The even shorter (rhyming) version:
Agatha died, Elizabeth lied, George bleated, Demelza cheated, Morwenna was abused, Drake wasn’t amused, Ross pulled a French stunt, and Ossie’s a… not very nice man.
Poldark series 4 arrives on BBC One next month.