This review contains spoilers.
Starting with a round of Blind Man’s Buff on the beach (precisely what landed Demelza and Hugh into all that trouble last year), and ending with a mournful lullaby, this episode ran through the complete Dulux colour range of emotions. There was larking, heartbreak, romance, high-stakes underwater action, and heartbreak again. More heartbreak than anyone should have to bear.
We all have our fun with Poldark (which is, granted, twenty per cent hats and thirty per cent funny words), but this series does good work. Even someone (me) who consumes more than the daily recommended intake of period drama would struggle to point to another that shows an eighteenth century man not just adoring his baby but—deep breath—holding her. And then shows him being held in turn, sobbing over her loss, by a friend who offered the only words possible in response: “my God.”
I think I’ve seen more men cry on Poldark than I’ve seen cry in real life. This drama reminds viewers that masculinity isn’t limited to kicking down fences and scrapping on the beach. Its male characters aren’t required to bond only over “drinking and gambing and women”. Their friendships can be as emotional, intuitive and supportive as any. Master Geoffrey and Blacksmith Carne swore a lifelong love for each other this week, of just the sort that exists between Ross and Dwight.
Baby Sarah’s death too, was handled with care. It wasn’t used as a cliff-hanger or exploited for melodrama. Perhaps the saddest reality of any age, it was tenderly done – a candle flame burning, and then out.
Luke Norris gave a movingly naturalistic depiction of Dwight’s torment and grief, while Gabrielle Wilde pulled off the perhaps tougher job of conveying Caroline’s brokenness inside the mantle of ‘dignity’. He was all emotion, she was all restraint and self-armouring irony, but both were clearly in screaming pain.
It was, unsurprisingly, a melancholy hour. Dwight and Caroline first lost their daughter and then each other—one permanent loss, the other hopefully temporary. Morwenna narrowly avoided being sectioned on the whim of her odious husband (highlighting the law’s obscene historical injustices to women being yet more useful work carried out by this show). There was a disaster at the mine. Sam Carne almost died, then was let down in love. Ross meanwhile, pondered the point of his time in Westminster and cursed himself for the flood.
That was a bit of excitement. Thanks to the efforts of Ross, Sam and Dwight, all survived, but Sawle’s mining families were yet again left facing starvation. Enter: the Poldark nest egg, poised to be cracked open and have its yolky goodness poured ‘pon the heads of the needy. That is, if George’s plotting hasn’t already rotted it.
Like Dwight, George is also taking an active role in his child’s life, though unlike Dwight, the role he’s chosen is ‘Mr Banks from the start of Mary Poppins’. Between wrestling tuppences off birdseed sellers and getting Valentine to lick copies of the Financial Times, George also found time to finalise his purchase of an electoral seat.
Ossie meanwhile, was purchasing a different kind of seat from Roweena, whose rug and cushions were, understandably, going threadbare from all the friction. Please oh please oh please oh please let the seeds of Ossie’s downfall have been sown by his having been discovered this week leaving Roweena’s while still patting down his neck sweat.
Disappointingly, there was neither sign of Lady Whitworth (Rebecca Front being very much a white truffle, precious shavings of which must be used sparingly), or Captain Monk Adderley. The villainy was all George and Ossie’s, and the heroism all Ross and Dwight’s.
Even Dr Choake recognised Dwight’s superior backbone (even if he couldn’t point to it on a medical diagram) and called upon his erstwhile rival to so what he never could and stand up to a paying customer. When Dr Choake—a man who probably has a sideline in dunking witches—thinks you’re being a bit harsh, you know you’re in trouble.
Speaking of which, I’ll eat one of Caroline’s generously proportioned hats if Demelza isn’t also in trouble soon, what with all her and Ross’ make-up sex. Afeard their marriage will all be scat to mitchens come the next figurative storm, they’re lowering the anchor of doing-it.
Will Drake and Rosina, long-since cured of her lipsy leg, soon be joining them? (Not like that. Don’t be disgusting.) If they don’t, it’s not for lack of Demelza trying. She’s been propinquitying them like there’s no tomorrow, that impudent kitchen troll. Next, a nice partner for Sam, please, and let’s have some weddings to balance out all these funerals.
Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode here.