Poldark series 5 episode 4 review: the peasants are revolting!

Oh no, Drake just said 'everybody's happy' on Poldark. Let the trouble commence! Spoilers ahead in our review...

This review contains spoilers

Cornwall is changing. Modern infrastructure is sprouting up like barley stalks. Children now learn their letters in a school instead of sounding out the Cornish vowels (of which there are nine – a, ay, e, ee, eee, eeee, eeeee, o, and ‘oh, Ross’) at the hoof of the village learning goat. There’s the Truro Infirmary for medical treatment, not just a man with a hammer who’ll hasten the meeting betwixt the ailing and their God for a jug of mead and a sixpenny bit. 

Attitudes too, are shifting. Thanks to Dwight, mental illness is treated with patience, not a poking-stick. Thanks to Kitty, people of colour suddenly exist. Before long, there’ll be gym memberships, multi-storey car parks, and energy drink cans littering Sawle’s byways. Modernity is on its way.  

Cornwall might be changing, but Poldark never does. Mercifully, it remains the same collection of beaming beauties, clifftop gallops, class war and delicious-looking baked goods it ever was. Even when it’s left our screens, it will continue thus, an unending cycle of vulgars marching ‘pon Trenwith, rolling pins in hand, ready to beat George Warleggan to a blancmange. The Holy Well will host declaration after declaration of love from endless pairs of fresh-faced lovelies. Ross will have a plan, Harrison will declare it folly. Emergencies will be resolved and crises averted. 

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And at its unchanging centre: Ross and Demelza, a pair who’ve finally cracked the whole ‘communication in a marriage’ lark. Secrets between married couples abounded this episode, but not between the Poldarks – they were a shining example of the ‘tell your spouse when you’re harbouring secret guilt over the death of an ex/something they’re doing is getting on your tits’ method of marriage longevity. Ross told Demelza he felt responsible for Elizabeth dying, Demelza told Ross he took her for granted, and all was well. 

The others could learn a thing or two. Poor Kitty kept her pregnancy woes from Ned, poor Drake talked to everyone but his wife about how she do still keep ‘er distance between the sheets, poor Morwenna kept her John Conan woes from Drake, and not-so-poor Caroline kept her miffedness about being ignored from Dwight.

Caroline and Dwight’s method of communicating solely through the fictional personality of an overweight pug is unsustainable (as is the structural integrity of Caroline’s lower spine if she will insist on lugging a lapdog the size of an adult sheep everywhere she goes. Lucky for her she’s married to a man who can write prescriptions – by forty-five, that one’ll be guzzling painkillers at the rate Horace guzzles petit fours. For the hot, rich chicks of history, the sooner someone breeds an Ewok with a squirrel to create the very first Chihuahua the better.) 

On similarly dodgy ground is Morwenna stalking her stolen son and relying solely on the invisibility rendered by a twig to avoid being caught. The Whitworths are a dangerous people. Mrs Carne needs to watch her step.

All their steps need watching this year. Danger is lurking around multiple corners. There’s the despicable Hanson, who wants his hands-on George’s cash. There’s the despicable Tess Tregidden, who needs to try-geddin off her high horse. And there’s spymaster Wickham, who’s being trick-ham-ed… (I know, I’ll stop). Wickham’s Cornish informant sent him such a biased account of the march on Trenwith, it could have been the work of George Warleggan himself, were he not what’s technically referred to in the medical books as ‘in the gibbering way.’ 

As prescribed by Dwight, fresh air, wholesome food and gentle words brought Sir George back to his senses. Now little Valentine doesn’t have to eat his supper-custard to a soundtrack of paternal weeping, which is for the best. 

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That, at least, would be preferable to Geoffrey-Charles (Freddie Wise has been great as G-C, hasn’t he? Vulnerable and funny and very sweet) eating his supper-custard to a soundtrack of his stepdad and Cecily making the business arrangement with two backs. Thanks to Demelza’s advice, an elopement’s on the cards that will, with any luck, result in a duel that ends with Hanson bleeding to death in one of London’s five royal parks. As Drake said this week (lord, it must be a Carne thing, these fate-prodding declarations), “everyone’s happy.” 

Drake was talking about Sam and Rosina (get it, girl) and the reopening of Wheal Plenty, oblivious to the Crown’s net tightening around Ross and Ned. 

Happiness won’t last, Drake. What are the chances of Ned Despard keeping his nose clean until parliament resumes and not getting dragged into another mess by the gang of bigger boys who hang around the bus station after school? Zero. By my oath as a physician, and as a gentleman, trouble is on its way.

Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode here