Poldark series 5 episode 6 review: corruption and heartbreak

Poldark takes another dark turn in its final series. Spoilers ahead in our review…

This review contains spoilers.

There we are then. Ned’s dead, baby, Ned’s dead. 

Those of us with poor impulse control and access to Wikipedia knew it was coming, which flattened the effect of the courtroom and escape scenes rather. However hard Ross shook his curls to protest Despard’s innocence, if you knew this story ended on the gallows then it went there with foot-dragging inevitability.

There were highlights. The Wile E Coyote-style plot for which Ned was framed (turning a ceremonial cannon on the King! The looniest of tunes). The prison press-ups. Dwight finally telling everyone that in his considered medical opinion, Despard was off his trolley. Ned’s escape beanie hat.

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For all that, it was a sorry tale that offered scant comfort. Corruption won, and idealism – however foolhardy – was left twitching on the end of a rope. The unscrupulous rich paid for their chosen outcome and proved the perennial truth that wealth puts people above the law. Who else had ‘searing indictment of the justice system’s vulnerability to corruption’ on their series five bingo card? Poldark: it’s not all pilchards.

Thankfully, it is still a bit pilchards. Silver ones made an appearance in Jeremy’s reprisal of the ‘Kosk Yn Ta’ lullaby his mum sang to him in series two. (Now we’re in the final straight, all the old songs are all getting a dust off.) And in the second instalment of Demelza Poldark: Rural Detective – weekdays at two on BBC One – there was something fishy going on at the mine. 

After solving last week’s forgery case, Demelza took on the mystery of who was stealing ore. Typically, it was that ne’er-do-well Jacka Hoblyn and pals, a discovery made following a surveillance operation the tactics of which – crouching – left something to be desired. Lo, DC Poldark was spotted and chased off before she could book ‘em, Danno.

The villainy continued as Tess Tregidden threw a spanner in the works between Sam and Rosina, bringing the total number of spanners in that relationship up to two. Has there ever been a more guileless specimen than Preacher Carne? If he can’t see through Tess, they shouldn’t let him anywhere near the school finances. He’ll swap the autumn term staff budget for a handful of magic beans before you can beam like a dog with its nose in the custard and say ‘God’s work’.

Congratulations, by the way, to the Sawle Committee for Learnifying, which has broken ground on the inaugural village school. A pity of course, that the perilous cliff-edge location means that each term half the class will be tragically lost to sudden gusts, but it can’t be helped. They’ll just have to rewrite the committee mission statement so it reads ‘To bring knowledge and learning and a fear of high winds to all’. 

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Speaking of wind, George’s maiden speech in the House had left him about as popular as a fart in a barouche. He even managed to be heckled at his own wedding despite having taken the precaution of not inviting any guests. Geoffrey Charles and Cecily’s two-pronged attack (he pushed his step-dad’s buttons, she lied and declared herself soiled goods) caused the groom-to-be to turn tail and wash his hands of females altogether, pliable or otherwise. A lifetime of cold, lonely nights awaits.  

Not so for Morwenna and Drake, who spent so long making up for lost time in the marital bed that it’s a wonder the blacksmith had the strength left to hammer straight. (The mystery of what Drake is doing with all those bent bits of metal will hopefully be solved in the series finale when he reveals Sawle’s very first Thunderdome.) 

The real love story of series five isn’t the Carnes’, or Cecily and G-C’s – it was between Ross and Ned. Their feelings for each other – expressed not through lover’s gifts and secret smiles but raging speeches on injustice and democracy – ran deeper than any mine seam. The Colonel and the Captain: soldiers who tried to mend the world.

First, the Captain will need to mend his head after the whack it took compliments of waistcoat-of-evil Joseph Merceron. How will Ross escape that well? A human ladder? An parkour rescue by Prudie? A rope fashioned from Demelza’s red mane?

Escape he must, for only two episodes remain (we’re running out of time for Hanson to be kicked up the bum for the rest of his life. Make haste me little chivvies.) and a happy ending is sorely needed. After London’s grimy double-dealing, give us beaming beauty and glorious landscapes, cosy couples and frolicking children. For the finale, give us Guinea fowl for supper, four bottles of canary, and a gavotte.

Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode here. And read more about upcoming British TV dramas here.

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