Poldark series 3 episode 8 review: Ross and Demelza grow apart but will Drake get Morwenna back?
Judas, as they say in these parts, that was an interesting episode of Poldark.
It may have been bereft of major incident or death but it was still action-packed. And most importantly it shone an intriguing light into many of the characters’ hearts.
Or in the case of Aidan Turner’s Ross, it sort of did. Our hero appeared to have what would in modern terms be called a mature and honest conversation with his neglected wife Demelza. He had just seen Elizabeth in the church where they had been visiting Agatha’s grave and the two of them had had a heart-to-heart followed by a chaste(-ish) kiss.
But did he confess? Did he heck. Ross appeared to tell Demelza what he was feeling – that he had the ghost of a love for Elizabeth but that he was happy and content in his new marriage and was a new man.
But he said nothing of the sort.
The confession we saw was a fantasy with writer Debbie Horsfield pulling the rug from under us viewers, just as she did with the death of Francis (when he appeared to be saved from drowning only for us to realise that it was some sort of dream before he carked it).
So Ross essentially lied to Demelza, said he was sorting granite for Agatha’s grave and reported nothing of the kiss. He’s a complicated hero, our Mr P.
And in Poldark these things have a habit of coming back to bite characters on the bottom. Because lurking near the church gate was the unmistakeable figure of Beatie Edney’s Prudie who witnessed the intimate exchange between Ross and his erstwhile lover.
Ghastly George Warleggan also found out a few things about his wife. He consulted Dr Enys about the details of Valentine’s birth – wracked as he is with doubt over Agatha’s last words suggesting that the child is not his and someone else “got there first”.
“Damn you Ross, damn your blood,” George spat at his arch enemy in one of their many bar room tiffs (they like squaring off in pubs, those two). And it was a remark which was clearly double-edged: by his blood he clearly means young Valentine.
But being George he didn’t talk to his wife – merely cold-shouldered her and the wee whelp.
Although of course he had other things on his mind, namely what Brenda from Bristol (in more recent times) would have called “another” blimming election. But this one offered up some tasty plot developments.
George had been elected as the Burgess’ radical candidate of change in Cornwall and – to add to the irony – old right winger Lord Falmouth approached Ross to be his man.
Of course stubborn Ross would have been far better as the Burgess’ choice and it is hard to see him acquiescing with a toff who feels the “menials” have their place (by which he means on the ground, scrabbling in the dirt for a crust).
The terrible Osborne/Morwenna marriage is also going in a dangerous direction. Osborne keeps forcing himself on his poor wife and was actually caught praying for “a suitable replacement” while she suffering the agonies of labour. I may be wrong but this is not conduct straight out of the new man’s guide to being a good husband.
Quite what Morwenna’s sister Rowella is up to, though, is another question, with her constant flirtation with her toe-sucking toe-rag brother-in-law. Is she trying to keep him away from her sister by satisfying Ossie’s (as he seems to be called these days) lust?
Still, Ossie definitely has a rival. Drake’s fires of passion have been rekindled – and we saw him mooning outside Ossie Towers. Will he have the courage to make a swoop? And how can he get Ossie out of the way? Perhaps Rowella will get him into such a state he expires. One can only hope.
Probably least interesting are the flickerings of Hugh Armitage’s desire for Demelza. It’s not a story that has massively gripped me to be honest – his swooning, poems and sketches seem a little hackneyed. And it is a story we seemed to have seen already in the last series when Demelza was getting all that attention from Captain McNeil.
Although the tension Hugh’s ardour seems to have exposed in Ross and Demelza’s marriage is interesting.
The fireside scene where she confided to her husband that she would be up for a fling was bold, daring and rather modern. Question is: has she got the chops for it? And will Ross stand up for his marriage? It’s about time he did…
Poldark season three airs on Sundays from 8/7c, PBS Masterpiece
Poldark recap: a big finale that was maddening, stressful … and joyous
Ah, ’Darkers. Here ’twas. The end of an era. And so ’tis only right that there be many fireworks. “I may have used a little too much powder,” grinned Zacky. “Proper job!” And so ended our life in Nampara. Not so much with a bang or a whimper but with a series of bangs that left us with a bit of a headache. (I wish. Let’s not dwell on that metaphor.)
What a great deal of powder indeed was used for this episode! Was it too much powder? Or simply what was needed for a proper job? It’s hard to say. But I think a fair assessment is that there was enough going on here to last us another few years of Poldark, so it was kind of annoying that it had to end this way, wrapped up so abruptly, almost with the action on fast-forward to get through it all in time.
In the end it was pretty great television. There was just too much of everything. “The agony of never just a moment’s peace! It’s my faith that’s broken. It can’t be remade.” Well, we know how you feel Demelza. The first 27 minutes of this were agony, us not entirely knowing whether Ross had gone bad or whether he was just doing his James Bond act. It became extremely confusing knowing who was on what side and extremely stressful worrying about whether Sir Evil George and the slave traders would foil everything.
If the “Ross as double agent” storyline had one flaw, it was that they couldn’t decide whether to let the viewers in on the secret or not. They wanted it both ways. They wanted us to know that he wasn’t really cheating on Demelza and that it was all for the mission. But they also wanted us to think, “Has he really gone over to the dark side?” This is an incredibly ambitious effect to try to pull off and it didn’t quite work.
There were times when as a viewer you just didn’t know whether you were coming or going. We were told at the beginning that this was all “five months later”, which was supposed to explain Ross’s personality transplant. “Your wife asks no questions?” “My wife knows her place.” Er, hello, have you met Demelza? And what on earth is this liaison with Tess? And the business about being a humble country squire? But of course it was all a ruse. “You ’ad all them Frenchies fooled and me besides.”
Aside from this slightly messy masquerade, there were many exciting moments, some supremely joyous, some unbearably sad. We got to see some great scenes between Ross and Demelza, even if they were weighted with falsehood (because he was keeping his spying secret). “How needful would you say is honesty betwixt husband and wife?” Oh dear. We’ve been here before. We had poor, broken Demelza: “When did I lose you, Ross? When I look at your face, I see a stranger.” And then we had triumphant, wily Demelza: “I should like to see him humiliated before his dispatch.” How did her mind leap to such a plan! Because she is most excellent, that is why!
It was irritating, of course, that so many people got caught in the crossfire of Ross’s patriotically well-intentioned lies. If it wasn’t bad enough that Demelza and Ross were at each other’s throats then here were Dr Enys and Sindy Doll doing the same thing. And Dr Enys was supposed to have been holding a candle for Kitty? Added to that the sadness of Sindy Doll holding the girl baby! Unbearable! (Morwenna’s baby!) But how very joyous to see their reconciliation and the opening of Caroline’s heart. “Without such opening, are we yet but half a life?”
And finally we came to the weird reconciliation of Ross and Sir Evil George. It’s never a good thing when Sir Evil George gets his hands on one, let alone two, pistols. But for once it worked out. “Dispose of both bodies. Who would know?” He might make a revolutionary yet. I thought they could have gone farther emotionally in these scenes. “Might I suggest a brandy?” “No.” “Think I might poison you?” “I wouldn’t rule it out.” But we stayed close to reality and just as we thought Sir Evil George might asked Ross and Demelza to take in Valentine, he pulled back.
Many thanks to all the ’Darkers who have followed this blog these many long years. And who have conjured up a below-the-line community that be joyfully affectionate and affectionately critical at same time. And congratulations to the writer, Debbie Horsfield, who created this great unwieldy anachronistic beast of a story for television and almost – almost – managed to tame it. I thought a flashback to Elizabeth was missing in this episode. And there definitely wasn’t enough Prudie. But still. “Where’s our faith? Where’s our gratitude?” It’s still here. “Two hearts. One beat. Can’t ask any more than that. There isn’t any more to ask.” Well, except for the utter destruction of Sir Evil George. But that, my friends, will have to wait for another day.
Pewter tankard award for bonkers brilliance as supporting actor
This has to go to Demelza, of course. She had to go through approximately 197 emotional states in this episode from “woman scorned” and Mata Hari to Call the Midwife and Mr and Mrs. If it wasn’t enough that Demelza had survived (a) thinking that Ross was having it off with Tess (b) saving him by encouraging the nasty Frenchman to do the sword-fighting (c ) being a midwife two seconds later to Loveday Carne. (Silly name!)
Obviously we can’t praise Aidan Turner enough for his portrayal of Ross (who is himself sometimes very silly indeed and not an easy role to imbue with verisimilitude). But without Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza, I don’t think this show would have resonated in the way it has. The two of them excel as a couple. But they are also both able to carry individual scenes with incredible poignancy and weight. Demelza had to do this doubly in this episode: having to act out an eventuality that the viewer knew to be untrue but still make it look true to us. That is virtually impossible. Except for Demelza, of course, for whom nothing is impossible. Not even making the same green coat look fresh every time she wears it, despite owning it for 11 years.
Classic Poldark lines
“Some days I almost forget her face for two hours at a time.” Oh Geoffrey Charles, you are as soppy as your father.
“I got bigger fish to fry than ’e now, preacher.” Sure you have, girl. Tess was given a bit more nuance in her character in this episode and she did well with it, even making us feel a bit sorry for her. Beware hubris, ’Darkers! It don’t lead to marriage to a hot preacher.
“Do ’e not think ’e deserve as much joy? For who in this world have never gone astray?” Who indeed, Rosena? Ah, it would be a hard-hearted viewer who wouldn’t weep at this.
“My only thought was to protect you.” “Ross, I’ve always been indebted to you.” “My debt to you can never be repaid. But for the rest of my life, I will try.” I’m not crying. You’re crying.
Regulation reverse-sexism bare chest moment
Well, he’s coming back to bring in the corn so there’s always hope. Only we won’t be seeing it. Except for in our dreams, ’Darkers.
“I swear to you, my love, I will return.” But you won’t, will you? Thanks a lot, BBC. THANKS A LOT. Thank heaven for DVD boxsets is all I can say. And the “pause” button. Not that I’m permanently freeze-framing the scything on 65-inch plasma screen or anything like that. No, no, don’t be ridiculous.
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Poldark series 5 episode 8: A swashbuckling send-off that was pure fan service
After five series Poldark bowed out with a fan-pleasing episode that gave closure for the Aidan Turner era, but launched Ross into a brave new world.
A load of new characters entered the game at the last minute as Hanson (Peter Sullivan) made one last ditch effort to bring Poldark down. Why did he hate Ross again? Was it the anti-slavery speech? Or helping Cecily (Lily Dodsworth-Evans) run away? Both motivations had lost their potency by this point.
But it doesn’t matter when there was swashbuckling to be done. With help from Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) he challenged his captor Jules Toussaint (Nico Rogner) to a sword fight, fun fracas nearly two-thirds in where we knew he’d excel.
George’s (Jack Farthing) sudden change of heart was less expected, as he came to the rescue at the 99th hour. His claim that he cared more about his country than his own interests, didn’t quite ring true. After a brief cease fire over a drink, he and Ross went right back to hating each other, thank goodness.
The remainder of the finale was dedicated to placating fans. Ross and Demelza had another heart to heart that will launch 1000 fan-made YouTube videos, Dwight (Luke Norris) and Caroline (Gabriella Wilde) are…having sex again, I guess? And Sam (Tom York) is married to Rosina (Amelia Clarkson). That’s Rosina, the woman he previously binned off for Tess (Sofia Oxenham) at the earliest opportunity. Poor love.
However schmaltzy the closing moments were, it was proof that writer Debbie Horsfield knows and is devoted to her loyal audience. We don’t know when, or if, we will see Poldark in his present, Turner-shaped incarnation again. So leaving the key players in a settled, happy place while reminding us that Ross’ action-packed life rolls on worked perfectly.
The story arc might have spun too far away from the tight storytelling of earlier series, with the lack of source material evident through the Sam/Morwenna, counterfeit money and mine collapse side-quests. Still, the finale was a solid hour capturing the essence of the characters we come to know and love like family.
It almost made up for all the half-baked villains this series. Except you, Tess, you were a joy.
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Poldark is available to stream. Recap the previous episode, or find our recaps of other episodes. Confused about who's who? Check out our handy guide to the characters.
Five months have passed, and Ross and Shady French Official (his real name is Laurent), are laying the groundwork for an invasion of England by General Toussaint and the French army. “Does your wife suspect anything?” Laurent asks Ross as they inspect the ammunition. “My wife knows her place,” replies Ross. (That would be a no.) Tess, clearly in the thick of whatever this is, slithers up to Ross and flirtatiously scratches his neck. “Not now,” Ross purrs. “We have work to do.” (What?)
Demelza is baffled – their ore is still going missing, and Ross hasn’t done anything about it. And what about the weapons hoard she found? Ross brushes her off – “a humble country squire should leave London matters alone.” Just then, they see that “London matters,” namely Hanson and Merceron, are meeting up with George and Cary at the local pub. Ross taunts Merceron – those pamphlets have made him a pariah in London. Look who’s talking, sneers George, given Ross’s “Jacobin leanings” and defense of Ned Despard. Ross laughs: “If your own country betrays you, to whom do you then owe loyalty?” Is Ross, indeed, a traitor?
That night at Nampara, Demelza notices the scratch on Ross’s neck; he lies about how he got it. Increasingly suspicious of Ross’s odd behavior and mysterious absences, the next day Demelza rides to Wheal Leisure – where Ross is supposed to be – and is devastated to witness Ross and Tess apparently arranging an assignation. She flees.
Cut to Drake and Morwenna’s home – she is very pregnant, and is passing off her students to Rosina. Morwenna is sorry that Rosina’s relationship with Sam didn’t work out, but reveals that he is no longer being seen with Tess. Even so, Rosina thinks it’s a lost cause.
From the bluff, George and Cary catch sight of Ross and Tess canoodling on the beach while Laurent and others offload something from a boat. George is delighted that Ross is cheating on his “scullery maid,” and later they speculate with Hanson and Merceron on whether Ross could be framed for treason.
Back at Nampara, Ross refuses to come clean to Demelza, so she, the children, and Prudie pack their belongings. “When did I lose you, Ross?” she asks mournfully. Ross assures her that she hasn’t lost him, but he’s a stranger to her now, so she’s done.
Cut to Killewarren, where Demelza, Prudie, and the children huddle awkwardly in the foyer as Dwight and Caroline carry on a whispered argument. Caroline is still obsessing over Dwight’s friendship with Kitty – it isn’t the first time he’s “fallen in love with someone else’s wife” (the ill-fated Keren Daniel in season one). Exasperated, Dwight tells Caroline and Demelza that he’s going to “do something [he] should have done months ago.”
At Nampara, Dwight has it out with Ross (as a Random Eavesdropper lurks outside): deceiving Demelza is wrong. He comes this close to telling Ross how and why Elizabeth died as an example of the consequences of subterfuge. To protect Demelza and his family and friends, Ross lies to Dwight that he doesn’t love Demelza anymore. Dwight, shocked to the core, leaves without another word.
The next day, Geoffrey Charles (privy to Ross’s scheme) shares gossip about General Toussaint – he’s a noted strategist, expert swordsman, hedonist, and ladies’ man. Laurent rides up with the General himself, and they move in to occupy the now-empty Nampara. All of this is observed by Random Eavesdropper, who turns out to be spying on Ross for Merceron. Merceron and company are thrilled to have proof that Ross is colluding with the French, but George looks uneasy.
Ross gets Toussaint to divulge how and when the invasion will happen, and at last reveals his double-agent status to Dwight, asking him to hide under the floorboards at Nampara and write down everything Toussaint says. Meanwhile at Wheal Leisure, Ross orders Zacky, Sam, Drake, and Geoffrey Charles to gather a “spectacular” array of explosives.
At Killewarren, Demelza is all for packing up the children and leaving – maybe they’ll go to Jamaica to form a “band of sisters” with Kitty and Cecily (spin-off!). To stop her, Caroline, now in the know, spills the beans on Ross’s plot. Demelza is appalled that Ross has been deceiving not just her, but Tess. (Demelza is far too nice.) Should she leave Ross, or stay and help him?
Team Ross loads up on ordnance at Drake’s home. After they leave for the mine, of course, Morwenna goes into labor, with only Rosina to help her.
Cut to Dwight, scribbling madly, as above him, Ross is manipulating Toussaint into revealing every aspect of his invasion plan. Dwight hands off his notes to a London courier, but Merceron’s spy intercepts the courier and delivers them to Merceron, who will in turn give them to Toussaint, blowing Ross’s cover. George is clearly conflicted, as it means the French invasion will go forward.
As an unsuspecting Ross drinks with Toussaint, Demelza suddenly arrives. Shrewdly sizing up Ross’s guest, Demelza feigns an instant attraction to him and Toussaint takes the bait, but a gun-toting Hanson bursts in to expose Ross’s treachery. Toussaint borrows one of Hanson’s pistols and is about to dispatch Ross, but Demelza suggests that while she’ll be glad to be rid of this “fiend, liar, and bully,” Ross should be “humiliated” first, in a swordfight. Toussaint jumps at the chance to show off his prowess.
Down in the cave, as Laurent and his cronies guard the ammo, Drake tosses a smoke bomb into their midst, and in the confusion, Zacky lights a fuse. Boom! The French are walled in, for the time being. Cut to Morwenna, whose labor pains are getting intense, and Rosina is no help.
As Demelza and Hanson watch, Ross and Toussaint commence their epic do-or-die swordfight – Toussaint showing off for Demelza’s benefit, Ross fighting for his life. Ross punches Toussaint, throwing him for a loop. Impatiently, Hanson aims his pistol at Ross, but before he can shoot, gunshots ring out and Hanson and Toussaint fall. As the smoke clears, Ross and Demelza gape in astonishment – the gunman is George!
Toussaint is dead, but Hanson is just wounded. George, quailing, wonders if they should finish him off and dispose of both bodies (“who would know?”), but Ross, retrieving Dwight’s notes from Hanson’s pocket, has a better idea. As he and George head off for a glass of brandy, a young girl urgently summons Demelza to Drake and Morwenna’s, where Demelza quickly delivers Morwenna’s baby, a girl that Drake, arriving in the immediate aftermath, dubs “Loveday.”
Ross tries to thank George, who retorts that he didn’t shoot Toussaint and Hanson to save Ross, but out of loyalty to his country. As they toast, they agree to “revert to [their] usual animosity.”
That night in the bedroom, Ross marvels at Demelza’s genius in exploiting Toussaint’s vanity, but she tells him it was just instinct. He never should have kept things from her (duh!) and will strive to repay her for what he put her through. One thing leads to another…
The next day, everyone is at Nampara admiring little Loveday. As Caroline tearfully cradles the baby in her arms, she and Dwight are clearly thinking of the child they lost. Rosina pulls Sam aside – he is ashamed of having been duped by Tess, but Rosina would be happy to marry him if he would only ask her. (Evidently, he does.)
Later at Killewarren, Caroline confesses to Dwight that her jealousy over Kitty was merely an excuse for keeping him at a distance: she’s terrified of having – and losing – another child. Dwight too is afraid, but they decide to risk it together. One thing leads to another, as Horace watches...
In London, Wickham is satisfied – Ross has thwarted the invasion, the French prisoners are singing like canaries, and he’s back in favor with the Crown. Wickham suggests that it’s time for Ross to explore the “covert” role they previously discussed…
…and later in Cornwall, the magistrate Halse (played by Robin Ellis, the 1970s Ross Poldark) is roused from his bed – as are Hanson and Merceron in their nightshirts from jail – by Ross, who accuses them of “bribery, corruption, fraud, blackmail, false witness, mistreatment of prisoners, and murder.” Halse promises to lock them up, “for a considerable time.” “Your servant, sir,” says Ross, with a smile and a handshake. “And yours, sir.” (A nice final moment between the first Ross and his successor.)
George arrives at Nampara with news: he’s closing up Trenwith and moving to Truro with Cary and Valentine. Valentine wants a relationship with Ross, but George asks Ross to steer clear, as Valentine “is no relation” of his. As Demelza looks on knowingly, Ross reluctantly agrees. As George and his family pull away from Trenwith, a ghostly Elizabeth is gliding inside, perhaps to stay.
Cut to Sam and Rosina’s joyous wedding procession as Tess watches from the sidelines, bitter that Ross led her on. Ross reminds her that he saved her neck, and she’d better not forget it. As Tess exits in defeat, we learn that Geoffrey Charles has been reinstated at the military academy, Ross and Dwight are headed to France to be spies together, and Demelza is pregnant!
On the bluff as Ross’s ship awaits, he bids a poignant farewell to Demelza (and all of us), telling her, “I swear to you, my love…I will return.”
And that’s it! If you want to know what happens next, the story continues – after an 11-year gap – in book 8 in Winston Graham’s Poldark series, The Stranger From the Sea.
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