It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Sunday evening must be in want of a period drama

Poldark Four: Episode One

Poldark Four: Episode One

*Spoiler alert: fairly obviously, this episode review contains details about the first episode of series four*


Oh it was good. Beautiful, intriguing, and back with avengence (if a wee bit over dramatic and obvious at times).

From the minute Aidan Turner reprised his role as Poldark by strolling out of the sea topless (with nude colour shorts, I’m not sure if it was entirely necessary, but perhaps it was self-deprecating mockery from the writers?) to the speech at the hanging it was clear that this episode was a Poldark Bingo dream: topless scene – check, the masses threatening to rise up – check, Osborne pestering Morwenna for sex – check, Osborne being pompous – double check, Caroline/Elizabeth/Demelza/Morwenna looking beautiful – check, supremely obvious longing looks from Morwenna and Drake – check, George being beyond evil – check, Dr Enys preventing Ross doing anything very stupid- check, Ross giving a stirring speech to save the day (and someone’s neck) – check, dreamy Hugh writing dreamy poetry – BINGO!


Following Ross’s emergence from the sea, there is a slightly bizarre echoey vision of Demelza and Hugh Armitage (Horcrux Hermione and Harry taunting Ron anyone?!) followed by an encouraging declaration of intent to kick start the series ‘We saw you swim away’ (Demelza) ‘No, I’m still here’ (Ross), ‘and I’ (Demelza).

Cornwall looked fabulous – Holywell was in it’s sandy beachy glory, Penberth Cove and the cliffs near to Porthgwarra were both on excellent form. London featured as well – hello Greenwich. There was also some real, live and almost accurate (we’ll give the actual dates some leeway) history going on behind this episode: Britain was at war with France, hunger and anger and social injustice, the bank of England suspended payments and Pitt the Younger dissolved parliament and called for an election.

Everyone seemed surprised that Ross would be keen to become an MP (they should have watched the end of last series, he made it very clear) and so the dreamy Hugh Armitage has been suggested as a candidate instead (must Ross compete with this young whippersnapper at every turn?)

The miners, spurred on by hunger and injustice, rioted to stop grain being illegally sent to Portugal. Sam and Drake Carne accidentally witnessed the fight at Truro quay, when they were attempting to prevent Jago Martin from doing anything illegal. Rather like Mr Bates in Downton, the Carne brothers rarely do anything wrong but are astonishingly excellent at getting blamed for, and sentenced to hang for, the privilege of being so worthy.  Evil George moved the trial of all the miners forwards to Ross’s disbelief – one has to question whether he will ever learn (Sir Hugh Bodrugan was in haste in series one when he committed Jim Carter for trial before the hunt) and Ross risked Demelza’s ire by not telling her about her brothers’ decreed demise.

Morwenna seems to have a sixth sense about Drake when she hears that some methodists are to hang (which is particularly impressive given that there were at least 4000 methodist members in Cornwall in the 1790s). Sorry to be * that * person but this potential hanging of Drake and Sam is unnecessarily off piste (this slightly unbelievable turn of events is not in the books, read them, they are fab). Aside from this gripe it does make for a dramatic episode and gives Ross a platform to try out public speaking again (he should stand for parliament or something!)

Ross is most eloquent and persuasive while his brothers-in-law are standing with a noose around their necks ‘reprieve’ cries Ross, ‘reprieve’ echoes the crowd. The gentry and nobility mutter together and, yes, Poldark has done it again, reprieve for Sam Carne, reprieve for Drake Carne and… a box is kicked over and Jago Martin hangs. It’s not Christmas Day and Jago is a completely new character so we can’t be quite so furious as we were when a certain Downton incident happened at the end of the 2012 Christmas Special but it is still gutting, and we are treated to a shocking number of shots which have Zacky Martin’s son hanging in the background. It’s a gritty reminder that this is Poldark not Pride and Prejudice (which incidentally Austen first sent to a publisher the year after this episode was set): here there be death.

To add insult to injury we see the lovely Elizabeth seducing Evil George with the unbecoming lines ‘perhaps you could attend to your wife’… I’m dying… ‘or perhaps she should attend to you’ kill me now.

All the while, Prudie is crying because Demelza strayed and she blames herself for stirring. Demelza has been discovering that Hugh Armitage’s poetic requests for ‘just once’ were all a ruse, he’ll die if he can’t have her again.  Demelza is sowing seeds into the minds of Lord Falmouth and Sir Francis Basset – why don’t they put their differences aside and throw their weight behind one candidate… which candidate would that be my dear, your husband or your former lover?

And so, to the ending, hope reigns supreme: Caroline and Dwight are expecting an addition to the family, Sam and Drake are alive and free, Elizabeth wants to go to London to be with George, Ross might get his shot at parliament (although that is contingent on Hugh’s serious ill-health so it feels a little bitter to hope for that), and at the very end Ross and Demelza discussed their marital strife:


‘I loved her once… I realised that day that she never was and never could be what you are to me: indispensable, irreplaceable…I assumed you knew what to me was obvious’. Couples counsellors up and down the country must have been shouting profanities at the screen about the need for communication. Is it too late? ‘I hope not’ declares Demelza. Phew!  As an opening gambit this episode is a firecracker and it certainly sets things up rather enticingly for the rest of the series.

Next episode of Poldark: Sunday 17th June, 9pm, BBC 1.