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

Poldark Four: Episode Two

Poldark Four: Episode Two


Glorious! Sublime! If last week was a slightly overblown caricature, this week’s episode saw Poldark hit its stride again. It was heartbreaking, joyful, moving, funny and ultimately full of hope. The whole thing was bound up in that glorious scenery waves crashed, the Cornish light was beautiful,  (check out my post on Penberth which Osborne declared to be ‘at the very edge of civilisation’ and was featured in multiple scenes this week). This was also wonderfully true to the book – even down to the four swans which is the name of the sixth Poldark novel by Winston Graham.

Caroline and Demelza are flying the nearest thing to the late eighteenth century feminist flag in their efforts to control the nobility: ‘Oh, oh dear, how very awkward… would you believe I’ve foolishly misarranged my engagements’… dance monkeys, dance! Obviously their charming smiles, beauty, play-acting at female idiocy and copious amounts of brandy are all elements of their victory, but when it comes down to it their discussion is a thinly (read: not-at-all) veiled instruction on the potential for political compromise.

This is, of course, all done for the benefit of dreamy Hugh. At the very moment of the ladies’ scheming, alas, poor Hugh, is being subjected to a history of medicine lesson with all of Choake’s horrific remedies (leeches and potential trepanation) but to no effect.

Tom Harry defeats Sam Carne in Cornish wrestling – but only by trying to poke his eyes out and then upsetting the gentlemanly Sam by insinuating that while he could win Emma’s soul, Tom’s ‘already ‘ad ‘er body’. Nonsense, we cry! Nonsense, Emma declares. Following this, Emma decides to go away for a year, fearing her lack of faith and that she would ‘feel naught’ and ‘want to be saved’ but not really saved and that this would bring terrible sadness to them both.

At the wrestling, Jeremy and Valentine (half-brothers or the children of sworn enemies?) overcome any familial hatred to play together, innocently breaking down barriers as only children can do. Cue the mothers hastily removing their offspring.

While Hugh is upstairs thinking ‘very highly’ of Demelza (Elinor Dashwood, anyone?), Ross is being courted as a potential MP once more, this time by Lord Falmouth. Although he has less in common with Falmouth, Ross decides to accept this nomination. To be honest, I thought he’d decided that in the last series and clearly stated it in the last episode, but it’s cute that he felt the need to try to pretend he hadn’t.

Osborne is pompous, letchy and beyond dreadful throughout from his perving at the St Sawle feast, through to the prostitute scene . Morwenna seems to be risking her husband noticing her attachment to young Carne, surely not a sensible plan. Surely his best moment is his excitable declaration of the new nominee to the Warleggans: ‘Poldark, Poldark of Nampara’. Such a goon! Followed closely by his discussion with ‘the devil’s handmaiden’ who is beyond brilliant at playing him at his own game.

Elizabeth is showing more of that metal which we saw in the last episode of series 3: she has Tom Harry dismissed for drunkenness and brutality merely with a look to George, she orders her gowns to be packed for London, she ‘did her best’ for the election, and she is absolutely determined to have another child (and by her actions one suspects she hopes that her husband could be misled over dates by having so many potential ones!)

Ross shows a hitherto unseen subtle, gentle, perceptive and compassionate side by riding with Demelza to Hugh’s side and allowing her to go to him while he is dying. Her heartbreaking declaration to Hugh breathes hope into the Poldark marriage (if only Ross could have witnessed this) ‘In spite of how I care for you, and all that’s between us, ’tis not in my power to give you what you seek’ (an Aragorn-esque statement if ever I heard one).  It is a wonderful, truthful statement which Eleanor Tomlinson delivers beautifully, full of warmth and sadness, hope and heartbreak.

There is a wonderful finality to this story as Demelza is holding a dying Hugh’s hand while her husband takes Hugh’s place as the MP for Truro over George thanks to an intervention by Sir Francis Basset who votes against his previous candidate.

Of course, as Dwight foretells, Hugh’s shadow lingers on over the Poldark marriage, ‘Henceforth, he will be immortal, in everyone’s memory and we poor souls will look pale in comparison.’ Prudie’s wisdom is much needed to stop Ross seeking out his wife and allow Demelza to grieve and come back of her own accord. There was such heartbreak, all the more poignant because of the guilt she feels.

The episode draws near to its end with a ‘deep and meaningful’ discussion between Ross and Demelza in the parlour, as all episodes are wont to end. It has hope, ‘‘Not love such as we, such as you and I, no love could match that’ It has honesty ‘but yes, he did touch my heart’.  It has tragedy ‘and now I feel as if my heart is broke…not only for Hugh, it’s for her, and me and all that’s wasted and broken and lost in this world…. Save some tears for me for I believe I need them.’ Who of us has not been overwhelmed by all that is wasted and broken and lost in this world? It does not sink us, it will not sink her but momentarily have we not all succumbed to that grief?

‘This hurt, it will mend’ … ‘and this sad, sorry broken world, will that end too, who will mend it Ross, will you?’, ‘I will try.’ And that is where we leave Ross, off to London to try to fix the world, but where does that leave his wife?

Next episode, 9pm, BBC1, after England have won the football on Sunday 24th June.