Poldark, Season 3, made a good start in Episode 1, with the waves crashing down on the Cornish shores dramatically, as Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) announced to her husband Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) that she’s with child once more; surely a blessing, despite living in troubled times where anything can, and does often go wrong. All those fans of Downton Abbey needed a new outlet and this is the show that causes a storm when the men go topless. Taking their shirts (and other essentials) off creates all sorts of mayhem.
Walking on the beach below Nampara, which the family has owned for over a hundred years, is one of Demelza’s favourite pastimes… and it is where she can ponder the many ideas about ‘class’ in society and the importance of her extended family and how it and they both impact continually on her life
The question to answer in Episode 2, is will the superiority of intellect deliver justice to all. Surely we would like to think so!
Don’t read any more if you don’t want spoilers
The period in history when Winston Graham set his tale was a time when radical doubt was necessary for the new sort of certainty labelled scientific; a good scientist being a man who willingly tested all assumptions and challenged traditional opinion with an aim at coming closer to the truth.
A red flag flew over the events happening along the south coast of England where the colour that epitomised the period of historical events during the time span when our romantics and revolutionaries lived 1760 – 1830 is rarely seen, except perhaps on Demelza’s lovely head or the coats of British government troops.
At the time only six million people lived in all England and in the south the roads were vile. A man might spend his whole life never going further than the next village, unless he was an adventurer like Ross Poldark and owned a sturdy horse.
Up until this point Ross and his family before him have always fought for those who do not have a voice in the community at the highest echelons of society. However at the moment, he’s otherwise pre-occupied, waiting for news about his friend Dr Dwight Enys (Luke Norris) whose ship is missing. As he finds out in this case, no news is NOT good news.
However I am getting ahead with my thoughts; in the world where the Poldark’s Trenwith instead of being the warm and friendly home it was in the past, has now become a centre for family hostility and feuds.
When we arrive on the scene Elizabeth (Heida Reed) Warleggan is nursing her new tiny baby Valentine. She’s looking decidedly glum – it seems she rarely has anything to smile about these days. When and if she does, her smile is just about as shallow as her compassion.
Elizabeth has seemingly completely lost her way. allowing envy, malice and thoughts of revenge to constantly invade her heart and mind, steering her along a rocky course, instead of taking the reins herself and following a smoother path.
Ross is at the mine where the relentless rock crushing to find the precious ore has two new labourers Demelza’s brothers Drake (Harry Richardson) and Sam Carne (Tom York). During breaks Sam can be found preaching to the miners at every opportunity in an endeavour to save souls.
He and his foreman are worried they may stir up trouble as people seem to be easily persuaded and converted to Sam’s much more uncomplicated view of Christianity, as he trespasses heavily on the theologically trained local clergy’s turf.
Elizabeth announces that cousin Verity (Poldark) Blamey (Ruby Bentall) will be coming with her baby to visit Trenwith for her baby’s christening, despite Ross and George’s arrangement.
George Warleggan (Jack Farthing) thankfully knows the gentle and kind Verity cannot possibly know what has passed between them and so is dismissive of her influence in any state of affairs, indulging her presence in his home. Aunt Agatha (Caroline Blakiston) will be pleased to see her favourite niece.
George is being his usual horrid self, ensuring Elizabeth’s son by her first husband Francis Poldark, Geoffrey Charles (Harry Marcus), hears him putting down his Uncle Ross Poldark whom he knows the boy admires, as often as he can.
Elizabeth cannot bear that her first son now laughs out loud with his youthful tutor Morwenna on a regular basis and her anger while kept in check, is ready to boil over.
She seemingly seeks to spoil any thought of her eldest son having fun with someone other than herself. He is growing up fast and becomes more enlightened daily about the facts surrounding the family feud.
Prayer has come to Nampara where at the Poldark table Sam and Drake share the evening mealtime with Ross and Demelza, who is their sister. Prudie the maid is doing a lot of praying too, especially since she’s seen swoon worthy Drake down by the stream washing, with his top off. Enough to take any good woman down, whatever their age.
Ross enlightens Demelza’s brothers about how Trenwith has fallen into unfriendly hands and asks his brothers in law to not have anything to do with anyone from the household, which includes Morwenna, the lithesome lass who has caught the dreamy Drake’s eye.
Ross and Demelza later that night discuss how much their life has changed, especially now with her expecting another baby. She encourages him to be a country squire and he observes how home, wife, and family are indeed, the most important aspects of any man’s life. And he seeks peace… he just wants some quiet he declares, not anticipating someone pounding on the front door in the dead of night.
Caroline (Penvenen) Enys (Gabriella Wilde) is putting flowers on her uncle’s grave. He now lies overlooking the sea of which he was so fond and from where she is hoping her secret husband Dr Dwight Enys arrives home soon. She has decided to keep her marriage secret out of respect for her uncle, which will undoubtedly prove to be a disaster for them all.
George Warleggan is meeting for the first time with the very wealthy Sir Francis Bassett (John Hopkins) who wants to discuss with him how power is a responsibility; there’s a seat vacant on the bench for a new Justice of the Peace in the Magistrate’s Court and George is actively seeking the appointment.
George declares to Bassett that superiority of intellect will always deliver justice, which is not really what his host wants to hear. George is so insensitive to anyone around him and he fails to comprehend what Sir Francis may mean. He has stars in his eyes, planning his own rise to the magistrate’s bench in a blaze of glory.
Verity who is a real sweetheart, arrives at Trenwith for the new baby’s christening with her own nine month old baby and maid, asking straightway after Ross and Demelza.
She finds out that they are no longer welcome at Trenwith and asks Elizabeth if she cannot find away to end the disagreement, little understanding that Elizabeth believes that Ross, not George is Valentine’s father and doesn’t want a reconciliation. Thankfully ghastly George is still blissfully unaware.
Ross is enjoying his daily exercise down on the beach, where he finds a crossbeam washed up on the shore from a wrecked ship.mHe gives it to Drake and Sam to help fix the roof of the cottage he is allowing them to live in on Poldark land, so they can make it waterproof. He’s worried though, about what its being there really means.
George tells Caroline and Verity about the ships that have been lost in an engagement with the French. He asks Caroline is she going to become engaged and she tells him she is in mourning and the question is not appropriate, but she’s walking on dangerous ground. George meanwhile gives Elizabeth a present of gorgeous garnets on the occasion of Valentine’s christening, something she can wear on special occasions.
Morwenna and Geoffrey Charles are out walking when they see Drake and Sam carrying their timber beam across Trenwith land and she warns them not to get caught by the men George has patrolling the grounds or there will be dire consequences.
Geoffrey Charles in the absence of his uncle is forming an attachment with Drake, another relationship that can only have a terrible outcome. Morwenna tries to tell him they are both ‘low born… but she doesn’t even convince herself.
Ross has been to Truro to see if he can find out the truth of what has happened. He asks his former ‘trade links’ to set up an enquiry down the line about the fate of Dwight and Verity’s husband.
At first he only finds the merchant ship Esmeralda captained by Verity’s husband Andrew Blamey has disappeared off the face of the earth while the Travail is reported to have foundered and lost off the French coast.
Demelza asks him not to race off to France, which is his first instinct, without talking it over with her. He tells her about an invitation he has received from Sir Francis Bassets. He’s man of wealth power and status whose fortune dwarfs everyone in the county including George. He’s holding a soiree and wants them to come and he thinks it could be advantageous.
Sir Francis has French nobles staying and so Ross is thinking of accepting and asks Demelza will she go with him, despite knowing George and Elizabeth will both be there. He’s hoping they may learn what has happened to his best friend Dwight.
Sam has everyone in church singing while they wait for George and Elizabeth to arrive as they are late. When he does George is extremely put out and informs the Vicar he wants them dealt with in the ‘appropriate way’, because they are getting far above their station. The Reverend bans them from church and Demelza is horrified and appeals to Elizabeth, but she announces she is Warleggan now and takes her husband’s side.
Verity comes into Elizabeth’s room where she hears her few weeks old baby Valentine screaming his little lungs out and challenges her for not picking him up and giving him comfort. Elizabeth informs Verity that he has to learn, especially his demands may not always be met. Harsh doesn’t begin to say it. There’s no love lost here between mother and child. Verity bless her, is secretly appalled, but knows when it is best to hold her own council.
Drake is topless on the seashore when he meets Geoffrey Charles and Morwenna on the beach and offers to take them to see a local natural phenomenon, a large cave with a natural pool of sweet spring water, which he urges them to taste and make a wish.
They observe their wishes are not frivolous and as she leaves Drake gives Morwenna a bracelet of tiny seashells threaded on string he has made for her. She is surprised he has such talents; after all she observes once more to Geoffrey Charles, he is low born.
Ross, Demelza and Caroline arrive for the party where they hope to gather intelligence. When he meets Sir Francis, Ross discovers he has a genuine concern for the conditions of miners, a subject he asks him to discuss.
He apprises Ross of his political views…declaring he is no friend of revolution and that terror is no friend of democracy. He’s a modernist after all.
George is not having a good time as he observes his host cosily conversing with his sworn enemy. Then he meets the Reverend Halse, who heads the Magistrate’s court. While George believes he’s making a favourable impression, the older far more experienced man knows a jumped up social climber when he sees one.
Wonderfully the actor Robin Ellis who plays the Reverend Halse in this series was the first Ross Poldark back in 1975 when it was a huge hit without anyone taking their shirts off. Now playing a serious thinker and a man of responsibility, he seeks out Ross and tells him that he and Sir Francis Barrett want him to take the coveted role on the bench, the one that George wants.
He makes a great argument, including the fact that the Poldark’s have served on the bench for over 100 years and so Ross would be following tradition in his family, which is a sticking point.
Had Ross been given time to think about the proposal beforehand and able to discuss it with his wife, maybe he would have changed his decision. We all know he’s not good on the instant call – heart first head later. Especially now as his head is full of thoughts about saving his friend and leaving for France in the morning, so he’s far from amenable.
The Reverend tells him the problem is if he declines now then George Warleggan will be offered it straight away. Disappointed with the young man’s decision Halse lets Ross know his rival lacks many of the qualities he has; commitment, integrity and the courage of his convictions. Sadly, Ross has already moved on.
He is restless, and when he tells Demelza what transpired after the event she is very disappointed and offers him the solid argument why he needed to accept. Although he perhaps now sees the light and the whole point of him accepting the appointment it’s far too late. George has landed the job as Justice of the Peace. God help all! Aunt Agatha upon hearing George’s boast does not let him off the hook, teasing him with the thought Ross may have been offered it first.
Verity is trying to comfort herself when Ross’s trade links come good with information that her husband’s ship the Esmeralda has docked in Lisbon without a scratch. So she hastens to make her farewells taking her baby and leaving Trenwith perhaps for good, although promising Aunt Agatha she will return.
Ross’s smuggling network led by his father’s friend a rugged looking pirate if ever there was one, who keeps the bones from his lost hand replaced by a hook, in a pouch. “Reminds I how fragile life is” says Tholly Tregirls (Sean Gilder).
A man from Ross’s youthful smuggling past, he has come good with intelligence about the fate of the good ship Travail and Dr Dwight. Ross informs Demelza he must go to France immediately and explore the connection and we are left with the sight of him leaving Nampara to embrace danger and perhaps death on French shores as she watches from the cliffs above.
How fragile life is… especially when you are surrounded by mystery, murder and mayhem – we must always live life in the here and now is the moral for this story – for Ross Poldark and his family, liberty, life and truth matter.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2017
Series 3, Episode 2 of 9
Ross Poldark – Aidan Turner
Demelza Poldark – Eleanor Tomlinson
Aunt Agatha – Caroline Blakiston
Morwenna Chynoweth – Ellise Chappell
George Warleggan – Jack Farthing
Dwight Enys – Luke Norris
Elizabeth Warleggan- Heida Reed
Drake Carne – Harry Richardson
Caroline Penvenen – Gabriella Wilde
Verity Blamey – Ruby Bentall
Sam Carne – Tom York
Ray Penvenen – John Nettles
Amelia Chynoweth – Siobhan O’Carroll
Cary Warleggan – Pip Torrens
Geoffrey Charles – Harry Marcus
Sir Francis Bassett – John Hopkins
Tholly Tregirls – Sean Gilder
Director – Joss Agnew
Producer – Roopesh Parekh
Producer – Michael Ray
Writer – Debbie Horsfield
Author – Winston Graham
Production Company – Mammoth Screen