Poldark Season 3, Episode 6, another strong story written by Debbie Horsfield, adapted from the novels of Winston Graham, is a cautionary tale set in the late eighteenth century.
In this case it is during a time when life among the bevvy of friends living in Cornwall, is filled with trauma, toads, toe sucking priests and pursuits of passion.
This episode sees one man free in body, but not in mind, and another torn irrevocably apart from the woman he loves.
Freeing Dr Dwight Enys (Luke Norris) from a French prison, well what could be simpler, observes Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner). He and his wife Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) have settled back into a quiet routine after all the heroics he engaged in last episode, rescuing his friend.
Demelza is puzzled, endeavouring to understand why their dear friend Dwight has been so distant from his doting wife Caroline (Gabriella Wilde) since he arrived home. Bringing Dwight back, according to Ross, was the easy part.
‘War takes a man places where no one can follow’ he tells Demelza, a fact we all know continues to the present day.
So Ross seeks to help Dwight his dearest friend by calling on their new friend to help him ‘talk it through’, the dishy Lieutenant Hugh Armitage (Josh Whitehouse) who Ross rescued as well.
We are easily diverted by this delicious historical soap opera. One of the reasons is very fine performances given by a talented ensemble cast, including a touching study of deep insecurity patiently delivered by Jack Farthing as George Warleggan.
He features larger than life in this week’s story. There’s no waves crashing down on the rocks along the Cornish coast, all the action is taking place in the fields and meadows, on Ross’s Nampara farm or in the old Poldark manor house Trenwith, where George now reigns supreme.
Don’t read any more if you don’t want spoilers.
George is kept busy flexing his flaccid muscles while exercising his blunted intellect so that he can endeavour to outwit Ross Poldark, his most hated opponent. Those hooded eyelids and profile view of his fine cheekbones are working overtime.
He demands that governess Morwenna Chenowyth (Ellise Chappel), for his stepson Geoffrey Charles give him a favourable answer within the month, about his marrying her off to the loathsome Reverend Osborne Whitworth (Christian Brassington).
George desires a family connection to the aristocratic Godolphin family, whose patronage he seeks and of which the Reverend is a minor member. He’ll do anything to gain their attention including ruining other people’s lives.
Morwenna has now rejected the man she truly loves Demelza’s youngest brother Drake Carne (Harry Richardson) prompted by advice from Aunt Agatha Poldark (Caroline Blakiston) who is about to turn 100 years old.
It seems to her that all hope is in the past and she must endeavour to submit to her fate.
Drake is also looking for new purpose following his sojourn to France with Ross, where he distinguished himself during the rescue.
He announces he is going to leave Nampara as there is no reason to stay. His sister Ross’s wife Demelza and his brother Sam (Tom York) counsel him to stay; at least they both believe in hope.
Ross goes to Trenwith to visit Aunt Agatha, little knowing George and Elizabeth are at home, having returned unexpectedly from Truro. She’s delighted to see her nephew now a local hero in the district. He has come to tell her he’s going to indulge in more meaningful and gentle pursuits, clearing the long field meadow at Nampara, to plant crops and help feed the struggling miners who have suffered since George shut the Wheal Leisure mine.
She lets him know George is at home and he is alarmed, understanding he must leave immediately in case he is discovered for his aunt will surely suffer the consequences of his actions. George has punished her before by ordering no fires built in the middle of winter, hoping she would contract a chill and die.
Ross talks to Morwenna who unexpectedly arrives to bid Aunt Agatha good morning and asks her to look to his Aunt and her welfare, now he will no longer be able to visit regularly. He sees the ailing baby Valentine on the way out as he hurriedly leaves, thankfully unobserved, despite George hearing a noise and going to the window to investigate.
This is when George first hears the frogs Drake had given Geoffrey Charles croaking in the ponds and becomes angry they are there at all, as he had ordered them all cleared, and does so again.
On his wife’s rich estate Dwight is being haunted by memories of his time in the French prison and unable to talk to his wife about it. Demelza comes to visit Caroline and can tell her friends are in trouble… Caroline is babbling and Dwight thin and very withdrawn.
Ross announces to the miners he has appointed Zac Martin as Mine Captain, replacing Captain Henshawe who died helping in the French prison break.
George meanwhile is grilling his stepson Geoffrey Charles and Morwenna, telling her she must resign herself to her fate and submit to the Reverend Osborne Whitworth.
He also announces he’s sending Geoffrey Charles away to Harrow School. When told, Elizabeth is informed by Aunt Agatha the school is over two hours away and the move all about ensuring Valentine is her first priority, not her eldest son.
Meanwhile in Truro the very unholy monstrous Reverend Ossie can be found busily sucking a local prostitute’s toe, an aristocratic pastime centuries old it seems.
During the eighteenth century in England with the spread of ‘liberalism in theology’ there was a lack of respect for clergymen and a general disdain for how they aligned themselves with the landed gentry, often at the expense of the people.
Indeed, King George II (1727-1760) described the Church of England’s bench of bishops as a ‘parcel of black, canting, hypocritical rascals’.
After that the institution sank to a new low; employing the third son of aristocrats as ‘men of God’ based on their class and connection status, rather than a calling to Christian ministry and a belief in the teachings of Jesus the Christ.
When the Reverend meets Ross and Demelza walking in the street near the prostitute district they know where he has been, and are not surprised in the least. Indeed her brothers are members of the Methodist movement, which placed preservation of Christian principles back in the hands of the masses at this point in the church’s history.
Methodism was all about the effect of faith on a Christian’s character and spreading the word Jesus died for all of humanity, which meant salvation was available to all, even the poor and destitute. This in itself was a revelation.
Urged on by Demelza Drake comes to see Morwenna to ask her to deny her love for him to him in person…instead she tells him we have no right to expect happiness all we can do is our duty. He doesn’t know she denied him in order to save his life.
He tells her he believes ‘… it is our duty to find happiness in all things great and small… sun, moon, sleeping, waking, working dreaming…. my life is nothing at all without you’ he comments, ‘so look me in the eyes and tell me you don’t love me’ and weak at the knees she succumbs. How could she not!
Demelza and Ross are discussing Dwight and Carolyn and their plight and she asks him ‘who can help him, if his wife cannot’?
Ross sends for Hugh Armitage for he knows he and Dwight have forged a bond in prison together, one no one will be able to break.
Drake wanting to vex George refills the pond with frogs and they wake him up next morning. The constable tells George the new inhabitants are not native to that part of the countryside and someone has planted them. George immediately blames Ross Poldark, ordering guards to be placed on duty for that night to catch the culprit.
Morwenna warns Drake telling him it’s not worth the risk… but he is a lovesick fool and both Demelza and Ross have to come to his rescue. Escaping with only a deep bruise to his back Ross relates to Drake and the others how at school he used to fill George’s breeches with toads, which is why he has such a violent aversion to them.
Ross and the mine workers are clearing the meadow of weeds and brambles to plant crops for the out of work miners and Demelza tells Sam to open his heart to allow love in…. and to see beauty around him.
Geoffrey Charles risks punishment coming to see Drake whom he has heard will be leaving the district, giving him a present he hopes he will like. At Trenwith George observes Morwenna receiving a note.
She rushes to meet Drake, not knowing she will be followed by George’s Constable who arrives to witness them kissing among the grass.
Later George questions her and she tells him she cannot accept Mr Whitworth’s hand and leaves the room hoping she has got away with standing up to him.
Then the constable comes to report what he has seen and George calls her back to ask ‘how long have you been meeting with Drake Carne’
He’s furious, saying “it is plain our family has become tainted by your liaison and so the engagement is off and you are to be sent home to your mother”…he tells her.
Elizabeth observes to George that Morwenna when she leaves the room looks almost relieved, not dismayed.
What does it mean?
Meanwhile Dwight and Hugh part quietly, as Hugh leaves having helped his friend on the road to healing.
Caroline questions Ross about why Dwight could not express his feelings to her but can to Hugh and he tells here ‘there is a bond between men who have seen atrocities … and they need to talk them away’.
He tells her Dwight feels guilty he is here and others not. Afterwards, he urges Dwight to talk to Caroline and try to gain her understanding of what it was like to live in the shadow of a firing squad.
When he comes to her he lets her know finally why he has no appetite for food and society… I wish to hide away, please be patient with me. She knows she can bear anything now because she knows she has not lost his love.
At Trenwith during a meal Elizabeth observes to Geoffrey Charles that his Bible has been removed from beside his bed. She finds out he has gifted it away and to whom and George sends the constable to reclaim it.
Demelza tells him it was a gift freely given, but it is to no avail Drake is taken off to gaol in Truro where he finds himself facing a ‘criminal’ charge. The theft of goods worth 40 shillings and over means Drake will come before Magistrate George to receive his punishment.
So what is to be done… Ross goes to see and to plead with George for Drake’s life, but he only mocks his hated enemies role as a hero and when a sparring match ensues, George gains the upper hand.
Elizabeth alarmed at what the consequences may be, asks George to find a compromise, without yielding. Then suddenly he realizes he holds the ace card. He demands Morwenna marry the Rev Whitworth bargaining Drake’s life once again, for her own and now she finds herself in a no win situation.
George Warleggan is however a happy man. One stone, many birds. By the time the news reaches Nampara and they all rush to the church to stop the wedding if they can, Morwenna has been wed to the Reverend Whitworth… George is smirking as the ‘bridal party’ leave the local church. Drake and Morwenna are desolate.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2017
|Ross Poldark||Aidan Turner|
|Demelza Poldark||Eleanor Tomlinson|
|Aunt Agatha||Caroline Blakiston|
|Ossie Whitworth||Christian Brassington|
|Morwenna Chynoweth||Ellise Chappell|
|George Warleggan||Jack Farthing|
|Dwight Enys||Luke Norris|
|Elizabeth Warleggan||Heida Reed|
|Drake Carne||Harry Richardson|
|Hugh Armitage||Josh Whitehouse|
|Caroline Enys||Gabriella Wilde|
|Sam Carne||Tom York|
|Geoffrey Charles||Harry Marcus|
|Zacky Martin||Tristan Sturrock|
|Paul Daniel||Ed Browning|
|Tom Harry||Turlough Convery|
|Production Company||Mammoth Screen|