Poldark, Series 3, Episode 9 the final episode of the television series written by Debbie Horsfield, inspired by the novels of English author Winston Graham (1908 – 2003) is all about living life in Cornwall where local hero Captain Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) is a role model for locals to look up to.
It’s not easy being a great man and in this episode Ross Poldark embraces the ideal that ‘belief is a beautiful thing’. He lives during an Age of Reform, which is dominated by the campaign to overhaul English Parliament. Protesting people could not demand reform in Parliament because for the most part, they were simply not represented.
At the time Mary Wollstonecraft’s Rights of Women was a founding text for modern feminism. The Rights of Women published 1792, highlighted ‘the means and arts by which women were forcibly subjugated, flattered into imbecility and invariably held in bondage and in various ways’.
There is a lot of that going on, especially in the local vicarage where a so -called man of the cloth, the slippery Rev Osborne Whitworth (Christian Brassington), is far more interested in his own sensual appetites than saving any local souls.
Don’t read any more if you don’t want spoilers.
The Series 3 finale of Poldark commences with a trio of French ships on the horizon, causing Prudie the Poldark’s housekeeper running to the village shouting The Frenchies are coming… ring the bells!
By this time in history bells in towers on churches were traditionally rung in times of trouble, to summon people for joyous occasions or to call them to prayer. Over the centuries they became an integral aspect of town, country and city life, a source of great comfort and security.
Sir Francis Bassett (John Bassett) has been putting in place plans to defend the local citizens, as summoning help from local cities and towns would take a long time.
Cornwell is unprepared for the enemy landing on our doorstep… we must not be found wanting – I don’t want chaos says Sir Francis forcefully to a gathering of the local elite, including Ross Poldark.
It’s a long way from Westminster in London and the central aspects of government where the British Navy is focussed on winning the Napoleonic Wars and investigating the New World.
Ross Poldark is already a local hero and inspirational leader having rescued his friend Dr Dwight Enys (Luke Norris) from a prison in France. The experience, among others while serving in the military, has equipped him well for times of crisis, at war and when rescuing those he loves from difficult situations.
Sir Francis puts him in charge of training up some of the local men to defend their patch with arms.
However the dastardly George Warleggan (Jack Farthing) challenges Bassett’s decision to elect Ross for the task.
The peer of the realm then takes George to task over voting against him in the Commons recently.
His opposition was against the terms of an express agreement the pair made at the time of George’s election and whether he likes it or not he is meant to be loyal to his patron.
George it seems may have taken his own self-serving love of importance just too far for his patron’s liking.
Sir Francis Bassett is not amused.
At Trenwith the now teenage Geoffrey Charles Poldark (Harry Marcus (is being asked by his mother Elizabeth (Poldark) Warleggan (Heida Reed) to delay his trip to see his friend Drake Carne (Harry Richardson) at the Smithy.
She knows it will antagonise George, who is due to arrive from London. If you and he quarrel it would distress me beyond words Elizabeth tells Geoffrey Charles who promises for her sake he will be civil to his stepfather. It’s a big ask.
On his way back to Trenwith from London in his carriage George is driving by and sees Ross visiting his wife Demelza’s brother Drake Carne (Harry Richardson) at the Smithy and it fuels his hatred for Ross all the more.
When he arrives home he immediately provokes Geoffrey Charles, finding out he has been visiting Drake with his mother Elizabeth’s blessing. What harm can it do?
Must we forever be thinking about an imagined Nampara and Trenwith feud, Elizabeth asks and despite George’s feeble promises to her, we know that’s not how it is with George. He would never let a sleeping dog lie!
As soon as he can George calls in his corrupt Constable Tom Harry (Turlough Convery) and sends him on a mission to destroy both the Smithy and Drake.
The Constable torches the Smithy, but Drake sees him leaving and goes on his own to Trenwith… the lovesick boy clearly has no brains…. and Geoffrey Charles begs a favour for his mother for his friend… would she hear Drake’s story.
Over at the Rectory the love of Drake’s life Morwenna (Ellise Chappell), who was forced by George to marry Osborne Whitworth, has Dr Dwight Enys (Luke Norris) visiting. He extends the period of abstinence for the Vicar recommencing marital relations with his wife much to his chagrin. Unbeknown to Morwenna her scheming sister Rowella (Esme Coy) is egging Ossie on… stocking feet can be so seductive!
The Reverend is happy the Dr gives Morwenna a tincture to make her sleep so he can visit her sister in her bedchamber. But it can only have the usual results and Rowella soon tells him she is with child… and with the local librarian blackmails the awful priest, settling for 500 pounds for securing their silence. But will it last.
Meanwhile at Nampara Demelza Poldark (Eleanor Tomlinson) has a love letter from the young aristocrat Hugh Armitage (Josh Whitehouse). He is infatuated with his rescuer from France Ross Poldark’s wife.
Demelza learns what happened to her brother Drake and accuses George to Ross, who dismisses her thoughts on the matter. She asks her husband to step up and declare what he stands for. He suggests she look elsewhere if she wants a ‘brave man’ to play the hero.
George is in town plotting as always to rip off everyone else. Sir Francis Bassett arrives to talk to him but it is another one of those conversations in which symbolism emerges once more, that of chalices… which can be poisoned. George is the expert as Sir Francis is now finding out.
George arrives just as Drake finishes his tale and he throws him out of the house. Elizabeth demands of George that Tom Harry his Constable is dismissed. Leaving the property Drake runs into Harry and his men and they beat him up and leave him for dead.
Down by the seashore Ross is drilling his men and teaching them to shoot. Principled and high-minded, he is reminded by his friend Dr Dwight Enys that sometimes change demands that hands get dirty!
Demelza and her brother Sam (Tom York) is out looking for their brother Drake who has disappeared. They find him in a ditch near death and when Dr Dwight attends to him, he tells him he is lucky to be alive.
Sam is angry and decides to talk to his parishioners about what has happened and one of them, Tholly Tregirls, who is angry at Ross for working with the local aristos and refusing the offer to be an MP, whips the general populace into action to go and rob George Warleggan’s granary.
Meanwhile Elizabeth is taking George to task, telling him their marriage founders on suspicion. Your objection to the boy is about your hatred for Ross and there can be no future for our marriage if that is the case.
Caroline offers to sit with Drake when Demelza is summoned by Prudie who tells her about seeing Ross kissing Elizabeth in the door of the church.
She leaves to see Hugh Armitage waiting for her and she takes him for a walk on the meadows above the cliffs. This is when he tells her he has been discharged from the Navy because in six months time he will be completely blind.
He begs her to let him taste heaven before he sinks into the darkness and moved and distraught for his pain she takes his hand, and they disappear down into the waving field of long grass.
The Rev Ossie comes to his wife Morwenna seeking ‘comfort’ and she says no…. you will leave this room and never return.
I am not blind or half-witted. My sister is with child, your child. Despite your best attempts to sedate me, you will now do as I say or I will smother your son. He leaves her to think on her ‘duty’ but we do realise hers will not be the last word on the subject.
Demelza asks Ross about attending Aunt Agatha’s grave. I am weary of secrets between us… secret smiles, secret kisses… you keep yours and I will keep mine she says before storming off.
Ross has received a note for his men to mobilise on the Northern Road where he finds the villagers advancing menacingly because they are angry George Warleggan thinks he is above the law.
My duty is to King and country and you have until I count to ten to disperse Ross tells them. However Tholly challenges him and Ross realises that the time has finally come to take a stand against George in the corridors of Westminster where it will count. He promises he will accept the next offer made.
George and Elizabeth talk about how jealousy is eating him up. Grabbing the family Bible she says she will swear I have never given myself to another man only my husband Francis and you. Theoretically she is right and she very strongly tells him she forgives him! What a woman!
Ross is standing gazing out to sea along the shore looking for French ships when he sees his nemesis George standing alone on the sand and walks down the dunes to stand next to him.
Taken aback, George gives him his compliments, on using the volunteers today he says. Your humble foot soldiers must go where your betters decree, smirking because Ross had to defend his granary.
George tells Ross he believes he has every reason for optimism, I believe I have a devoted wife, a thriving son, a fine estate, and a parliamentary career that has barely begun. George asks what it is Ross believes.
Drake is slowly getting better and Morwenna goes outside when she hears a knock on the Vicarage front door. He hides while she finds the bunch of winter primroses Drake has left, remembering a time when he gave them to her once before.
Wherever you are she says aloud, know that I love you. Hearing her declaration from his hiding place Drake is satisfied. However we will have to wait until Series 4 to know what will happen next. It can’t be good with the horrid Reverend Ossie involved.
The moon is glistening in the clouds and all is quiet at Nampara Farm where Ross is lying alone in their bedchamber as Demelza arrives home. I thought you might not return he comments. I thought so too…yet here I am she says.
Ask me nothing she pleads – and they fall into each other’s arms.
Now the wait for us begins – Series 4 seems a long way off!
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2017