Poldark Season-Finale Recap: Moments in the Dunes

Photo: Courtesy of Robert Viglasky/Mammoth Screen for BBC and MASTERPIECE


Episode 9 Season 3 Episode 9
Editor's Rating 5 stars

Well, well, WELL. This week marks the end of Poldark’s third season, and I am delighted to announce that I revised my episode grade upwards twice over the course of the hour. There were a LOT of balls in the air, and, to mix a metaphor, the finale really brought them home.

Let’s start with the “ugh does it matter” plotline(s) and work our way up to the good stuff: Ross and Demelza. Demelza and Ross. Mostly Demelza. The show teases it with MULTIPLE shots of them walking solo along the cliffs, looking meaningfully into the sea, Demelza stroking the paper of a love note from Hugh, Ross doing … whatever Ross does when he isn’t monologuing about his honor.

There are some French ships! Whoop-de-doo. Look, the French aren’t going to invade Cornwall, so why we have to waste time watching Ross try to whip a lil’ militia together under the orders of Sir Francis, I have no idea. Obviously, it’s meant to serve as more evidence that Ross is a born natural leader. We can tell because Sir Francis literally looks at him and says, “Ah, a born natural leader.” WE GET IT, FRANCIS. You want him in Parliament. Ross gets onboard in the end, following a very overly dramatic scene in which he almost shoots some villagers, led by Tholly, so next season should involve a lot of super-dull political arcs. Blech.

My fellow viewers, when Ross started running his mouth about how he DOESN’T ENJOY MAKING SPEECHES ABOUT HOW GREAT HE IS, I nearly died laughing. That’s … all you do, guy? You can see Francis being like, “And THIS is why you must lead the people.” Francis has buyer’s remorse in general, of course, as George has proved Disappointing, as he so often does. George has taken every opportunity to vote against reform initiatives AND to maintain his right to charge an absurd sum for grain during a time of scarcity. Our George won’t be happy until his head is on a pike.

Remember Jud? I’ve never missed him more than when the show tries to convince us that Tholly is a decent substitute. He and Prudie seem to have a lil’ thing going (or maybe I just overly romanticize anyone hanging out in the dunes together), but he just seems vaguely crabby and doesn’t give Prudie enough energy to work off of. Prudie has been pretty muted in general, though we spend all of this episode waiting to see if she’ll drop a dime on Ross to his wife.

Just as Ross predicted last week, we’re seeing how much George wants to believe Elizabeth. He’s softer toward her, trying to mend fences, etc. She’s not here for it, it seems, but in reality, she knows she’s only got one shot at REALLY bringing this situation home for good. I’m impressed by how good she is at lying, honestly.

One false note in Elizabeth’s Raging Bull montage is that George’s mistreatment of Drake appears to be what brings the matter to a head. Does Elizabeth care about Drake’s well-being? They’ve met … once? George is certainly a putz, but he’s literally starving the countryside at the moment. Burning down one smithy seems like it would barely ping her radar.

Whatever her excuse, Elizabeth is ready to bring the moment to its crisis. “The hell is wrong with you, George?” is the gist of her opener, and for the first time I really appreciated how well these two actors play against each other. The angrier she gets, the softer and more desperately George responds. He’s a man riddled with insecurity and (VERY justified) jealousy, clearly terrified that if he says his deepest fear aloud, it will come true. I have never felt so much sympathy for George than in this scene.

By the time Elizabeth drops her mic — she swears on the BIBLE that she never went to bed with Ross, which, GIRL, your ETERNAL SALVATION! — George is a gibbering mess, pledging never to doubt her again and to be reconciled to her. Barring the sudden invention of a DNA kit, or more likely, Ross eventually blurting it out to score a point, I think ol’ girl is home-free. Their marriage is really pretty good, you know, apart from the whole “based on a lie” bit.

Time to take an abrupt right turn into a Terrible Marriage, and see what’s going on at the old Whitworth house.

Guys. Guys. That fuckin’ guy. Whitworth is as happy as a pig in shit when we first see him. He’s got what every man craves: a fine son, a wife too doped up on laudanum to complain about anything, and that wife’s hot sister INEXPLICABLY giving him her body. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out the younger Miss Chynoweth’s game, until the pieces finally started coming together. She’s a genius! A literal genius. I want her to be my life coach.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, so let’s circle back. She’s pregnant, or claims to be, with Whitworth’s gross child. Unsurprisingly, he is not much of a stand-up dude, but he is PETRIFIED at the bishop (not to mention society as a whole!) discovering his very, very big problem. After leaving him to stew, she waltzes in to offer a chance at an escape route: What if she immediately marries that sweet little librarian kid who’s already proposed to her? Whitworth’s face lights up like a pinball machine, only to realize he’s in the middle of a good, old-fashioned shakedown: The sweet little librarian would be happy to take this hussy off his hands … for 1,000 pounds. GET YOURS, GIRL!!! She’s willing to get the job done for 500 pounds, which is a great deal for a young woman who MIGHT be pregnant and will get to start her life with the man she actually loves.

Morwenna overhears, of course, and we get to enjoy her own Raging Bull moment, in which she straight-up tells Whitworth she’ll kill his baby if he ever tries to touch her again.

All right, enough window-dressing. It’s time to see what all this sexual tension between Demelza and Hugh Armitage has been leading toward. I was SO worried that the answer would be “Nothing, Demelza is committed to making her marriage to Ross work,” I could barely relax while I watched.

Hugh, having been told by Enys that his eyesight will be completely gone in six months, is tossing out some real Hail Marys at this point, but it’s Prudie finally telling Demelza what she saw at the church that ensures Hugh will receive the desire of his heart. (And loins.) Ross might still have prevented it, had he not acted annoyed she was bothering him at work by demanding he explain himself. “It is not what you imagine!” is totally the Cornish equivalent of “Who are you gonna trust, me or Prudie’s lying eyes?” and with that, Ross’s goose is cooked.

Demelza beds Hugh on the grass of the dunes — it’s extremely romantic, I support her WHOLEHEARTEDLY — and as she returns to Ross’s bed very late that night, he knows she’s not the same woman who left it that morning. For once, blessedly, he has nothing to lecture her with. His “May I ask …?” is met with a firm refusal, and the two of them cling to each other, terrified by what their hearts have wrought.

Have a great winter! Let’s regroup next year to see what, if anything, Poldark can do to keep us interested in our not-so-star-crossed lovers.

Poldark Season-Finale Recap: Moments in the Dunes