The Poldarks have come to fancy London Town! Demelza arrives wearing a fetching hat that I am much more interested in than the Despard plot that this season is determined for us to love. Something with false accusations? Anyway, Demelza’s hat is a lovely forest green and looks simultaneously rakish and proper and I am into it. Yes, we all love her red hair blowing in the Cornish sea breeze, but if London means Hat Time, then I am saddened by their departure by this episode’s end.
Speaking of London fashion, I know everyone misses classic Shirtless Scything Ross, who got them hooked on the maelstrom of tragedy that is Poldark in the first place, but I am here for London Ross. Artfully tousled but noticeably clean hair? Check. Billowy white fencing shirt tucked into very tight pants? Also check. Smiling-at-and-supportive-of-Demelza-no-matter-what behavior? A huge and final check. London Ross is my favorite Ross, but I would also be okay if he decided to go back to scything some wheat for like five minutes. Then he can wash up and go back to treating his wife as an equal partner. But first the scything.
The main “plot” we’re meant to focus on involves Ned Despard getting out of prison and having his case reexamined. There’s a witness who had gone missing and then shows up and decides to testify, which you immediately know means he’ll be dead by the end of the episode. Sure enough, there’s his body floating in the river at the very end, as Ross and Demelza speak passionately of how “London cannot touch us” after they’ve returned home. Oh you sweet, summer children. Have four seasons of this taught you nothing? The best way you can avoid danger is to constantly say something along the lines of, “Well, of course, any moment we could be pulled into events full of the utmost tragedy. Really any moment.” But they don’t and so they are doomed by the show’s love of dramatic irony.
Despard is still in trouble because he threatens the landowners in Honduras, who are undoubtedly the ones who put that poor witness man in the river. Their fortunes rely on the enslavement of their fellow humans, and Despard’s opposition to the slave trade puts said fortunes at risk. They are led by Cecily’s father, whose name I still refuse to learn and who deals in mahogany. Cecily is primarily important because she and Geoffrey Charles are the young love affair of the season. They’re both attractive and arch enough, so it works. They’re no Morwenna and her young blacksmith, Drake, but they are flush with the heady confidence of youth, and what would Poldark be without it?
This season has thus far really become the George Show for me (aside from Ross’s aforementioned shiny hair, tight pants, and respect for his wife). For a moment, we’re led to believe George has pulled up at the last minute from his descent into madness, like Viktor Krum performing a Wronski Feint, but it very quickly becomes apparent that no, there is no pulling up. There is only down, down, down. This is something of a relief because Normal George, while an adequate foil for Ross, is so infuriating in his constant evilness that him hallucinating over his dead wife is vastly preferable. It has thus far prevented him from marrying a teenage girl forced into it by her father and signing a contract that will ensure the abuse of enslaved laborers. The latter still doesn’t bother him, but Hallucination Elizabeth arguing with him about whether he should sign does.
Which means, yes, he is now openly talking to and arguing with his very vivid hallucination of Elizabeth. There were a blessed few minutes in this episode when he told Valentine he was going to bring Elizabeth back, and I briefly thought that Poldark was perhaps going to go down a Frankenstein path that I would 100 percent welcome. He’s unhinged! Her name is Elizabeth! All the pieces are there sort of! I always root for shows to go completely off the rails in their final season and they so rarely do. Later, George tells Valentine to look who he’s brought home with him and it’s definitely his hallucinated wife and not her reanimated corpse here to wreak vengeance, so this looks like it will not be the Penny Dreadful crossover I was hoping for.
Another point for Team George But Only for This Season is his brief encounter with Ross, when he tells his longtime rival that they hounded Elizabeth to an early grave and that he takes his share of the blame. They did! They did hound Elizabeth to an early grave! Wow, the men in this season are really stepping up to the low bar we have set for them. Speaking of which, Drake and Morwenna continue to carry on just fine, meaning Morwenna constantly looks sad and tormented while Drake is patient except when he brings up the possibility of their having a child. Which they definitely should have talked about before getting married, but also it’s approximately 1801, so they are overall doing great.
Another plot point this week involves Dwight defending the man who tried to assassinate George III by speaking up about how they can redefine insanity. That man, by the way, is James Hadfield, another real figure from history, whose lawyer had him acquitted with the help of testimony from a physician (Dwight, in our case!), but who was then kept at Bethlem Royal Hospital (also known as Bedlam) for the remainder of his life. Aside from this assassination attempt bringing Ross to the attention of the king’s man Wickham, it also brings up the very new idea for 1801 that instead of insanity meaning a total loss of reason, it consisted more of delusions. This points squarely at George, and with Hadfield at Bedlam, we’re left to wonder what will happen to our pale-faced antagonist as the season progresses.
Questions For Next Time
• Will George ever realize that Valentine is just so very obviously a tiny copy of Ross?
• Could the Poldark–Penny Dreadful crossover of our dreams still happen?
• Will the scything ever return?