An enthralling plot with high stakes for our hero, Poldark is back with a satisfying start to its second series.
Poldark returns with a bang, picking up from where the first series left off, with Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) awaiting trial. He has been charged with inciting a riot, and murder. Scared for his life, Poldark’s former flame Elizabeth (Heida Reed) tries to bargain with George Warleggan (Jack Farthing) to sway the court in Ross’ favour – something which Ross, being the noble soul he is, is furious at the thought of. Meanwhile, Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) befriends Lord Penvenan, a friend of the judge, whose niece Caroline (Gabriella Wilde) has just come to town from London. As Ross is sent to Bodmin for his trial, and various other characters also make their way there, the stakes heighten and the pace picks up. The episode ends on a cliffhanger that will surely have you on the edge of your seat.
Aidan Turner remains equally smoldering and brilliant as Ross Poldark; asserting an authority and strength, but in the scenes with Demelza, also a gentleness. He continues to be your standard swarthy romantic male lead, but he fully connects with the role, and you feel just as desperate as the characters around him for him to escape the hangman’s noose. Turner and Tomlinson’s chemistry is wonderful, and as you feel their pain for the loss of their daughter, you also feel their love and their attempts to heal. Their love scene and final moments before Ross makes way to Bodmin are filled with a tangible desperation that you feel from both actors. Eleanor Tomlinson has a sense of authenticity as Demelza, which makes it so easy to connect with her. Even though her character has grown more elegant as the narrative has gone on, she keeps her morals and her heart firmly where they were at the start.
Jack Farthing also remains on top form, appropriately annoying as the Poldarks’ benefactor, George Warleggan. I audibly groaned and said “Go away, George!” multiple times in the episode, and I’d say that’s the sign of a good antagonist. Every time he did anything to thwart Ross I find myself annoyed at him, and every time he talked about his feelings for Elizabeth I was creeped out by him. He’s one of those textbook villains who it’s not too hard to hate, even when you do see their humanity; and Farthing does a great job in his performance.
Francis (Kyle Soller) finally redeemed himself in this episode too, which was nice. Although he is still at war with himself and with the other Poldarks, and was a bit of an arse to his sister Verity (Ruby Bentall), standing up to Warleggan showed just how far the character has come. I was cheering him on as he spoke his mind to George and was rather pleased that he finally showed that he cared about his cousin. Actually, this episode had quite a few shining moments for Soller, who shows his ability as an actor through the breadth of emotions for his character.
The one thing that I felt detracted from the narrative was the introduction of the Penvenens. Caroline seemed, for the most part, to be your typical London heiress, and though there was one scene in which it did seem she was more than that, it’s not yet enough to redeem her character as worthy of my time. Her scenes with Enys felt awkward and forced, and also just helped propagate that she is mostly just in the series to be a love interest – something that I find sexist and wholly uninteresting. Maybe she’ll come to prove herself in the coming episodes, but to me, nothing was gained from her subplot. Also, her man Unwin’s (Hugh Skinner) presence was simply unnecessary.
One of the joys of Poldark is the setting, the backdrop the drama-filled scenes, and this episode didn’t disappoint in that sense. On the coast of Cornwall, the cinematography always manages to capture these landscapes perfectly, using one character to frame the surroundings and make them seem even more extravagant and amazing. Actually, the cinematography in general is just captivating; both characters and landscapes are emphasised through the use of a variety of shots, and a gorgeous colour palette. This is equally matched by the show’s score – increasing tension in parts and at other times, again, just emphasising the beauty of Cornwall.
The show returned in good stead, and was on par with other episodes of the show so far. Although there is still room for growth, and I am yet unsure as to what they plan to do with some characters, my attention has been grabbed enough to keep watching. And not even just because Aidan Turner took his shirt off a couple of times. Though let’s be real, that could add an extra star to the rating in itself!
Poldark is on BBC One on Sundays at 9pm. Watch the series 2 trailer below.