Review: Poldark (Series 3, Episode 9)

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Focusing on some of Poldark's female characters, the finale of Series 3 is excellent.

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Poldark Series 3 has been a somewhat miserable affair and its finale is no different. The entire series has been dominated by the threat of the French Revolution, social unrest in Cornwall, and of course by the repercussions of Ross Poldark’s (Aidan Tuner) passionate tryst with old flame Elizabeth (Heida Reed) during the Series 2 finale. Although it has been admittedly slow to build, with much of the airtime dedicated to ominous establishing shots, Series 3 has built to a dramatic finale which challenges the grounds of the show.

We’ve seen a slow deterioration of the relationship between Ross and his wife Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) throughout Series 3, but the finale sees this reach its heart-rending climax. Neglected by Ross and forced to compete with love rival Elizabeth, Demelza is swept off her feet by the dashing Lieutenant Hugh Armitage (Josh Whitehouse). She allows herself one passionate night with her new beau, but he is slowly losing his sight as a result of his internment in a French prisoner-of-war camp. Armitage, a romantic and uncomplicated writer of poetry and purveyor of sweet nothings, is clearly meant to be a sharp contrast to the brooding Ross, whose main talent in the episode seems to be staring moodily into the distance. It is obvious that Armitage and Demelza’s idealistic courtship is supposed to provide a counterpoint to the very real marriage between Elizabeth and Ross, providing Demelza with the heady excitement of first love that she never experience in her rushed marriage. However, the focus on the relationship leads to an overdose of sickly sweetness in an episode which already features Drage and Morwenna.

The episode is dominated by the stories of the female characters, staying true to the sixth Winston Graham novel Four Swans. This gives Poldark‘s female cast a chance to truly shine, a rare sight in a show which can be somewhat male-centric. Eleanor Tomlinson is always superb when bringing the character of Demelza to life. The actress continues to develop the character, expertly portraying both the betrayed wife and her own infidelity. Another star of the episode is Ellise Chappell as Morwenna, the wife of the ghastly Reverend Whitworth (Christian Brassington). She brilliantly depicts Morwenna’s suffering at the hands of her husband and her slow transformation as she begins to stick up for herself. It is perhaps Morwenna who has had the most development throughout the series, shifting from an innocent to the survivor of sexual assault.

Despite the finale’s female focus, Jack Farthing still gives a superb performance as George Warleggan. Although it takes great skill to make a character as unlikeable as Warleggan, Farthing proves his talent when he actually makes the audience feel sorry for the unlikeable monster. In the episode’s standout scene, George is confronted and lied to by his wife Elizabeth. For once Warleggan is shown to be fallible. Heida Reed is excellent as Elizabeth in this scene too. Brilliantly confronting George, it’s an exchange that really shows off how talented an actress Reed is.

Overall, the Series 3 finale of Poldark is amazing. As the audience have come to expect from Poldark, the cinematography and production values are flawless – what would a Sunday evening be without a few ominous shots of the Cornish coast. After the epic finale of Series 2, it was difficult for Series 3 to raise the bar, but the long-awaited shift to focus on the female characters manages it. The incredibly talented female cast are finally allowed to take centre stage in this expertly crafted episode. With Series 4 already confirmed, it’s an exciting wait to see how Poldark will develop further. I have only one suggestion for further improvement; more Horace the Pug!

If you’ve missed an episode of Poldark Series 3, it’s available now on BBC iPlayer. 

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    “The Black Moon”, along with “The Four Swans” and “The Angry Tide” are considered the best novels in the “POLDARK” saga. Yet, Debbie Horsfield managed to screw up the first two novels with her mangled adaptations. Only this episode was spared.

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