Review: Poldark (Series 4, Episode 1)

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Excellent

As always the creators and cast of Poldark have created a perfect hour of TV.

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Poldark returned on Sunday for its much anticipated fourth series. The Cornish period drama stars Aidan Turner as the brooding Ross Poldark. The series, adapted by Debbie Horsfield from Winston Graham’s books, has been an astounding success since the first series aired in 2015. The popularity of Poldark has grown year on year, and the show now has a thoroughly international fan base, amongst whom expectations are high for this latest series, which is rumoured to be the penultimate.

The team behind Poldark have utilised the prime-time Sunday night slot, in which the show airs to their advantage. Poldark continuously delivers dramatic (some would say melodramatic) plotlines with panache. The third series finale was no exception, leaving the stability of the Poldarks’ marriage in doubt after a string of infidelities. This is where Sunday night’s episode picked up. It was soon revealed that despite the fact that both Ross (Turner) and Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) had cheated, they were still together, though with much work to do within their relationship. The state of their marriage was a key theme in this week’s episode, exploring the agony of betrayal on both sides. As always, Turner and Tomlinson played this well, with subtlety, making the episode utterly engrossing. The final scene in which Ross and Demelza reaffirm their faith and trust in their relationship is brilliantly acted, demonstrating the skill of both of the series leads.

Another key theme of the episode was the ongoing feud between Ross (Turner) and George Warleggan (Jack Farthing). Geroge was once again at his snakey best, attempting to have several local men executed for their part in grain riots, including Demelza’s two brothers. This, happily, failed thanks to Ross getting both men a last minute reprieve, proving himself to be the poster boy for eighteenth-century social justice warriors. Farthing plays George excellently. He does not simply enact the pantomime villain, but takes a more nuanced approach, particularly with the current storyline of his doubt over the paternity of his son.

The obvious intention of Sunday night’s episode was to set up the rest of the series. Ross has clearly been given the ammunition to fuel his campaign to become an MP, in order to look after the interests of the oppressed local people with whom he shares a bond. This becomes obvious over the course of the episode, even to those who have not seen the spoiler-filled trailers, or read the books. There are several hints that this will be the main story arch of the series, and secret whisperings and plotting abound in this episode.

Whilst, to the delight of viewers, the marriage of the Poldarks became stronger over the course of the first episode, series four also bring s the return of ghastly Reverend Osborne Whitworth (Christian Brassington). Whitworth, continued his abusive reign of terror over his poor wife Morwenna (Elise Chappell). Whilst harrowing, the level of skill required from both actors in portraying this story cannot be ignored. Whilst Brassington has created a character who is utterly detestable, Chappell plays Morwenna and her suffering sensitively and with nuance. It is the way in which all performances in the show are so well thought out and often nuances which make it so much more than the regular Sunday night period drama, and it is the cast who deliver it who have made the show so successful.

The only happy couple in Cornwall, Dwight (Luke Norris) and Caroline Enys (Gabriella Wilde) also returned in the first episode of the series. Though not in the episode for very long, it was revealed that Caroline was expecting their first child, no doubt much to the delight of fans with whom the couple seem to be particularly well-liked. Horace the Pug also made a short, and yet welcome return, with the best choreographed bark of the episode.

Poldark has to have one of the best cinematography teams currently working in tv. As always dramatic seascapes abounded in the episode, utilising pathetic fallacy to set the mood for the entire episode, which was fittingly dark and dramatic. It is no wonder that thanks to the show, and its honed landscape scenes, Cornwall has become Poldark land and tourism has increased.

The first episode of this new series of Poldark was both punchy and engaging, reminding the viewer why they fell in love with the show in the first place. Much loved characters returned, as did the less well liked, all of which were superbly acted. The episode had a high production value, reflecting the technical skill of the team who work on the show. Despite the cliché of the first scene, naturally, being of Aidan Turner taking a topless swim, episode one was Abs-olutely brilliant!

Poldark Series 4 continues on Sunday 9PM on BBC One. 

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