Poldark, Season 4, Episode 1 & 2

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Poldark, Season 4 started with two strong episodes, one last night and the other the Sunday before. The first episode showed Hugh Armitage still pining for Demelza and penning pretty poetry for her. It’s appealing, but Demelza stays on the edge of fidelity for Ross. Hugh’s health is deteriorating and wants Demelza by his side, which concerns Ross, but the situation leads to some impeccably written and acted scenes that portrayed a tough aspect of marriage.

Politically, George’s use of power is dangerous. Ross sees how his backing away from taking a seat in Parliament has made for injustice. In episode 1, in an uprising at the port, where the hungry, were protesting, Demelza’s two brothers are erroneously arrested along with Zacky Martin’s son Jago, who was fit to be tied at the injustice. Jago, a hothead, accidentally kills a merchant. All three are arrested.

Hugh Armitage, dashing and poetic, continues to woo Demelza, though Dwight advises him not to. Hugh is going blind and dying so he’s not going to give up on his dream girl. Demelza is flattered. It’s nice to have such devotion when you’re husband takes you for granted.

Ossie’s the same ogre and churl. His mother has come to town and plans to arrange for a governess to put a distance between Morwenna and her son. How much is this poor woman to endure?

The tension grows as Sam, Drake and Jago’s hanging nears. Ross believes it’s best for Demelza to be in the dark so he ships her off to a fancy dinner at Hugh’s uncle’s with Caroline and Dwight.

Ross has a certain deux ex machina charm and convinces the magistrates to spare his brother-in-laws, though Jago is hanged. Yikes! Demelza is reunited with her brothers though she’s unaware of exactly how close they were to hanging.

More good news! Caroline is pregnant!

The premiere drew me in from the start when Aiden Turner emerged bare chested from the ocean. Certainly, the writer and producers wanted all the audience to be rapt from the get-go.

For episode two, visit Armchair Anglophile. I’m too far behind and having trouble with my computer lately, so I suggest you visit Armchair Anglophile for a recap.

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Poldark Season 3 Finale

Poldark Season 3 went out with a bang making viewers wish for September 2018, which can’t come soon enough for me. From start to finish his episode was amazing.

George returned from London and when he saw that Drake had set up his smithy near his land, he hit the ceiling. Elizabeth tried to make him see reason and not interpret this as a provocation from Ross. As usual, George ignored sense and set his yeoman to vandalize Drake’s blacksmith shop.

Meanwhile the unctuous vicar has taken to drugging his young wife Morwenna while he indulges his foot fetish and whatever else with her even younger sister Rowenna. Rowenna’s hard to figure out. Of course, she’s manipulating Ossie, but where did she learn to be so conniving. How can she stand Ossie, who makes most viewers skin crawl if tweets are to be believed? Rowenna announces she’s with child and Ossie’s expression was priceless. Call it schadenfreude, but seeing Ossie, who’s ruined Morwenna’s life, getting taken down was so satisfying.

Since three French ships were spotted on the horizon, Ross and others are instructed to prepare local men for a possible attack. This is right around the time of the French Revolution, which was so violent and the English of the day were very nervous.

George’s henchman sets fire to Drake’s smithy, totally destroying his work, which compels Drake to humbly tell Elizabeth all about this. Finally, Elizabeth is getting to a point where she takes action rather than just staying in the background letting everyone around her, like Morwenna, suffer.

When George interrupts Drake and rudely sends him packing, Elizabeth realized Drake was right and she stands up to George. Finally! This episode Elizabeth wasn’t imbibing her “little helper” and seemed to have waken up. She tries to make him see reason and stop speculating and obsessing over what Ross was doing.

But Elizabeth’s action was too little, too late. Tom Harry with two thugs found Drake leaving Trenwith and beat him till he was near death. Tom kicked him into the edge of a river and left him for dead. Such humanity. Demelza happened to find him and got Dwight.

Dwight prescribed abstinence for Morwenna for another few weeks and Ossie would have nothing of it. Why he’s not content with one sister is beyond me. Rowella has told Ossie she’s pregnant and offers a solution to the problem by bringing a very wimpy librarian in as a possible husband. The librarian, no doubt coached by Rowella, asks Ossie for £1000, which makes Ossie the Slime-bag turn beet red. Rowella’s probably 16 and she’s got this middle-aged lecherous hypocrite tied up in knots. Morwenna overheard the conversation and acts. When Ossie creeps into her room, she draws a line in the sand and tells him he’s never to touch her. Shocked that the once mousy Morwenna is forceful, he demands she do her wifely duties. She responds that if he takes one more step she’ll kill their son, which makes Ossie back off. He now thinks she’s crazy.

The townspeople hear of George’s thug’s attack on Drake. This on top of George’s increasing the price of grain and doing nothing in Parliament to help the poor makes people’s blood boil. They’d lay siege to Trenwith if it weren’t for Ross’ rousing speech. As we all know, he should be in Parliament.

Hugh’s poetry and attentive ways melt Demelza’s heart. Ross has taken her for granted and gives everyone else in his life more attention. Hugh reveals to Demelza that he’s going blind. Though she struggles with the choice, Demelza grants Hugh’s wish to give themselves to each other before he goes blind. (He put that more poetically.)

Meanwhile Ross leads the militia to Trenwith where the peasants are about to lay siege to George’s property. It’s a tense scene interspersed with flashbacks of the French Revolution.  In the end, Ross gets the people to lay down their arms by promising to take a seat in Parliament when asked.

There were a few scenes not in the 1970s series that I don’t think worked or seeing the DVDs of the 1970s series made me not like this series’ treatment of those parts as much. When Elizabeth turns the tables on George making him swear on the Bible that he wouldn’t suspect her of loving Ross or question Valentine’s lineage, George well apart emotionally. It humanized him as much as anything could, but I felt he was too weak. Also, the melancholy in Demelza’s return and the end of the episode showed more doubt in the marriage’s future. It was sadder and I think that’s partly because while both are fine, this Demelza isn’t as spunky or humorous. She’s got spirit, but of a different sort. I did wish the peasants had burned down Trenwith.

I’ll add that I miss Jud’s character and I think casting went overboard with stereotyping the librarian as a complete wet noodle. He wasn’t so weak and pasty in 1976.

But all in all, the show was gripping. I admit I watched it twice since we’re in for a Masterpiece drought till Victoria returns.

I’m going to miss Ross, Demelza, Caroline, Dwight, Geoffrey Charles, Prudie, the guy with the scar, Elizabeth, Drake, Morwenna & Co. They return in the summer of 2018 in the U.K. I may need to get a VPN.

What Circle of Hell does George Belong in?

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Wedding Bliss? Not for Morwenna

This week’s Poldark was full of action; many events were sad or troubling. We saw George slink lower and lower as he worried about not rising politically. When things didn’t go his way, he made sure others suffered.

Aunt Agatha was happily planning her 100th birthday party. Simultaneously, George was worrying about getting invited to the right parties and the social notice that would assure his rise in politics. While fussing about invitations he and Agatha exchanged pointed dialog that makes Violet of Downton Abbey sound demure.

When George and Elizabeth are invited to Sir Falmouth’s party, he is ecstatic to get offered the candidacy for Parliament though he’s unaware that he was Falmouth’s second choice. Ross was the first, but he foolishly refused, because he didn’t want to be Falmouth’s puppet. So Ross learned nothing from Drake’s narrow escape from the hangman’s noose, which Ross would have ruled against if he were the magistrate rather than George. Ross’ problem is he thinks there’s some perfect world out there. Not so. He still isn’t learning that if good men don’t participate in government evil ones like George will. Besides, if you’re not keen on government, you have nothing to lose. Vote as you like and if Falmouth plots to get you out after one term, so be it, Ross. To no avail, Demelza tried to convince Ross to accept the offer.

Seems I forgot about George, when the last paragraph should have been all about him. I’m afraid that’s the story of his life. Once Ross appears, all eyes are on him and George is neglected.

Dwight and Caroline made their marriage official by getting married publicly.  The reception was more about everyone else’s intrigues than the couple’s bliss. Since they eloped that’s fine. Hugh Armitage doted on Demelza as Ross, like an old married man, feels it’s no big deal. She’s just imagining Hugh’s adoration. I will say that since Ross saved Hugh’s life pursuing his wife is in poor taste and judgment. This doesn’t stop him from writing Demelza poetry. Another red flag that Ross dismisses.

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Back at Trenwith, George gets even with Aunt Agatha, for unknown reasons, he gets a feeling she’s not 99. So he has his servants turn the house upside down looking for evidence. In the end he finds a family Bible that proves she’s only 98. Agatha begs him to keep quiet. It was sad to see this strong woman weaken and beg George. He won’t have it. He cancels the party and for once must be “perfectly honest.”

She’s devastated not to have a party. She begs George, but he enjoys inflicting pain. To get revenge, she tells George that Valentine certainly wasn’t born early. He does not look like a preemie. How could that be? He knows he and Elizabeth waited till the honeymoon so . . . if Aunt Agatha’s right? Who’s the father? A seed has been planted, just before Aunt Agatha dies. She’ll be sorely missed. (Here’s a good interview with the actress who played Aunt Agatha.)

Morwenna lives the life of a sex slave with Osborne whose fetishes turn her stomach and all viewers too, no doubt. Demelza gets a glimpse of Morwenna’s displeasure when the newlywed tells her that Osborne is a monster and runs away. Elizabeth also understands that something’s wrong with Morwenna, but she’s too wound up in herself to get involved. Morwenna dreads going to bed with Osborne, which is a requirement. Praying with his daughters takes a back seat to doing her marital duties. Off with your shoes, my pretty! Ugh.

Post coitus Morwenna looks terribly sad. Osborne has a new idea of getting another woman in the house to “help” Morwenna so he announces he’s written to her mother and asked that her sister Rowenna come. Then he is off to sleep, while Morwenna just looks like her soul’s dead. She repeated says to herself, “I love Drake Carne.” This was the one part of the show that seemed extraneous. We know she’s miserable. We know she loves Drake. No need to repeat it.

Rowenna does come to town and she’s Morwenna’s opposite. She gets the scoop on Osborne quickly and then starts flirting with her brother-in-law. A breakfast she stoops down so he can see her decolletage and then she takes off her shoe and chat about her pinched toes to a man with a foot fetish. Where did she learn all this? It’s quite uncommon in the landed gentry. What is Rowenna going to be up to?

So it was a lively episode. With this series you can’t leave for a minute as you’ll miss three new plot points.

Weeping for Morwenna

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This week Morwenna was a pawn in George Warleggan’s cruel machinations. At first he was clueless and thought His cousin-in-law Morwenna must be bored in Nampara. Far with from it. She was having the time of her life with Dwight and their young chaperone, Geoffrey Charles.

George goes nuts when he hears toads on his property. We later learn that as a boy, Ross terrorized George by putting toads down his trousers. (A tad contrived, but okay.) He makes his servant Tom get rid of every toad in his pond. It’s an impossible task since Dwight and Geoffrey Charles have such fun filling the pond with toads as Morwenna looks on forgetting that she may be wed to an odious toad. The writing was such that I continually thought I was watching a train wreck.

Ross received a letter from Aunt Agatha and raced to see her. Unaware that George and Elizabeth came back to Cornwall and were upstairs in bed eating strawberries, Ross snuck in Trenwith and checked in on Aunt Agatha who’s looking forward to her birthday. She will soon be the Poldark to live the longest . . . if George doesn’t kill her.

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Such a favorite, Aunt Agatha

Dwight suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after his time imprisoned in France. It’s no wonder after all the suffering and violence he’s seen. Yet Caroline expects him to be as happy to be back as she’s happy to have him. So there’s a growing divide. Hugh Armitage seems to be coping much better and Ross brought him to talk to Dwight. It seems that Ross could have talked to Dwight, but I suppose Hugh needed to be introduced into the story. By the end of the episode, Dwight opened up to Caroline so hopefully they’ll be fine.

Tom, George’s servant, spies Morwenna swooning around Dwight when he tries to apprehend Dwight, but fails. Afraid to report back to George, Tom tattles on Morwenna so she can take the heat. George, who’s married up, won’t hear of his in-law marrying down or even fraternizing down. Just by spending time with Drake, Morwenna seems to have become “damaged goods.” She acts like she’s upset, but we can tell she’s relieved not to have to marry sleazy Osborne, whom Ross and Demelza saw exiting a brothel in the Red Light District of town.

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Morwenna

George is all about vengeance and spite. A pettier character, I’ve never seen. He wants to punish Geoffrey Charles, for his wise remarks and even more for his part in the toad episode, so he’s sending him off to Harrow, a boarding school. Then they won’t need Morwenna, whom they’re going to send back home.

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Ross & Co. to the Rescue

On this week’s Poldark Demelza pleads with Ross not to rush off to save Dwight because perhaps the plan Caroline told her about the Royalists defeating the Jacobins will work out. The look on Ross’ face says he highly doubted that, but he did listen.

George hit the ceiling when he heard that his son Valentine has rickets. The possibility of his heir having a common disease appalled him. I expect if the baby isn’t perfect George would ship him off to an orphanage.

Morwenna’s trying George’s patience by not agreeing to the match with the slithering Rev. Whitworth. Who can blame her? Elizabeth, why don’t you find her someone less slimy? Morwenna’s returned to Trenwith where she’s happily catching toads with Geoffrey Charles and her true love Drake. Aunt Agatha spies them and figures everything out. She then has a tete-a-tete with Morwenna letting the lass know that there’s no future with Drake so she ought to break things off right away. In the end Morwenna realizes that’s true. She ends it with Drake.

Nothing works out across the channel so Ross decides he must go to save Dwight. Drake joins the gang to numb the pain of his broken heart.

George is in a snit about not getting an invitation to a big party. If he were born 240 some years later he could be a regular Mark Zuckerberg, who’s reaction to social rejection was to start a billion dollar internet service. But alas Poldark’s in the late 18th century so George will just grumble and snipe and drive Elizabeth to distraction. Eventually he is invited, but that’s not sufficient because Demelza was invited. He wants to be included and he wants the host to only invite those he wants to see. Demelza gets the better of George in their exchange of cutting remarks.

George thinks trashing Ross will garner social points so he scoffs at what he considers Ross’ foolishness in leading a group of brave men over to France to save Dwight.

Over in France the men fight fiercely to save not only Dwight but a slew of men who’re imprisoned. They party has a casualty, Mr. Henshaw, Ross’ right hand man in the mines. His loss is great and he’ll be mourned for years to come. It makes Dwight’s rescue bittersweet for all but Caroline. Dwight is likely to feel survivor’s guilt for quite some time.

Drake was shot and he’ll need to be tended to, but will probably have PTSD. Morwenna has no one to help her and she’s headed for a terrible marriage.

As usual, this episode was the best thing I saw all week. The drama was pitch perfect as it closely follows the book, included stunning cinematography, and every scene was compelling. Every actor delivered a four star performance.

Poor Dwight and Morwenna

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Sunday’s Poldark episode began by showing the villagers poorer and starving. Yet, and this should come as no surprise, George had no mercy or compassion for them. He rounded up those he could and sentenced them to 15 years in prison.

Also, the program included the fastest, no fuss, birth I’ve ever seen on television. In one scene Demelza’s digging potatoes and a bit later she’s got her new daughter Clowance  in her hands.  I didn’t actually mind the abbreviated birth because the episode was packed with other events.

Dwight is stuck in a dank, dark, decrepit prison which rivaled the Les Misérables Paris sewers for hygiene. Yet despite the starvation and mental anguish of his imprisonment, heroic Dwight manages to perform surgery in his cell.

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Carpe diem, Morwenna

Morwenna and Drake, both reserved by nature, tentatively get closer. Yet as Morwenna’s charge Geoffrey speaks up to George and is found to have gone to Clowance’s baptism on the sly, George and Elizabeth feel it’s time for her to marry. Poor Morwenna. The Warleggan’s don’t bother to find anyone at all suitable. They settle for the first slimy widower to come along, a much older and very greasy Rev. Osborne Whitworth. Morwenna should run for the hills! But there’s no one who can rescue her. It’s out of the question socially that she could marry Dwight who lives in a dark, old building with a dirt floor with his brother. Even Demelza thinks Morwenna could never marry down.

George doesn’t brook opposition, no matter how wise or how true. Thus he’s exiling Aunt Agatha to the dungeon of the coldest, darkest part of the house. He makes sure that she gets no letters, including Ross’ invitation to Clowance’s christening.

As so many people are starving Caroline and Demelza team up to get them grain. Ross finds a way to trick George so that he’s fooled into thinking the villages stole when in fact they were given grain through donations. Ross’ trick backfires as it prompts George to get even by closing his mine, which was once a Poldark mine just out of spite. The result is 70 breadwinners will be out of work and their families may starve, but George has no compassion and he doesn’t care. Be careful George, look what the French did to their upper class.

The episode was brisk and moved a long with lots of emotion and action. The hour whipped by and I didn’t want the show to end. We’re left hanging to see what will become of Dwight, Morwenna and all the others in this splendid cast. I find I like Geoffrey Charles more and more.

Poldark, Book Review

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After enjoying the Masterpiece 2015 version of Winston Graham’s Poldark, I read the book. Set in the late 18th century, Poldark is the first novel in the series about the Poldark family. It’s a family with some interesting facets. The side headed by Charles Poldark is quite refined and wealthy. The side headed by Joshua Poldark, Charles brother was less fortunate. Joshua had two sons and one died as a child. His wife died young. His son Ross, who’s the central character in this novel, got into gambling trouble and was urged to fight in the American colonies to let matters at home cool. Joshua didn’t have great success with his mining or farming interests and dies before he can see his son Ross return from the war.

Ross’ death becomes a rumor that takes hold in Cornwall. His true love believes it and winds up engaged to his cousin. His family’s drunk and disorderly servants believe it and they let the property fall to almost ruin. This book covers about half the events that you see in season one of the 2015 television series.

I read historical fiction for the details and surprises. Winston Graham’s clearly done his homework on life in Cornwall in 1873 and following. The dialect sounds accurate and every event and encounter, whether it’s a day at the market or a fishing trip rings true. It’s an era where people had a lot of spirit and vitality. (I’m starting to think the human race lost a lot by not riding horses. I think horseback riding made people stronger, physically and emotionally.)

Ross intrigues as he’s a bridge between classes. He understands his periwigged relatives as well as the villagers who scrape by and have no standing in a court of law where the scales are tilted in favor of the gentry. Even though Ross has little money, his rank puts him far above the villagers, yet as Demelza, the urchin girl he saves from her drunken abusive father, points out Ross can fit in either social circle.

In the book, readers get more of Graham’s well drawn characters, like Demelza who becomes the spirit of Ross’ home, Prudie and Jud, who curse and complain at every turn, Elizabeth, Ross’ former love and Francis, his cousin. At the start of the book Demelza’s 14 and then the story jumps ahead to when she’s 17, which I’d have liked to see.

This gap between the rich and the really rich intrigues and I’m trying to figure out how these families trained their servants so that in a few generations they no longer spit, cursed and drank way too much.

The story moves along quickly and includes some events I wish the 2015 series had. I’m ready to start on the second novel Demelza once I finish my other books.

*In the 1970s the BBC produced the first Poldark series.