Previously on Poldark: Ross and Demelza return to Cornwall with Ned and Kitty in tow, only to deal with a deadly mine accident, an unhinged George Warleggan who’s basically being tortured by his own family, and a crowd of rowdy townsfolk itching to overthrow the wealthy elites. Maybe y’all should have just stayed in London. For more details, you can read our recap of Episode 3 here.
Poldark has always been a show about politics and social issues, as Ross and friends have fought to make the world a better place not only for themselves but for the less fortunate who both work for and depend on them. Season 5 has really leaned into this, as Ross not only attempts to help his friend Ned avoid prison and/or death for giving away land to freed slaves in Honduras, but by showing us a whole lot of unhappy Cornwall residents being hungry, poor and itching to light something on fire to punish the rich.
Despite Demelza’s best efforts – she’s opened a school to teach miners’ children to read and hired Tess, the worst of the county agitators, to work for her because I guess she is a masochist – a general state of unrest still seems to be brewing among the lower classes. Tess, of course, is a big reason for this, as she spends most of her time urging her peers in the local taverns to recreate the French revolution, and joins forces with the evil Hansen to help cause a riot in the wake of the closing of the Warleggan mine and the recent accident that killed several people.
Ned Despard, unable to resist the prospect of protest, promises to help Tess lead a march on Trenwith in order to let George know that they’re upset about not having money or jobs anymore. Tess promises this gathering will be peaceful, because she is a liar; and Ned believes her, because he’s an idiot. As each episode of this season goes on, I’m more and more uncertain of what we’re meant to make of Ned. To listen to Ross talk, he’s basically a God walking amongst us, yet he consistently makes hotheaded and stupid decisions, allowing himself to be goaded into fistfights, public shouting matches, and death-defying personal stunts at every turn. It’s hard to argue that he’s a decent person, but every single week we seem to be seeing him hurting his cause more than help it.
(I also am still not over the fact that we’re devoting such big chunks of screentime in the series’ final season to this largely annoying man we just met, but hey, more power to you if this is your kind of thing.)
Anyway, Ned leads Tess’ gang of poor folk to the steps of Trenwith, waving torches around and shouting for George, who’s barely mentally functional again thanks to Dwight. You know, just in case Ned didn’t entirely understand that these people really aren’t concerned with staying peaceful. They break in, threaten George, terrify the poor Warleggan children and just generally act terrible, but Ross shows up to save the day before the house gets set on fire, because of course he does. But not before George pulls a gun on Ned, the two fight over it, and Ned breaks George’s arm by shoving him down some stairs. Which, you know, is sure not to prove any trouble for him later on. Sigh.
It would be one thing if Ned were anything other than just a sort of weirdly jumped up activist caricature, because at least then we might stand some chance of understanding why he does the things he does. Ross basically spells out for him that he’ll be allowed to go back to his post in Honduras if he can just, like, shut up and keep it together for a week or two, which Ned apparently interprets as “go start a near-riot at the landed gentry’s house down the road”. Because Ned is an idiot. And not even in an interesting way. Do any of us actually care what happens to him? Sorry to this man, IMO, but no.
Elsewhere, aged-up Geoffrey Charles is running all over the countryside with Hansen’s feisty daughter Cecily, and while no one who has ever watched a period drama before will be surprised by the burgeoning romance between the two, we’re all so starved for anything that feels like a genuine love story on this show at the moment that it’s like water in the desert. I don’t even think I like either of these characters, but I’m definitely invested in their romance!
Particularly when it hits all the best sorts of genre tropes! Cecily’s trash dad attempts to marry her off to the vilest figure on the show in George Warleggan, whose wife has barely been dead a year. (Maybe? We’re not entirely sure.) Geoffrey Charles confesses his feelings, even though he has like no money or future to speak of! Cecily rebuffs him, before declaring they’ll have to elope together at the same Holy Well that hooked up Drake and Morwenna. Geoffrey Charles even cries! All of this, I’m 100% here for it!
This is the kind of storyline I want to tune into Poldark for. Can we please have some of sort of thing for, I don’t know, the couples we’ve already invested our hearts in? I mean, there are only a handful of episodes remaining in Poldark, ever – do we have to spend all of them watching Morwenna make herself heartsick spying on her stolen child? Or witnessing Caroline’s descent into jealousy and unhappiness because of Dwight’s dedication to his work? I’d like to remember why I wanted either of these couples to get together before the show ends!
What did you think of this episode of Poldark, folks? Am I being too hard on the politics stuff? How do you feel about Geoffrey and Cecily’s relationship? Let’s discuss.