'Poldark: Season 3, Episode 1 Recap

Ross, looking dashing in Season 3 (Photo: Courtesy of Mammoth Screen for BBC and MASTERPIECE)

Poldark, Season 3 Sundays October 1 - November 19, 2017 at 9pm ET On MASTERPIECE on PBS Episode One Sunday, October 1, 2017 at 9pm ET George has everything going for him: Elizabeth, an heir, the Poldark lands, his own church. Meanwhile, Demelza’s brothers, Sam and Drake, take up preaching. And after Caroline and Dwight elope, Dwight vanishes. Shown: Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark For editorial use only. Courtesy of Mammoth Screen for BBC and MASTERPIECE

Previously, on Poldark: There’s way too much to fit here. We’ve got recaps if you need a refresher on anything that’s gone down so far on the beautiful Cornish coast. (And yours truly hasn’t recapped anything around here since Victoria, so bear with me while I get back in the swing of this, y’all.)

For a variety of reasons, Poldark Season 2 had some rough patches. The series’ main character didn’t always behave like a hero. Its central romance fell apart, and though the couple came back together by the end, we’re not quite sure if their relationship can possibly be the same afterward. (Or, at least, I’m not.)

In that regard, Season 3 of Poldark feels something of a reboot. Not really, obviously, as there are too many dangling plot threads left over from last year to deal with. There’s Elizabeth’s pregnancy, and Vile George’s growing power, and the constant tension that seems to exist in Ross and Demelza’s marriage, no matter how much they seem they want to tell each other differently.

Happily, though, something about this season feels as though its changed. Maybe it’s that the show finally seems to be opening up to a world beyond the drama of Ross and Demelza’s relationship. Maybe these new characters are the breath of fresh air the show needed. Whatever it is, it’s true that even though we’re only an episode into this season, the changes already seem to be for the better. Here’s hoping, at least. 

There are a bunch of new faces this season. The bulk of this premiere episode is meant to introduce us to all the new folks whose lives and loves we’re supposed to care about this season. For the most part, they seem nice enough, though a bit nondescript as yet. On the plus side, the introduction of these new regular characters ups the odds that we won’t have to suffer through yet another season of Ross trying to figure out whether he actually wants to be married to the woman he’s married to or not. Or, even if we do, at least these new characters will serve as something else to watch in the meantime. On the downside, it’s Season 3, and shouldn’t’ we have met some of these people before right now? (In the end, I suppose it will all depend on how well they’re written, and integrated into the story.)

Thanks to her father’s sudden – and terribly convenient – illness and death, we meet both of Demelza’s brothers, who end up staying at Nampara, for virtually no other reason than its convenient for the story the show wants to tell. On paper, Sam, the less attractive but by no means unattractive brother is the more religious of the two, and seems fired up to spread the good word among the people of Truro and pretty much anywhere near Ross’ house. On the upside, he’s not the crazy zealot his father was, and is charming, in a sort of very focused kind of way. But I’m not sure precisely what they’re going to do with his character, since the star-crossed love affair is clearly meant for his brother. 

That brother’s name is Drake and he’s not only clearly Demelza’s favorite, but is clearly also our new designated eye candy, now that it looks like Aidan Turner has decided he’s too much of a Serious Actor to shuck off his shirt while scything wheat anymore. Drake is kind, and sweet, and not aggressively religious like his brother is, and is just generally the more charming of the two, if you ask me. And his purpose on the show is to romance our other newest cast member, a lovely young girl named Morwenna.

Technically, Morwenna is Elizabeth’s cousin, and she now holds the new position of governess to young Geoffrey Charles, because Vile George insisted and she has no choice because her family’s broke. Basically, Morwenna is pretty much a walking trope – kind, beautiful, from a noble family that's suddenly poor, and I think we can all guess right now that she’ll probably have to marry someone who has money, and not the poor neighbor boy she met down the road. At least she’s nice to Geoffrey Charles? 

But while her kind ear to the youngest Poldark is surely appreciated, Morwenna’s real purpose in this story is to serve as the Juliet to Drake’s Romeo. Because of course these two young people meet, and of course they hit it off, and of course they’re from rival “houses”, as it were, just as Ross has promised to keep himself and his out of George’s life. But what is a family feud when put up against romantic walks amidst breathtaking scenery, charming homemade seashell bracelets, wildflower posies and a secret trip to a holy well? Not much, since it’s very clear that Drake and Morwenna are already head over heels for one another. Although it’s equally obvious that this is going to go very badly for both of them.

But, hey, that’s why we watch this stuff, right? 

 Elizabeth may have ruined her life but at least she gets good outfits. (Photo: Courtesy of Mammoth Screen for BBC and MASTERPIECE)
 Elizabeth may have ruined her life but at least she gets good outfits. (Photo: Courtesy of Mammoth Screen for BBC and MASTERPIECE)

The trials of Elizabeth Warleggan. Since Season 3 opened with Elizabeth Poldark Warleggan clinging to a runaway horse, it seems pretty safe to say that she’s probably not going to have the easiest time of it this year. Part of this is, obviously her own fault, as she not only didn’t tell Ross about her pregnancy, she chose to marry the absolute worst person on the show in a last ditch attempt to keep her virtue and good name intact. One of the key lessons of Poldark is that Elizabeth does not make good choices.

But for what it’s worth, I still quite like her. In fact, I think Elizabeth generally deserves better, as a character, than she’s gotten from this show. And it’s unfortunate that she keeps falling victim to the worst sort of female tropes as storylines go, over and over again. And all because Poldark isn’t particularly nuanced in the way it presents her relationship with Ross. (And that’s before we even touch the that-was-actually-rape storyline from last season. Ugh.) To put it mildly, Elizabeth’s had it kind of rough.

And it doesn’t look like things are going to get that much better for her in Season 3. She’s still married to Vile George, literal human trash pile, which means that she’s virtually cut off from all her existing family, save Aunt Agatha, who may or may not actually be a hostage in Trenwith. Not only that, but the human pond scum that is her husband is actively attempting to separate Elizabeth from her eldest son, because he’s so insecure in her attentions that he resents a little boy’s love for his mother. Oh, and she’s also got to make everyone believe that her baby is George’s, even though anyone that can do the slightest bit of math should be able to figure out that’s probably not possible, and her desperation over the issue leads to her throwing herself down the stairs in an attempt to bring on her labor.

Honestly? I want to believe this is some sort of hint that we’ll see a more Machiavellian, self-interested Elizabeth emerge this season. A girl has got to take care of herself, after all, particularly when she’s as alone in the world as Elizabeth is. But since this show has taken so many pains to make her character terrible, I doubt I’ll get it. But I can dream, can’t I?

Dwight and Caroline are my new OTP.  Dwight and Caroline were the shining light of Poldark Season 2, an actual romance that you felt good rooting for, as literally every other part of the show basically cratered down around them. Plus, how can you not love Caroline, if only for her astonishing statement hats?

It appears that these two lovebirds – do we have a ship name for them, anyone know? – are going to be the best part of Season 3 as well, if only because someone somewhere appears to have remembered they’re actually a romance. They even manage to have a secret quickie wedding, because Dwight’s somehow snuck back home from invading France for the sole purpose of spending 24 hours marrying Caroline. (Maybe get some tips on how a real man does romance, Ross.)  Even though the scene is woefully brief, it’s still lovely, and Dwight and Caroline are perfect.

They’re so adorable together, it’s almost enough to forgive the show for its newfound dedication to not giving them any happiness at all, since Dwight is called away to Elizabeth’s childbed before the pair can have a wedding night, and then is forced to return to his military duties immediately afterward. (Wherein he is promptly captured by the French after his ship runs aground, but I guess that’s a problem for next week. Ross to the rescue, of course!) 

(Photo: Courtesy of Mammoth Screen for BBC and MASTERPIECE)
(Photo: Courtesy of Mammoth Screen for BBC and MASTERPIECE)

Ross and Demelza, the reboot. And what of our series’ main romance, Ross and Demelza? Well, to be honest, they’ve gotten kind of boring. (In a good way, mostly.) Ross is determined to be a better man, which apparently involves puttering around Nampara and doing a lot of home repair. With occasional pauses to play wedding planner for his besties Dwight and Caroline and to pretend like everything in his hot mess of a life is just fine. And maybe he actually thinks it is now, or at least that he can fake it until he makes it. But Demelza – since she has eyes and a brain – can tell that something’s not quite right with Ross. The series takes pains to skirt around the Ross/Elizabeth business from last season, but it clearly lingers over everyone, and one has to wonder whether Demelza is really as over her husband’s generally crap behavior as she seems.

And is Ross really over his ex? He says so, because of course he does, but color me unconvinced. The moment in which Ross realizes Elizabeth’s child is his, only to dramatically sprint the length of the beach in some sort of attempt to outrun his emotions on the subject was hands-down hilarious, although I don’t think the show intended it to be. Particularly when we all know that the truth has got to come out eventually, yeah? How far will you make it down the beach then, Ross? All I can say is don’t skip leg day, my friend.

Without romantic drama to indulge in this season, what’s Ross to do with himself? Swashbuckle, apparently. Though he was offered the family’s seat as local magistrate Ross turned the job down, complaining that someone who’s been in as much legal trouble as he had probably shouldn’t be dispensing justice. Demelza, quite rightly, points out that had he taken the job he might have actually had the opportunity to help the downtrodden he claims to champion, but we all know that Ross is never going to be one who chooses a life of service in that way.

Not when he can throw himself into boats on ill-advised rescue missions. Yes, Ross has decided to lead his own personal Seal Team Six squad to France, and go get his BFF back. Godspeed, Ross. (And Dwight, for that matter, given Ross’ record on these sorts of adventures.)

Thoughts on the Season 3 premiere, or more general ideas about what you’d like to see this season? Hit the comments and let’s discuss. 

Lacy Baugher

Lacy's love of British TV is embarrassingly extensive, but primarily centers around evangelizing all things Doctor Who, and watching as many period dramas as possible.

Digital media type by day, she also has a fairly useless degree in British medieval literature, and dearly loves to talk about dream poetry, liminality, and the medieval religious vision. (Sadly, that opportunity presents itself very infrequently.) York apologist, Ninth Doctor enthusiast, and unabashed Ravenclaw. Say hi on Threads or Blue Sky at @LacyMB. 

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