'Poldark: Season 3, Episode 6 Recap

Courtesy of Robert Viglasky/Mammoth Screen for BBC and MASTERPIECE

Episode Six Sunday, November 5, 2017 at 9pm ET Rev. Whitworth puts Morwenna through the tortures of the damned. Aunt Agatha and George cross swords in their deadliest match yet. Demelza gets an admirer who owes his life to Ross. Shown: Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark and Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza Poldark For editorial use only. Courtesy of Robert Viglasky/Mammoth Screen for BBC and MASTERPIECE

Previously, on Poldark: Morwenna makes up her mind to refuse George’s marriage plans for her, deciding that a life – even if it’s a poor one that's below her station – with Drake is what she wants. But when George frames Drake for theft and, as magistrate, threatens to have him hanged, Morwenna must marry the equally vile Reverend Whitworth in order to save his life. Elsewhere, Dwight struggles with a bad case of PTSD, and does his best to push Caroline away, but a heartfelt conversation between the two goes a long way toward getting their marriage back on track. (If you need a full recap of last week's episode, we have you covered right here.) 

This week’s episode is certainly full of drama. But Poldark’s unfortunate tendency to skip over showing us the reasons that characters are suddenly behaving in wildly different or inconsistent ways remains a problem.

What an unfortunate spot for a time jump. Like many period dramas, Poldark has a bad habit of leaning on time jumps to advance the story when it’s convenient. This isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world, given that most sweeping stories like this tend to cover many decades by the time everything is said and done. However, also like many period dramas Poldark has a terrible habit of picking the absolutely worst moments to skip the story forward in time, and its characters suffer for it. This week is no different.

Sure, flashing forward 6-8 months allows us to see how bad things truly are for Morwenna in her new marriage, gives Dwight some time to heal from the worst of his injuries, and allows the Poldark children a chance to get a little older (and cuter). But the problem is, is that this particular time jump skips over so many things that viewers likely wanted to see for themselves. For example, while Dwight generally looks fine now – how did he get to this point? How are Ross and Demelza seemingly at odds again?  And how did everyone – particularly Drake – react to Morwenna’s wedding? Sure, we saw their expressions thirty seconds after the vows were recited, but what about after that? Do people even know what Morwenna gave up to save Drake’s life?

With a show that’s as lazy as Poldark often is about holes within its own narrative, I don’t exactly tune-in for the shocking plot twists. I watch for the character moments – the romance and friendship and all that business. So when the show fast forwards through the moments I’m most interested to see, it’s frustrating. Because it really serves no end. 

Welcome to Morwenna’s personal Hell. In however much time has passed – the show’s really unclear on this point – between last week’s episode and this one, Morwenna’s had enough marital experience to realize that being Mrs. Whitworth is a nightmare. Now – whenever “now” is – we see her heavily pregnant, pale and under constant threat of violence and abuse from her husband, who seems to think her only job is to service him sexually whenever the mood takes him, no matter her own feelings on the subject.

Despite her terrible state, Morwenna still seems to think her devil’s bargain was worth it, as her sacrifice kept the man she loved alive. In fact, Drake has become something of a talisman for her, as she heartbreakingly whispers his name like a prayer every night after Whitworth is asleep. Drake, for his part, seems to be moping his around Cornwall, learning a blacksmithing trade but mostly using it to fashion jewelry with representations of the Virgin Mary that bear a more than passing resemblance to his lost love.

Christian Brassington honestly deserves a lot of praise for his performance as Whitworth, if only because I don’t think I’ve ever been physically repulsed by my television before, but here we are. After several weeks of being encouraged to laugh at the man’s general buffoonery and foppishness, his sudden transformation into a violent abuser feels even more horrifying. It’s like Poldark decided to punish us all for hating George by introducing a character who makes me wish I was watching like sixty minutes solid of Warleggan banking debate. He’s that bad. (And I don’t know about y’all, but I never need to see him getting all hot and bothered over Morwenna’s sister’s stockings ever again in my life entire.) 

Courtesy of Robert Viglasky/Mammoth Screen for BBC and MASTERPIECE
Courtesy of Robert Viglasky/Mammoth Screen for BBC and MASTERPIECE

Politics is the new mining subplot I guess. Now that Dwight is apparently magically cured of his PTSD thanks to one conversation with his wife and a bunch of stuff offscreen that we didn’t see, he and Caroline decide to throw themselves a real wedding, so they can stop pretending that they’re not married. As I love Carolight, I’m here for this, even though we don’t get to see the second ceremony or much of anything else besides Caroline’s predictably stunning wedding hairdo. (Not that I’m bitter about that or anything.) But, everyone in town comes to wish the happy couple well, including the Poldarks, the Warleggans, Hugh Armitage, that random rich man who happens to be Hugh Armitage’s uncle, even Morwenna and Whitworth are there, for some reason. (Do the bride and groom even know either of them?)

Basically, this all provides George with ample opportunity to suck up to his societal betters, and jockey for that now-vacant MP seat he wants so badly. Local rich man Sir Francis, however, wants Ross to run for the spot, because he rescued some dudes from France that one time, and also has a temper and zero political experience, so I’m sure he’ll be fine. George is particularly aggrieved, which is always fun to watch, but of course Poldark can’t let me have any joy for longer than five minutes. Ross turns Sir Francis down, after making a standard Ross-speech about how he can’t be controlled by anyone and, therefore, can’t work with someone who would expect things from him in return for his support. Ross is exhausting sometimes, y’all.

Much like his earlier decision to turn down the traditional Poldark family seat as local magistrate, this is surely to turn out great for both Ross and everyone that lives near and/or around him. Once Sir Francis realizes he can’t have his first pick, he settles for backing George, who we all know has no business near a Parliament seat, basically ever. 

Why is Ross so terrible so often? For her part, Demelza is unhappy with her husband’s decision to turn down Sir Francis’ offer. She reminds him that he could do much good for the people of Truro, and for those that most need help, by chasing a Parliament seat. (Or, at the very least, blocking George from getting one.) But, we all know that Ross can never agree to anything if it’s suggested by a person who is not himself – particularly if that person is Demelza. So, he lashes out at her, instead. Again. Sigh.

In her way, Demelza does have a point. Ross doesn’t treat her as a partner in their relationship most of the time. He frequently ignores her suggestions or feedback about a given situation if he doesn’t like them, and has no qualms doing exactly as he pleases without consulting her. For some unexplained reason, he’s now busy ignoring her, and basically laughs at her when she jokingly suggests that Hugh Armitage has a crush on her. No wonder she ends up drawn to Hugh by the end of the episode – at least he acts like she’s alive, and a person with a brain in her head.

Courtesy of Robert Viglasky/Mammoth Screen for BBC and MASTERPIECE
Courtesy of Robert Viglasky/Mammoth Screen for BBC and MASTERPIECE

Honestly, did something happen in the gap between last week’s episode and this one? Suddenly the Poldarks marriage is awful again, and Ross is treating his wife like a forgotten sweater while whining endlessly about how hard it is that everyone thinks he’s some kind of hero because he saved Dwight and some guys he didn’t even know. (Shut up, Ross!) Where did all this come from? Given that, for the bulk of this season, Poldark has taken pains to show Ross and Demezla – despite having Elizabeth-related insecurities, still – as a functioning partnership, who love one another and, though they may disagree, work together to achieve their aims. This episode feels like we’re all backsliding into the worst of their toxic Season 2 interactions, and it isn’t fun. At all. 

Oh, Aunt Agatha, we hardly knew ye. The episode’s biggest shock isn’t that Aunt Agatha dies – though it’s obviously a shame that the show decided to kill off its most consistent scene stealer. It’s the fact that she manages to destroy George’s life on the way out. Before the redoubtable old lady keels over in a righteous rage, she finally tells George what we’ve all been thinking since the end of last season – there’s no way that little Valentine is his son. Unfortunately, her parting words have almost definitely blown her niece's cover story, and Elizabeth faces a deeply uncertain future. Would George be capable of hurting her, or the child, if he can prove that Ross is Valentine’s father? Would he use the baby against his arch enemy in some way? Maybe he should be glad he’s not running for public office, after all.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Let’s discuss all this madness in the comments. 

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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