This review contains spoilers.
Set the dramatic drums a-beating and start the soaring strings – Ross Poldark’s off on another heroic mission. In the opening scene, babe-in-arms Clowance mewled at the prospect of her dad’s derring-do but she’ll soon learn. Recklessness and Ross Poldark go together like Prudie and rum, like Caroline Penvenen and glorious hats, like Tholly and the clap.
In non-communicable disease news, like some kind of street urchin little Valentine Warleggan has been diagnosed with rickets, which upset George no end. A Warleggan child must only contract the illnesses of the wealthy – gout, say, or whatever it is that’s wrong with Gwyneth Paltrow. Displaying characteristic compassion, George testily declared “my son will not be deformed!” and got on with the business of standing behind the gentry at parties and trying to catch a whiff of their superior farts.
Adding to George’s chagrin was the fact that Ross can’t seem to stop doing right in the eyes of his betters. This week he inadvertently rescued the nephew of Lord Falmouth (the saucy Lieutenant Armitage) from a French hellhole. Next week, he’ll probably scoop up a kitten from a well that turns out to belong to George III and be rewarded with the Lord Mayoralty of the Isle of Wight.
George was satisfied, at least, that Morwenna must be having a perfectly miserable time at Trenwith. Cut to Morwenna at Trenwith, laughing her head off. The provocation for her mirth? Some toads. (This being long before the advent of the viral video, toads were about as entertaining as eighteenth century life got).
No doubt due to a marked lack of toads, Dwight’s Quimper prison guards had devised other means of entertainment, namely, waiting for Dr Enys to have nursed a man to the brink of health and then shooting him dead for a laugh. Where’s the Geneva Convention when you need it?
About one hundred and fifty years away, which is roughly how long it looks like it’ll take before society will accept Drake and Morwenna’s love, despite everyone having got over his sister and Ross’ similarly uneven match by the end of series one.
Between last week’s kiss and this week’s toad-jubilance, Drake and Morwenna’s friendship had gone beyond the bounds of common acquaintance alright. They’d been laughing near ponds like nobody’s business and sneaking into the rhododendron walk for furtive squeezings – something that hadn’t escaped the gimlet-eyed attention of Aunt Agatha.
Agatha was the latest do-gooder to warn Morwenna off her low-born beau. Eventually, the governess bowed to social pressure and took Drake out to the woods to shoo him away like an unwanted Jack Russell. Go on, git, I never liked you anyway, she lied, throwing a stick for him to chase into the undergrowth. When poor Drake bounded back bearing said stick in his mouth, Miss Morwenna was nowhere to be seen and the boy was left as limp as a ragdoll.
The pain of a broken heart drove Drake Carne first to stand moodily on a clifftop in silhouette, and then to stow away on Ross’ perilous mission. “I’m fearless and steadfast and fierce” he pleaded with his brother-in-law. “And look, I’m wearing the hat of a Smurf and everything,” his eyes seemed to add. Ross agreed to let him join the mission and get himself shot if he liked, which was kind.
Drake duly did get himself shot, but not as shot as Captain Henshawe, who sadly perished on French soil. To anyone familiar with the rules of war movies, Henshawe looked marked for death from the off. First he gave a speech letting Ross’ conscience entirely off the hook in the event of his demise, and then he was treated to a moment of explosive heroism involving a mining blast that saved the day.
“Living’s a risk,” said Henshawe, “so tonight, I’ll take my chance.” He gambled with his life and lost, but died a hero. It was all very sad, but remembering that the average life expectancy of a Cornishman in those days was nine years old, he’d had a good innings. His funeral also involved some very pretty harmonising courtesy of the Carne siblings, very much the Osmonds of their day.
With its in-joke about the Latin name for scurvy, Caroline and Dwight’s reunion left a little to be desired on the romance front, but then, Dwight having been a prisoner of war for some months, he was looking like someone on Day 5 of Glastonbury so a certain distance is to be expected.
Without a touch of scurvy on her is the redoubtable Aunt Agatha, currently planning her one hundredth birthday celebrations. That’s not the sort of invitation George is likely to covet. Ross will be there, for a start, which will stymie George’s favourite party game of stalking about and whispering scurrilous rumours about his nemesis into teacups. Lord, posh people’s parties look dull. No wonder Ross would rather break into pestilent prisons than attend them.
Speaking of pestilent prisons, the Reverend Whitworth made a return appearance. Impatient to seal the deal with Morwenna, he cornered her at the Tregothnan gathering and performed the conversational equivalent of humping the furniture. She can only delay for so long. Everybody cross their fingers that Morwenna hits a spot of luck and contracts TB before the month is out.
Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode here.