It seems there’s been a little bit of confusion, so I just want to clear something up: this season is not based on any of Graham’s Poldark novels. This is a definite break from previous seasons, which did follow the novels, but the writer and creators didn’t want to follow Graham’s 10-year progression with the story, so this season is entirely off book.
Most of the major players are off in London, so we’ll start with Cornwall and what’s happening down there.
First off, there’s Tess. I hate this character so much already, and we’re only two episodes in. She’s apparently planning to seduce Ross and, I don’t know, get rid of Demelza somehow? Eh, whatever. We all know it won’t work and did I mention I hate her? Not gonna waste much time with her just now.
Drake and Morwenna. Oh, dear. They’re struggling. Their marriage is still basically at the handholding only stage, and it doesn’t look like it’s moving past that anytime soon. Drake wants to move to the next stage–he even brings up having kids, which seems like a really poor idea with a woman so deeply traumatised she can’t even handle being kissed. That’s just going to scare her, Drake! Not that I blame him for wanting more out of a marriage than sisterly companionship, but these things need to be handled delicately, and it’s not as if he didn’t know what he was getting into.
And this is clearly eating away at Morwenna as well. She feels badly for being unable to be a full wife to Drake, who is lovely and deserves to be loved. But Oswald damaged her so deeply it’d be a wonder if she ever managed to come out from under it. I have to give the show props for actually showing how lasting sexual trauma can be. Most fiction shows everyone cured by just meeting the right person, which is ridiculous.
Then there’s little Valentine Warleggan, who is, for some reason, living at Trenwith, along with his baby sister. Why aren’t they at the Warleggan home? Doesn’t Trenwith belong to Geoffrey Charles? Or was it lost to the Warleggans at some point? I can’t quite recall (sorry!) The poor little kid’s got his hopes up, because his addled father has promised to bring his mother home from London. Yikes! Morwenna, when she hears this, tries to gently explain to the tyke that this isn’t possible but it doesn’t seem like she makes much headway. I think he probably gets that something’s up, though, when his dad arrives home all, ‘Look! I brought Mum!’ and there’s no one there.
Yeah, George is in a bad way. Although there is one scene, between him and Ross, when it’s clear he knows (at least in that moment) that Elizabeth is dead, the rest of the time he’s chatting with her as if she’s there and it’s completely freaking Carey out. As it would. Though at least GhostLiz is doling out some good advice re: investing with Hanson, who’s so desperate to get the Warleggans to sign on the dotted line I’m starting to suspect he’s running some sort of con here. Elizabeth certainly seems to think so, warning George that he doesn’t know this man and this seems risky. George freaks out and no deal is signed. Carey drags him back to Cornwall and Hanson follows, accompanied by Cecily.
Cecily is secretly delighted by this, because she and Geoffrey Charles definitely have a thing going on. It’s friendly for now, but looks like it could be something more. Both Demelza and Caroline are a bit concerned, because this seems likely to end only in tears, so they remove Geoffrey Charles from London and take him back to Cornwall with them at episode’s end.
And they’re heading home because the boys, as always, have created a tangle for themselves.
Ned Despard is freed, but since there was no trial, a cloud still hangs over him. He’s determined to clear his name and regain his position. And, of course, try and find out who made the utterly false claim that he was working against the Crown’s interests. He thinks this is a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top, so naturally he and Ross throw themselves right into it.
Ross starts asking around, looking for Ned’s former secretary, Ballantine, who could give a true account of Ned’s behaviour in Honduras and clear his name. But Ballantine is keeping his head down because, you know, there are powerful forces out to destroy Ned and everyone connected with him. Ballantine finally meets Ross in a tavern and tells him that Ned’s a good guy, but his habit of treating black people like actual human beings really put the rich planters’ noses out of joint. Ross asks him to share his side of the story, but Ballantine is interested in remaining alive and declines.
He later reconsiders, though, and sends Ross his full story in writing. He doesn’t name names in it, but gives enough clues that most people could figure out who he was kind of slagging off. Ross decides to take this and have it printed into pamphlets to distribute to the MPs who did not start booing when Ross spoke out against slavery in the House.
Demelza decides to take these pamphlets to the park and start distributing them, aided by Kitty and Caroline. When Ross finds out, he freaks out a tiny bit, because there’s a difference between discreetly giving these to friends and handing them around to all and sundry. But apparently Ross has finally realised that Demelza’s gonna do her thing, and she means well, so he’s not going to get angry about it. So nice to see them really getting along and communicating!
But of course this means that the pamphlet is all over London, and in the hands of those who are not friendly to this particular cause. Hands like Hansen’s. He takes it to whomever the big bad is–someone so evil he sits around petting a hawk, like, suck it, Blofeld–and complains and says that Ballantine should be taken care of.
And he is. Poor guy eventually gets fished out of the Thames. Very dead.
Meanwhile, Enys has been summoned to give a talk about mental health to fellow physicians, which is really baffling to me. Is he some expert in this area? I don’t recall that ever having been mentioned. This feels a little awkward.
Naturally, he talks all about how people with mental health problems should be treated with kindness and humanity, and the fellow doctors are all, ‘What is this nonsense?’ But one man is interested: the defence lawyer for the king’s would-be assassin.
He has Enys take a look at the man, who’s about to go on trial, and Enys thinks he looks pretty crazy. It’s likely the head wounds he received while serving in the army did it. Enys takes the stand in the man’s defence and convinces the judge that the man is too crazy to be competent. So, he’ll be committed instead of executed. When he hears that, Enys gets sad and thinks execution would have been better than a lifetime in Bedlam, but honestly, Dwight, what did you think was going to happen? Did you think they were going to just let him walk free?
Nevertheless, Enys’s defence of an almost-royal assassin, plus the pamphlets and the close association with Ned are making it look like Ross may have revolutionary leanings himself. It’s Hansen who first starts drawing that conclusion, and even though George, who would love to see Ross hanged as a traitor, is like, ‘This is quite a reach, my friend,’ it’s not long before Wickham’s starting to say the exact same thing. Is Wickham Hansen’s evil, hawk-loving boss? Or is it that one magistrate who voted not to toss Ned in prison? Considering how much effort they’re making to turn this into a big reveal, it’s got to be someone we know, and it’s probably not any of the main cast men, so…
Anyway, Wickham tells Ross he has to prove his loyalty. And he can do that by spying on Ned and Kitty. Ross isn’t willing to do that, so he decides the best thing to do is just pack everyone up and head back to Cornwall. Demelza’s all for it, because she’s noticed they’re being followed everywhere by the world’s worst tail, and she’s never much liked London anyway. Plus, she wants to get Geoffrey Charles away from the temptations of Cecily and the gambling houses, so there’s that.
Poldarks, Enyses, Despards, Warleggans, and Hansens all hit the road. But Ross and Co run into Hansen at an inn along the way and things get super tense between Hansen and Ned very quickly. It’s only a matter of time before this particular pot boils over, eh?