Poldark Season 5, Episode 3 starts well enough. Ross (Aidan Turner) and Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) are walking along the cliffs of Cornwall, affirming their love and kissing in the golden light of the sun. This is literally everything I have ever wanted from the show Poldark: just Ross and Demelza happy, in love, and making out on a cliff. End the show right now! Do it! But alas, Poldark doesn’t know when to quit. What transpires in this episode is an avalanche of drama that boggled my mind.
Caroline (Gabriella Wilde) is so upset when she sees how lovely Kitty Despard (Kerri McLean) is treated by the racists in Cornwall that she decides to throw a party to…uh…end racism? It’s a bad idea from the get-go, made additionally terrible by the fact that Caroline invites literally everyone. She’s invited Ross and Demelza, their enemies Hanson (Peter Sullivan), Lady Whitworth (Rebecca Front), and Uncle Warleggan (Pip Torrens), their friends Ned (Vincent Regan) and Kitty, Morwenna (Ellise Chappell) and Drake (Harry Richardson). Everyone is there, including some super racist doctor who hates Dwight (Luke Norris) and science.
Uncle Warleggan is intrigued by the super racist, science-hating doctor. You see, Sir George Warleggan (Jack Farthing) has only gotten worse this week. His delusions are so bad that he thinks he’s seeing the ghost of Elizabeth (Heida Reed) enmeshed in Ross’s arms. Since Sir George sleeps with pistol, as you do, he literally fires off a shot and thankfully misses his uncle. Still Uncle Warleggan is concerned. When the bad doctor tells him that he can cure mental illness, he rushes the doc to Trenwith, where the doctor immediately starts torturing Sir George.
It’s important to note that this is happening while the party from hell is still going on. Morwenna summons up the courage to confront her mean, abusive, dead husband’s mean, abusive living mother, Lady Whitworth. She asks how her son is and is promptly told he’s a spoiled weakling who doesn’t remember her. If that’s not bad enough, Kitty Despard also gets to have a dramatic confrontation with Hanson. It is revealed that he raped her when she was a 12-year-old slave in Honduras — and he is unapologetic about it! The man is like Jeffrey Epstein, but in a cravat! Ross barely pulls Ned away from a fight only to start his own minutes later. Ross Poldark is not a man to let an Epstein go un-punched!
At this very moment, as Sir George is getting leached, drowned, and straight-jacketed, and while Ross is starting a fight with a slave-owning child rapist, Sam (Tom York) rushes in to announce there’s been a terrible accident at the Warleggan mine, Wheal Leisure. A bunch of workers — mostly poor, starving, illiterate children with scurvy (hey, scurvy’s back this week!) — are trapped in a collapsed mine. Uncle Warleggan decides that they will just have to close the mine forever, leaving the workers to die. Ho-hum. Naturally, Ross won’t let that happen. He and the boys plot a secret rescue mission to blast into the Warleggan mine and save some kid we met this episode and a bunch more nameless dregs.
The rescue mission is fraught with danger. So much so, Ross literally tells a worried Demelza, “I intend to leave all the risk to Ned.” The risk involved? Explosives. Who loves gunpowder? Ned. So, in a way, Ross wasn’t being a jerk. He was just being a good friend, letting Ned do what he loves. So the boys rush a cave and Ned sets off an explosion, and Demelza’s brothers and Dwight share a literal, “WTF are we doing?” moment. I, too, wrote, “What the f*ck is happening?!?!” in my notes when the literal DEATH CHASM appeared.
Undeterred by a death pit so potent in its bleak terror you’d think it was from Greek mythology, or at least an Indiana Jones movie, Ned Despard makes a wild leap across. He does not make it. Ross Poldark, our hero, does. He then directs the boys to help him create a sort of bridge to move bodies across and to safety. The boys work diligently and carry all the men and boys out, and while some are dead and some lose legs, the boy we met this very episode is alive. Ross carries him out of the cave like he’s some sort of Cornish Superman Jesus, which basically is the best way to summarize Poldark to people who haven’t seen it.
Ned immediately wants “vittles” to celebrate. He’s like a man who’s snorted cocaine with viagra. Nothing can keep him down. So, an impromptu party starts up at Nampara. The only Debbie Downer in the whole thing is Dwight, who confesses to Demelza that his old war buddy Ned is maybe not entirely mentally sound. Throughout this episode — heck, this season — we’ve been repeatedly warned that Ned is not a good guy to associate with. But Ross can’t ever let one of his boys down, and Ned is the original “boy.”
Speaking of Ross’s boys, little Valentine (Woody Norman — what a cute name for a cute, small boy!) is so neglected, so shell-shocked by the sight of Sir George’s treatment, that he wanders out of the house on his own. Thankfully, his older brother Geoffrey Charles (Freddie Hanson) spots him while he’s out flirt-walking with Cecily Hanson (Lily Dodsworth-Evans). GC takes his brother along to Nampara, where for a brief moment, Ross doesn’t seem to know what to do with his probable illicit love child. But then he and Demelza welcome lil’ V and encourage him to play with his probable siblings. All is well.
Except not for Sir George. He has been tied up and straight-jacketed in his own bed. His one salvation comes in the form of his lazy-ass maid. She’s come to feed him porridge, but since she can’t be bothered to spoon-feed her own employer, she unbuckles one of his hands and just leaves the spoon with him. As soon as she leaves the room, Sir George springs into action and makes a literal run for it.
George goes to the one place where anyone in Cornwall can always find safety and comfort: Nampara. However, rather than knock on the door, humble himself before his rivals, and scream, “Help, my uncle has hired an idiot to torture me!”, he just stands at the window. He stares at the lovely image of Ross Poldark sitting with a happy Valentine. It’s maybe the first time lil’ V has ever looked happy on this show. It’s too much for George to bear, and he wanders off — but not before Dwight notices a ghostly specter outside.
George is about to jump off a cliff to his death when Dwight saves him. George is all like, “Why did you do that?” and instead of saying, “I am bound by a Hippocratic oath,” Dwight simply says, “You looked like you were about to fall.” Dwight really does save George, though. He returns him to Trenwith and explains to Uncle Warleggan that the wackjob doctor he hired is not only wrong, but inflicting more harm on a man who is obviously grieving his beloved wife.
So all’s well that ends well. GC and Ross escort Valentine home (and lil’ V reveals that his father is sick), Hanson’s plains to align with Sir George are once more foiled, and Ross convinces Uncle Warleggan to pay GC’s first year of military school. It’s all great, except, as Ross and Demelza discuss, Ned is a dangerous friend to have, especially since Ross’s spymaster is out for him. Dun-dun-dun.
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