No time for verbal innuendo this week: Poldark’s getting straight down to business.
Ross Poldark’s Kickstarter copper mine is finally up and running, take that, Margaret Thatcher. What’s that? The Iron Lady won’t be born for another one hundred and forty years? Typical sneaky Westminster tactics.
Against the sneers of the bankers, Ross is defiantly pro-labour; in that he labours down in the mine with the happiest group of diggers since the Seven Dwarves. Is there nothing the man won’t do to win admiration?
Call it The Poldark Effect. No, not that sensation you get watching Adrian Turner scythe topless in shameless slo-mo, but that Ross Poldark seems pathologically driven to do the right thing, no matter the cost to him or how many pieces of rock he has to chuck.
It’s refreshing to have a hero so uncomplicated – bordering on the unimpeachable – but this week it becomes aggravating as he unsuccessfully defends idiot poacher Jim Carter – a man he has already helped several times – in court. Poldark’s wasting his time playing QC on a man it’s hard to have sympathy for. Punish him with transportation: he might end up in Banished.
Obsessively quick to be an every-hero, Poldark’s positioned as the moral antipode to his cousin Francis, who divides his time between dicking about on a horse, dicking about with the one prostitute in the town, and trying to score with his wife while she’s still recovering from childbirth.
It’s a shame that birthing a Poldarkling is the most exciting thing Heida Reed has had to do in three episodes as she appears to be an actress capable of far more than she’s being given. Perhaps the fault is in Winston Graham’s original text, or maybe Debbie Horsfield’s interpretation of it into script, but Elizabeth is more of a lady-shaped prop than she is a character.
Francis and Elizabeth’s relationship is on the rocks, but Ross and Demelza’s is getting so heated that their rocks have now melted down into a boiling hot love lava, oozing and steaming all over your screen. Phwaor. It’s a burn that builds across the episode, starting with Ross looking lovingly at Demelza and ending with the sexual tension cranked up to breeches-splitting, skirt-rustling levels as Ross undoes the dress she shouldn’t have been wearing.
One thing to really admire about Poldark is that it doesn’t confuse passion with sex; so Ross undoing Demelza’s dress and the two then giving in to their urges is thigh-quiveringly sensual, but doesn’t leave you as a viewer feeling voyeuristic or embarrassingly leery. Drenched in an intense hormonal musk and without showing so much as a cheeky peek at a bum cheek, it’s the most arousing scene on TV in a long time. That sort of thing takes skill.
With Ross having demonstrated to Demelza how the bed works, he feels another urge coming on. No, no that one again, but the need/desire (and it’s hard to tell whether it is more need or desire) to make an honest woman out of her and marry her. It’s the Poldark Effect again: the man is pathologically driven to do the right thing, although this time you’re rather glad. They’re such a good-looking couple, watching them is like staring at the Sun.
So, happily ever-after then? Give over, it’s only Week 3. There’s still plenty of chance for married strife. But this was a satisfying and succulent slice of what’s turning into one of the best BBC period dramas, period. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m feeling rather flustered…
Aired at 9pm on Sunday 22 March 2015 on BBC One.
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