‘Poldark’ finale review: The controversial and compelling Season 2 concludes

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Who is Ross Poldark to you?

Is he selfless or selfish? To be admired or admonished? An idol or an idiot? Sexy or sexist? I’m running out of alliteration now, so hopefully you’ve made up your mind and we can move on to the next paragraph.

The fact is he’s all of these things, it’s just that lately we’ve been seeing the selfish, sexist idiot, rather than the hot mining entrepreneur and amateur topless scythe-wielder we fell in love with last year. And no matter what you’ve thought of him from Sunday to Sunday, the finale of Season 2 establishes Ross as a man who is, if not a hero, then someone who is trying to atone his way back toward that status, one good deed at a time.

Of course placing Ross in a favourable light is a whole lot easier when he’s pitched against a man so evil that thunder and lightning literally crackle when he speaks. George Warleggan, a man who’s always been one call of ‘Release the hounds’ from becoming a Georgian C. Montgomery Burns, finally feels like he’s graduated to being Ross’s arch-nemesis, instead of being just a little prick. In his side, I mean. A prick in his side.

Poldark 2 6 George Warleggan (JACK FARTHING)

He’s got Elizabeth, he’s got Trenwith, and now he’s got a mighty erection. Whoa, hey, minds out of the gutter please. George is getting his wood out. No, stop it, my wife’s aunt reads these reviews. I mean he has a fence built. A mighty wooden fence built all around the Trenwith estate; a structure that’s an intimidating four and a half feet high. He may as well ring-fence the estate with a velvet rope. Well, at least he doesn’t seem to be compensating for anything.

But he does think he’s worthy of compensation for Geoffrey Charles’ shares, and is eager to let Ross know. The confrontation between the two is all testosterone and scowls, like Sixth-formers arguing over a locker, and both Turner and Farthing really get their teeth into it. It’s all a very gentlemanly disagreement, that is until George makes the mistake of telling Ross to go back to his ‘scullery maid’ and then – AWWW SHIIIIIT! – it’s on.

Ross and George engage in the manliest of beat-downs ‘pon one another in a fight far more gristly than their pub scupper in Episode 4. I’d like to say no clocks were harmed in the making of this episode, but that would be a lie.

And though he may have won the fisticuffs, Ross is still far from winning back his wife, no matter how much coin he drops in her hands. And when Demelza tells him about her dalliance with Captain McNeil – sorry, Malcolm – and Ross takes it about as well as you’d expect him to (like a child), all seems over for the pair. Demelza seems set on leaving and Ross considers re-enlisting in the army. Well, if he can’t fix his marriage he can at least take it out on the French. And look good in uniform while doing it.

Poldark 2 7   Dwight Enys (LUKE NORRIS)

Also looking dayum good in uniform, a heartbroken Dr. Dwight joins the Navy. Will he soon start speaking like Captain Blamey or Blamey Jr., perhaps calling his penis the mast, or referring to a man with cannon shrapnel lodged in his buttocks as having been ‘hit below deck’? Gosh I hope so. Hearing that come out of Luke Norris’s hot mouth would be a treat.

Ross, suddenly in good guy mode and eager to thank both Caroline and Dwight for saving him from debtor’s prison, plays matchmaker and reunites them in a scene so pitch-perfectly sappy and romantic that Richard Curtis could have quilled it. I’m surprised Caroline didn’t have some big bits of white card with what she wanted to say to Dwight written on them.

Caroline and Dwight – aka Carolight – reunited, the two enjoy a final night together before Dwight sets sail. And while it’s romantic and pleasing to think of them going at it, it’s also incredibly bittersweet.

I can’t help but feel sorry for Dwight. The whole reason he’s running away to sea is because he couldn’t be with Caroline. Now he is with Caroline so he needn’t join the Navy. But he has to go now because he’s signed up. So that’s however many years of chopping off gangrenous legs, stitching up gunshot wounds, and listening to people like Blamey talk about a problem with their bitts, hawesholes, and the poop (god, nautical terms make for the best innuendo), all when he could be spending his time making out (prescriptions) and making out (with his wife).

Poldark 2 10

Not that it’s all good times and pilchards on dry land. After she’s nearly shot while scaling George Warleggan’s MIGHTY BOUNDARY, Jud and the villagers riot toward Trenwith. And boy do Cornish folk know how to riot. Pitchforks and torches. That’s the kind of angry dedication you usually only get when planning an assault on a mad scientist’s castle.

As the rioters stand-off against George Warleggan and his needlessly fancy four-barrel pistol, it looks like violence is about to be imparted, until a shot rings out and in rides Ross to save the day like the Cornish Lone Ranger (“Hi-Ho Copper, away!”). It’s pitched as an unashamedly heroic moment, and it works. Ross shows he’s still the man of the people he always set out to be, as he calms the mob and also gives George a verbal dressing down to remember.

Not content with smoothing out troubles in Trenwith, he finally sorts out his own troubles at home, and has a conversation with Demelza he should’ve had ages ago.

‘My arrogance, my idiocy, has been spectacular,’ he admits. Hey, no arguments there. But if Poldark teaches us anything, it’s that there’s nothing that a good apology and a hug atop a cliff can’t solve.

Poldark 2 10 Demelza ((ELEANOR TOMLINSON)

However, with warships in the background and a baby of uncertain origin in Elizabeth’s tummy, it’s not so much a ‘happy ever after’ as a ‘happy for now’. But after such a strong season I for one am happy.

Thanks to the hard work of cast and crew, it’s been turbulent and terrific, controversial and compelling (guess the alliteration’s back), and sweetened by the knowledge that there’s more to come.

Whoever Ross is to you, he will return. And I’m up for more. You?


Aired at 9pm on Sunday 6 November 2016 on BBC One.

Buy Season 1 on DVD on Amazon here.

Pre-order Season 2 on Amazon here.

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