‘Poldark’ Season 2 Episode 9 review: Eleanor Tomlinson is particularly fantastic this week

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After last week’s episode the Internet jury is still out on whether Ross Poldark is a rapist.

Some of the audience think not, others think so. A drama about sexy mining has suddenly become a sex-offending minefield.

Seeing the reaction over the past week has been like watching 12 Angry Men, if 12 Angry Men was written 140 characters at a time, often in caps lock, and had Henry Fonda speaking only in Emoji.

All of which means that this week some of you are watching a mansplaining, quixotic anti-hero, while others are watching a prestige Sunday night BBC drama about a sex offender who owns a tin mine. And the latter’s really the kind of ‘BBC One Tuesday night’ territory that Jimmy McGovern has likely already pitched while perched on a beanbag at Broadcasting House.

Writer Debbie Horsfield says it isn’t/wasn’t/t’in’t/twisn’t. Many newspapers, keen for clicks and comments, declared it was. Aunt Agatha seems glad that they’ve both come. (Come to their senses that is.) You’ll no doubt have your own opinion.

As for my view? I’m just grateful for your company. Come sit by the glow of a TV screen with me and warm yersel’ a while.

Poldark 2 9 Captain McNeil (HENRY GARRETT)

Long before people could vent through a keyboard without having to put in in an envelope after and pay for a stamp, Clive James (the patron saint of TV reviewers) famously skewered the 1970s adaptation of Poldark to the wall with the pithy critique that Poldark was an anagram for Old Krap. The way people have been talking, you can’t say the same about this new adaptation of Pork Lad – sorry, Poldark. Damn anagrams.

This week especially, it’s far from krap. No matter what your thought of last week’s final scenes, we’re now in the smouldering blast crater of a marriage wrecked by infidelity. Ross Poldark (anagrammatised spells Sparks Drool, which is apt, as that’s what he did to fans before half of them thought him a danger to women) is now consigned to the doghouse.

Not the actual doghouse mind – Garrick gets to kip in that because he is a one-woman dog. Whosagoodboy!

Poldark 2 Ross Poldark (AIDAN TURNER)

Every scene between Ross and Demelza is…well, it’s normal. It’s exactly as you’d expect the breakdown of a marriage to proceed in the wake of a brutal abuse of trust. There’s the barely-hidden fury and the fumbled contrition; the calm and the storm; the pointed barbs and the unfortunate words.

Is it slightly soapy? Yes, a touch, but the performances cut through what could be a real lather. Eleanor Tomlinson is particularly fantastic; retaining the vulnerability at the core of Demelza while still being a force not to be reckoned with. She walloped Ross last week but her most devastating blows this Sunday are delivered verbally. While Elizabeth is prevaricating and fainting, Demelza shows herself to be the strongest person this side of Truro.

Strong, but not incapable of making mistakes. With Ross away cavorting with his first love, (a hole in the ground) Demelza attends Sir Hugh Jass’s ball. I know that’s not his surname, but Sir Hugh is a huge ass, and if the pun fits…

Poldark 2 9 Hugh Bodrugan (PATRICK RYECART), Margaret (CRYSTAL LEAITY)

Actually every bloke in this week’s Poldark is a huge ass. From George Warleggan ordering his Smithers, Tankard, to seduce Demelza, to Sir Hugh flipping a coin with Tankard to essentially see who gets to commit sexual assault. The only exception is Dwight, who’s too busy surgically examining what looks like a veal cutlet to misuse his penis. No surprise there. Anagrammatise Doctor Dwight Enys and you get ‘Is Not Dodgy Wretch’. And a dodgy wretch he is not.

But Captain McNeil – sorry, Malcolm – does reveal himself as a dodgy wretch. Demelza plans on a revenge bedding, and he and his moustache are well up for it. It’s all rather embarrassing and cringey at how eager he is to have sex, then even more embarrassing and cringey watching him turn into a moustachioed man-baby when Demelza comes to her senses and pushes him away.

Thank goodness she does and we’re spared another scene that would have Twitter all a-flutter. Demelza knows her own mind and knows that she’s better than Ross. No argument here. Unlike her husband she’s strong enough to resist urges, and presumably strong enough to shimmy herself out of a first story window too, given how she makes her exit.

Poldark 2 Elizabeth (HEIDA REED)

Unable to shimmy herself out of her marital obligations, Elizabeth marries George (in my head I’ve fanfic’d that Tankard was the best man), and frankly you can’t blame her. Unless you’re a big hole with the prospect of valuable metals in you, that man ain’t interested. Ross is married to his mine. Even his apology to Demelza is framed through the success of his business, as if one big lode might solve a load of trouble…

And oooh boy is there still trouble. Nothing is solved in this, the penultimate episode of the Poldark Misadventure Annual 2016. If anything it’s all getting worse. But the worse it gets for Ross, the better it becomes to watch. Delicious adversity brings out the best in Debbie Horsfield’s script and the entire cast’s performance. Which means that next week’s finale should be an episode of Alp Dork to remember.

Sorry, I meant Poldark. Damn anagrams.


Aired at 9pm on Sunday 30 October 2016 on BBC One.

Buy Season 1 on DVD on Amazon here.

Pre-order Season 2 on Amazon here.

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