Poldark series 3 episode 1 review: A birth, a marriage and a death sees the Aidan Turner drama get off to a flyer

It’s all going down in Cornwall after an eventful return to the world of smugglers and tricorns, says Ben Dowell

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** SPOILER ALERT! DO NOT CONTINUE IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN SERIES THREE EPISODE ONE **

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“A Black Moon…’tis a bad omen” says the brilliant Aunt Agatha (Caroline Blakiston) and the show’s grand dame and resident tarot card reader certainly had her work cut out.

Because we galloped into series three of Poldark (quite literally in the opening scene) with the full gamut of human experience on show – a birth, a marriage and a demise (the unlucky expiree being John Nettles’ Ray Penvenen and more on that later).

But first the birth. A new Warleggan was born tonight after the child’s mum, Heida Reed’s Elizabeth, appeared to hasten the arrival with a pretend fall down the stairs which meant she was able to produce a healthy young lad before she was ‘due’. And the timing wasn’t lost on Agatha.

“Healthy and strong and a month early,” she cackled, but George didn’t seem to mind, seemingly oblivious to the fact that this boy is probably so much the product of Ross’s loins that he may even have a tiny scar on his cheek (that was Aidan Turner’s own joke by the way, made at the press screening).

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It almost made you feel sorry for George until we learned what he had decided to call the wee lad: Valentine.

I’ve got nothing against the name but, let’s be honest, it may get him teased at school. Also, if Valentine is Ross Junior, it’s hardly a name traditionally redolent of shipwrecks, smuggling and soldierly derring do. The kind of things Ross does so well.

But of course Captain Poldark had nothing to do with the choice. He was forced to watch from outside Trenwith as the child came into this world – and he wasn’t the only one shut out of proceedings. Aunt Agatha was taken out of the room by Warleggan’s men who removed her, still sitting on her chair, in a most undignified manner. She won’t forget that in a hurry.

The dastardly Warleggan has clearly turned his fire on the grande dame. He will be gunning for Geoffrey Charles next, the son of Elizabeth and Francis who has developed a dangerous habit of answering his stepfather back.

Meanwhile, the marriage, of course, belonged to Dwight and Caroline, though Dwight being Dwight, misfortune struck just as the consummation hour dawned. He was called away to tend to Elizabeth, leaving his poor bride alone for the one evening that they had together before he was forced to return to his boat to fight the French.

And yes, there was also death. John Nettles’ Ray, a mixed bag of affection and grouchy patriarchal intolerance, breathed his last by embracing his good side and wishing Caroline happiness after learning, finally, that she had indeed married the man she loved.

But dark clouds are brewing and the bad omen of a Black Moon (which is – confusingly – actually red) probably still has a part to play, no doubt where some of the new characters are concerned.

We met Demelza’s brothers tonight and they have the word trouble written over their shiny young faces – religious-minded Sam may be OK but I have my concerns about fun-loving Drake who has already taken a fancy to Elizabeth’s governess Morwenna (Ellise Chappell).

Poor Prudie is alone, I’m sad to say, after Jud mysteriously disappeared from the series (he is present in the books, so perhaps actor Phil Davis has had enough of the role). But I think she’ll be OK. She missed Jud, she said, like a “ruptured spleen”. Maybe a new suitor can be found?

And as for Ross, well, he and Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) have found a peace of sorts after his night of passion with Elizabeth in the last series. At one point we actually found him mending a roof, as clear a metaphor as you will see in any TV drama. But problems are bound to surface again. When don’t they as far as he’s concerned?

And they will probably involve George Warleggan in some way, even if Ross reached an understanding with his arch enemy in which they agreed that the two families would not see each other again.

Good luck with that one, chaps…

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Poldark season three airs on Sundays, 9/8c, PBS Masterpiece