There’s something about Poldark’s George Warleggan that makes me want to put my fist through a TV screen – in a good way, mind you.
The nefarious nemesis of Aidan Turner’s Cornish Casanova may be an “upstart poodle”, but with every Machiavellian machination and near defeat of the tricorn clad hero, Jack Farthing’s George almost convinces you that Poldark’s tale, written years before the series ever aired, might yet change.
Of course Ross is going to get off the hook – he’s already filming series three and no flashback warrants that many episodes. But Farthing’s George is rather good at making us believe that both the Captain and his lovely lady wife are in real danger every time he appears on screen.
If only the same could be said for the comical Victorian villains scowling up a storm on ITV.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m thoroughly hooked on Jenna Coleman’s cracking 8 episode adventure in a royal wonderland, it’s just that her adversaries feel as though they’ve stepped out of the pages of a children’s cartoon (let’s say something like Dogtanian and the Three Muskerhounds – ed.) rather than the history books.
From the cane wielding child catcher Sir John Conroy – who’d clearly tweak the tips of his facial fluff on a weekly basis had he been blessed with a moustache instead of incredibly angular mutton chops – to the far too stereotypically German relatives (the Duchess of Cumberland could pass for an artist’s impression of Bette Midler’s Winnie in a German Hocus Pocus remake) Victoria’s villains come complete with their own “bad guy” soundtrack and just stop short of laughing maniacally while winking down the camera.
In episode 2, for example, Sir John and the Duke of Cumberland find themselves having something of a villain’s conference in a large circular room, where they discuss how best to paint the picture of a young queen who’s gone out of her wits. And the whole conversation is set to the tune of some good old fashioned menacing “baddie” music.
You’d be forgiven for thinking the duo just stopped short of strapping our Vicky into a chair, pointing a laser beam at her head, and shouting “vee have vays of makink you talk”.
Cumberland and his power hungry wife continue to discuss Victoria’s potential demise on a weekly basis – drink every time they mention Charlotte dying in childbirth and you’ll be well oiled – leaving us little reason to doubt that they are in fact Baron and Baroness Bomburst from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Below stairs the scheming servants don’t fare much better.
The cynical Penge, Victoria’s answer to O’Brien and Thomas Barrow rolled into one, has a weekly scheme cooked up to cause trouble for head of the household, Victoria’s beloved Lehzen. And each run-in is so predictable that it’s tough to feel any sense of real danger awaits her when next she clashes with him.
Meanwhile, in Cornwall, it feels as though Demelza is very much in danger during every encounter with the devious George Warleggan.
Every time the banker outplays Mrs Poldark the sense of despair and dread deepens, leaving you wondering how on earth Romelza (as the series’ most beloved pairing is known among fans online) will possibly worm their way out of this one.
It’s almost unbearable to watch him thwart every attempt Demelza makes to save her husband’s skin. As she’s overcome with fear and dread when Warleggan turns the tables against her, it’s impossible not to feel as frustrated as the maid of Illogan.
Captain Poldark may not want to beg favours from the “upstart poodle”, but Victoria’s cartoonish villains could certainly do with taking a leaf out of his book.
Victoria and Poldark continue on ITV and BBC1 respectively on Sunday nights at 9pm