Blimey. Poldark always has a habit of upping the ante just before the finale and in the showstopping penultimate episode we got a very explicit Ross/Demelza sex scene, a duel, a sudden paternity-related crack in the George/Elizabeth marriage and a showdown between Morwenna and Drake.
First to the duel. It started with the attempted seduction of Demelza by the reckless Monk Adderley and ended up in Hyde Park with Aidan Turner’s hero and the Monk Man walking 14 paces from each other and firing.
The Monk got a (musket) ball in the groin. It was an apt touch by Poldark’s Winston Graham, and not something that screenwriter Debbie Horsfield was going to squander.
Monk eventually carked it. Ross injured his arm and pulled through, criminal suspicion now clinging to him like the mist that rose that fateful Hyde Park autumn morning.
It was a tense and exciting showdown – both parties could have stopped after the first shot missed, but Monk (a rather inappropriate name for one so debauched, noticed Demelza) decided to carry on. It was like he was on a death wish, something which actor Max Bennett did not disguise in his deliciously over-the-top performance.
But it was his seduction of Demelza that really made me laugh. He was a ridiculous fool, old Monk, with his creepy looks, licking his fingers at the buffet as he told her about how “there are two things I like best, to fight and to make love”. He reminded me a bit of Swiss Toni, Charlie Higson’s Fast Show character for whom everything in life was to be compared to “making love to a beautiful woman”.
“She’s a miner’s daughter,” Ross told Monk’s girlfriend Andromeda, meaning she can hold her own – and he’s right on that. The Demelza we have seen in recent weeks would have told Monk where to get off, no messing about. Except she didn’t this time.
Which left me wondering: wouldn’t her renewed relationship with Ross (see the soft focus sex scene below) – and her awareness of the impact of infidelity after Hugh-gate – be grounds for Demelza to be more resolute in the face of this primped pervert, rather than allow a situation that spiralled into said duel? It felt implausible for Adderley’s manipulation to have such an impact on the Poldarks – a clunky plot device needed to allow for the high drama of flintlocks being fired.
And while Ross may have won the duel, would he really have thrown away his life, making orphans of his children, for the idiotic Adderley? He’s hot-headed, our Ross, but that was pushing it.
The explanation we got came from Caroline. “You know men and their codes of honour,” she told Demelza. “Ross would have lost respect if he had not fought.” I was not terribly convinced by that either.
Still, it was a dramatic showdown, with a slight comic touch – Dwight carrying his medical bag for the inevitable emergency and warning Ross to stop and if we wasn’t going to stop, to mind out for The Watch (18th century Old Bill) who would be on to them in a jiffy.
Fortunately, Dwight managed to save Ross’ arm, depriving him of the chance, in Geoffrey Charles’ words, to engage in a “hook fight” with piratical Tholly Tregirls when he got back in Cornwall.
Geoffrey Charles’ other attempt at levity led to the episode’s other big moment – George’s sudden realisation that young Valentine was Ross’ child. We viewers had noticed for some time that the little fella’s flowing locks, spirited air and skill as a horseman (George had bought him a rocking horse called Aurelia) showed how he was obviously Ross’ offspring. But not George. Not completely. Or at least not until Geoffrey Charles praised the “pleasant family scene” and blurted out: “Lord! Why have I not noticed this before? Is he not the very spit and image of Uncle Ross?”.
And then all hell broke loose. George gave one of his disgusted looks, wouldn’t talk to his wife, and even threw money (proper old times money which is really heavy) in Ross’ face. Oh dear. I can’t see Elizabeth having a particularly stress-free pregnancy now – and I rather fear for her health.
The third narrative plank saw Morwenna movingly explain to Drake why she sent him packing earlier in the series. Her abuse at the hands of Osborne had made her unable to consider being touched by another man, even someone like Drake whom she loved. It was a beautiful scene which threw into sharp relief the slightly melodramatic nature of what had preceded it.
Still, I better not gripe too much. Poldark’s still great. The series finale is almost upon us and all bets are off. Will Ross get done for the duel (a hanging offence, we were reminded)? Will Elizabeth survive pregnancy? And will George finally get one over on his Poldark nemesis?
As we have said many times before, hold on to ‘yer Tricorns, guys. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.
This article was originally published on 22 July 2018