A man swims across a tumbling sea, his muscular bare chest fighting against the thundering waves, his only item of clothing a pair of linen shorts that cling tightly to his hard legs.
The man strides out of the sea, shakes his wet mane of black hair and…. it’s Ross Poldark. Why of course it is.
“I saw you swim away,” his wife Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) says cheerfully as she walks from the sand dunes with their children to meet him on the shore.
“No, I’m still here,” he replies, in remarks that are awash with meaning for fans of the show.
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Because, you will not have forgotten, fellow Poldarkians, that at the end of series three the pair had a few marital issues, culminating in Demelza’s decision to take her lover Hugh Armitage among the same sand dunes and (we presume) have sex with him. But Ross is, as he says, still “here” even if they have a bit to do to repair their marriage.
In fact, one of the noticeable things about the first episode of the new series is the rather modern way these two talk about their problems. The issue is not addressed directly but in their many solemn chats by the fireside and the many meaningful looks they exchange over the hour-long course of the drama, Ross is clearly in no doubt about what happened between Demelza and Hugh (Joshua Whitehouse). In fact they talk openly about his love for her, even if our Ross is clearly too much of a gentleman to quiz his wife directly on what precisely took place.
Hugh meanwhile, is stuck in his big house, dealing with chronic headaches and issues with his eyesight. Just before his dalliance with Demelza he told her that he was going to go blind – and it looks like that fate may befall him. He can still see well enough to write her his (to my mind, god awful) poems, mind you.
But at least he has politics to distract him. Yes, Pitt the Prime Minister has called an election and all of Cornwall is hit with election fever. Dastardly George Warleggan (Jack Farthing) will have to fight for his seat – but will Hugh be his opponent? That seems to be on the cards. Or, wait for it, will all the Poldark pre-publicity about Ross becoming an MP mean that…. Ross will stand for Parliament and win?
I think we know the answer to that one and our hero’s likely motive is also apparent in the opening episode – an incident of such savage injustice at the hands of George against someone Ross knows well that he cannot but refuse to become a politician for a second time. He is reminded of that fact about ten thousand times in the episode as well, just for good measure.
There’s also some more fine work from Christian Brassington whose Reverend Osborne Whitworth is perhaps even more ghastly than he was before. Which if you know Osborne Whitworth is going it a bit.
The sex-crazed, toe-sucking cleric’s dalliance with his wife’s sister has been uncovered and poor Morwenna is cowering at home, refusing to grant him access to her body.
But he’s still peeping in through the keyhole, spying on her and getting aroused. And when it comes to the injustice meted out to the friend of Ross’s I have just spoken about? Let’s just say the Revd O doesn’t exactly demonstrate the full New Testament values of forgiveness, mercy and compassion. He’s more of a ‘side with the poshos’ kind of person when it comes to social justice.
That’s about all I can say without spoiling any of this for you. Except to add that it’s as hugely satisfying as ever. As I think I have made clear, beefcake watchers will have nothing to complain about. But all the other usual Poldark ingredients are there too – high drama, humour, hugely watchable characters and more wonderful, breathtaking scenery. Even in those rare moments when a shirtless Mr Turner’s not around.
Poldark season four starts on Sunday September 30 at 9/8c, Masterpiece on PBS
This article was originally published on 25 May 2018