Previously on Poldark: Dwight and Caroline get married publically, but their “wedding” just serves as an excuse to talk politics. Sir Francis Bassett tries to convince Ross to throw his hat into the ring for the empty MP seat, but he declines, insisting that he can’t be beholden to anyone’s interests but his own. Elsewhere, Morwenna’s marriage to Whitworth is a study in misery. And sassy old Aunt Agatha sadly meets her maker, but not before she tips George off that little Valentine might not be his.
Everything basically feels as though it’s falling apart in this episode of Poldark. There’s no joy, for anyone, and the episode’s most uplifting storyline centers around the reaffirmation that two young people still love one another even when they’re separated and one of them is forced to endure horrific abuse on a daily basis. Yikes.
Will anyone ever be happy again?
George is ample evidence that politicians are generally terrible. It’s weeks later, and George is still hardcore obsessing about Aunt Agatha’s last words and the question of Valentine’s true parentage. He summons Dwight and asks him all sorts of awkward questions about how you can tell if, say, someone had a baby that was supposed to be premature but maybe wasn’t, and how someone else might figure out if that were the case. Dwight, who clearly hates George, is nevertheless professional to him, saying that he can’t tell for sure one way or the other if Valentine was early or just born on time because Elizabeth (conveniently) fell down the stairs.
Unsatisfied, George swears him to secrecy, and throws himself back into his plans to win the local seat in Parliament. He’s running as the big “change” candidate, which would be funny if the fact that he is simultaneously cutting wages, firing people and just generally starving the local populace weren’t so sad.
But, of course George does win the local seat in Parliament because this show hates me and anything that might bring me joy. George starts making plans to spend the bulk of his time in London. Without his wife and son, because he is petty as hell.
Haven’t’ we really had more than enough sexual assault on this show? Morwenna’s story continues to be the most compelling thing about Poldark Season 3, even if it does contain the single individual element (Whitworth) most likely to make me physically hurl something at my television. The poor girl’s time is near and she has a rough go of labor, screaming through the bulk of her delivery, and coming so close to death her deplorable husband started considering “suitable replacements". (Honestly, he is such trash.) Morwenna gives birth to a son, and though she tries her best, she struggles to care for him the way she knows she should. But since she almost died and his father is a monster who won’t stop pawing at her even if his sexual insatiability threatens her life, it makes a lot of sense that she’s suffering through some sort of post-partum situation. And, of course, Poldark can’t be content with just letting us know that Morwenna’s life is a living hell at present. It must show us, as often and as graphically as possible.
Despite repeated medical recommendations, Whitworth won’t stop demanding his marital rights as often as it suits him. The scene in which he forces himself on top of Morwenna, shoving her down and telling her to close her eyes and submit as she begs him to leave her alone, is stomach churning. Of course, the sad truth here is that spousal rape wasn’t even a concept in the eighteenth century, so technically Whitworth would have been allowed to behave exactly as he did. But since Poldark has already forced us to witness one awful sexual assault, you would think that they could have spared us this. Guess what, guys? We already know that Whitworth is a monster. You’ve shown us like a hundred times. Yes, he’s a lech and a pervert, a bully and an abuser. We get it. He beats his wife and ogles her sister and befouls the good name of his church with his false piety. I’m not sure that forcing us to watch him rape Morwenna – when we already knew that was happening – makes him any more evil and repulsive than he already was.
Thanks to the timely intervention of Geoffrey Charles, a small ray of hope blooms within this trash fire of a storyline. His visit home from school gives Morwenna a vehicle by which to pass a message on to Drake back in the village. She has not forgotten him, she says, and it’s enough to basically light up the boy’s entire life. He, in turn, secretly sends her a package which contains (surprise) the Madonna and child pendant he made weeks ago and has been mooning over ever since. Their quiet longing for one another is a soothing balm after the horror that is the Whitworth household, and if I wasn’t 100% rooting for them before now… Let me put it this way. At this point, I think I’m more invested in Drake and Morwenna getting a happy ending than I am Ross and Demelza. (Whew.)
Is this the first time Ross and Elizabeth have talked in a year? Ross and Elizabeth run into one another at Aunt Agatha’s grave and decide that now is the perfect time to have a heart to heart about where things stand in their lives. Even though the two of them have barely spoken this season. Whatever, show.
Honestly, so much of this sequence is wonderful. Ross and Elizabeth actually treat one another like friends. They figure out that Agatha must have told George her suspicions about Valentine’s parentage, and Ross actually gives Elizabeth well-intentioned advice that’s geared to promote her happiness and not his own victory over a man he hates. A real conversation between these two has been a tremendously long time coming, and this new, mature vibe between them is both an interesting one and something I’d like to see more of.
Of course, how they got to this point remains something of a mystery, given that it looks as though this is the first real talk they’ve had since Ross ghosted on her after their night together, over a year ago. Also, it seems incredibly bizarre that Ross and Elizabeth should discuss that, yeah, they probably do have a child together, actually, in such a calm and detached way. It’s likely that we’re supposed to assume Ross has always thought Valentine was his – remember his weird emotional running on the beach scene back in the season premiere – but the fact that the two have never really talked about it is bizarre. (I still have a hard time believing that Ross would ever be this chill about the prospect of letting George Warleggan raise his son, but his characterization is all over the place this season, so who knows.)
What we really need right now is a bizarre dream sequence. Because Poldark is a deeply predictably show, it turns out that Prudie saw the (largely chaste-ish) kiss between Ross and Elizabeth, because she was hiding behind some stones and shrubbery near the church graveyard. This moment is so randomly ridiculous – Why was Prudie even there? Wasn’t she just helping Demelza get dressed for their fancy dinner? – you really can’t help but laugh at it. It’s like something straight out of Days of Our Lives.
Speaking of Days of Our Lives, Poldark indulges in another bizarre dream sequence this week, wherein Ross has a moment where he fantasizes about telling his wife the truth about his feelings for Elizabeth. Dream Ross somehow manages to become thoughtful and heartfelt, explaining that while he still loves Elizabeth for what they once were to one another, he credits Demelza with making him into a better man. Of course, real life Ross manages to do none of that, and explicitly chooses to lie to his wife (who we all probably know already has the truth of it anyway.) Why is Ross like this? Does he have some goal in being as awful to his wife as possible?
The Demelza situation is very confusing. Honestly, I don’t know what to think about this whole Demelza and Hugh flirtation. He’s been hard core trying to make something happen with Demelza for a couple of weeks now, bringing her flowers, drawing portraits of her, writing her poems and constantly telling her how great and beautiful and perfect she is. On the one hand, Demelza gets so little respect from her actual husband that it’s hard to begrudge her the small joy of finding someone who’s willing to pump up her ego in this way. Plus, he’s young and rich and easy on the eyes; it’s hard not to partially hope Demelza just throws caution to the wind and goes for it.
On the other hand, Hugh is kind of a drip. It’s not clear if Demelza actually likes him for any traits he actually possesses, or if it’s just that he’s nice to her when her husband isn’t. Plus their relationship will never go anywhere real, and Ross would 1000% punish her for it for the rest of her life, despite the hypocrisy of his own indiscretions in this area. It just seems like a lose-lose for everyone.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Are you pro Hugh/Demelza or not? And what do you think of Ross' refusal to actually, finally talk to his wife?