Previously on Poldark: Ned, who is getting more irritating by the day, leads a rag tag group of protesters to Trenwith to guilt George Warleggan into reopening his mind, an argument he’d probably have been more open to initially if Ned hadn’t broken his arm first. As for George, he seems pretty much over his recent, possibly years-long mental decline, thanks to Dwight’s magical doctoring skills, and honestly did we expect anything that might be mistaken for nuance? Oh, and our aged-up Geoffrey Charles is in love with the racist slave trader Hansen’s daughter Cecily, only her trash dad has decided she should marry George instead. Yikes. (Need more details: Check out our Episode 4 recap.)
The fifth episode of Poldark’s final season is far too busy for its own good, cramming at least half a dozen storylines together into this hour. Some of them are charming and emotional (Christmas in Cornwall, literally anything to do with Morwenna), and some of them are honestly a hot mess. (George’s complicated attempt to entrap Ned and Ross into what appears to be treason? IDK.) And one of them – the revelation of trash Hansen’s secret partner – is a total dud.
So, remember that guy they’ve been showing us creeping around the shadows of London, ominously stroking his pet falcon and doing everything short of laughing maniacally like Doctor Evil? Well, you’d be forgiven if you thought that unidentified person was going to turn out to be important in some way, given that Poldark seemed to really want you to think that. Instead, it’s a dude named Merceron, who I legit had to look up on Wikipedia because I was the human embodiment of that Keke Palmer “Sorry to this man” meme when the episode dramatically revealed his face. Who cares?
This is all part of an elaborate plot to prevent Ned Despard from being sent back to his post in Honduras, which eventually escalates into them trying to get him arrested and perhaps executed? These dudes are so extra. Of course, Ned’s not helping himself, regularly engaging in shouting matches with strangers at public events about everything from slavery to Catholic emancipation, getting blackout drunk at bars with disreputable revolutionaries and yelling things like THE KING IS MAD!! WE SHOULD KILL HIM!! at top volume wherever he goes.
That Ned walks right into Hansen and his instantly forgettable evil partner’s plot is inevitable given that this man is so stupid, I’m not sure how he ever managed to run an entire colony of the Crown on his own. At this point, even Ross is a broken record of admonishments like “Have a care, Ned” and “OMG, STOP TALKING, MORON” and it’s honestly exhausting to watch this ostensibly intelligent and savvy man shoot himself in the foot at every possible opportunity.
It’s not that Ned is wrong – he’s actually 100% correct about everything he can’t seem to stop talking about. But the way he’s behaving is honestly terrible. Does anyone feel any sympathy for this man? Or his efforts at this point? Are viewers somewhere cheering this idiot who’s now dragged Caroline and Dwight into his terrible storyline? (Though, admittedly, Caroline’s “Yes, I was” when Dwight tells her she’s magnificent after saving Ross’s dumb self from a treason charge was pretty much perfect.) Maybe we feel bad for Kitty, who is stuck trying to deal with this man on the regular, whose behavior has to be putting her at risk as much as himself. But it’s so hard to care at all about Ned, who, let’s not forget, we barely know, and are already predisposed to dislike, given that he’s taken over a tremendous amount of screentime from the characters we do care about.
At least Dwight gets a – very satisfying – couple seconds to tell his Ross that he’s being an idiot, and confront him over the problematic nature of Ned’s, well, everything.
Speaking of characters reverting to their disappointing means, hope everyone enjoyed that handful of episodes where we all felt sorry for George Warleggan, because that’s definitely over now. Fully recovered of his wits, because I guess Poldark decided that portraying George as a three-dimensional person who acknowledges the struggles he’s experienced and wrongs he’s done is too much to ask for.
Instead of confronting the very real reasons for his mental collapse, George is right back to being terrible, agreeing to marry a girl simply to prevent the stepson he dislikes from marrying her instead, and giving what is possibly the most racist speech in the history of Parliament. And he conducts both actions with his signature boorish tone deafness, complaining that everyone thinks he’s friends with racist slave traders after he stood up and went to the proverbial mats defending the slave trade and being racist about it.
Elsewhere, Morwenna’s busy teaching the adorable local schoolchildren to read, but in doing so is missing her own child something fierce. Her decision to spy on the child and engage in clandestine visits with him is both understandable and heartbreaking – even if it is a little difficult to determine how exactly little John Conan manages so much alone time outdoors unsupervised. Drake’s choice to kidnap the child is…well, on some level it’s also understandable, given that Drake’s default setting is make Morwenna happy and it’s obvious that the loss of her son is something she may well never get over. But, whew, Drake. This is a Very Bad Idea.
Somehow, because this is Poldark, it turns out okay in the end, as Drake’s attempted child theft (he returns John Conan before his Mean Grandma knows what’s up) somehow manages to jolt Morwenna into realizing that she has to let her son go in order to move on with her life. Now, it’s hard to entirely get behind the transition from painful tears and grief to what may or may not be marital wedded bliss at last for the Carneses and honestly a transition scene in this moment would have gone a long way, just saying. But it’s hard to be too upset about all this simply because we, as viewers, have waited so very long for Morwenna and Drake to experience any sort of hope or happiness, and maybe if we’re lucky next week episodes will sort of clean up the mess on this score.
We can hope, I suppose. If Ned’s second imprisonment at the hands of the British government doesn’t suck up all the air in the room.
Thoughts on this episode? The season in general? How annoying Ned Despard is? Let’s discuss.