Poldark season 3 episode 5 review: The symbolism of toads


As per usual, it all comes down to Ross in this week’s episode of Poldark, even when he doesn’t seem to be involved at first.

One has to wonder whether Francis or Ross initially came up with the idea of putting toads in George’s clothes when they were all schoolboys. Presumably, based on how Ross speaks in this week’s episode of Poldark, he did.

And George has not forgotten about it, or about anything at all. We surmised that he would remember last season’s issues that required help from his “sworn enemy” (George’s words, not ours), but this apparently goes much deeper than that. Sure, Aunt Agatha’s pointing out that the problem with George isn’t where he comes from, it’s how he acts about it, is a pretty pointed reminder. One has to wonder if Ross and/or Francis gave him toads because he was a … toady, even though Merriam-Webster says that its first known usage was in 1826. The episode doesn’t make that connection, though, so we won’t accuse Poldark of an anachronism.

However, the scene between Ross and George is intense and blows the rest of the episode out of the water (yes, even above the tender moment between Drake and Morwenna and that heartbreaking ending). Debbie Horsfield’s writing makes room for silence, and Aidan Turner and Jack Farthing handle it masterfully, their expressions minute and reflecting just how much these characters loathe each other. For all that loathing, though, George takes it to a level that Ross never does. It’s George who breaks first and starts talking; George who has to get his petty revenge every single time; and George who finds a way to get everything he wants — his “many birds” — without much in the way of thought about how other people might feel about it.

The show would almost be boring in how much it lets him win if there weren’t scenes like the ones between Caroline and Dwight (which also ranks highly in terms of good scenes in this episode) or the different ways the characters needle George, a point that we’ve noted before. However, there seems to be a shift in Elizabeth’s character once again that should be noted carefully. Maybe Aunt Agatha’s finally getting through to her.

This episode makes a point of contrasting Ross and George yet again. Take a look at Ross’ actions. Almost all of them are meant to help others — Dwight to help him repair his relationship with Caroline, people who need to eat, Drake to afford to support Morwenna and Agatha to keep her spirits up — and so on. For all his brooding, terrible actions and all the intense glares he throws George’s way, Ross is still our protagonist, and George our antagonist, and those sorts of things have to be reinforced.

Other thoughts:

  • Geoffrey Charles’ present is a lot of trouble. In fact, Geoffrey is generally great at unintentional trouble. Make your jokes about the Poldark family talent for that manifesting itself in the next generation now. (Poor Jeremy is probably next.)
  • We already know Whitworth is terrible. The scene where he spends a little time with a woman paid to be his companion seems a bit unnecessary.

Next: Stranger Things 2: Recapping and reviewing episodes 1-3

Poldark continues Sundays on PBS.