Poldark season 4 finale review: Poldark or Warleggan?


In an episode that features multiple flashbacks, Poldark still manages to tell a cohesive story that wraps up season 4 on a decent, if sad, note.

What a somber ending to a season of Poldark. Even with the flashback that opens this season 4 finale, showing what things were like before Ross Poldark’s return after the war (so no scar for Aidan Turner, but long hair tied in a tail). Pointedly,  there’s a moment in which Francis Poldark and George Warleggan watch as Ross and Elizabeth (then Chynoweth) dance and Francis notes that “It will always be Ross.”

And in a way, even though Ross and Demelza have been married for the majority of the series, Ross’ relationship with Elizabeth through all of her marriages and travails has always been the major source of the drama between Ross and Demelza. For all that they’re married to other people, these two can’t let each other go.

In that sense, clumsy though the flashback and Ross’ daydream of shooting Hugh in a duel may be, they encapsulate the bulk of the series. Even though Drake and Morwenna, as well as Dwight and Caroline (and even George and Elizabeth), all have their own drama, it will always be the two of them at its heart.

Speaking of Drake and Morwenna, these two get dramatic scenes on the cliffs (and get married). The lines again seem a touch overblown and melodramatic, but there’s progress made. It also helps that Demelza steps in to help obtain a license even as the banns are read.

For all that the scenes between the women of Poldark revolve around children and marriage in this episode, there’s a safety when they talk, awkward though it might be, that generally gets broken when men intervene. (Drake, of course, is an exception; Dwight and Caroline, meanwhile, have a new, fresh start together.) When Elizabeth breaks down, it’s not in front of the woman who married Ross; it’s in front of the man she’s married to, and in that desperate time, she takes the medicine meant to induce her labor.

Taken from this perspective, that men have done little for Elizabeth her entire life but disappoint her in some way or another and that all she can do now is the best for her younger children, it makes sense that she would not tell either Dwight or Dr. Choake about what she’s done. It costs her her life, but the episode is trying to say that Elizabeth just wants to secure as much as she can for Valentine and baby Ursula. It takes some time to come to that conclusion, although the conversation between George and Elizabeth after the baby’s born does lead you closer to it, as does George screaming at Ross “See what we brought her to!” She still dies at the end of it all. Whether or not it’s worth all of the pain depends on the viewer.

Does it seem to finally help Ross and Demelza get over each other? Yes. Does it mean that George will try and be a better parent? Yes, probably.

Poldark then follows this up by contrasting Valentine and George standing at Elizabeth’s grave while Drake and Morwenna leave the church after their wedding. “She was a Poldark,” says Verity as she and Geoffrey Charles see the two Warleggans.

And that, too, sums up Elizabeth. For all that she was as a character, she was very much a Poldark in her own way. But the season ends with George looking down at her grave. To end on this note tonally seems particularly bizarre, but this is one of those moments that will end up defining George in the fifth and final season. Besides, Jack Farthing does enough work in this episode to earn it, even though his delivery occasionally wobbles in places it shouldn’t.

As a whole, this season is better than season 3; seasons 1 and 2 still loom large in this writer’s memory as being of higher quality. It’s a turn in the right direction. Now, though, it’s up to production to keep this turn to the positive going.

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Additional thoughts:

  • As an American, the most off-putting thing in this entire season might be how George and Elizabeth pronounce Ursula, as there’s a slightly different U sound used in the middle there.
  • Also, George is getting a knighthood, so he has continued to one-up Ross.
  • The scene where Ross reminisces about Elizabeth on the cliffs, only to turn to see Demelza actually standing there, is maybe a touch overdone; Ross gets to do things like this twice in one episode, and it seems somewhat out of character for him, even as he’s becoming more introspective (finally).