Goodbye, Cornwall’s rose. Poldark has left the building (and indeed the country) in a finale that was equal parts thrilling and frustrating.
We mentioned in our preview that Poldark had left itself several loose ends to tie up in a single episode, but in the end, they weren’t so much tied up as burned away like a fuse connected to a barrel of damp gunpowder. It fizzles, but doesn’t quite manage to go off all the way.
There were some very quick fixes. Wedding bells rang at last for Sam and Rosina, but after her second disappointing experience with a Carne brother, the show did very little to convince us that this wasn’t just because they were the only two people left in Cornwall without a ring on their finger.
It’s not that we didn’t believe they could love each other, it’s that every ounce of screen time that they could have been flirting was dedicated instead to a lurking bad man and his equally lurking, equally bad half-brother.
Similarly, Dwight (who doubled as a dictaphone as well as a doctor in this episode) and Caroline seemed to settle into a more synchronised rhythm, after their sporadic frostiness in the episodes previous. But that Caroline should have been the only one to apologise remains infuriating, since it’s quite clear everyone would be dead in a ditch without her.
Whilst Dwight’s consistent prioritization of Kitty, let’s not pretend Caroline was irrationally upset. The tension was not wholly her fault, but if someone had to sort them out, we’re glad it was little Loveday (an unexpected name we are slowly getting behind) Carne.
Indeed, Loveday’s birth is one pro of the episode having jumped forward five months from where we left it in “Episode 7.” And it’s almost fitting to end Poldark with a dramatic, if predictable, birth. An ushering in of a new era, as we say goodbye to the old one. We may not be watching, and the cameras may not be filming, but the Poldarks and Carnes are out there somewhere, thriving.
However, the downside of the big time jump is that some storylines inevitably got neglected (like Sam and Rosina’s above). Caroline’s mention of her daughter Sarah was almost overdue, but since Dwight had given her fairly good reason to be annoyed, the mention here (as an excuse to “keep [Dwight] at arm’s length”) felt a bit squeezed in.
And that’s not to mention the coming together of the show’s overarching plot. Ross is now collaborating with the French, and apparently has somehow become involved (seemingly with a capital I) with Troublesome Tess?
Quite how far is unclear really, but it’s an odd addition to an already complicated storyline. Then there’s Demelza leaving Ross after his spying has driven a considerable wedge between them (not to mention Demelza spotting Tess sliding into his DM’s).
It’s a hard one to call, because whilst it feels rushed to have seen nothing of their relationship deteriorating firsthand, we have to question what the show could have shown us even if it hadn’t jumped forwards? Arguing? Spying? Espionage, especially the cave-dwelling kind as taken up by Ross, is notoriously a long game — and that does not lend itself to weekly television, does it?
The season’s biggest villains, Merceron and Hanson, spent the episode being rather superfluous and unscary, trying to gather evidence for Ross’ treason and then shopping him to the French for being a turncoat when they find out he’s being patriotic actually. Hanson soon finds out that snitches get stitches when George turns up with two pistols and a sudden ability to use them perfectly.
Long story short: The French threat thwarted, Ross asks the Spymaster to get rid of the falcon-loving, mahogany-trading thorns in his side as a present for doing so well. They get arrested and Ross gets to be a spy again for real. That’s where we leave him, but that’s also where he is when the books pick him back up years later. He’s just older...
Whilst the plot was generally hit and miss, the finale did what Poldark has always done well: being driven by character. The scene between George and Ross, for example, after George had saved the day, was possibly the best we’ve seen in five seasons. An acting masterclass from both Jack Farthing and Aidan Turner, it reinforced what we’ve always known really: Ross and George are two sides of the same coin.
How would George make decisions without Ross to annoy? Who would he be without a nemesis? And, practically speaking, after five seasons of antagonising one another, the only dramatic thing left for them to do was begrudgingly help one another.
It is worth noting, too, that George came good without ever coming out of character – no mean feat for either writer or actor. The scene where he asked that Valentine be dissuaded from visiting the Poldarks ever again was almost exquisite in its bittersweetness, as Valentine will always be a boy who sits in both camps, no matter what his actual paternity. After all, Elizabeth loved them both.
Although pour one out for the scene we never got of George trying to tame Valentine’s still very Ross-ian hair. Surely every last curl must haunt him.
And for all we’ve complained about Dwight and Caroline’s reunion, it was not unwelcome. In fact, quite the opposite. They’ve always given Ross and Demelza a run for their money as Cornwall’s Greatest Couple (although Ross and Seamus, too, are not far behind).
What a shame it is, to think that we won’t see Ross and Seamus galloping across the cliffsides again next fall. Whilst this wasn’t perhaps Poldark’s best (or, at least, most consistent) outing, the last five minutes in particular were as fitting an ending to the show as any, with Ross’ hair whipping into the wind as he looks out to the horizon, after swearing in Demelza’s arms that he will return.
Windswept kisses? A soundtrack so romantic you can almost taste the seaspray? Ross making promises he can only hope to keep?
We finished Poldark as we started it: in love.
The (cliff) peaks
Jack Farthing: We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: Jack Farthing’s ability to make George human and not a caricature is worth an Emmy. I said, Television Academy, do you know this song?
Aidan Turner: The same is, of course, true of our romantic anti-hero. Ross Poldark is not an easy man to play. He’s the human embodiment of “She Used To Be Mine” from Waitress: He is messy, but he’s kind. He is good, but he lies. He isn’t hard himself; he’s noble but won’t ask for help.
Charming and romantic in every which way, and as capable of doing terrible things as he is for doing good, Turner’s ability to make him feel real is of endless wonder to us. He is Poldark, through and through.
The women of Poldark: From series regulars, like Eleanor Tomlinson and Gabriella Wilde, to guests this season like Kerri McLean and Lily Dodsworth-Evans, time after time this show has proved it would be nothing without its women. Demelza saving Ross is from the Frenchman is just the most recent example, there are many, many more in which Cornwall’s women have saved the day, and how wonderful to have so many to look up to. Even Tess had her moments.
So let’s raise a glass of Aunt Agatha’s sherry to the way this 18th-century show wrote its women. Game of Thrones, for one, could never.