Poldark proves so fer­tile, I may have got preg­nant after watch­ing just one episode

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - TICKET STUBS -

Eigh­teenth cen­tury min­ing mogul, stealth Ir­ish­man and pro­fes­sional hunks man Ross Poldark is very fer­tile. As some­one who has stud­ied 18th-cen­tury medicine (the points were low) I be­lieve this may be due to all that cliff-top horse-rid­ing he does and pos­si­bly reg­u­lar leech­ings.

And so Ross’s first love, El­iz­a­beth, is preg­nant with his child but mar­ried to his arch­en­emy, the up­wardly mo­bile rot­ter Ge­orge War­leg­gan. This is the key dra­matic driver of the new se­ries. The elit­ist banker War­leg­gan is, once more, pitched against the tin-min­ing man-of-the-peo­ple Poldark, as if they’re the pro­tag­o­nists of some sort of olden-days Brexit.

We know War­leg­gan (Jack Farthing) is a baddy be­cause he en­joys the ef­fete pas­times of the age – thwart­ing vil­lagers and stand­ing in a draw­ing room with his hands be­hind his back and a puss on him.

In con­trast, when­ever we cut to Ross (Ai­dan Turner) and his saintly wife Demelza (Eleanor Tom­lin­son), they are car­ry­ing bales of hay, or pump­ing wa­ter, or punch­ing sheep, or wrestling horses. They are gen­er­ally to be found breath­ing heav­ily and per­spir­ing, with a lock of hair in their faces, some­thing which has no ef­fect on the gen­eral viewer what­so­ever.

Poldark, all in black, his brow fur­rowed like an Olde Tyme goth, has much on his mind. Demelza wishes he didn’t al­ways “rise be­fore dawn” Fine-Gael-style as he walks by, once more, car­ry­ing a cow over his head or some­thing. “Ev­ery- one has shad­ows,” he ex­plains later. “The trick is to out­run them.”

This shows a ba­sic and pan­icky mis­un­der­stand­ing of the sci­ence of shad­ows, but we’ll let it pass. It’s the 18th cen­tury.

Over in War­leg­gan’s place Ge­orge is try­ing to wean the fam­ily off Ross’s earthy in­flu­ence. There’s Ross’s Aunt Agatha, who hints darkly about dis­as­ters to come from the cor­ner of the room, much like a news­pa­per colum­nist or Twink.

And then there’s El­iz­a­beth’s son, Ge­of­frey Charles, who has never read any old English nov­els about what hap­pens to the first chil­dren of re­mar­ried English aris­to­crats, and so is un­wisely in­so­lent to­wards Ge­orge. In a mo­ment of re­bel­lion, he runs off with Ross who shows him how to man­fully bat­ter the in­side of a cave with a pick­axe, thus in­cul­cat­ing him with a trans­gres­sive love for man­ual labour and, pos­si­bly, shirt­less­ness.

Ac­tu­ally, Ross keeps his shirt on for this episode, leav­ing the more ex­plicit hunk­ing to two new char­ac­ters, Demelza’s brothers, the wannabe preacher Sam and the Cana­dian hip-hop artiste Drake (edi­tor’s note: um, I think that’s a dif­fer­ent Drake, Patrick).

This tune­ful duo ar­rives to bring news that Demelza’s fa­ther is dy­ing, and we are promised, in a teaser for next week, that one of them will

di­vest him­self of his hor­ri­ble chaf­ing shirt. Shirts are so un­com­fort­able. I reg­u­larly take my shirt off, be­cause, as you know, typ­ing is man­ual labour (edi­tor’s note: that re­minds me, you’ve a meet­ing with HR to­day, Patrick).

There are mi­nor sub­plots. Caro­line Pen­ve­nen, a friend and lo­cal pug-farmer (well, she has a pug), is mar­ry­ing noble mil­i­tary doc­tor Dwight Enys in de­fi­ance of her kindly, slowly-ex­pir­ing guardian Berg­erac (John Net­tles). Ge­of­frey Charles also bonds with his new gov­erness, his cousin Mor­wenna, who gazes lust­fully at hunky Drake, no doubt con­tem­plat­ing his Hot­line Bling.

Poldark is, as al­ways, al­most bizarrely grip­ping and en­ter­tain­ing. Pos­si­bly due to its roots in the nov­els of Win­ston Gra­ham, it never un­der­mines its his­tor­i­cal strange­ness with high-con­cept no­tions or overly pre­scient ref­er­ences to the in­ter­net or the mil­len­nium bug or Jeremy Cor­byn. It looks amaz­ing. Ev­ery­thing is sun-dap­pled or can­dle-lit.

The tense om­nipresent sound­track is, some­how, never in­tru­sive. The strik­ing-look­ing, charis­matic ac­tors never un­der­mine the dark, mo­rally prob­lem­atic melo­drama by wink­ing to cam­era.

And then there’s the beau­ti­ful, ocean-bat­tered coast­line of Corn­wall along which Ross and Demelza ride when in emo­tional tur­moil and which some liken to “an­other char­ac­ter on the show”.

Sadly, it hasn’t yet been given any lines (“Whatsa mat­ter Mis­ter-a-Poldark?” for ex­am­ple) but it is spec­tac­u­lar. It is, as you know, played by Timothy Spall.

It’s the 18th-cen­tury so life is hard. There are ref­er­ences to the war which will, I think, dom­i­nate later episodes. There are two deathbed scenes (for nice Ray Pen­ve­nen/Berg­erac and Demelza’s brutish fa­ther) and a dif­fi­cult child­birth scene which all oc­cur un­der the eerie shadow of “a black moon”.

El­iz­a­beth spends the episode try­ing get thrown from a horse or fling­ing her­self down stairs in fear that Ge­orge will lis­ten to Aunt Agatha’s hints about the child’s parent­age and fig­ure out that El­iz­a­beth is nine months and not eight months preg­nant.

The lat­ter ac­tion ap­par­ently causes her to go into labour. Ross spends a bit of time lurk­ing out­side the win­dow spy­ing at this point, which is pretty weird be­hav­iour even for him (this show ex­pects you to for­give a lot).

Any­way, it’s very im­por­tant for El­iz­a­beth that there’s no in­di­ca­tion that she might be giv­ing birth to Poldark’s child. The baby comes out shirt­less, brood­ing, rid­ing a small horse and wear­ing a tri­corn hat.

“He favours you, I think,” says El­iz­a­beth to Ge­orge, chanc­ing her arm.

“Yes,” says Ge­orge, a lit­tle des­per­ately, as the baby mood­ily gal­lops along a clifftop with a sheep un­der his arm. “I see the re­sem­blance.”

Back at the Poldark res­i­dence Demelza tells Ross that she too is preg­nant, and to be hon­est, after an hour watch­ing I’m feel­ing a bit preg­nant my­self. “Curse my hunky fer­tile genes!” cries Ross Poldark shak­ing his fist at the heav­ens in an­tic­i­pa­tion of an ex­cit­ingly tu­mul­tuous eight episodes to come.

Okay, he doesn’t say the last bit but you get the pic­ture.

That Poldark, what’s he like?

The tense sound­track is, some­how, never in­tru­sive. The strik­ing-look­ing, charis­matic ac­tors never un­der­mine the dark, mo­rally prob­lem­atic melo­drama by wink­ing to cam­era

Demelza and Ross: Not car­ry­ing bales of hay, pump­ing wa­ter, punch­ing sheep, or wrestling horses

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