In Depth

Poldark: Five things that make the Cornish series a hit

A bare-chested Aidan Turner is only one part of the show's successful formula

Poldark series two: What happened in episode five?

7 October

Farewell, Francis. Episode five of Poldark packed a devastating punch, as Ross's put-upon cousin Francis made an ill-advised descent into the mine and met a watery grave when the floor gave way.

Those who have read the Winston Graham books on which the show is based will have been dreading this moment, says TV blog CarterMatt. "From the moment you saw that childhood flashback at the start of the episode, you could feel the chill going down your spine," adds the site.

"It was a terribly sad moment of television," says RadioTimes, but "it wasn't the only moment of high drama". Poldark's money woes continued to pile up, with Ross learning his arch-nemesis George Warleggan had purchased his debt, and Demelza's jealousy of Elizabeth proved amply justified.

Despite all the doom and gloom, there was still room for intrigue, skullduggery and even romance for Dr Enys and Lady Caroline, who finally acted on their mutual attraction - albeit only with a kiss.

"Five episodes in and there's most definitely no mid-season lull," says Digital Spy.

So what were the highlights?

Francis is the unluckiest man in the world

Think about it: Francis has already faced a business failure, money woes and a wife too busy smouldering at his cousin to give him so much as a second glance. Even his suicide attempt was a cock-up. And then, just when things are starting to look up, he goes and drowns in the mine.

When Poldark's old servant Jud Paynter was apparently beaten to death last week, he didn't stay dead for long. However, one Lazarus-like resurrection per series is probably the reasonable limit, so it looks like viewers really have seen the last of poor Francis.

Elizabeth still has the hots for Poldark

Alright, so this was hardly a new discovery – Elizabeth's lingering lust for her one-time betrothed is hammered home on a weekly basis. But their mutual affection, which has so far been expressed only through vague utterances and meaningful stares, became an open secret this week.

"Cannot a woman love two men?" Elizabeth cooed to an astonished Poldark over dinner, while his wife Demelza sat just across the table. "A piece of my heart will always be yours."

However, although their union was far from blissful, Francis's sudden death appeared to knock his wife for six, so it could be some time before she is back in the mood for sotto-voce dinner-party flirting. But we haven't seen the last of this love triangle, that's for sure.

Heavy flirtation does the trick in the end

Lady Caroline Penvenen's pursuit of Dr Enys has been eyebrow-raisingly blatant, but their imbalanced social status and the fact she was already engaged to the boorish Unwin Trevaunance has prevented them from kindling their spark into a flame – until now.

Having returned from a year in London to hastily dispatch her fiance, Caroline and the doctor enjoyed a romantic tryst in a picturesque bluebell wood. However, Lady P dampened the atmosphere by turning unexpectedly chaste, telling her new beau nothing can come of their romance until she comes of age in December.

Just when you think George Warleggan can't get more evil...

The show's boo-hiss villain continues to reach even higher levels of skulduggery, putting Poldark at his mercy by buying out his debt before shamelessly sniffing round the newly widowed Elizabeth.

Warleggan capped off his latest round of evil-doing by being rude to an old lady, telling Aunt Agatha he hoped she would drop dead. And yes, she is undeniably a bit of an old crone, but only Warleggan would be villainous enough to say so to her face.

The only consolation is that Aunt Agatha is not the sort of person to take an insult lying down. Poldark may have won himself a powerful ally in the inevitable future clash with his nemesis.

Poldark is back in the buff (for 2.7secs)

Fans tuning in to see leading man Aidan Turner's torso have been disappointed so far this series, with nary a scythe in sight and only a few flashes of open shirt to keep gutter-minded viewers going.

However, that all changed this week, with Poldark shown soaking in the bath for a whole 2.7secs, as timed by Viv Groskop in The Guardian.

"Bathing is the new scything," declares the Daily Telegraph's Rachel Ward. Judging by the Twitter response to the scene, that may well be the case. 

Poldark series two: Can episode four beat ITV's Victoria?

26 September

Has Poldark lost its lustre? The BBC drama's first series was considered the must-see programme of Sunday evenings when it was screened last year. But series two is being regularly trounced in the ratings battle by another period piece, Victoria.

Last week saw ITV's historical tale increase its lead over the Cornish drama by half a million viewers. That might not be so surprising - while Jenna Coleman's Victoria married Prince Albert (Tom Hughes) in a lavish royal wedding, the antics of Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) and his gang proved to be, in the words of the Daily Express's Neela Debnath, "rather dull watching".

However, episode four was a totally different story. "Hold on to your hats," said Jasper Rees of the Daily Telegraph, reviewing an instalment that saw a birth, a narrowly-averted scurvy epidemic, a daring smuggling caper and family reconciliations - all within the space of an hour.

Despite all of this, though, the episode struggled to find its voice, says Rees. The plot meandered "like a boat searching in vain for a meaningful course through storm-tossed waters".

Viv Groskop in The Guardian agrees, saying that while lots of inconsequential subplots whizzed by, there was "nothing really moving" of substance until the end, when Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) gave birth to a baby boy.

"The human moments are when Poldark really comes alive," she says. Less focus on rambling storylines and more characterisation is the recipe for bringing back the show's mojo.

Poldark series two: All the highlights of episode three

23 September

After last week's life-and-death courtroom drama, "episode three proved to be a more sedate and slow-burn affair," says the Daily Express.

However, there was still plenty for fans to enjoy in the latest instalment. Here's everything you need to know about episode three of Poldark.

Ross was a bit of a rotter

"Tonight, for perhaps the first time, we saw a side to Aidan Turner’s hero that we might not like very much," says the Radio Times.

Yes, Poldark has always been more of a smouldering anti-hero than a knight in shining armour, but this week his antics bordered on downright despicable. Selling off Demelza's jewellery to pay a £400 debt was bad enough, but then the poor lass overhead Ross getting nostalgic with his erstwhile love Elizabeth at the harvest festival.

Even though Elizabeth put a stop to the sweet-talk, Demelza was understandably devastated to have her suspicions about the lingering feelings between the two confirmed. Will the baby patch up the rift in her marriage? Does it ever?

There's a new hunk in town

There was good news for viewers put off by Poldark's ungentlemanly conduct, as Ross's old comrade Captain McNeil arrived on the scene. He immediately demonstrated his chivalry by rescuing Demelza from the amorous attentions of the lecherous Sir Hugh.

Neglected by Ross, Demelza was visibly charmed by the handsome visitor and his praise for her "cow-doctoring", but some viewers were distracted by McNeil's… unusual accent. Bristol-born actor Henry Garrett's attempt at a Scottish brogue was variously described on social media as "bizarre", "abysmal" and "excruciating," the Daily Telegraph reports.

Jud came back from the dead

When Poldark's faithful – if perennially tipsy – manservant Jud broke ranks by refusing a payoff from George Warleggan to testify against his master at the Bodmin assizes last week, we knew he was heading for trouble.

After getting a seemingly fatal beating from Warleggan's goons, Jud was laid out for burial - only for the 'corpse' to vanish. The mystery was solved when Jud himself arrived on the scene, not dead after all – the old boy is is tougher than he looks. Turns out he was in the pub all along, highly offended to wake up and find his 'grieving' friends and widow carousing at his expense. "T'aint right, t'aint fair, t'aint fit, t'aint proper," indeed.

Lady Caroline and Dr Enys got a step closer to getting it on

Lady Caroline has always had a taste for double entendre that wouldn't be out of place in an episode of Are You Being Served but her saucy comments are now starting to verge on single entendre. When she spied Dr Enys and promptly started complimenting the Cornish 'scenery' – her eyebrows practically waggling with innuendo – it's hard to believe that even her dopey fiancé Unwin Trevaunance would fail to catch her drift.

Desperate to avoid her bumbling betrothed, Caroline got close to the real object of her affection using the oldest trick in the book: falling conveniently ill.

"I've seen more romantic set-ups than a man pulling a fish bone out of a lady's throat," writes Gerard O'Donovan in the Daily Telegraph, but the chemistry between the pair is undeniable, whatever the circumstances. Sparks flew as Enys rushed into action with his trusty tweezers, before doctor and patient shared a lingering look. But will Dr Enys speak up before Caroline becomes Mrs Unwin Trevaunance?

Poldark series two: Everything we learned from episode two

16 September

What a difference a week makes, at least in the world of Ross Poldark.

Last time viewers saw him, he had been stitched up like a kipper by the nefarious George Warleggan and faced the gallows on trumped-up charges of theft, rioting and murder.

This week's instalment saw Poldark win his freedom with a stirring, if somewhat improbable, courtroom speech that won over TV critics as well as the jury.

"The show belongs to Aidan Turner this week," says Digital Spy, singling out Poldark's "electric court scenes" as a highlight.

Elsewhere, another tragedy was averted as we learned that Francis did not kill himself after all in last week's cliffhanger ending, when he shut himself in his room with a pistol and apparently pulled the trigger. As it turns out, his life was saved thanks to unreliable 18th-century weaponry, his gun misfiring and leaving him sheepish but unharmed.

However, with Demelza's unexpected pregnancy, several dangerous flirtations, and a storm brewing between Poldark and Warleggan, there is plenty of drama on the horizon. Here's everything we know so far:

Poldark is free

Okay, so nobody really expected that the title character of a show already filming its next series would actually go to the gallows, but we did wonder how Poldark would manage to slip out of the noose clearly being readied for his shapely neck.

A stirring speech to the jury was all it took, it turns out. An unrepentant Ross defended the starving miners' plundering of the Warleggans' wrecked ship as a "Cornish tradition", in what The Guardian's Viv Groskop calls "an excellent TED talk on morality and self-belief". The jury were convinced, clearing Poldark of all charges. However, Ross's nemesis George Warleggan is unlikely to take this development lying down.

Francis isn't dead

Phew. Poldark's put-upon cousin didn't actually put an end to it all, despite his best efforts. In classic Francis style, he couldn't even shoot himself properly – the gun misfired, giving the poor lad a chance to reconsider. But now that he has chosen to remain on this mortal coil, he will have to make some difficult decisions, particularly with regards to his floundering marriage to frosty Elizabeth.

There's a baby on the way

Ross and Delmelza have barely buried their unfortunate firstborn when she realises that she is pregnant again - and who should she choose to confide in but Ross's old flame Elizabeth. However, Demelza seemed reluctant to share her news with Poldark himself, who understandably is still grieving for baby Julia.

"This could be the first sign of the much-rumoured rift that's supposedly going to occur between our favourite star-crossed lovers this series," notes Gerard O'Donovan in the Daily Telegraph.

Love is in the air for Dr Enys

Dr Enys may have been busy trying to save his friend from execution by concocting an insanity defence, but the medic still found time for some heavy flirtation with feisty newcomer Lady Caroline Penvenen.

Sparks flew as he traded barbs with the quick-witted heiress, but their snippy back-and-forth barely concealed their blatant attraction.

Lady C might be "written with all the subtlety of a Carry On movie sound-effect", says Cultbox, but who can blame her for being a bit forward when she faces a lifetime with her bratty betrothed MP Unwin Trevaunance.

The course of true love never runs smooth, and fans of the books on which the show is based will know that Lady Caroline and Dr Enys face more than a few obstacles in their path. However, scriptwriter Debbie Horsfield has been known to depart from the source material on more than one occasion, so viewers will have to wait to see how this romance pans out on screen.



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