Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Where are we at with Poldark?

Image from the Poldark Facebook Page (PBS/BBC)
"I don't know if I want to keep watching 'Poldark'," my husband and I admitted to each other this week.

But who am I kidding. No matter what happens on the show, I will probably keep tuning in for the costumes, scenery and music even if certain characters are...proving frustrating.

If you have not watched the latest episode of Poldark, season 3, BE WARNED. Spoilers to follow! (In the US, we are one episode shy of the finale, which will air on Sunday night.)
Oh boy. What a mess we are in. Season 3 started out with great promise. Redemption for our hero, just desserts for our villains, and interesting (or at least amusing) new characters. I'll admit, after Ross's infidelity in Season 2, my husband and I almost stopped watching. It was a character arc that really made it difficult to enjoy or even be interested in watching Ross Poldark do anything anymore.

Now, to be fair, we've always known that Ross is an anti-hero. That's part of his charm. Yet, despite his problems, he remained a man of integrity. Sleeping with Elizabeth, especially in a way that removed much of her agency, was a brutal destruction of that integrity. I honestly didn't think they could redeem the character in any watchable way from that.

And yet...he had a beautiful moment of reconciliation and apology with Demelza that made me think "Okay. There's hope left here. I can keep watching. He's not perfect, but he wants to do better. And Demelza doesn't allow people to walk all over her, so if she is willing to accept him back....then so am I."

 Season 3 started off far better than I anticipated. Although it's had some rough editing (the Dwight-in-prison sequences were cut in very oddly), the show has managed to reclaim my interest and devotion.

Yet two weeks ago my husband noted his annoyance that Demelza and Ross were once again having marital problems. "I feel like they are just going over the same territory again and again," he said. "There's nothing new about this plot, and it's not enjoyable."

At the time, the baby-faced Lieutenant Armitage was a small enough character that I wasn't too concerned. After all, there was plenty of other plot craziness to follow. Yet Demelza--sensible, loyal Demelza--continued to encourage him. And I just couldn't believe it. I don't want to watch a show where the core of what I've always adored about Demelza is gone.

Yet, even so, I remain fascinated by all of the threads in this story and I want to see how they play out... if only because I really cannot understand what the heck is going on with Morwenna's sister. What is that girl's play? And Morwenna! Oh my goodness. Her subplot has taken a frightening turn. Watching her systematic rape every week is incredibly disturbing. I really hope that whatever her sister is up to is going to save Morwenna from her brutal fate, or else I really will give up on the show. Because if Ross and Demelza fall apart AND Morwenna dies or continues to be abused, there just is too much darkness for me to continue.

And yet...Poldark does this. The show loves to get tremendously dark, raise the stakes...and then pull off a happy ending with almost no consequences.

Well. Except for Baby Valentine. Really, I'm fascinated with how Elizabeth is always toting him around. Most mothers of that class at that time wouldn't be carrying around their babies all the time, would they? And yet there Valentine is, as though to constantly remind us "LOOK AT THIS TIME BOMB."

Now, yes, I know that there are books. And I tried to get some from my library, but apparently they were just not popular enough to be in stock. And right now the show is so beautiful that I kind of want to wait and just watch it that way. At least I get pretty costumes and scenery and music and tremendous acting...right?

Oh boy. I don't know. The finale next week is really going to have to pull off some awesomeness and bring hope back into the show. Because without hope, why would I ever tune into Season 4?

What do you think?


AnneMarie said...

When I started watching Season 1 of Poldark, I was SO EXCITED to see a show that focused on a marriage, especially with characters as awesome and engaging as Demelza and Ross. But...I fell off the train a few episodes into Season 2, because I was getting so frustrated with Ross and I couldn't handle that amount of stress in my life. I know that people have said in the book series, there's good stuff about marriage, but I just didn't think I could handle the pain of watching them go through this time and time again with no promise of marital bliss and actual healing on the near horizon. Since it sounds like now Demelza is slipping, I'm grateful that I stopped watching this show because I don't think I'd be able to handle seeing both Ross AND her going through this train wreck individually and together!

The timing of your post is interesting, because over the past couple days (as I started to watch the series "Bomb Girls"), I've been thinking about how sad it is that the common plot and tension device in these stories involving marriage is infidelity. I know that it tragically happens, but I think there's something to be said about how shows and books can start to normalize it and make it seem like the interesting stories about marriage, the ones worth telling, prominently feature marital infidelity of some kind. Can't a story about marriage be interesting where the couple is actually faithful to each other?

Elizabeth Amy Hajek said...

I guess there is something positive to be said about the fact that Ross and Demelza's failings are presented as negative and not positive. So often infidelity is glamorized on screen, at least here it is shown as something that brings only pain and distress to everyone it touches. That doesn't mean that it's a show one should force oneself to watch - I CERTAINLY understanding needing to limit artificial stress in one's life! Yet at the moment I can see this as a potential saving grace for the show. So... I guess we'll see...

Ms. Hope said...

I agree with much of what you said. In the early episodes, I was really drawn in by the fact that Ross and Demelza were people who cared about others and not just themselves. I was warmed by the picture that was being painted of a happy marriage. When Ross spent the night with Elizabeth, especially the way it happened, I was so disappointed. I've been waiting for Ross & Demelza to get their spirit of unity back, but it probably is somewhat realistic that his infidelity continues to have repercussions. I, too, was tempted to stop watching, but I was actually sucked in by Demelza's two brothers and the "Methodists." So far I think they've done a nice job of showing them as people of real faith--not perfect, but at least not villains. The way Morwenna's sister is coming on to the "vicar" is really disturbing. I am really wondering where that's going. George Warleggan is a fascinating villain. But the whole thing with Armitage is dumb. I don't think he'd dare repay Ross, who rescued him, by going after his wife. It's possible the "French" culture rubbed off on him, but I find it unnecessary and wish they hadn't gone that way. I will say that Demelza's fantasy of Ross apologizing in the last episode was one of the most moving scenes I've watched on TV almost ever. It really took me in, and when it wasn't real, I was devastated! Wow. I can't believe the season is almost over. I will miss it because, like you, I just love the beauty of the scenery, costumes, and sets.

Elizabeth Amy Hajek said...

Ms. Hope - it is interesting that you saw it that way. I actually thought it was a look into Ross's thoughts, which he chose not to act on. Normally in these scenes it is pretty clear who is doing the imagining, but this one I found unusually vague. Perhaps they were BOTH thinking it, more or less...