Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) returns to his home in Nampara (Cornwall) after fighting in the American Revolution. His friends and kinsman thought him dead and his betrothed is now married to his cousin. His father is deceased and his inheritance has been allowed to wither and deteriorate. It’s the late 18th century in Cornwall, England, but with this comes many balls and betrayals with the lords and ladies clad in finery and expensive trinkets.
This is a family drama but it also argues about the trials and tribulations, that are experienced by the insanely rich and the poorest folk who are on the brink of poverty. This is a time when seafaring folk are not catching much fish and the mines are all closing down because of low prices but costs of food and rents are high. Ross faces the task of making his inheritance productive, caring for his friends and trying to win the affections of the woman he loved, or trying to live without her. This is a series about one man’s battles against his own class, who treat the commoners like animals whilst they eat their bellies full. Sometimes it takes one man to stand up and do the right thing, even if nobody else will.
Poldark is quality Sunday night television and it’s a great substiuite for Downton Abbey, which sadly aired its last episode, Christmas Day 2015. Ross still pines for Elizabeth, and Elizabeth for Ross, even if she doesn’t admit it…to begin with. It’s a pity that Francis (Kyle Soller) is in the picture, that’s Ross’ cousin. In my opinion, he’s an incompetent fool and really unlikable. Arrogant, proud and quite irritating; we find this out when he’s part of a shootout with another character, Captain Blamey (Richard Harrington). Francis has knack for gambling…and losing. He plays cards with people’s lives. He gambles the mine in a game, and subsequently loses it. The jobs of the working class are down the drain. He doesn’t see anything wrong by this but Ross does. Many of the workers are Ross’ friends. And its acts like this that make you want to love Ross and hate Francis. People of his own family and his own class despise Ross because he breaks bread with his employees, the working class. He doesn’t think that just because he’s a Poldark, that gives him free rein to be an asshole.
Ross has a special ability of making a spectacle of himself. Like when he saves a street servant boy. This boy looks very grimy, dirty and seems very brutish whilst the townspeople are jeering. Ross wades in and saves him from the crowd. But I’ll be damned, this boy turns out to be a very tomboyish girl who we later learn is Demelza Carne (Eleanor Tomlinson). Once she gets washed and get those crawlers out of her hair, she looks more like a woman and not like a boy. Ross’ constant brooding puts that of Game Of Thrones’ Jon Snow to shame. That being said, their likeness is uncanny. From the hair to their following of fangirls but more importantly to both characters being a men of the people. Both will defend those who are unable to defend themselves. Jon faces the same kind of adversity from the Nights Watch that Ross faces from his own class. Both are judged for helping people (wildlings). Aidan kills it as Ross, and hope that he continues to play this role for many more years to come.
Season one of Poldark is based on the opening two Winston Graham novels in the series, Ross Poldark and Demelza; the first two of an eleven-novel series. Graham’s books were first adapted for the small screen in a two-season television show that aired in the 1970s between ’75 and ’77. The first season of the remake of the cultly followed series was shown in eight episode bursts. What’s great about British television is that seasons don’t go beyond ten or twelve episodes, unlike America where every man and his dog is watching shows with twenty-three episode seasons. British period dramas could not tolerate seasons of such an unnecessary length. Even at its soapiest, Poldark lacks in cheesiness which can’t be said for its American period drama-counterparts like CW’s Reign.
When Ross isn’t reprimanding his servants Jud (Phil Davis) and Prudie Paynter (Beatie Edney), taking the air with cousin Verity (Ruby Bentall) or blocking indirect attacks from his uncle Charles (Warren Clarke) and the scaly Cary and George Warleggan (Pip Torrens & Jack Farthing), he can be found brooding, pining after Elizabeth (Heida Reid) or singlehandedly working the mine whilst unsubtley donning an unbuttoned shirt. After getting into many a brawl, his Aragorn/Jon Snow-esque, ragged and dirty sex appeal is only increased. Ross’ brooding makes the likes of Jon Snow and Batman look like choir boys. With an abundance of periodness to the series, the BBC used The Hobbit’s Aidan Turner’s attractiveness quite well, exploiting it to the point of no return. Yet, that doesn’t make a bad show, because the show is excellent stuff.
Poldark is the Downton Abbey substitute we’ve been waiting for. Filled with outstanding performances from all the cast, great set pieces and quality costume design. Riddled with themes such as: society, romance, justice, crime, politics, ethics, morality, family and culture; BBC’s Poldark is certainly a keeper. Set on the landscapes of the picturesque Cornish coastline, Poldark makes for great viewing and a period drama that men can watch without feeling a bit edgy, this is not just another women’s drama to tuck into of a Sunday night.
Season two premieres on Sunday September 4 on BBC One