Demelza finally persuaded Captain Ross that real men DO cry after Ned Despard’s trial. But the hero seemed to have quit early in Poldark, by Jim Shelley
It’s probably for the best that Poldark is calling it a day.
There are still two episodes to go but in this week’s show he looked like a man who already had. Who felt that, after four years and five seasons, he just wasn’t up to playing the hero anymore. And was right.
With a minute left, the sight of Captain Ross sitting on the cliff top, crying, told us that.
Emotion: There are still two episodes to go but in this week’s edition of Poldark, Captain Ross looked like a man who already had
As did the fact that, amazingly, seconds later, things got worse.
Poldark and his hero status hit rock bottom – literally - when the famously macho soldier/swordsman/ swashbuckler was caught napping (or sobbing), knocked unconscious, and thrown down a crevasse – all by a single (revolting) peasant. A humiliating price to pay for (finally) ‘getting in touch with his feelings’, as Demelza wanted when she told him: ‘you should weep. It’s the better part of you.’
The final image of Ross lying, lifelessly down the hole suggested not for the first time, she was wrong.
Having said that, Poldark’s night still wasn’t as bad as Ned Despard’s.
Sad times: He was executed for treason, dangling from the gallows with more people watching Ned die on stage than Liam Gallagher at Glastonbury
Oh dear: With a minute left, the sight of Captain Ross sitting on the cliff top, crying, told us that
He was executed for treason, dangling from the gallows with more people watching Ned die on stage than Liam Gallagher at Glastonbury.
And that was the good news for Ross’ former army comrade (a former Colonel), the former governor of Honduras, and close friend. (Or former friend, to be accurate.)
‘You shall be hanged by the neck but NOT until you are dead!’ his Lordship thundered, enjoying himself far too much as he announced hanging was literally too good for him.
‘You shall then be cut down and your bowels taken out and cast into the fire (burnt) before your face, your head taken off, and your body quartered.’
Helping out: 'You should weep. It’s the better part of you', Demelza told him
Hotting up: The pair shared a steamy kiss during their emotional conversation
A bit harsh?
The Prime Minister thought so, issuing a last-minute reprieve that meant Ned’s head and body stayed intact and his bowels remained internal organs. It was just a shame about his neck…
‘Your friend was declared a traitor. Will your good name suffer?’ Demelza sighed to Ross back in Cornwall, swiftly getting to the crux of the tragedy.
‘Do I care?’ growled her husband. ‘If I never see London again it will be too soon.’
Tragic: ‘Have you ever known me to weep?’ Ned asked, shouting over the cascades of violins when they reached the prison sewers
Clearly the MP for Truro didn’t care about the campaign to abolish slavery as much as previous episodes had indicated.
Admittedly, Master Ross had generously donated the land that enabled Morwenna and Drake (not that one) to build somewhere they could teach the villagers how to read and write the words of Demelza’s dreadful folk songs. (A school on the edge of a cliff? What could possibly go wrong?)
Poldark blubbing like a baby was more an admission of his shortcomings than progress in his emotional development.
He’d let Ned and himself (and us) down.
Breaking boundaries: Colonel Ned who defied the odds by tying the knot to freed black slave Kitty (pictured right) in the late 18th century
His attempts to have Despard reinstated , persuade a jury to acquit him of trumped charges of treason, and even break Ned out of jail had all failed.
‘Does no one comprehend there’s no GROUNDS for Ned’s arrest?!’ he harrumphed to William Wickham, the head of MI6, who probably did understand that – given that he was one of the figures behind the conspiracy against Ned in the first place.
‘Is it not within your power to call the prison governors to account?!’ he then wailed to Joseph Merceron, the Chief Magistrate. Again, yes – for the same reason.
Merceron had paid witnesses to substantiate the allegation Despard had been plotting to assassinate the King (using ‘a ceremonial canon’), ‘overthrow the monarchy and government’, thereby ‘establishing a republic like that of France.’
On the other hand, Ned had repeatedly, drunkenly, branded George the Third as mentally ill. Which he was of course but was a bit rich coming from a man known to his troops as ‘Mad Ned.’
Much to Poldark’s horror, in court Doctor Enys helpfully endorsed this nickname with his diagnosis, testifying Ned had sustained ‘a number of serious head injuries in the line of duty’, suffering ‘permanent, irreversible, brain damage’, that had left him ‘delusional.’
Not as delusional as the way Ross recalled Ned ‘in the disease-ridden swamps of Honduras’, ‘working with the ‘rags and tatters’ of society - native Indians, convicts, slaves… Giving the right to have a say to all – regardless of sex, colour, class, or creed.’
Basically, like Gandhi if he’d Irish and a soldier, not a pacifist.
Fierce words: Ned had repeatedly, drunkenly, branded George the Third (pictured) as mentally ill
When the jury, understandably, decided this sounded like hokum and found Despard guilty, the bromance between him and Ross went into overdrive – ironically when the Colonel brought their jailbreak to an unexpected halt.
‘Have you ever known me to weep?’ Ned asked, shouting over the cascades of violins when they reached the prison sewers.
Of course Poldark hadn’t and Despard had - in court: ‘when I heard my friend describing me. But he was describing more than me. He was describing an ideal. He was describing himself. You are everything I have sought to be!’
Again, this sounded frankly delusional, but Despard went further.
‘You are everything I have sought to be, but better. A soldier. But also a statesman! You will make the world a stronger, fairer, wiser, place! So leave me here. Go and finish what I could not!’
A hell of a challenge, even for the hero of this series, and one that proved beyond him.
When he got back to Cornwall after Despard’s execution, Poldark seemed more crushed by the burden than galvanized to tackle the enemies who had destroyed Ned.
Support: Demelza encouraging him to ‘weep’, like ‘a New Man’, was not what was really required from the leading man in this series
Demelza encouraging him to ‘weep’, like ‘a New Man’, was not what was really required from the leading man in this series.
Blind with tears Ross even mistook his attacker for Demelza, muttering ‘my love’ just before the man doing Merceron’s dirty work knocked him out cold and thrown, unconscious, down the mineshaft.
It was hard to see Poldark bringing down Merceron and his rich, evil, supergroup of William Wickham, Ralph Hanson, and George Warleggan when he could be so easily felled by a simpleton like Jacka Hoblyn.