When it comes to upping the stakes, series 3 of Poldark has a genuine challenge on its hand. After a second series that divided fans and caused plenty of controversy, the next step is dealing with a whole load of fallout. Fortunately, episode 1 set the series with a fun and dramatic beginning, maintaining the central story arcs that have held so far whilst introducing us to a few vibrant new characters.
The episode begins with some seriously impressive stuntwork, as we meet a reckless and heavily pregnant Elizabeth galloping her horse along the Cornish coast. It’s no surprise then that the first person to appear is our beloved Ross Poldark, a man who seems to traverse those cliffs so often it’s remarkable the path isn’t three-foot deep. After a little bit of awkward tension, George Warleggan appears out of thin air to begin year three of his tyrannical rule as the world’s slimiest character. In a continued fact of unfair allocation, he also still has the best horse in the series (a bay middleweight hunter, to you horsey types).
It soon becomes apparent that Elizabeth is continuing a string of unsafe acts, clearly hoping to prompt her birth so that it looks like a early event, rather than right on time. As we know and clueless George does not, Elizabeth’s tryst with Ross fits the timing of her significant bump much more than the Warleggan couple’s (undoubtedly disappointing) honeymoon. In the meantime, George is bossing around the household as best he can – unfortunately, he has not prepared for the most formidable duo on television since Phil and Grant Mitchell.
I’m talking of course, about Aunt Agatha and precocious child Jeffrey-Charles. Aunt Agatha, always pretty unhinged, goes full out in just episode one, giving impressive heckles and raining down a dramatic curse on her new nephew-in-law. Jeffrey-Charles meanwhile, despite not being at double figures yet, has already nailed the gentlemanly holding of the laples, and soon twists new governess Morwenna (Ellise Chappell) right around his bossy little finger. I don’t know why George looks so smug – he’s going to have trouble on his hands.
He does have one ally, his wicked uncle, played by Pip Torrens. Torrens can also currently be seen as another villain in the BBC’s Versailles, and one glance at his IMDB page should probably earn him this site’s award for the king of period dramas (seriously, he’s in all of them).
Whilst this season introduces us to some next-level drone shots and other new characters in the shape of Demelza’s two brothers Samuel (Tom York) and Drake (Harry Richardson), the producers have clearly not forgotten what the viewers love. We get a shot of Ross working down the roasting mines, Dwight Ennis holding a baby and Prudy’s always-reliable one-liners. Who else would describe marriage as ‘like a ruptured splein’? Never change, Prudy.
Dwight Ennis remains the unluckiest man in the world yet again – so much so that the show points it out – as every moment the poor man gets to do something in his own life, the other characters continue to find themselves in mortal peril. Here’s hoping Caroline doesn’t flake on him.
Finally, there’s some real enjoyment to be had at watching George Warleggan walk up to Elizabeth’s new baby and Elizabeth untruthfully stating ‘he favours you, I think’. Never mind the baby’s impressive head of coal black hair, I’m sure this will all blow over. Just like Ross will keep far away from Trenwith for the rest of the series. Yeah, right.
The first episode of Poldark was an exciting start to the new series. If all the episodes are like this, we’ll have more than enough rich melodrama to keep us sniggering and swooning in equal measure.