When last we left Ross Poldark, the situation was dire. He was mourning the death of his daughter, trying to walk himself and his wife, Demelza, out of the darkness, when troops arrived to arrest him. The charge: inciting a riot and attacking an officer of the crown, all stemming from an incident involving a shipwreck, at which he’d led a salvage operation.
The new season of Poldark picks up at that moment of arrest, and sees Ross taken into custody and held for trial. What follows is a tense two hours. The charges are serious, and if convicted, he could be hanged immediately. His friends and family scramble to save him above his own protestations. His lawyer urges him to beg for his life, but Ross Poldark is a proud man, and he won’t bow, not to the judge, and not to George Warleggen, his enemy, who has the power to save him if only he’ll ask.
The performances here sell the tension, without ever quite tipping over into melodrama. Aidan Turner broods handsomely as Ross Poldark, while Eleanor Tomlinson, as Demelza, exudes a delicate strength as she pushes herself into new situations, doing what she thinks she can to save her husband, over his own objections.
Filmed, as was last season, in Cornwall, the vistas are, once again, stunning. The interior scenes are dark and claustrophobic, befitting the mood. This premiere checks in with most of the characters we saw last season, even some that could have been thought to have moved on, and introduces a new one, a scheming socialite who seems to set her sights on Poldark’s doctor friend.
Written by Debbie Horsefield, adapted from the books of Winston Graham, the script focuses on character moments, rather than stirring speeches (though there is a stirring speech near the end). We also see how far some of these people have been pushed, and what deadly consequences this can have. Will Poldark’s cousin, Francis, be able to survive under the thumb of George Warleggen, or will he give in to despair? Can Elizabeth use her influence with Warleggen to save Ross? Will Francis and his estranged sister, Verity, come to some sort of reconciliation? Will Demelza continue to rise above her birth and find herself able to manipulate those in high society to save her husband? Will George Warleggen find his humanity? These are all interesting questions, and are adeptly explored here. The resolution, when it comes, promises to resonate through further episodes while still providing a little bit of closure.
This premiere sets the stage for what should be a promising season two, while resolving some of the threads from season one in a satisfactory way. With season two, Poldark seems ready to take its place as one of the more moving dramas Masterpiece had offered.
Season two of Poldark debuts on Masterpiece Sunday, September 25 at 8:00 p.m. on KIXE Channel 9.