Poldark on MASTERPIECE: Season 3 Finale Recap

Deborah Gilbert | November 19, 2017

Ross prepares the local men for impending disorder.

This was the week when all the women stood up. They had had enough of being used and abused, or just taken for granted, and they were taking charge of their own fates and dishing up a side of comeuppance to go. It’s almost like it’s ripped from current headlines. And by the way, this is what you call a cliff hanger! This is the third season in a row Poldark has had a stellar cliff hanger — and that means it’s going to be a long wait till next season begins to learn the fates of these characters! But for now, here are…

The 21 Essentials Of Poldark’s Season 3 Finale

21. The Mid-Afternoon Sprint Of Prudie Revere

Odd couple Prudie and Tholly cut school to go down the shore and get drunk on the beach when Prudie thought she saw something out on the horizon. Three ships, but whose be they? Tholly pulls his handy telescope out of his pocket (so he really wasn’t happy to see her), nor was he happy with what he saw on the water: French flags flying on the ships’ masts. The drunken pair immediately jumped up and ran through town screaming, “The Frenchies are coming! The Frenchies are coming!” causing everyone to grab whatever shovel, pitchfork or miscellaneous blunt instrument they had handy and run back to shore to take on the French army – but they were gone. As the villagers stood there confused, Tholly said ominously, “they’ll be back.”

But let’s not bury the lede: are Prudie and Tholly a couple now? Or are they just drinking buddies? Discuss.

20. War Is Not Healthy For Children And Other Living Things

Sir Francis calls a meeting of local influencers to raise the threat level to orange. The French have been at their door and the threat cannot be ignored. They must prepare to defend King and Country. Captain Ross Poldark is drafted to train a company of rag tag volunteers to defend the Cornish coast from invasion. But when the talk of war gets bold around the boardroom table, we see Ross’ face become reticent. He’s been there. He knows the cost of war.

19. Poetry In Motion

Demelza goes out to the beach for some private time to sneak a read of yet another love poem from Armitage. Ross finds her there and tells her she shouldn’t be out there alone, that the French were spotted and there are rumors of an imminent attack. Demelza (a bit) sarcastically supposes he’ll take up the flag and lead the charge. He responds, “And be a leader of men?” He looks at her like he’s not quite sure what to say. She the same. There is a lot to be said, but neither one can seem to figure out how to get there. (And we recognize it because we’ve all been there, right?) This is a relationship that has fallen into misunderstanding, and with that comes its wingman, resentment.

18. There’s No Place Like Home

George returns home from Westminster and one of the first things he sees as his carriage rolls toward Trenwith is Drake’s humble smithee shop (where Morwenna has been standing at a distance, longingly watching him, unseen). George doesn’t know this but he does know the land is bordering on his land. Not on his land — only next door. More importantly he sees Ross there — and George no likey.

To prepare for George’s homecoming, Elizabeth asks Geoffrey Charles to write, “George is a kind and generous man” one hundred times on the blackboard, and he promises to be civil for her sake. But as soon as George arrives he pops out of the carriage, doesn’t even say hello. Instead he immediately launches into an interrogation about said smithee shop and wants to know whose it is. Elizabeth tells him she thinks Ross bought it for Drake and Geoffrey Charles pipes up that it’s splendid. George is upset that Elizabeth let Geoffrey Charles visit Drake. She responds that it was her decision, and what harm could it do? Morwenna has been married off. There is a definite sea change in Elizabeth’s manner; the meekness she had in the way she dealt with George before he left for Westminster is gone. George asks if there’s been any insolence from Ross while he was away (so that’s what the kids are calling it now), but Elizabeth tells him she can’t remember the last time she saw him. (Apparently that kiss wasn’t to memorable.)

17. The Scorpion And The Toad

George is getting on Sir Francis’ last nerve. He is upset that Ross has been given the position with this new militia (natch), and in his petulant way tries to talk Sir Francis out of it. George tells him it is not a good idea, given Ross’ history of recklessness and disorder, to give him authority and Sir Francis responds with, “he is the authority!” George: “To do what?” Francis: “To quell any hint of recklessness and disorder.” George: “But can he be trusted?”

Oops, bad question Georgie. Sir Francis uses this moment to ask George if he can be trusted, then takes him to task for ignoring the explicit agreement they had; you remember Georgie, the agreement that handed you that seat in Parliament? Who could have seen that coming (aside from everyone who has ever encountered George)? Francis runs down the long, offensive list that includes; against orders, George voted down a bid that would have increased the rights of commoners and has conspired to keep grain prices (and interest rates) high even though there has been starvation and rioting. (Somewhere Lord Falmouth is smiling.)

George claims he was only voting his conscience, despite the fact that up until now he has shown no evidence of a conscience of any kind. But he will not be brought to heel by Sir Francis. That Warleggan chin goes up, and he defiantly says, “If rioting occurs again, it’s comforting to know a hero is on hand to save us.” So George double-crossed Sir Francis to benefit his own selfish interest. But of course he did; it is his nature.

16. Francis Python And The Holy Grail

Sir Francis does not appreciate the sarcasm though, and George would be wise to heed the warning of Henry VIII’s consigliere Thomas Cromwell (via Hilary Mantel in Wolf Hall), who said, “Those who are made can be unmade.” George could lose his head (or, at least, his crown). When Sir Francis next sees Ross, commanding his troops (such as they are), he hints at his displeasure with George, dishing about his lack of scruples. Ross emits a knowing chuckle. Sir Francis tells Ross he is a natural leader, courageous and resourceful, and it is too bad he didn’t accept the chalice (AKA, the MP seat) when he had the chance. Ross reasoned that the chalice was poisoned, but Sir Francis said he’d never know until he tried, hinting that he just might have another chance at it.

15. Now Is The Winter Of Our Discontent

The people of Truro’s surrounding villages petition George to sell them grain at 30 shillings a bushel, but he scoffs, “Bah humbug!” Demelza talks to Ross about the growing discontent in the village and implores him to step up, speak out, and challenge the corruption and injustice or the commoners will rise up, but Ross is ever reticent. Though after seeing his PTSD episodes I wonder, is his reticence to lead because as a Captain in the Revolutionary War, when he led men it was to their deaths? Is that what he cannot say? And maybe part of Demelza’s own growing discontent is that she does not know that, but does see the greatness within Ross, and the waste that he runs from it instead of embracing it for the greater good. He will not play the hero for her, insisting, “I am not that man, and if that i s what you seek, look elsewhere.” This is now the second time he’s told her to look elsewhere. Little does he know that she just may take him up on it — and how will he feel then?

Meanwhile, Armitage continues to scribble away his romantic notes in the enveloping darkness.

14. Horse Shoes

Naturally, to George, toad-toting Drake being even a lowly smithee anywhere near his land is a provocation. He immediately sets to harassing him out, giving the assignment to Tom Harry, who reduces the workshop to shambles and threatens customers to stay away. Demelza surmises it must be George and tells Ross. Ross says it cannot be, since George is a member of Parliament and wouldn’t risk his reputation now. And besides, Elizabeth would never permit it. Uh-oh. He said the E-word. Demelza challenges him and asks if he knows that for a fact. He says, “I know Elizabeth,” but he doesn’t look at Demelza when he says it. I’m thinking that was a mistake.

13. Horse’s Arse Shoes

Upping the harassment level to DEFCON 1, Tom Harry then sets the workshop on fire, but Drake sees him as he is leaving. Despite his best attempts he cannot put the fire out and his shop is destroyed. Drake goes to see Elizabeth, to ask if she can intervene on his behalf, but George comes in and interrupts, throwing Drake out. Elizabeth then angrily confronts George; she wants to know what Drake did, aside from committing the crime of being related to Ross Poldark. George’s answer, that he defied him with toads, had to sound silly even to him, once he said it out loud. George claimed he didn’t know the details, he just handed over the assignment of driving Drake off his land to Tom Harry, and Elizabeth demands that Tom Harry be dismissed. Ruh-roh! Tom Harry is George’s muscle, his plausible deniability for all his crimes, and his security blanket. The choice between Elizabeth and Tom Harry might be an existential crisis for George.

And things only get worse. When Drake leaves, he is set upon by Tom Harry and his goons who brutally beat him senseless, roll him into the pond and leave him for dead. Thankfully Demelza and Sam come looking for him, summon Dr. Enys and take him home where Dwight tells him he is lucky to be alive. Drake won’t say who did it, but Demelza says what everyone else is thinking: It had to be George’s flying monkeys. Caroline says what else everyone is thinking; that if it was George, there will be no recourse. He will deny all, and there will be nothing they can do.

12. The Name Game

Elizabeth lays it down, she tells George they are incompatible because of his jealousy and obsession with a Poldark feud. She demands to know why he is treating Valentine like he is not his son. George mentions his doubts and, just like Ross told her to do, she demands George name these doubts. When he does she follows Ross’ playbook: She lies, denying it all. When she gets George to ask if Valentine is his son she answers with a question, “who else’s could he be?” She even swears on a Bible that she has never given herself to anyone but Francis and him (George). The “given,” a technicality.

She tells him his jealousy is eating him up and making them incompatible. She announces she is leaving Trenwith, and he begs that anything he did he did out of love for her. She asks, “Is love cruel?” To George, apparently it is. Then she thrusts the Bible at his chest and makes him swear on it that he will never have these questions again. He sobs. George is nothing but a bully, and like every other bully, he is a coward. As soon as Elizabeth stops being the good wife, stands up and challenges him, he starts sniveling. He was as cold and nasty as he wanted to be to her for months, but now that she said she was leaving he wants her back. Is it because he really loves her or is it because he fears losing face, losing to Ross, losing, period?

And she can swear all she likes but meanwhile that kid’s dark hair is getting curlier and curlier every week. Just sayin’…

11. Sleeping Beauty

Dr. Enys pays a house call and says Morwenna’s heath is improving, though he recommends continued abstinence. Given that Rowella is in residence there is no argument from Whitworth this time. The coquettish flash of Rowella’s stockinged toes makes it easier. Whitworth feigns concern for Morwenna as best his tiny heart can, and asks Dwight for more of his special tincture, a sedative so she can sleep undisturbed, (ie; out like a light) so he can get busy with Rowella in the next room. Works like a charm.

10. Everything’s Coming Up Toeses

But not for long… Sister Rowella has some news for Whitworth: she is with child and wants to know, “What should we do?” And he’s all like, “We? What do you mean, ‘we?’” Thankfully, Rowella is a resourceful girl, so she’s already thought of a solution: She should marry someone else. Arthur from the Library has already asked. He does not know of her condition and she won’t lie about it for Whitworth (perish the thought), but that he might marry her anyway “for an inducement.” When brought round, Arthur says he could be persuaded to marry her for £1,000. Ka-ching. Whitworth sets the dogs on him. Rowella bursts into crocodile tears and runs out.

Not deterred, she returns later to say she has written to the Bishop to ask him to pray for her, but Arthur would be happy for her to hand over the Bishop’s letter to him in exchange for £500. When he balks and says it will be her word against his and she won’t believed. But she has an ace up her sleeve; she mentions that she may just have to mention to the Bishop about the mole on his left buttocks, shaped like a pig’s tail (how appropriate). He calls her evil. She has hit the man of god, who prays for more money (and women) where it hurts, in his purse.

All of this is overheard by Morwenna. This gives her the strength and ammunition to confront Whitworth about it when next he enters her room. So what do we think of this, Poldarkians? Was Rowella trying to help Morwenna or was she only ever out for herself? Or both? Is she really with child, or is this a scheme to exact revenge on Whitworth?

FYI: According to my inflation calculator, £1,000 in 1795 is the equivalent to £123,000 in 2017 (or $162,482 in American money). So Arthur and Rowella settled for £61,500 (or $81,241 American).

9. Bird Of Pray

Now that Rowella is gone, Morwenna is back on the menu, but she is not having it. When Whitworth comes to her room to insist they “pray” and resume relations, she gives a defiant “no.” He tells her she has no right to deny him. She tells him to leave this room and never return, that she knows all about the affair with Rowella and that she is with child, that he may have tried to drug her into oblivion but she wasn’t unconscious all the time. Caught, he claims it was not his fault, that Rowella has an evil in her (well, not anymore) that was just too… too irresistible, but by the grace of God he’s come back to her. (Yippee.)

She stands her ground, and as he moves in to assault her again, she threatens to kill his son; If Whitworth ever comes near her again she will smother the baby. Whitworth is startled, reasons that she’s been ill and backs away slowly, as one would when encountering a rabid raccoon. As soon as he goes she quickly whispers to the baby, apologizing, saying she didn’t mean it.

8. Sick And Tired Of Being Sick And Tired

Morwenna is fueled by righteous anger, but she can’t be angry that Whitworth strayed because she’d be perfectly happy it if he strayed into oncoming traffic. It must be the anger of the injustice of what she has had to sacrifice and endure. Thanks to Rowella, now Morwenna has evidence of Whitworth’s infidelity, but what can she do with it, given the times? And I’m wondering if play-acting sister Rowella did what she did for herself or for Morwenna. Maybe both? Or maybe she just wanted revenge on Whitworth and thought she’d hit him where it hurts most – in the purse – on her way out. What say you?

Will Morwenna be able to keep Whitworth out of her room indefinitely? And is that even enough? In Whitworth’s house, that room is a prison; Will she be able to find her way out to be with Drake? Or will Whitworth find another to replace her, one that doesn’t cause him to lose face? Can he use her threat against the baby against her somehow?

True History: Divorce, 18th Century-Style: Back in the day (the 18th Century) men had all the rights, including in marriage. Before the mid-19th century, the only way of getting a divorce that allowed re-marriage was by a Private Act of Parliament, which was very expensive, so only available to the wealthy. During Victorian times, men were allowed to get a divorce if they thought that their wives had cheated on them but women did not have that option. A woman had to show that besides adultery her husband committed other acts of life-threatening cruelty. However, cruelty was hard to prove.

7. Say It With Flowers

There is a knock at the door, but when Morwenna answers, there’s only a nosegay someone (Drake) has left sitting there. She runs out, hoping to see him but he is gone; unseen, hiding behind the gate. Morwenna says simply and sweetly into the air, “wherever you are, know that I love you.” It looked like he heard her. What will he do with it?

6. Timing Is Everything

Prudie runs to fetch Demelza from Drake’s cabin; Armitage is back at the house waiting for her. She says she can’t , that she has to give up thoughts of Armitage the way Ross gave up all thoughts of Elizabeth. But has he? Prudie finally tells Demelza what she saw (i.e., Ross and Elizabeth) at the church, and Demelza goes to confront Ross.

Just as Dr. Enys has told Ross about what happened to Drake and he has decided to go to Trenwith and confront George over it, to be the man Demelza was hoping for, Demelza turns up asking about Aunt Agatha’s grave and the business he had to attend to there. She asks what business, and he responds that it is no concern of hers. She says of course where he goes and who he kisses is no concern of hers at all. He tries to say it isn’t what it looks like (mm-hmm). She asks how many secrets must there be, that she is weary of it, and that he can keep them, “Keep them all, and I will keep mine.” And on that note she goes back to Nampara to find Armitage waiting for her. And before Ross can go to Trenwith, he gets called out on (he is led to believe) more urgent matters.

5. March

The village people are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. The beating of Drake was the last straw. They want to show George that he is not above the law. They are going to hold George and his enterprises to account, not realizing that a casual mob marching down the street with a battering ram could look a bit conspicuous. The ever-present Tom Harry sees and calls 911, summoning the militia on a false alarm.

A Red Coat delivers a message to Ross (and this time it’s not an arrest warrant): his company has been called to quell the reported threat to peace and safety. They have no idea till they get there that it isn’t the French, but rather the village people, led by Tholly and Sam, marching on the Warleggan grain stores, ready to rumble. Ross asks them to disperse, telling them that when the French arrive, they won’t want to be there. Then it dawns on him that there are no French. Ross tells them if they all just go home no harm will come to them, that his only duty is to king and country. When that doesn’t work, he gives them to the count of ten. Tholly asks, or what? The militia ready their guns and the implied threat is that they will fire on their protesting neighbors.

Sam ask Ross to join them. Tholly says Ross’ father would turn over in his grave to see him siding with the hoi polloi, and decides to call his bluff and count to ten for him. Just as he gets to one, Ross has another PTSD hallucination episode, like the one he had while rowing the rescuing boat after springing Dwight from prison. This daymare had him seeing everyone shot in slow motion in front of him — before he woke up. Ross comes out of his fevered dream to say of course he’s changed; he’s there to protect his good old pal George who had an idea that he’d set villager against villager, but he will not let him win. The time has come to take a stand against George, all the way to Westminster, and he is just the man to do it. The next time he is asked to stand for public office, stand he will. He will fight George that way, in the corridors of power.

4. Won’t You Lay Me Down In The Tall Grass

Armitage has now enrolled Demelza in the Columbia Poetry Club and is sending regular romantic pleas, scribbling away by firelight. He’s just had bad news; Dwight has told him that he’s going blind. That there is no kindness in false hope. Armitage asks if that means he needs to surrender everything, including his heart’s desire? He has obviously confided his feelings for Demelza to Dwight, who tells him no way Jose. Your heart’s desire, was never yours to begin with. Then he clicked his heels three times and turned up at Nampara because when times go rough, you’re hopin’ to find someone who’s gonna give you piece of mind.

Demelza is at the point where she’s been tossed around enough; at her suggestion they walk to Hendrawna sands — isn’t that the place she first spied Ross scything? Armitage asks if he can hold her hand but she says someone might see. He says she can just say she’s guiding him around, that it will soon be true; in six months he’ll be blind. He asks if she’ll allow him to “go into the darkness knowing I once tasted heaven?” Yeah, maybe laying it on a bit thick, but hey, he’s got to try. And is this part of the attraction of Armitage, that he needs her while (she thinks) Ross (who never considers her opinions) doesn’t? Could be. But regardless, they get down in the tall grass and do their stuff.

3. Search Party

Prudie is sitting at the table looking guilty when Ross gets home. He asks where Demelza is. She tells him she’s out, and with whom, and Ross goes to look for her, up to the tall grass. Were you (like me) thinking he was going to catch them?

He doesn’t find Demelza but he does finds George standing on the beach, his chin flying at half mast – is he thinking of darting into the surf? He is in his own world and is startled to see Ross standing there next to him. He quickly straightens himself and puts on his George suit. He brags that Tom Harry got the better of him, that his militia was forced to defend his business. Ross ask George what he believes and George reels off a list of what he possesses, meant to inspire envy, the big business, the trophy wife, the thriving son and heir. He then asks Ross what he believes. Ross just says, “That belief is a beautiful thing,” and walks away. That was an answer that created more questions, and looked like it took a bit of the air out of George’s lungs.

2. Here I Am

Back at home, Ross lies in bed, awake. Demelza finally returns, late, tiptoes in and gets into bed in her clothes. Ross tells her he didn’t know if she’d be coming back. She says she wasn’t sure herself, but that she is here now. He starts to ask her something and she just says, “Ask me nothing.” He doesn’t. They embrace.

1. …And Boom, There Are Your Season 3 Cliffhangers

Demelza thought a fling with Armitage would be the answer, but she doesn’t look like she feels that way now. Can Ross be (as Demelza asked last week) as patient with her as she has been with him? Ross, as well as being (what the Brits call) a bit of alright, also seems a bit of a conflicted Peter Pan. But after seeing his PTSD episodes, I wonder, is his reticence to lead because as a Captain in the Revolutionary War, when he led men, it was to their deaths? Is that what he cannot say? Can he set that aside to stand for office and oust George? Morwenna knows Drake still loves her and Drake knows Morwenna still loves him, so will they find a way back together? Will she be able to keep Whitworth at bay indefinitely? He’s a Godolphin and used to getting his way. Will he strike back in a way that makes another tragic sacrifice necessary for Morwenna or Drake? And then there’s George. He was bowed on the beach, but recovered his armor of obnoxious bravado. But what of his marriage? Does Elizabeth finding her voice mean a permanent power shift in their relationship?

She, who was born with no voice because of her class, cannot understand someone whose accident of birth gave them something she (and so many) were denied, and not using it.

This is a lot to ponder in the Poldark off-season. What do you think, Poldarkians?

Join the conversation in the comments section below, or on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #PoldarkPBS.

If you are on Twitter you can follow THIRTEEN at @THIRTEENWNET and me at @E20Launderette. On Instagram, find THIRTEEN at @THIRTEENWNET and me at @GothamTomato.

Stream full episodes of PoldarkTHIRTEEN Passport members can access the entirety of all three seasons.