If you have ever done one of those home murder-mystery parties, you will know that there is usually a comedy French character. They’re often the baddie and it’s an opportunity for whoever is given that part to put on their best ‘Allo ‘Allo! accent. There was a lot of Franglais going on in this third episode as Ross (Aidan Turner) and Tholly (Sean Gilder) made it to Roskoff to search for Doctor Enys. What greeted them was not pretty. And I'm not just talking about the language. There were guillotines in the street, and anyone who looked vaguely counter-revolutionary was in danger of losing their head.
Our hero laughed in the face of execution, obviously, and organised a (disarmingly good-looking) contact to get him a list of survivors of the Navy ambush. That was not before Ross was propositioned by the waitress, turned her down, and in doing so, got himself shopped to the enemy. They sent him back on the first ship to Nampara Cove, which he dived straight off again – Tom Daley, eat your heart out. It looked pretty chilly in this episode, you could see the actors' breath condensing, yet we were meant to believe that Ross swam to shore and spent the night in a barn without suffering any after-effects of a dip in the Channel. Then he somehow managed to punch and outrun a number of gun-wielding revolutionaries. Was it plausible? No, but like Ian Fleming's James Bond, Winston Graham's Ross Poldark is an old-fashioned action-man with more than nine lives to play with, and it makes for fun telly.
We learnt BIG SPOILER ALERT that Dr Enys (Luke Norris) survived and was now helping to treat other prisoners. We also saw that he looks rather good with a beard, if not a little out of time. (Or perhaps living in east London has skewed my facial hair historical references.) His usual reassuring, professional mask was slipping in prison, though. “We’re all in hell now,” he told a poor patient who had recently regained consciousness. You need to work on that bedside manner, Dwight.
Back across the Channel, you could see George’s ego inflating as he dolled out unfair punishments in his new position as Justice of the Peace. Jack Farthing really does have the megalomaniac thing down pat. At Trenwith, Elizabeth (Heida Reed) appeared to turn to opium to get through her marriage. Her anxiety levels were not helped by the fact that baby Valentine’s locks were looking mighty Ross-like (as predicted last week by yours truly). There’s only so long you can keep lucious curls like that covered.
True to Graham's novels, this show does all the clichés with conviction and mercifully, is very well acted, particularly by the central cast. There is palpable chemistry between Ross and Demelza and Graham gave us a brilliantly strong, flawed heroine in Demelza – and a rare great part for a female actor in a period drama. “I promised to love, honour and obey him, but why should I?” she snarled this episode, before gifting one of Ross’ buildings to her missionary brothers in his absence.
The little chinks of humour are also very welcome - Aunt Agatha (Caroline Blakiston) farting at the card table this week was a case in point. It's nice to have a bit of lightness amid all the heroics and love triangles.
I’m less convinced by the chemistry between drippy Drake (Harry Richardson) and Morwenna (Ellise Chappell). Though Elizabeth's cousin upped the ante this week when she said she would snog Drake if GC (Harry Marcus) wasn’t there. We saw Drake learning to read and write - maybe he will make Morwenna an engraved bracelet next (you read it here first, people). GC continued to act as a disturbingly effective wing-manchild for his governess. Now his mum has packed off to Truro, what's the poor kid going to do when things hot up? The flirting scenes also left me with another question: why was Morwenna wandering around the gardens without a coat, in what was clearly late autumn, when other characters were togged up? Some continuity, please.
And while we're on the subject of production decisions, this series is beautifully shot, so why not give us a little longer to appreciate the camera work? We were only in France two minutes before the action flicked to Trenwith, then Nampara, then back to Roskoff again. I don't think I would be the only viewer who would appreciate a few longer scenes in the mix.
So to sum up, Ross lost a few of those lives this week – and the script writers and crew got a bit lost in translation – but thank goodness our cross-Channel swashbuckler and his better half kept their heads. Just about.
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