Poldark series 3 episode 5 review: Ross on the rampage in France delivered the Sunday-night goods

This cross-Channel instalment was a return to form for the series

Sally Newall
Tuesday 17 October 2017 10:58
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Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) in the prison in France
Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) in the prison in France

In the Poldark versus Warleggan saga we regularly run the gamut of emotions. This Anglo-French episode hit the sweet spot thanks to Ross going peak Ross: being both ridiculously reckless and painfully principled, while laughing in the face of mortal danger, all while looking impossibly handsome. We also had George doing George particularly well: being a social climbing, power-obsessed arse - and the world’s most evil step father.

There was high drama in the form of a messy prison break in France juxtaposed with the refined setting of the Tregothnan ball, with bonus points for some welcome comedy from toady Reverend Whitworth trying to woo Morwenna (Ellise Chappell), plus some eye candy provided by Josh Whitehouse as aristo Lieutenant Hugh Armitage, who we finally got to see in daylight. In short, this fifth episode was a Sunday-night crowd-pleaser.

We saw shades of James Bond about Capt’n Ross (Aidan Turner) when he first went to Roscoff two episodes ago, disregarding the brutality of La Republique as he swung at soldiers, dodged guards and got propositioned by the local filles. On this second mission across the Channel, he went all Jackie Chan, punching armed prison guards with his bare fists in his bid to liberate local saint and all-round good egg Doctor Enys (Luke Norris).

Given we’d seen the guards executing prisoners “for sport” in the first half of the episode, surely one of them could have fired their gun in the right direction? Yet the gang got through with scarcely more than Ross's knuckles and Tholly’s hook to protect them. I mean I think it was Tholly’s hook, the producers took “under cover of darkness” a little too literally here. Scenes in the prison were so dim that I could barely tell what was going on. The need to know: at some point they strong-armed their way into the sanatorium to rescue the increasingly beardy Dwight, who was so weak from scurvy that he at first thought the Cornish crew were a mirage.

Predictably, Enys had befriended the poshest of all the prisoners: Hugh Armitage (Josh Whitehouse), also conveniently, the nephew of Lord Falmouth, the bloke who George was trying to persuade to make him a parliamentary candidate instead of Ross.

The shoot-out that followed the prison break was all a bit Dad's Army for my tastes. ‘’Take cover!” shouted Ross's loyal sidekick, Henshawe (John Hollingworth), not unlike Captain Mainwaring, as he let off an explosive. “Minin’s a risk, lovin’s a risk, livin’s a risk, so tonight I’ll take my chance,” he’d said at the beginning of the mission. It was an utterance that reminded me of that cringey “Votin’” campaign by Britain Stronger in Europe last year (there was even a “livin’” in that one too). We all know how that ended and it proved not to be a good omen here. Henshaw-exit, doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, alas. Ross was forced to leave his friend for dead. Drippy Drake (Harry Richardson) had also come along in a bid to help him get over Morwenna’s rejection, I was rather hoping he might not return for more love-sick soppiness on the beach, but unlike poor Capt’n Henshawe, he made made it to Nampara Cove.

In Cornwall, we got another instalment of the brilliantly awful Reverend Osborne Whitworth (Christian Brassington). Brassington has done a stellar job inhibiting the character – he has said that he lived on a diet of lager, burgers and ice cream to eat the 3500 calories a day required to bulk up to play the lecherous, not-at-all-godly reverend. With his frilly cravats, jazzy “weskets”, patrician vowels and complexion like a boiled ham, he is deliciously repellent and fans of Christopher Biggins’ original Whitworth in the first TV adaptation of Winston Graham's novels, tell me they aren't disappointed by the new incarnation.

With all the heroics in France, there was no time for any gratuitous topless action this week, but given the arrival of Hugh Armitage, I have high hopes for the next episode. Please don't troll me for this shameless objectification of men. If they will cast Burberry models – Whitehouse starred in one of the brand's fragrance campaigns last year – frankly, what do they expect? Anyway, now that Saint Dwight is back from France, Ross can get on with the business of loving two women, out-smarting George and finding a new cause to get behind. Allez, Ross, allez!

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