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'Poldark' Returns for Its Penultimate Season
September 30, 2018  | By David Hinckley

Demelza Poldark not only has one of the most unusual names on television, but she has become one of its most fascinating characters as the PBS fave Poldark launches Season 4 at 9 p.m. ET Sunday (check local listings).

Eleanor Tomlinson (below) plays Demelza, wife of title character Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner, top), and the two of them will have some things to discuss during the eight-episode season.

At the top of that list is the fact they both slept with other people. Each knows it, too, even as they have been carefully avoiding or talking around it. They resume that dance Sunday while reaffirming their genuine affection for each other.

If Poldark were set in the 21st century instead of the 18th, Demelza would at some point say to him, “We need to talk,” which of course is one of the most chilling phrases in the English language.

The conventions of the time don’t allow her to be that direct, a lovely dramatic twist enriched by the fact that her relationship with the handsome Lt. Hugh Armitage (Josh Whitehouse) means Ross could, in theory, say the same thing to her.

Well, he could if he hadn’t had that impulsive dalliance with Elizabeth (Heida Reed), the childhood sweetheart with whom he is still more than a little bit in love.

Elizabeth, of course, is now married to George Warleggan (Jack Farthing, below), Ross’s perpetual nemesis.

On various levels, George is the nemesis of almost everyone, being that he’s a smarmy and loathsome villain. He is also pathologically jealous of Ross even though he seems to have all the things Ross does not, like money and power, both of which George employs to further enrich himself at the expense of all the decent, hard-working people in their home village of Cornwall.

Winning a seat in Parliament has further emboldened George in his despicable chicanery. As the fourth season dawns, Cornwall is suffering from a serious grain shortage, and some of the locals see it as unseemly that desperately needed grain from George’s warehouses is being sent out of the country to places where it can make the sellers more money.

Further complicating that situation for George, an election has been called, and he must defend his seat. There has been great pressure on Ross to oppose him; pressure Ross has been resisting, which has left Hugh Armitage as the likely candidate. 

This promises some awkward moments, made further complex by the fact that the good Dr. Dwight Enys (Luke Norris) has diagnosed Armitage with seriously failing eyesight and general health.

It’s also clear Sunday that things are not looking brighter for the tragic Morwenna (Ellise Chappell), who was cynically married off to the odious Rev. Whitworth (Christian Brassington) and must endure soul-crushing humiliation between occasional glimpses of the man she actually loves, Drake Carne (Harry Richardson).

Okay, Poldark can get sudsy. Yet like the best British soaps, it looks so good and has so many well-drawn characters that we need not justify our impulse to keep watching.

The fourth season also confirms the hints planted in earlier seasons that none of those characters is more intriguing or complex than Demelza. Where she had every excuse to become the obedient and grateful wife of one of the top catches in town, she has instead taken a much bolder path at the same time she wrestles with moral dilemmas and doesn’t always land on the high ground. Every Demelza scene feels charged.

As Poldark fans probably know, the good news is that there will be a fifth season. The bad news is that the fifth will be the last. So the seeds of resolution will be planted this season, and with luck, a few may begin to sprout.

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