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The Final Season of 'Poldark' Begins
September 29, 2019  | By David Hinckley

Oh, look. There are the mighty cliffs of Cornwall, sweeping down to the ocean, and galloping along the earthen pathways of those cliffs is a rider astride a noble steed. 

Yes, friends, Poldark is back for, alas, its last gallop. The reincarnated TV series launches its fifth and final season Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings). 

When he's not silhouetted against the eternal ocean, Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner, top) is trying to make the late 18thcentury world a better place. He must try to salvage enough of his family's lost fortune to maintain a home and perhaps command an enterprise that will help provide jobs and sustenance for local villagers. 

He just keeps getting interrupted by things like war and family crises. He keeps having to rescue friends. 

None of those obstacles has changed much as we start the fifth season, which perhaps is part of the reason this will be the final season. Writer Debbie Horsfield probably doesn't want to resurrect the same fistful of dilemmas with slightly reshuffled details, so she's presumably directing the story to its endpoint. 

Reaching that endpoint, however, is less simple than riding a horse along the cliffs. Almost every direction in which Ross turns, he finds his path impeded by the insidious George Warleggan (Jack Farthing), an A-list villain with a bottomless bank account and a heart of flint. 

George employs his villainy with a more melancholy spirit as the new season begins, however, thanks to the death of his wife Elizabeth (Heida Reed). 

Marrying Elizabeth had been George's most satisfying achievement since Elizabeth had long been Ross' sweetheart. She drifted away when Ross left for three years to fight in the American war, and a series of sometimes convoluted circumstances – okay, things got soapy – prevented them from legally getting back together. That is, getting back together openly. 

Meantime, Ross had married Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson), whom he really did love even if he never completely got over Elizabeth. As we were saying, there was soap.  

Elizabeth's death was a direct result of all those suds, and though George deserves almost all the blame, he naturally accepts little or none of it. Still, he's having a hard time moving forward, except that he does understand that he still must sabotage Ross whenever possible. 

The broader problem in the Poldark world is that George has enough money and influence to make life miserable for many people – thousands or more – not just Ross. So even as Ross tries to have nothing to do with George, he cannot make the world a better place until he gets it out from under the thumbs of George and his rich greedy enablers. 

On the smaller scale, Ross finds a new reason he needs to help his best friend Dr. Enys (Luke Norris) and his wife Caroline (Gabriella Wilde). Ross cannot, alas, provide much help to newlyweds Drake Carne (Harry Richardson) and Morwenna (Ellise Chappell), whose problems stem in part from a different, now-deceased villain, though also from the butterfly effect of George's unpleasantness. 

A number of pieces must fit into the puzzle for Poldark to finish on an up beat, and that will be the mission of the final season: configuring puzzle pieces.  

The first episode makes it clear that this will involve both large and small dramas, with characters at times forced into reconciliations and forgiveness. 

There's also this: Viewers very much want the good guys to win here, or least not to lose. So even as George continues to offend decency and Ross struggles to carve out a peaceful and prosperous corner of the world, all in the delightfully stylized language of the era, we will hold fast to the hope that the last gallop along the cliffs will be a victory lap.  

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