Venture Once More: Poldark 2, Episode 4

Episode 4 wraps up the plot of Jeremy Poldark, leaving the remaining six installments for Warleggan, one of the pivotal novels in the saga. This past weekend, however, I ended up watching the corresponding episodes from Oldark, so the comparisons between the two series are fresher in my mind than usual. While my affection for Oldark remains unabated, not all the advantages are on its side, though I will say that Oldark seems to do a more efficient job, overall, of moving the story along within its allotted 50-minute installments; plus, the Jeremy Poldark episodes–written by Peter Draper–are particularly strong, even though Draper seems never to have met a cliffhanger he didn’t like!

Newdark‘s version of Jeremy Poldark has been a bit hit-or-miss,  and the concluding episode was no exception.

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The Good

  1. Verity and her stepfamily: I very much appreciated Newdark showing Verity adapting to married life and trying to befriend the Blamey children, resentful Esther and (thankfully) warm-hearted James. In Oldark,  Captain Blamey essentially disappears into Offscreenlandia after he and Verity wed, though we are told that they are happy and the marriage is eventually fruitful.
  2. Dwight and Caroline’s growing attraction: Miffed Caroline is always entertaining, so I enjoyed the back-and-forth of their letters when she was pointing out that he hadn’t come to see her since the fishbone incident. And the part where she anonymously sends him a cartload of oranges for his scurvy-ridden miners is one of my favorites in the book.
  3. The three-way reconciliation between Ross, Francis, and Blamey: all three of them manning up and attempting to put the past behind them. And coming together at the end for the opening of Wheal Grace.
  4. The birth of Jeremy: I was a little annoyed that Demelza’s rowing herself back to the beach while in labor was undercut by Ross showing up to haul her ashore, but the sight of them with their new son being christened was sweet, as was their romantic exchange on the cliffs at the end.

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The Bad

  1. An excess of George: He seemed to be popping up like a jack-in-the-box at various points in the episode, and I found him, in Georgette Heyer’s words, “decidedly de trop.” In addition to seeing more of his silly boxing lessons, he intrudes unnecessarily upon Dwight and Caroline while they’re discussing the oranges and has an equally annoying scene where he seems on the brink of making an indecent proposal to Elizabeth…which never occurs in the books. (Graham’s George, for all his faults, felt a genuine reverence towards Elizabeth and was shrewd enough to play the long game by visiting Trenwith as Geoffrey Charles’s godfather.) About the only time Newdark‘s George didn’t seem out of place was when he was receiving a major beatdown from Ross at the Red Lion Inn. My only regrets: no blood, and Ross doesn’t throw him over the stairs the way he does in the book.
  2. Dear Ms. Horsfield: Just so you know, the sun won’t stop shining and the tide won’t stop coming in if a character other than Ross has a heroic moment. It really would be okay if Dwight was allowed to show his medical expertise and correctly diagnose scurvy among the miners without input from Ross. It would also be okay if Demelza, having gotten herself into trouble by going fishing while pregnant, also managed to get herself out of trouble by successfully rowing ashore. Dwight being competent and Demelza determined does not reflect negatively on Ross in any way. Plus, he gets enough of his own big heroic moments so that he shouldn’t need to intrude on anyone else’s.

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Nothing this week was bizarre enough to qualify for WTF? status, though I came to the realization that Oldark seems more efficient about basic storytelling for two reasons:

  1. Fewer transitional scenes: repeated shots of Ross galloping along the cliffs from Point A to Point B aren’t always necessary. He has a horse, so we can assume his mode of transport. Why can’t he just be shown departing and then arriving at his new destination? There’s period detail, and then there’s self-indulgence.
  2. Knowing when to tell rather than show: some of the dullest scenes in Newdark involve Ross’s board meetings, especially when George and/or his minions show up to taunt Ross about the shares Warleggan was acquiring in Wheal Leisure. That happened at least twice in this episode. Oldark covered the same material more briskly and effectively in a single conversation held in Pascoe’s office. Sometimes less really is more.

Until next week!

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