Poldark

Jun. 19th, 2017 10:46 am
llywela: (seascape-rainbow)
[personal profile] llywela
Too hot, too hot. So instead of doing any of the things I should be doing, I'm going to throw out some thoughts on Poldark, season three so far.

3x01 (disclaimer: written before 3x02 aired, so unspoiled thoughts follow). Wow, there really is nothing subtle about this show whatsoever, is there? I'd kind of forgotten that, over the long hiatus.

I'll start by saying that the episode was entertaining enough, as an episode of Sunday night telly, if a bit melodramatic and about as subtle as a brick. And then I'll add that this version really can no longer claim to be the fully faithful adaptation - there were so many changes to the story here I hardly know where to begin. Some I can see the sense of, others I can't. And the timeline! My brain desperately wants to make sense of the timeline, but I can't because it's all up the spout and has been since season one. They didn't even have Valentine being born on Valentine's Day which was the whole reason for his being given that name!

So far as the new characters go, I've seen and liked Ellise Chappell previously (in The Last Dragonslayer, which also stars a perennial fave of mine, Andrew Buchan, and is a lot of fun...although not being familiar with the book probably helped as I had nothing to compare it to!), and I like the look of this Drake so far, so I'm expecting to enjoy Drake and Morwenna's story - depending, of course, on what the show does with it. Sam I'm less fond of in every version, and we didn't see that much of him here, so far, so the jury's out there. I was sorry to see the change to Drake and Morwenna's first meeting - it's such a vivid scene in the book, with Drake and Sam hauling that enormous ship's mast through the wood to use in the rebuilding of Mark Daniel's old house. The timeline here has been compressed so they meet Morwenna and Geoffrey Charles earlier - and the show really does seem determined to make all significant encounters take place on that dratted cliff!

I'm not sure what was up with that melodramatic opening scene of Elizabeth's horse bolting and having to be rescued by Ross. They felt the need for a scene that would remind viewers of the current dynamic between Ross, Elizabeth and George, I guess - and to imply that Elizabeth is being deliberately reckless for fear of an early labour. Not in the book, however. I side-eyed that detail a little, but actually quite liked what they did with Elizabeth here - and I say that as someone who has never really liked this Elizabeth very much.

I did not, however, like what they did with Dwight and Caroline's story here. I understand the desire to find a way of keeping Dwight in the story (he doesn't appear at all in this book until the very end), but there are ways and ways of going about that, and this just felt like a short-term gain that absolutely torpedoes their story long-term. I'm still really angry that the show had them sleep together last season, in such a cheap, throwaway scene, when the fact that they don't sleep together until their wedding night, despite having been through so much together over so many years, is a really big deal in the book, and a beautiful scene when it finally happens, which now can't happen in the same way because not only have they already done the deed, but they are already married! When Caroline's entire story and character development in the book revolves around the fact that she isn't married to Dwight when he goes missing, and therefore has no official status to obtain information - or any official reason to mourn his loss, has to bottle it all up around everyone but Ross and Demelza. Speaking of which, I also regret a bit that Caroline and Demelza are already friends in this version - I mean, from a Bechdel point of view I'm all for it, they had some nice scenes last season, but in the book they still barely know one another at this point, it is Dwight's disappearance that throws them together in a sense, because Caroline has no one else to talk to, with the engagement being such a secret, so reaches out to Demelza, and the development of their relationship from virtual strangers to best friends is one of my favourite things in this book. We've lost that development, too.

Uncle Ray doesn't die this early in the book, either, and nor does he ever find out about the secret engagement (still less the eventual marriage). Nursing him through the long, lonely months when Dwight is missing is a huge part of Caroline's character development. She has been robbed of so much of her story from the book, all for the sake of shoehorning Dwight into this one episode - and I love Dwight as a character, but he really shouldn't have been in this episode, or if he was, he shouldn't have been on land! Damn, and I've just realised that we now won't get Dwight and Caroline's actual wedding when we get to it in the next book, because it has already happened, and I really love that chapter because a) it is told through George's eyes and he is hilariously sour about the whole thing, and b) I love that it happens when Dwight is still so frail and far from recovered, and yet Caroline is absolutely radiant with happiness and love. It's just one of many changes that makes me believe that the writer does not read further ahead than the book she is adapting at present - I've believed it since early in season two, when she had to scrabble like mad to pull back some of the changes she'd made in season one. I really don't think she knows the full story, and does not have full sight of the impact the changes she makes will have on future storylines going forward. Again and again this adaptation sacrifices long-term characterisation and character development for the sake of short-term convenience and momentary drama.

The new Geoffrey Charles is fabulous and reminds me that Geoffrey Charles is absolutely my favourite Poldark in the novels, more and more so as he grows up. But seeing such prolonged scenes of Elizabeth in labour reminded me that we missed out on the hilarious story of Julia's birth.

And that reminds me that although we saw Demelza telling Ross about her pregnancy, they didn't include the line Demelza has in the book about how Ross was so annoyed with her for keeping her first two pregnancies secret, so she thought she'd better tell him about this one right away, even if the timing does seem lousy (I'm paraphrasing here, since I don't have the book in front of me to quote the exact words!), which is a bit of a shame because it would have been a nice little nod back to their history as a couple.

I don't remember Valentine's dubious parentage being such a big deal this early on in the book (from memory, Ross and Demelza were much more loved up at this point than we saw here, following their reunion) but I actually like that it was leaned on a bit more here, that suspicion festering away in the hearts of all the major players, unvoiced.


3x02 - I actually liked this episode, despite the manifold changes made to the story.

I think it helped that I could see the logic behind most of the changes made, even if I didn't necessarily agree with them - and even if I do regret the loss of some favourite scenes from the novel, such as Caroline's rush to Verity's home in Falmouth after hearing rumours about the loss of Dwight's ship, and the fact that the two had barely even been introduced previously, yet shared this very intense scene as Verity was able to produce for Caroline a week-old news sheet reporting the loss of the Travail, and then use her contacts at the harbour-master's office to press for more news. Graham's original version of the story was changed quite enormously in this episode, adding a sub-plot about Andrew Blamey's ship also going missing, with Verity at Trenwith for a visit instead of at her own home in Falmouth, presumably to draw Verity into the action more - and to allow Ross to play the hero again. Actually, now that I think about it, I kind of resent that the role of going off in search of that initial information was taken away from a woman and given to a man - especially since the woman's part in the drama was reduced to weeping and wailing on the shoulder of said man. It's such a strong sequence for book!Verity, taking Caroline in off the street as a virtual stranger and being able to provide for her exactly what she needed in that moment: information, comfort and support. It feels all kinds of anti-feminist to take that away from her so that Ross can be the shoulder to cry on and ride off all manly and heroic in search of information.

Hmm. Okay, so maybe I should revise my opinion from 'I enjoyed it', to 'I enjoyed it as an episode, but with a number of provisos that will probably annoy me all the more as I stop to examine them in more detail'.

I'm still really annoyed that the show has got Dwight and Caroline married so early - it seems on the surface such a minor change, since it is still a secret, and they are clearly building up to having another 'wedding' at the same point it happens in the novels, but scratch that surface and actually it's a really significant change that impacts on their entire story. It matters to their story that they aren't married at the time Dwight goes missing, that Caroline has nothing to cling onto but a promise of marriage if he ever makes it home, and chooses to wait for her penniless doctor, when as the most eligible heiress in the county she could have her pick. If matters to their story that Caroline has no official status with which to press the authorities for news, that if Dwight dies she can't even call herself his widow. It matters to their story that Uncle Ray doesn't die this early, that Caroline has to spend months hiding her fear and grief while nursing him through his final months. And it especially matters to their story that Caroline promises to marry Dwight when he is hale and healthy, but then still wants to marry him when he is sick and broken, that she takes him home with her while they are still unmarried to nurse him in the comfort of her own home, heedless of what anyone thinks or says, and holds her head high with pride and joy at their wedding despite his continued frailty. Having them married already robs their story of all that deeper meaning and characterisation - and for what? A pretty wedding scene in the season opener? The chance to show Ross as the hero, arranging it for them? Because that too is a seemingly minor change that actually has a big impact on characterisation and character motivation.

Last week we were told that Ross helping arrange the covert marriage was repayment of the debt he owed to Dwight and Caroline. So they are even now, apparently. In the novel, a big part of the reason Ross is so determined to find and rescue Dwight is a keen sense of obligation, because stopping to save his life cost Dwight and Caroline the life together they had planned, his current prosperity is the direct result of Caroline's financial aid, and that debt has not yet been repaid. It's a big part of Ross's driving motivation - yet here, we're told the debt has already been repaid by his reuniting them and arranging their secret marriage, and sure, concern for his friend is a strong alternate motivation for wanting to save him, that's also part of his motivation in the book, but the driving sense of obligation is the key element of Ross's character and motivation in the novel, which can't really be the case here now, and I hate seeing complex characterisation simplified, if that makes sense.

Having said all that, I did actually enjoy seeing Verity playing a bigger part in the story here, although I got the sense that this was her swansong - it felt like she was being written out with this story, going off to Lisbon to join her husband (taking her baby on a dangerous sea voyage in wartime, when we have just had demonstrated that even merchant vessels were not safe? Really?) And on the one hand, writing her out here would make sense, because Verity doesn't play a huge part in the story going forward...except that she is a big part of Dwight's rescue story. It is to Verity's house in Falmouth that Ross first takes Dwight when he is rescued, and it is to Verity's house that Caroline rushes when she learns the news, because she isn't prepared to wait a moment longer. I'm wondering now if that part of the story will also be changed now - in fact, I'm going to predict here and now that they'll have Ross's stolen French boat put in directly at Nampara cove instead of going to Falmouth! This showrunner likes to keep all the action local, apparently. I wonder how she'll cope when the action moves to London?!

One more note of complaint: why does the show insist on having all graves right on the edge of random cliffs? They did it with Jim Carter, and now here again with Ray Penvenen...who was a wealthy local squire - he'd have a family plot in the cemetery, not an isolated stone on the edge of a a cliff!

Okay, after all that ranting, let me add that I am really, really enjoying Drake, Morwenna and Geoffrey Charles! I'm happy that we did get the ship's-mast-hauling scene after all, even if it wasn't a first meeting as in the book. I liked Sam a lot more here - loved that scene of him messing about in the water with Drake, showing us that he does have a fun-loving side beneath all that earnest religiosity. I like how they are playing the Valentine story, keeping it this big unspoken shadow hanging over all the characters concerned, the elephant in the room that no one is willing to name. And I really appreciate that Francis is being mentioned so often - it's a thing that really struck me in the novels, that despite his many failures in life, Francis cast such a tremendously long shadow in death.

Right, I've rattled on long enough!
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