'Take your shirt off!" I shout at the screen. I know it's not dignified but I'm watching the last-ever episode of Poldark and I've become a fan of the Hiberno-Cornishman over the years. We're all Poldorks now.
Poldark (Aidan Turner) doesn’t hear me and stays dressed in his big coat and tricorn hat for the duration of the show. No problem. I still have a searing afterimage on my retinas since he strode out of the sea in Season 4, much like a sexy, muscular dolphin. Yes, I know this is anachronistic. There was no nudity in the real olden days. People didn’t have glistening chests then – their skin was made of gingham and lace.
The new episode takes us five months into the future, not a time of flying cars and robot butlers, but a time in which Poldark appears to have turned into a baddie. He’s apparently engaged in a sexy affair with revolutionary farmhand Tess and is embroiled in a plot to foment an invasion by Emperor Bonaparte.
I guess you could call it The Napoleonic Phoars!
Here are some things I like about Poldark: the cast are great and so play all the melodrama entirely straight – glowering, seething, smouldering and yearning wherever appropriate. And Cornwall is a very charismatic place. Can scenery be said to be chewing the scenery? If so, then the cliffs along which the characters regularly ride horses and brood are its teeth. Cornwall is so beautiful I almost forgive it for what it did to my people (Wait, am I thinking of Cromwell?).
Anyway, it quickly transpires that Poldark is not actually in love with the insurrectionary farmhand and is not fomenting a French invasion of Cornwall but only pretending to do so in order to trick the Frenchies into letting slip their nefarious plan. Apparently almost everyone is in on this, except, for reasons that make little sense, his beloved wife Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) who thinks he’s just having a sordid affair and isn’t being sexy for his country, like me.
So, at the heart of the final episode is a misunderstanding that could probably have been avoided if the Poldarks had simply gone on a marriage guidance course. On the plus side, it’s a sexy misunderstanding (“Sure, is there any other kind?” says you).
While Poldark is ruining his marriage, his enemy, George Warleggan, is conspiring with some even nastier toffs, slave-owning coloniser Ralph Hanson and magistrate and slumlord Joseph Merceron, to have Poldark tried for treason. This becomes even more likely after they spot him with some Frenchmen and a boat down by his old chum, the sea.
George Warleggan has good reason to hate Poldark. George's son Valentine was born shortly after Poldark had an affair with his late wife, and Valentine has dark Poldarkian hair, a surly manner and is unusually obsessed with both copper mining and annoying George Warleggan.
Furthermore, far from being an effete snob like George, Poldark is a man of the people, forever digging in mines and carrying livestock and scything hay semi-nudely in a manner that could very quickly lead to impressionable young people developing an unhealthy attitude to scything hay. “Stupid sexy Poldark,” I imagine George says a lot.
So Demelza runs away to the home of her friends Dr Enys and Caroline and Horace the pug (sadly, not a speaking part). And Poldark, because he loves England so much, lets her do so, so that he can organise a meeting with a comedy French general.
The general is impressed with Poldark's home and swiftly asks to see his "impressive sword". Poldark thinks he means the literal sword on the wall, so he takes that down and hands it to him. "Practice is the key with any weapon, as the ladies in France will testify" says the French general, who is, I think, played by Looney Tunes' own Pepé le Pew.
Poldark ignores his penis-themed boasting and starts instead asking him leading questions about what Napoleon is planning, while his chum Dr Enys listens in and takes down all the details in a secret room beneath the floor, like in a really, really, really old episode of The Wire (like, hundreds of years old). He then dispatches a letter to London.
But gasp! The letter is intercepted on the way to London by the nefarious toffs. One of these, Merceron, the most nefarious of all toffs, runs off to snitch to the French general, who quickly decides to kill Poldark.
But larger gasp! He is stopped from doing so by Demelza who spies the general's Achilles heel – the fact he is actually Pepé le Pew – and suggests that she hates her husband and that she would be really hot for someone who, instead of killing his enemies efficiently and cleanly, preferred to have impractically showy sword fights with them.
They have an impractically showy sword fight but it turns out that Poldark is just a pretty face and is a bit rubbish at swords compared with Pepé. At this point there should be footage of Demelza shrugging her shoulders and saying, “I guess I’m moving to France!” Instead, as Pepé is about to skewer him, George Warleggan turns up with old fangled pistols in each hand and shoots both Pepé and the nefarious toff. Even bigger gasp!
Poldark then tries to befriend George over a glass of brandy, but George is having none of it. This is fair enough. Poldark’s hunkiness has basically ruined George’s life. Poldark, however, has gained newfound respect for his old enemy. “We’re not so different, you and I,” his expression seems to say.
“Which could explain why your, uh, ‘son’ looks remarkably like me?” his expression adds hopefully.
Stuff happens to other less essential cast members too. Another baby is born. There’s a wedding. Dr Enys, Caroline and Horace the pug repair their tripartite marriage. George Warleggan takes his Poldarkian son away from Cornwall and off to London where the brooding tyke will no doubt mine for copper on the cobbled streets and ride windswept horses across the rooftops until George goes mad and starts hallucinating his dead wife again.
And then the two nefarious toffs are arrested and tried by the man who played Poldark in the 1970s version of this story (Robin Ellis) who is apparently a judge now. He and new Poldark high-five (well, an olden-days version of the high-five: they nod appreciatively at each other). Poldark is then recruited by the secret service to engage in spycraft over in France and Demelza seems perfectly fine with this, despite the fact that his one spying skill appears to be being a sexy honey trap for enemy agents. I mean, what’s he going to do? Walk bare-chested from the Seine every day until they tell him all their secrets? You know, that could work. I await a spin-off series with interest.