Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Poldark Roundtable -- Part 2: Why You Should Be Watching [Contributors: Jenn, Meredith, Marilyn, Hope, Jen K., Megan, and Jen W.]

We brought you part one of our roundtable about a week ago, so check that out if you haven't. Here is part two, where the staff and I discuss our favorite episodes, the beautiful setting of Cornwall, and why you should be watching this show!

One of the most noticeable things about the show is the absolutely breathtaking setting. But there’s more to Cornwall than just its beauty. Discuss the importance of setting to the show.

Mer: The show’s location team managed to find this absolutely breathtaking place that looks totally untouched by time (at least the parts we see.) The gorgeous water and beaches, the hills and escarpments, the fields, and those perfect blue skies with white fluffy clouds — the entire setting takes you back and lets the viewer feel as though they’ve truly landed in the 1780s. It’s the absolute perfect backdrop to an overall stunning show; to have this visually stunning setting on top of everything else is just the cherry on top of the Poldark sundae.

Marilyn: Cornwall is one of the most beautiful locations on the planet, I’m sure of it. Those sweeping vistas! The windblown cliffs! The sparkling ocean! The crashing waves! The waving fields and wildflowers! I mean... wow. Natural beauty doesn’t even begin to describe it.  And I think that rough, natural beauty kind of reflects the story, in a way. Cornwall is beautiful but hard and unforgiving and rough. And so is Ross Poldark.

Hope: Cornwall is gorgeous. The sea is not only beautiful, but also tumultuous and wild. The cliffs are sharp, the windblown fields of grass are soft... there’s just this contrast that perfectly mirrors the story itself. Also, Cornwall perches on the very southwestern tip of England, surrounded by the sea, and the story and characters perch on the edge of an old era, surrounded by changing times. It’s all very poetic.

Jen K.: The scenery is just breathtaking. It gives it a Pride and Prejudice or Wuthering Heights-like feel to it. It just adds to the romance of the story. Furthermore, you understand why Ross has such a deep connection to the land and why he refuses early on to abandon it for a career as a lawyer. It’s easy to understand why he loves his home so much and the pride he takes in working it.

Megan: I think if the show had a more city setting, say London or even Manchester, it wouldn’t have worked. Cornwall is absolutely breathtaking and it’s as much a part of the show as the characters and the story. Without that setting, the story wouldn’t work as well. It has the proper setting of small town gossip and that intense family standing that wouldn’t hold up as much in a bigger city. Plus, how could Ross possibly set up a mine where there wasn’t one?

Jen W.: I want to go there. It feels of the time. I can't imagine placing it anywhere else. It's important to the breadth of the story to have it set there — for Ross’ mine, for what remains of his family and his home. I couldn't imagine the show without Cornwall.

What has been your favorite episode or scene in the series so far?

Mer: Episode three is my favorite! There are so many great scenes throughout the entire series, and many parts of episode four rank in my “best of” list, but overall as an episode it’s definitely three. The beginning of the romance between Ross and Demelza — how it all unfolds and where it goes — is so profound and important, and just so lovely. I could rewatch episode three over and over again. Honorable mention goes to the scene in the finale where Ross finds Elizabeth at Demelza’s bedside. I won’t spoil it, but that scene leads to my absolute favorite line of the series.

Jenn: I won't spoil it, but there is a scene in which Eleanor Tomlinson and Aidan Turner absolutely act their faces off and had me sobbing on my bed. I think that's when I definitely knew that Poldark wasn't just a really good show that was fun, but that it was a force to be reckoned with. The actors threw everything they were into this moment and the result was one of the most moving scenes I've watched recently.

Marilyn: It’s like picking a favorite child. I’m a fan of the build-up in a good love story — the growing tension between Ross and Demelza, the long looks and the teasing flirtation. But I might have to pick the scene in which Ross buys Demelza her first cloak. She is so happy to get the cloak. It was such a darling moment. And it was really a solid sign that there was something steady building between them. Her smile! And his smile when he saw how happy it made her! Ahhh, it’s the little things.

Hope: It’s been a while, and I really hate picking favorites, but I the scene that stands out for me the most is the Christmas party. When Demelza sings, everyone gains a little more respect for her and you can see it in Ross’ eyes that he’s completely in love. I think I remember seeing an interview where Aidan Turner says he believes that is the moment Ross truly falls in love, and I think I agree. It’s a turning point in the series. Both sides of the Poldark family are in one place and Demelza, for a moment, is the center of attention of each and every one of them. And for Ross, it’s as if she’s the entire room. It’s just such a powerful scene.

Jen K.: Episode four, hands down. It really digs deep into Ross and Demelza’s relationship. I loved Demelza’s transformation in the episode. She is so uncertain as the lady of the house, but so certain in her love for Ross. She grows by leaps and bounds in confidence by the end. I also enjoyed that Poldark took the time to examine what Ross was feeling. I think Ross wasn’t quite sure what he felt for Demelza, so it was heartwarming to watch his realizations dawn on him. It’s like the sun coming out on a cloudy day. Ross sees the light in this episode. He can be a bit flippant about Demelza’s fears, but overall we see how much he loves her.

Megan: I agree with Marilyn. It’s totally hard to pick a favorite on such a phenomenal series. I love any scene with Demelza learning how to be someone higher up in society from herself. I love the scenes that Verity and Demelza share. They’re so full of love, fun, friendship and genuine trust. Even when Demelza was trying to help Verity with her love life (to disastrous results), you can tell that they genuinely care for one another. And I’m a total sucker for a love story, so any tender moment that Ross and Demelza share ranks as a favorite as well.

Jen W.: Episode four! Without a doubt, that was the perfect balance of sadness and happiness, light and dark, despair and hope. It's such a well-rounded episode. And Demelza sings! And Ross’ face! Ugh, totally perfect.

Is there something the show has done that you feel didn’t work? Or that it hasn’t done but should have?

Mer: I’ll be honest — once Demelza was introduced, the sizzling chemistry between Eleanor and Aidan made it so that Ross’s supposed stronghold on his feelings for Elizabeth was less believable to me. If the show does choose to further explore this “triangle,” it’s going to be a hard sell for me because of how real and organic and powerful the relationship between Ross and Demelza feels. Coupled with that line in the finale that I mentioned earlier... we’ll have to see how it shakes out.

Also, I want more Verity. I hope we see more of her in series two!

Jenn: The time jumps. I don’t have much criticism of the show at all, but those jumps threw me off from a narrative standpoint. I was so confused when Elizabeth announced that she was pregnant and then in the very next episode was delivering her baby. And it’s not like I found the Ross/Demelza story to be any less compelling — because it was and the actors have incredible chemistry — but it gave me whiplash because it jumped from zero to sixty really fast. Within the span of an episode or two, Ross and Demelza are married and she's pregnant, as well. Everything happened so fast. And I know that’s because they tried to combine the books the show is based off, but hopefully the second season has some better pacing in that regard. I think that you lose some important things when shows don’t show you the events that happened in that time jump.

Marilyn: I agree that the pacing in the show is sometimes jarring. Time flies quite quickly and sometimes, you don’t even quite know at first just how much time has passed. While it keeps the story moving along, sometimes it’s hard to keep up!

Hope: I also have to choose the pacing. On one hand, I really love how the drama moves forward with zero filler and a near break-neck speed. But at the same time, I wish they had slowed down the pace a bit. I’m sure there had to be some more material from the books they could have used, and have made each season cover one book. It’s not a major issue for me, but it was surprising.

Also, there are a lot of books, and I’d like to be able to look forward to just as many seasons.

Jen K.: The pacing took a little bit to get use to. The time jumps were initially confusing, but once I had a beat on how the show was paced it became easier. I won’t harp on them too much about it. They had a lot of ground to cover in eight episodes. Elizabeth as a character feels a bit one-dimensional and flat. We never truly know what she’s thinking because she seldom voices it. She feels so much like an “Object of Affection” to Ross, but I don’t really understand why other than that she’s pretty and nice. Just saying “everybody admires Elizabeth” isn’t enough of a reason for me. So, I’m with Mer. If the show is going to continue the love triangle, they really need to work on the Elizabeth/Ross side of things to get me to believe it. Specifically Elizabeth.

Jen W.: Where did Verity go, and is she coming back? Also, no more Elizabeth/Ross. I don't believe it. Especially in the wake of episode eight.

Why do you think Poldark is such a hit? What is it about this show that has captivated audiences so much?

Mer: The characters. Oh the story and the setting and the time period all help, for sure. But the relationships between these characters, and the phenomenal writing and acting that brings the characters to life, is the heart of the series. The entire cast has chemistry — nobody more so than Eleanor Tomlinson (Demelza) and Aidan Turner (Ross), and it absolutely shows on screen. These characters, their stories, their interactions with each other? That’s what captivates.

Jenn: Well, let’s be real — it’s the era of period dramas. We all love to see beautiful costumes and scenery that has long passed us by. So the period nature of the show is one of the first things that I think audiences gravitate toward. But the characters are, for me, what really make this show so captivating and such a hit. They’re all really well-rounded and engaging. There’s not a weak actor or actress among the cast, and you can tell that every actor gives it all he or she has.

Marilyn: It’s a beautiful story, for one. But it’s also beautifully acted. And then there’s the location. Add in a sweeping score and it’s no small wonder people get hooked. It’s like watching a historical romance novel on your television screen. And who doesn’t want that?

Hope: The show is a beautiful, emotional force to be reckoned with. The actors are fantastic, the drama is so well-crafted, and it’s visually stunning. Each character is so complex and there is nothing about this series that isn’t the highest level of television out there. There’s literally nothing to argue against, except for its short seasons and long hiatus, which only makes the audience want more.

Jen K.: I think it has a lot of the same elements all great period pieces have — compelling characters with an epic storyline built against the backdrop of beautiful scenery. The acting is top-notch too. I think Aidan Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson are spectacular. The core of the show is the love story between Ross and Demelza, and Poldark nailed it. They are sexy, romantic, tragic, funny, and endearing. That, in addition to a varied and complex supporting cast, is a recipe for success!

Megan: Like I said before, it was just so realized. I am a total sucker for a period piece. I think I’ve seen 90% of BBC’s miniseries since the early 90s and this was one that just hooked me from the beginning. It took you in and didn’t let go until the very last episode. Then, when you did watch the credits roll on the last episode, you screamed at the TV to give you more. Then you got stuck feeling sad because you have to wait. Poldark is just such a rich story and so well-written and everyone is so beautifully cast. It’s sweeping and magical.

Jen W.: I think period pieces that are done well are always a hit, and this one is a cut above the rest. You're instantly transported. You instantly feel for these people. You want to know more about them, you root for them, you laugh with them, you cry with them. That's good TV.

Closing thoughts/what do our readers need to know about Poldark?

Mer: This is the must-watch/must-binge show of the summer. Before series two starts in the fall, do yourself a favor and commit to the eight episodes. It’s such a stunning tour de force — the cinematography, the writing, the story, and above all the acting by everyone in the cast. It’s all superb. Watch. Just... watch.

Jenn: Watch this show! It’s beautiful (the cinematography alone should hook you) and it features a really layered and nuanced male lead. The love story is beautiful and one of the best depictions of a healthy, believable relationship that I’ve seen on television recently. It’s a drama, but has some genuine moments of humor. The character development is astounding and you’ll be engaged from the very start.

Marilyn: Abs. Aiden Turner’s abs. If nothing else sells you on watching this show, that should do it.

Hope: If you’re looking for high-quality television, this is your show. It has everything you could ask for, and it will leave you enthralled. Plus, there’s no better time to watch than now, when season two isn’t all that far off.

Also, there’s a cute, scruffy dog. How can you not watch a show with a cute, scruffy dog?

Jen K.: It’s a great binge with a love story that’s easy to ship. The characters are complex, but the story is easy to follow. It’s also wonderfully funny. Poldark is a lot about Ross’ hair, specifically when he rides his horse. But it’s really fabulous hair. Ross also likes to scythe his crops shirtless and that’s just nifty.

Megan: That they need to be watching it!

Jen W.: Stop reading this and go watch! It's only eight episodes, and you'll be so happy you did!

1 comment:

  1. Yes, there are jumps, and some people felt lost with them, specially when you are use to shows of +20 episodes. Truth is BBC commissioned 6 episodes for the first two books. Debbie Horsfield had to ask for 2 extra episodes to make storyline smoother. So, we got 4 episodes per book. BBC prefers short series but charged with intensity... Everything starts, develop and ends in +/-6 hours. Jumps also happen in the books, first one starts with a young 13 y/o Demelza who is 17 y/o by the end of it.
    So, in general I think Debbie made a great adaptation and it can really be seen on this show.
    Next series have 10 episode! With more horse riding by the Cornish cliffs and more drama.