Poldark Season 3: A Half-Hearted Review

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OK, people, we’re trying here, but it doesn’t mean we’re enjoying it. Poldark (2015-) season 3 premiered in the U.K. over the summer, I think, and here in the states this fall on PBS Masterpiece. I slogged through the series without a lot of enthusiasm, mostly because I knew what was going to happen, having seen it all back in the ’70s, plus I wasn’t super impressed by the costuming. That said, this season did have a lot more shiny fancy-pants garb for us to nitpick, so part of me just wants to throw a bunch of photos out and let y’all harass them.

Said fancy-pants garb showed up because Elizabeth had married George Warleggan at the end of season 2, and Warleggan is a total social climber, always trying to get in with the landed gentry. Ugh, I can’t with Warleggan, he’s such a transparent and cliched cartoon villain, it’s no wonder Elizabeth starts kicking back the laudanum or whatever she’s dulling the pain with. Anyway, they go to parties and stuff at the Godolphins’ and whoever else, and Ross, Demelza, and last season’s fancy-gal Caroline Penvenen tend to show up too, so everyone gets pretty new clothes.

Caroline Demelza Ross Poldark (2017)

All the ladies are rockin’ gowns with “zone” or cutaway style trimmings this season. Go read Kendra’s explanation of why that’s not what it is, and then just deal with me calling it that for the rest of this post.

Poldark (2017)

Elizabeth’s grey and burgundy “zone” gown has contrasting fabric.

Caroline Poldark (2017)

+5 for the stripes, -10 for the modern bridal lace in the contrast section of the bodice. This was so close to being perfect!

Elizabeth George - Poldark (2017)

This is the best dress in the entire season! I loves it, I wants it, it is divine!

These high faultin’ social occasions are contrasted with the oh-so-serious (e.g., ridiculous) escapade to release Dr. Dwight Enys from a French prison. I was mildly amused by Demelza telling Ross essentially ‘you’re an ass for going off to do this stuff, but I can’t stop you because this is the kind of thing I know you’ll always do.’ When Dwight is rescued, he suffers from PTSD, which his new wife Caroline has no clue about because this is the 1790s and nobody has a clue about that (except for Ross, who makes a speech about ‘what men see during war’ because, duh, Ross knows all).

Caroline Enys wedding ep1 Poldark (2017)

Caroline and Dwight finally get married in episode 1. Her redingote is very shiny and the satin makes it impractical as a riding-type garment, but the color is perfect on her. Fantastic hat.

There’s also the tedious side-plot about Elizabeth’s cousin, Morwenna, and Demelza’s brother, Drake, falling in love, but being thwarted by George. Because Warleggan is a cartoon villain, again. Morwenna is married off to someone even more repulsive than George — a hypocritical, jerky, fat churchman Rev. Whitworth. He, of course has no compunction about banging any available female that crosses his path. He does get some spiffy waistcoats, so props to the costume designer, Howard Burden, for dressing the large gent quite finely as appropriate for his station. Whitworth is a nasty buffoon, but he doesn’t look like one, he just acts like one. That shows why the marriage would at least appear advantageous.

Morwenna Poldark (2017)

Morwenna wears these drippy floral prints. Fine, whatever, she’s supposed to be in between lower-class and gentry, I guess it works, it’s just boring.

Rev W fitting ep4 Poldark (2017)

I appreciated the scene of Whitworth getting fitted for a new outfit.

A bunch of side-plots involve babies and bored me: Elizabeth has the baby that results from Ross raping her at the end of the last season and successfully passes the boy off as George’s son, although there’s some controversy about the idea; Demelza is knocked up a third time by Ross’ super sperm and has another girl, Clowance; Verity visits for just one episode, bringing her and Capt. Blamey’s baby, while the captain is missing (off with Dwight); and since Morwenna is forced into marrying Rev. Whitworth, she gets pregnant, plus he knocks up her sister (eww) who blackmails him. OK, so good job for showing actual consequences of having sex in a pre-birth-control historical period. But dang, that’s a lot babies to keep track of. Also, as we noted in a recent podcast, some of the pregnancy costuming was less-than realistic-looking.

Elizabeth preg Poldark (2017)

Elizabeth is carrying really low — which seems to be a requirement for every lady in Cornwall at this time period.

Morwenna preg Poldark (2017)

Morwenna’s maternity gown seems like a modern hack job (in addition to the smuggling-a-beachball look).

1780-1795, pregnancy bodice, Colonial Williamsburg

Yes, some women wore stays when pregnant in the 18th century. But there’s also evidence that they laced more moderately and accommodated for the pregnant body’s changing shape, as can be seen in this 1780-1795 pregnancy bodice in the Colonial Williamsburg collection.

1791, The Soldier's Return, the British Museum

Even this period satire shows a more naturalistic pregnancy than the Poldark ladies, IMO — 1791, “The Soldier’s Return” via the British Museum.

Finally, the season begins to wrap up with Aunt Agatha dying (aww), and Demelza contemplates an affair with cutie Hugh Armitage. Sure, why not?

Agatha daytime ep6 Poldark (2017)

This moment in episode 6 might be the only time Aunt Agatha is seen outside — so we get a decent look at her clothes. Her skirts are more wide at the hips than round and that looks like a stomacher with bows down the front, pinned on her bodice, all harkening back to the 1770s. So typical trope of 20 years out of date for the old lady.

Armitage Poldark (2017)

Yeah, I’d tap that.

Costuming-wize, the only big changes are that most of the upper-class(ish) dresses are of a “zone” style and with a lot of historically appropriate stripes and small prints. The “zone” style was increasingly fashionable through the late 1780s and 1790s so maybe this is supposed to hint at time passing?

Caroline Poldark (2017)

Caroline (with Armitage) and she’s wearing another “zone” gown in a lovely blue stripe with ruching along the front cutaway and at the cuffs.

Elizabeth George - Poldark (2017)

Interesting that Elizabeth’s “zone”/cutaway gowns mostly seem to be curved, while Caroline’s are usually at a sharp angle. Both are found in the period, but this helps differentiate the women’s styles. Also, Caroline has lots more trim than Elizabeth.

Left, 1785-87 gown at Metropolitan Museum of Art. Right, 1790 gown at the Kyoto Institute of Art.

Straight or curved, either works (also the sash belts show up a few times this season). Left, 1785-87 gown at Metropolitan Museum of Art. Right, 1790 gown at the Kyoto Institute of Art.

Caroline Demelza Poldark (2017)

I freakin’ love Caroline’s pink gown! The fake “zone” is fine with me because it’s all in period ruching. However, Demelza’s red gown looks like a Christmas tablecloth (barf).

Elizabeth - Poldark (2017)

I don’t love this dress, partly because baby blue is too pale for Elizabeth’s coloring and partly because those ruffles along the front edge look too twee for my tastes. You do see it in fashion plates though.

Elizabeth - Poldark (2017)

This hat, however, is yummy. I bet the lace covering it is vintage. Excellent double bows. The hat game definitely stepped up this season. Wonder if they got a new milliner or just more budget?

Demelza - Poldark (2017)

Then there’s Demelza, in this “en-fourreau” back gown (that’s also a modern term, which I’m sure Kendra explained in previous seasons). It would be fine, except those pleats look awfully clunky. I kept thinking the back was piped! Is the fabric really thick or what?

en-fourreau back 18th-c. gowns

Compare to these extant 18th-c. gowns with “en-fourreau” backs — the pleats vary in width but they’re all pretty flat.

Demelza - Poldark (2017)

And evaluating the front of the gown, I don’t know why they bothered adding that detail. It doesn’t add any skirt fullness or other interest.

In the hair and makeup department, Elizabeth finally pins her hair up consistently, while Demelza resists the siren song of hairpins. Morwenna is supposed to look “young” and thus her hair hangs down, except for a terribly modern barrette in the back. And Caroline is still rocking her bright pink lipstick.

Morwenna barette ep6 Poldark (2017)

Gaze upon Morwenna’s barrette, and you can hear Kendra screaming in the background.

Caroline - Poldark (2017)

Hot pink lipstick!

Caroline Demelza - Poldark (2017)

In episode 4, Caroline dresses Demelza up in her fancy clothes, proving yes, she can look good on a daily basis. Also, Caroline’s pink dress is ADORBS, her hat is divine, and I can almost forgive the matchy lipstick here.

The lower-class(ish) ladies wear the same mix of jackets, jumps, and plain dresses as they have for the past two seasons. The boys wear mostly unexciting boy clothes, except for when they don’t wear any clothes.

Demelza - Poldark (2017)

Oh Demelza, I don’t know WTF you’re wearing or why. But you put your hair up occasionally this season, so yay?

Drake - Poldark (2017)

Drake strips down to get clean and show us what Morwenna might see in him.

Silas - Poldark (2017)

Silas can’t let his bro get all the bathing glory.

Drake & Silas - Poldark (2017)

Since Ross is off freeing Dwight from the French Revolution, somebody has to swim naked in Nampara Cove.

George - Poldark (2017)

George becomes magistrate so he can act out his evil villain fantasies on the unsuspecting public while wearing a wig.

I only spotted one back-lacing gown, and it’s on a random extra in a ball scene. There could be others, but this was all I got a screencap of, so let’s give them props for keeping the numbers low.

Poldark (2017)

And finally, what Kendra has been waiting for, yes, Horace the Pug was indeed back this season with Caroline. He didn’t have a big part to play because the actress wasn’t pregnant so no need to hide a real baby bump, and Horace didn’t get much lap time. But he exists!

Episode 4: Yep, I’m still here!

Horace, Caroline - ep5 - Poldark (2017)

Episode 5: Horace has tea with Caroline and Demelza.

Horace, Caroline, Enys - ep8 - Poldark (2017)

Episode 8: We’re going to be such a happy family!

Horace, Caroline, Enys - ep9 - Poldark (2017)

Episode 9: Horace has his needs catered to by Dwight.

Horace - ep9 - Poldark (2017)

Episode 9: And I’m out!

 

What are your thoughts on Poldark season three?

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About the author

Trystan L. Bass

Twitter Website

A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. When she’s not dressing up in costumes, she can be found traveling the world with her sweetie and, occasionally, Kendra and Sarah. Her costuming and travel adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also maintains a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

37 Responses

  1. Linda Merrill

    I actually don’t love this show much either. I stopped watching at some point in Season 2 but have seen most of Season 3 (not all as I didn’t see the Verity episode.) Ross is just such an ass, it’s hard to believe he’s any kind of a hero. And Elizabeth can’t decide whether to be Team Warleggan or Team Poldark – and allowing Aunt Agatha to be buried as she was was the final nail in Elizabeth’s coffin as far as I’m concerned. And, was Morwenna’s sister actually attracted to the reverend or was her whole game to blackmail him from the get go? And, is she really pregnant? That all made no sense – plus, they had the exact same face – the sister and the reverend – which was creepy in the extreme.

    Reply
  2. Christy Jenkins

    Demelze’s red dress looks like Laura’s “grown-up” dress in Little House on the Prairie. And why does she slouch all the time? (In Aunt Agatha’s voice) “Stand up straight, girl!”

    Reply
  3. eadon216

    Why do their dresses look so flat? Shouldn’t they be shaped a bit more. It looks like they forgot to put on any foundation garments!

    Reply
    • Trystan L. Bass

      We’ve been complaining about the lack of petticoats & bum pads on this show since day 1. I nearly included some shots of Elizabeth & Caroline where it seemed like they had a bit more historically accurate silhouettes, but I reconsidered bec. it was still just barely a smidge better than it had been in past seasons. We know the ladies are wearing corsets/stays from behind-the-scenes pix, but that’s as far as it goes.

      Reply
      • Melinda

        I don’t watch this show at all, but looking at the pics I had the same thought , too! Where are all the paniers and padding? There’s no budget to order some from ebay or aliexpress???

        Reply
  4. Perian

    Those pregnancy prosthetics were AWFUL (having watched season 3 while 8 months pregnant). I enjoy the eye candy of the show – it’s a good crafting/sewing show, since everyone is so bland, I don’t need to pay close attention!

    To me, Poldark is just Downton Abbey, 1700s. Bad writing with impossible and vapid one-sided characters, but lovely to look at.

    Reply
    • Trystan L. Bass

      Thanks for the confirmation about the pregnancy outfits! On the podcast, we were ranting & also noting that the three of us have zero first-hand knowledge. But just having been around modern pregnant women, wow, the Poldark ladies looked so wrong, I had to do some research into 18th-c. pregnancy fashion.

      Reply
      • Karen K.

        Having been pregnant twice, one of my TV pet peeves is fake pregnant women, and either it’s the prostheses or nobody taught these actresses that pregnancy isn’t just having a beach ball strapped to your abdomen. I especially hate how no matter how pregnant they are, they still walk the same way and never have trouble getting up from a sitting position! Pregnancy throws your balance out of whack the last trimester when you basically have a bowling ball strapped to you.

        Reply
        • MoHub

          Not to mention that no one ever acknowledges that more than one’s belly expands during pregnancy. Boobs and hips enlarge as well.

          Reply
  5. Nonnymous

    Agreed, this show is getting more and more soapy and predictable.

    Did you catch the almost-Regency dress Morwenna wore after having her baby? From behind the scenes pics I’ve seen floating on the inter webs, it seems they will finally switch to Regency dresses and bonnets/hats next season.

    Reply
    • Trystan L. Bass

      Yep, I couldn’t get a full-length screencap of Morwenna’s last dress(es), that’s why I didn’t included it. But I have it on good authority that season 4 will be more of the 1790s-1800s high-waisted styles for the ladies as the series makes progresses in time.

      Reply
  6. Frannie Germeshausen

    Almost every episode now has be ranting on FB about how stupid, how annoying, or how absolutely EVIL someone is, and why are we still watching? One friend chimed in that “the stupid runs strong in Cornwall.”

    Reply
  7. MrsC (Maryanne)

    My pet peeve is when every dress looks like it was cut from the same pattern, like this. Every dress has a quasi zone front? It wasn’t a legal requirement (although maybe it was in Cornwall?) No matter how influential a fashion trend, it never result in EVERY WOMAN wearing it. Same with hair – basically we see two regulation hairstyles in this thing.
    It’s almost as bad as Love and Friendship. Actually it’s worse because that film was at least funny. And did its part in using up curtaining textile remnants that might otherwise have ended up in landfill.

    Reply
  8. Barb D

    The 70’s version was my intro to frock flicks (so yea!). Many people complained about how they deviated from the books. This version though! I think my eyeballs have just about rolled out of my head a million times. I’m not sure why I’m still watching. Aiden Turner I guess, but I seriously doubt I will be up for season 4.

    Reply
  9. picasso Manu

    I think women of the period were wearing “robe battantes” (think early Watteau dresses) as maternity wear up to the Regency style. In France. Not so sure about Cornwall.

    But I chuckled at those pics… That was some bad burrito, ladies!

    I’m not keen on this… The soap opera thing, but also the gigantic man baby thing: “I love you, I adore you, and I deserve what I want, so I’m gonna rape ya… Besides, It’s Thursday.”

    Man candy doesn’t excuse everything… A lot, sure, but not everything

    Reply
  10. ladylavinia1932

    And Elizabeth can’t decide whether to be Team Warleggan or Team Poldark – and allowing Aunt Agatha to be buried as she was was the final nail in Elizabeth’s coffin as far as I’m concerned.

    I never understood this need for Elizabeth to be regarded as some kind of villainess in this story. That is not the character whom Winston Graham had created. It was George who made that decision and Elizabeth had no say in the matter. I’m still flabbergasted about why Ross didn’t step up and take control of Agatha’s burial, once he was in a position to do so. She was a member of his family for Pete’s sake!

    Morwenna wears these drippy floral prints. Fine, whatever, she’s supposed to be in between lower-class and gentry, I guess it works, it’s just boring.

    Morwenna, like Elizabeth and Rowella, came from an upper-class, yet impoverished family called the Chynoweths. Which makes all of them from the landed gentry, whether their family had money or not. The same was the case for the Poldarks, when they were struggling financially.

    I really hated Debbie Horsfield’s adaptation of Graham’s fifth novel, “The Black Moon”. Elizabeth never took drugs to deal with George Warleggan. She was a strong-willed individual, whose biggest flaw was her insecurity. This led her to be more conformist – especially in her younger years. But that did not mean she became a drug addict. Good grief!

    As for costumes, it’s clear that those for this production have never really been up to par. I’ve endured the questionable costumes more than I have endured Horsfield’s narrative changes. However, I don’t understand why Ross and especially Demelza continued to dress as if they were still struggling financially. What the hell? Why on earth did Caroline have to give Demelza one of her dresses, especially since Ross could afford to buy her a new wardrobe?

    The 70’s version was my intro to frock flicks (so yea!). Many people complained about how they deviated from the books.

    I thought the 70s adaptation of the first three novels were not as good as this recent adaptation. So far, I’m not impressed by Debbie Horsfield’s recent adaptation of Graham’s fifth and sixth novels. It was done better in the 1970s. However, I feel that both the 70s series and this series did a shitty adaptation of Graham’s fourth novel, “Warleggan”.

    Reply
    • Barb D

      She started out pretty faithful, but as we move on it gets worse with every episode. Elizabeth and the opium bothered me, but the changes to Caroline & Dwight’s timeline drove me nuts. That was just something that would not happen! The list of little tinkerings that change the story line ever so slightly, but enough, is too massive to cover. And where did Jud disappear to?

      Reply
  11. Susan Pola Staples

    I am waiting for the DVD bc it’s opposite Madame Secretary or Wisdom of the Crowd. I’m addicted to Elizabeth McCord’s manner of foreign policy. Besides I can throw popcorn at DVD episode & rewind if I miss something – Horace – for instance.
    The pics I’ve seen from this season re Demelza’s wardrobe also bothers me as Ross and her are better off financially. And her slouching. But I like her better than Elizabeth Warleggen. And I really like Caroline and her pooch, Horace.
    Ross should grow up. If he doesn’t, he might loose Demelza.She did have a triste with Lieut. ‘Poetry-writer’.

    Reply
  12. Quinlyn Shaughnessy

    Oh, this poor show. The first season got me hooked on the Poldark stories (I ended up reading the first 6 books), but the second season was SO bad. Season three wasn’t good, either, but it was slightly above season two. I’m still watching because…well, it’s Poldark, and I basically signed my life away to it. Also, Aidan Turner. But aside from that, it generally disappoints me.

    (Sidenote, you called Sam “Silas” in his bathing shot. He does seem more like a Silas than a Sam, though, so I can’t really blame you.)

    Reply
  13. M.E. Lawrece

    I love Esme Coy, who plays Rowella, Morwenna’s shocking little sister. She has a perfect 18th-century shepherdess face. (She’s the daughter of Jonathan Coy, the chambers clerk in “Rumpole of the Bailey.” Nice to see the younger generation stepping out.)

    Reply
  14. thedementedfairy

    I grew up on the 70s version, and don’t like this one at all. All the women look the same to me, just with different wigs…and they are all so SKINNY. Not a boob in sight. The only one I liked was Verity, but hey, the missus likes it!

    Reply
  15. Sisi

    At least we have Caroline’s wedding dress. It was accurate (aside from the modern lace), stripey, and she had decent hair! It’s a step up from last season.

    Reply
  16. elizacameron

    I grew up watching the 70’s series, and Robin Ellis will always be Ross Poldark to me. I even read the 1st 6 books in between Series 1 & Series 2. My biggest complaint is Jack Farthing’s portrayal of George. He has none of the subtlety of Ralph Bates in the original, the only time I found him less than insufferable is when he broke down in the final episode. Otherwise, I have no use for him. And this Morwenna is so much drippier than the 70’s Morwenna. I like Aiden Turner a lot but I don’t like him as Ross.

    Reply
  17. Black Tulip

    Oh that barrette! Every time it appeared (which was many, many times) I thought, “Wait until Frock Flicks sees this”.

    Possibly the ‘highlight’ of the whole series though was Verity’s moment on a cliff, with a baby which looked passably like an infant version of her husband, and a miniature which looked NOTHING like him at all. Yes, one of these things should be harder to achieve than the other. No, it should not be that way round.

    Reply
  18. Emma

    I really loved the costumes this season! I thought they were a real step up. The cut on the dresses and the fabric I thought was great and no back lacing!!! Carolines wedding dress is divine! Who cares about modern lace! I think the fullness and shape was right as it 1790’s as panniers had gone by now and it would only be a bum roll. I think the pregnancy padding was bad though. I totally hate morwenna’s hair! Looks like a really bad wig!

    Reply
  19. Kaitlin

    Morwenna & Drake were the highlight of the season for me. But yeah her hair was bad – i think maybe it was a wig issue, because her actress has very short hair and a short fringe which might be hard to disguise?

    I have an issue with how Poldark has this whole hair up = prim and proper thing going on.
    Now Elizabeth is married to George she pins it up all time, Demelza’s is always “wild and free” and Morwenna starts wearing hers up after marriage etc. etc.

    Reply

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