We’re all sad about the sixth and final season of “Downtown Abbey,” which will air in the US beginning January 3. Instead of waiting with bated breath for confirmation about rumors of a movie, dive into the next best PBS Masterpiece show, “Poldark.“
The series, which just wrapped its first season, acts something like a precursor to “Downton.” Set in Cornwall in 1793, the show begins with (episode 1 spoiler alert) Ross Poldark, a British soldier, a Redcoat, just returned home from the American Revolutionary war to find his father dead, his copper mine defunct, and his lover impregnated by his cousin.
But through the season, Poldark and his band of misfits battle the wealthy and corrupt for survival, fair wages, and equal.
Like Downton the social politics play a leading role, with aristocrats fighting to get richer as the poor–and their champion, Poldark–struggle not to starve. For American audiences, it’s refreshing (albeit sad, dismal, and all too familiar to contemporary politics) to see the reverse side of our own history books. The show forces us to consider what happened in Great Britain after the American Revolution, rather than focus on American growth and reform in the 1780s and 90s.
In this second iteration of Winston Graham’s epic novels, viewers can imagine reading the text with the vivid symbolism used in the TV show. For example, Ross Poldark’s decaying home contrasts his cousin Francis’s sweeping estate.
Beyond symbolism, the cinematography shines in “Poldark.” The expansive scenes of the Cornwall coast leave me feeling like I’m lost in a Caspar David Friedrich painting. The poetic backdrop is paired with sets and costumes that transport the viewer to this bygone world.
The strong scenery coupled with dominant themes of family, paternity, loss, love, community, and struggle for survival are further emphasized by the commanding performances and characters.
Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) is a man of the people and one who installs in the viewer a need to “do what’s right” along with a wistfulness and pride in humanity. As for the other characters, you come to love…or to hate them, and their tangle of stories and growth leaves the viewer enraptured by their drama.
With the first season of “Poldark” already wrapped, you have one binge watch down before you’re pining away for both “Poldark” season two and the final episodes of “Downtown Abbey.”
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