‘Poldark’ Season 5, Episode 5 Recap: A Hanging Offense

It’s Christmas in Cornwall in this episode of Poldark. Everyone has gathered at Nampara for a celebratory feast. But the good times don’t last for long, as Ross and Ned head back to London in an attempt to get him reinstated as governor of Honduras. Instead, Ned gets thrown in prison on charges of high treason. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg in this drama-packed episode. 

Ned stirs up trouble 

Ross Poldark
Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark | Courtesy of Mammoth Screen

Poor, misguided Ross is still convinced that a combination of cajoling sympathetic officials on his part and good behavior on Ned’s will be enough to get his friend sent back to the Caribbean in the service of the crown. Fat chance, especially since there’s a new, less Ned-friendly prime minister in office. 

Dr. Enys knows what’s up. As soon he learns that Ned, Ross, and Kitty are returning to London, he follows with Caroline and Horace the Pug to try to keep Ross out of trouble. Ross basically tells him to get lost, saying that he’s loyal to Ned because he saved his life back when they were soldiering in America. Except, as Dwight coldly points out, he was actually the one who saved Ross’s life. Score one for team Dwight. 

Meanwhile, George has fully recovered his senses and is back to his old tricks — namely, plotting to destroy Ross and getting more deeply involved in the slave trade. His new best friend Ralph Hansen introduces him to his partner (and mysterious man with the falcon). It’s none other than Merceron the magistrate, who Ross thinks is on Ned’s side. Turns out, he’s neck-deep in the slave-driven mahogany trade and definitely has no intention of doing anything to help Ned. 

Ross gives a rousing anti-slavery speech in Parliament. Hansen plays on George’s jealousy of Ross’s success by encouraging him to give his own speech defending slavery. He does, and it’s (unsurprisingly) super-racist. Ross fires backs and publicly embarrasses George, who is now worried that everyone will think he’s friends with “heartless slave owners.” (Can’t imagine where they’d get that idea, George.) The Warleggans, Hansen, and Merceron hatch a plan to plant evidence that indicates Ross and Ned support Catholic emancipation, a serious crime. 

There’s a drawn-out scene where some double agents keep trying (and failing) to plant an incriminating pamphlet on Ned. But he does their work for them by publicly joking about assassinating the king while Kitty begs him to shut up. (Listen to your wife, for once, Ned!) He’s hauled off to prison and charged with treason. Some quick thinking by Dwight and Caroline prevents the same evidence from being discovered in Ross’s lodgings. But even though he’s not in prison, his association with a traitor to the crown is bad news for him. 

Demelza gets a lesson in economics 

 Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza
Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza | Courtesy of Mammoth Screen

As per usual, Ross has left Demelza at home in Cornwall to run the mine. She meets with Pascoe, who introduces her to the new-fangled idea of paper money, which is being issued because of a shortage of gold. She’s skeptical at first but gets it. But the workers at Wheal Grace are not exactly happy about their wages being paid in what they see as worthless scraps of paper.

Agent of chaos Tess takes advantage of their confusion by forging banknotes, which she mistakenly thinks will stick it to the rich, rather than hurting the people she claims to want to help. Demelza quickly catches on to her scheme and heads to the pub to tell the assembled miners that she knows who’s responsible for the counterfeits (dagger eyes at Tess). But she’s not going to name them as long as they stop doing it. Then she reminds everyone that forgery is a hanging offense. 

Morwenna says goodbye

Morwenna’s illicit visits to see her son continue. Drake, desperate to heal his wife’s broken heart, visits Lady Whitworth and pleads with her to let Morwenna see John Conan. Ice cold Lady W. is unmoved. Naturally, Drake responds in the most logical way possible: by kidnapping John Conan. His heart is in the right place but this is an incredibly stupid idea, as Demelza tells him in no uncertain terms. Drake comes to his senses and returns John Conan to his grandmother.  

Drake then tells Morwenna what he did, and she realizes that she needs to make a choice. She visits her son one last time, tearfully explaining that she loves him but she can never see him again. Lady W. storms over to interrupt, but she overhears Morwenna telling John Conan that his grandmother loves him. 

Letting go of her son allows Morwenna to realize that holding on to her grief over losing her child is what kept her from opening her heart to Drake, as she explains as they’re preparing for bed. It’s not totally clear, but it seems like the long-delayed consummation of this marriage might finally have happened. 

Geoffrey Charles is set up  

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Geoffrey Charles decides to make his clandestine romance with Cecily Hansen official by asking her father for her hand in marriage. That goes about as well as you’d expect, since we know he wants her to marry George. 

George is less keen on rushing into a marriage. But when Hansen tells him that his stepson wants to marry Cecily, he’s suddenly ready to set a date, since he still nurses a childish hatred of his dead wife’s child. Hansen makes poor Geoffrey Charles’s life even worse by having him falsely accused of theft and kicked out of military school. But will that be enough to stop young love? We’ll find out in the next episode of Poldark, airing Sunday, November 3 at 9/8c.