Poldark’s Villains, Ranked

Revisit five seasons of cads, rogues, scoundrels and just plain evildoers in the definitive, highly subjective scientific ranking of the big bads of Poldark, from the absolute worst to the only slightly awful. How do you rank them? #PoldarkPBS


  1. 1.

    Ossie Whitworth

    “Dear Lord, I begin to comprehend your purpose—for you see now that my present wife is unsuited to this life. And if you ordain that I be widowed again…”

    Ossie Whitworth is the vilest of the vile, the worst of the worst, a hypocrite, a buffoon, a fashion victim…and an utter monster. That his abuse was sanctioned in the institution of marriage, and he knew, it makes it worse. And especially insidious is the way that his clownish behavior made him appear unthreatening, masking his sinister violence. We can be thankful, though, for several things, in spite of Ossie’s odiousness: a death as gruesome he deserved, a happy union, finally, for Drake and Morwenna, and an absolutely delightful actor, Christian Brassington, portraying the part.

  2. 2.

    Monk Adderley

    “Two things I like best: to fight duels and to make love.”

    There are so many offenses Monk Adderley commits that we can hardly detail them in this space, but among the top: uttering lines, like the above, that make you want to take a shower; daring to think that he could seduce Demelza (!); wearing human hair in his buttons; and trying to kill Ross! Mostly, though, it’s his lines of dialogue. Debbie Horsfield offers an interesting take on Monk that doesn’t get him off the hook but might explain the creepy cannibal: “Thought is that he had some kind of brain trauma a combat wound, and so is potentially a little deranged.”

  3. 3.

    Joseph Merceron

    “Revenge is easy, reputation more dearly bought. But I think there’s a way to achieve one by way of the other.”

    With a secret identity, a league of spies, unfettered social and political power, and his very own falcon, Merceron is a legitimate villain capable of severe and lasting damage that goes far beyond our friends in Cornwall. He was even a bad guy in real life, a tyrannical gangster known as “the Boss of Bethnal Green.” As Debbie Horsfield describes it, “Joseph Merceron was utterly, utterly vile and utterly without mercy. He appeared to have no kind conscience, no morality, actually. You could write a whole series about him on his own, actually. I personally think he’s probably, though we don’t really show it in the series, actually the worst of them all!”

  4. 4.

    George Warleggan

    “One stone, many birds.”

    George blithely allowed the poor of Cornwall to starve; he called in loans on every vulnerable borrower who got in his way; he burned down Drake’s forge—twice!—and almost had him hanged—twice, again! Plus, he tried to get Sam and Ross hanged, too (and succeeded with poor Jago Martin). And—the monster!—he cancelled Aunt Agatha’s birthday party. Yet despite this lengthy and by no means comprehensive list of George’s many offenses, he is, at heart (yes, he has one) just a hurt, insecure little boy who learned the very wrong lessons about how to be accepted.

    As Poldark‘s writer, Debbie Horsfield, told MASTERPIECE, “I’ve always thought that he wanted to be Ross, actually. He wanted so many of the things that Ross had and took for granted. He’s motivated to acquire wealth and power, but that to me simply shows there’s an emptiness at the heart of him, that he doesn’t really know what he wants. Because ultimately, as he discovers when Elizabeth dies, none of those things mean anything at all if the person that you love is gone. So I have to put George way down the list of villains.”

  5. 5.

    Ralph Hanson

    “Bannantine should pay for this treachery.”

    Bannantine, you may remember, washed up dead. But Bannantine aside, Ralph Hanson is no more than the worst kind of merchant of his day, devoid of morals and humanity, crushing lives in order to prop up his fortune. He’s not the vilest of the vile; he’s just the kind of guy who would glom onto a more villainous villain…one who, for instance, has his very own falcon.

  6. 6.

    Tom Harry

    “Yer welcome to ‘er soul, brother. I’ve already ‘ad ‘er body!”

    His brutality is legend, his beard is mighty, his first names are two, and his stench must be unbearable. Yet for all his Drake-beating, forge-burning, eye-gouging, and toad-eliminating-toadying, Tom Harry is not much more than your everyday thug. As Heida Reed explained in her official villains ranking, “I would put the [Tom and Harry] Harrys at the bottom. They’re just trying to survive, and if they were given more opportunity, potentially they’d behave differently. So I think essentially, they’re harmless.”

    Watch all five seasons of Poldark all over again with PBS Passport, an added member benefit!


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