Last week in episode 5 of Poldark everyone was reckless and bold—gambling on their future and love. Miner Mark Daniel married a questionable woman, Ross began a copper smelting company, Demelza played defiant matchmaker and Francis had a meltdown after losing his mine in a card game.
This week: The Pride and Prejudice Poldark edition. In which talk of frocks, balls and beaus resounds with sparkling repartees and retorts, echoing Jane Austen’s prose.
(there be spoilers ahead)
“You’ll never get it Ross.”—Francis Poldark
“Justice for all.”—Francis Poldark
“Fair wages would be a start.”—Ross Poldark
With the image of the shirtless and buff Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) scything his field in episode three still fresh in our minds, the scene of his cousin Francis (Kyle Soller) attempting the same sends an entirely different message. Moral fortitude vs. weakness has won the day. Taking the initiative and rebuilding your life has paid off for Ross. Will his cousin rise to the challenge? The omen that Aunt Agatha (Caroline Blakiston) foretold of the dark and fair Poldark, “The stronger rises as the weaker falls,” has flipped in the five years since Ross’s return. The only ammunition that Francis has left to wound his cousin is sarcasm and doubt.
“Have you heard? The Warleggans are giving a ball!”—Verity Poldark
“Are we invited?”—Demelza Poldark
“What a way to mark your entrance into society.”—Verity Poldark
*puzzled look on Demelza’s face*
“What is it?”—Verity Poldark
*sigh* “Well what will I wear?”—Demelza Poldark
Ha! This could have been a conversation between Lydia and Kitty Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. The age old question of “what will I wear” echoing down from through the ages!
“I need no luxury. To be free. To live my own life. To be with you. It’s all the riches I could wish.”—Verity Poldark
Verity (Ruby Bentall) meets Captain Blamey (Richard Harrington) openly in Falmouth. As they walk along the sea wall in plain view of all, my mind’s rapid imagination concludes that she has become as reckless and bold as her cousin Ross. What was the girl thinking? No respectable young lady would be seen unchaperoned walking with a gentleman in such a public place in 1788. After my inner Lady Catherine settled down, I came to the realization that they must have an agreement. Since she has reached the point of “who cares,” I hoped that they will just get on with it and elope.
“T’iss as we feared Ross. Fever’s rife in Bodmin and they’re droppin’ like flys.”—Zacky Martin
Jim Carter’s (Alexander Arnold) father-in-law Zacky Martin (Tristan Sturrock) spills the bad news to Ross. There is pestilence at the jail where Jim is imprisoned. Armed with nothing beyond his wits, Ross and Dr. Enys (Luke Norris) talk their way into the jail and remove Jim, who is near death. Attempts to save his life fail. They return home and immediately bury him on a cliff by the sea. One presumes that the hasty burial outside a churchyard was precipitated by the fear of spreading the fever to others, and that criminals cannot be buried in sacred ground. One clue to the danger is Ross burning his clothes on the beach, or was that another excuse for him to take his shirt off again?
“Pardon my interference. It was kindly meant.” — Demelza Poldark
Demelza happens upon Keren Daniel (Sabrina Bartlett) knocking on the door of Dr. Eny’s home and informs her that he and her husband are away. In a bold move, she breaches a sensitive subject—the fact that “folk love a gossip” and she should take care and not give them cause. Of course Keren (the vixen) plays dumb about the inference that she is pursuing Dr. Enys. Demelza’s reply is very strongly rooted in another famous retort from Pride and Prejudice, “I beg your pardon,” replied Miss Bingley, turning away with a sneer. “Excuse my interference: it was kindly meant.” Just sayin’.
“Smug, self-centered upholders of the law, and so-called gentlemen who prize game above honest working men.”—Ross Poldark
After Jim’s tragic death, Ross is as angry as hornet in a hailstorm. Like the true Byronic hero he is, he drinks excessively, vents his spleen and broods magnificently—blaming the magistrates for the death. Breaking Jim out of jail is a crime and Demelza is worried about trouble arising from her husband’s actions. Recklessly, he welcomes it. Verity arrives to quell the maelstrom of misery and convinces Ross that he must attend the Warleggan ball that evening to “dance and smile among the very men responsible,” those who might bring action against him, reminding them that he is a gentleman. “Justice is a fine thing is it not?” Ross snarls. He hates playing the social game, but concedes he must for the sake of his family.
“Do you hunt ma’am?”—Sir Hugh Bodrugan
“No sir. I have some sympathy for the foxes.”—Demelza Poldark
Ross and Demelza arrive at the grand Warleggan ball; she in her shiny new frock and he in his cups (drunk). George Warleggan (Jack Farthing) introduces Ross to Matthew Sanson (Jason Thorpe) who engages him in a game of cards. Left alone Demelza is introduced to her neighbor Sir Hugh Bodrugan (Patrick Ryecart), a middle-aged bachelor known for his passion for riding to the hounds and the ladies. Looking every bit the fine lady, she still has a mind of her own and responds to his question with an honest answer that no proper eighteenth-century lady would ever say! How refreshing!
“No doubt that the common people you mix with have blunted your facilities as to what may or may not be said in polite society.”—Reverend Halse
“Oh, I agree that they alter one’s perspective, sir. You should try mixing with such people. They might enlarge your outlook.”—Ross Poldark
The self-righteous Reverend Halse (Robin Ellis) sits down to a game of cards with Ross, Francis and Matthew Sanson thinking that because of his clerical profession that he has the better grasp on elementary principals. Sitting next to him is Ross Poldark who never plays by the elementary principles of polite society and challenges him to a duel of words resulting in a standoff, for the moment.
“And how is your father dear. We have not seen him since the christening.”—Ruth Treneglos
“No ma’am. I’m sorry. Father is over particular who he meets.”—Demelza Poldark
While Ross spends the evening inebriated and playing cards leaving Demelza to fend for herself at her first ball, her fine figure and genteel manners have attracted the attention of many of the men and women in attendance, including the bachelor rogue of the county, Sir Hugh Bodrugan, and Mrs. Chynoweth (Sally Dexter), Elizabeth Poldark’s snooty mother who does not recognize her at first. Oh, but Ruth Treneglos (Harriet Ballard) does. Never one to miss the opportunity to snub anyone, she attempts to knock Demelza down a peg by reminding all within earshot of Ross’s wife’s humble roots. In one of the best lines in the episode, Demelza’s come-back is equal to one Elizabeth Bennet’s best retorts, squarely re-buffing the implied insult to her and family. Touché.
“Andrew I beg you to leave. Francis will see you…”—Verity Poldark
“That’s exactly what I wish. Have it all out in the open. I won’t be ashamed of our love.”—Captain Andrew Blamey
Verity is in a dither. Her hot-head beau Andrew Blamey has crashed the Warleggan party and sought her out. Well of course Francis catches them together and there is another verbal volley and physical outburst. While Verity has committed to Andrew, she has been delaying telling her brother, whose reaction she dreads. After this heated scene, and Verity’s later distressful tears in front of the whole county, I think she is past the point of no return and should elope. Okay. That’s the second time I have suggested that scandalous act, but she has burned her bridges and can no longer be a spinster under her brother’s tyranny.
“I hope you are as well entertained as your wife, or had you forgotten her existence? Dangerous mistake. Absentee husbands make for wandering wives. If you wish to retain our favor, you’d do well to pay attention.”—Elizabeth Poldark
There’s Elizabeth getting all fired up again. I rather like this passionate, petulant side she has developed. Again, after her revved up speech to Ross is episode five, she directs her anger and frustration with her own husband at Ross by criticizing his actions, which her husband is also engaging in. Double entendre masked in a thin veil of sarcasm. The women are on fire in this episode.
“Perhaps I should ask for an introduction since it has been so long since we met.”—Demelza Poldark
After Elizabeth’s not so subtle reminder to Ross that he has been neglecting his wife, he seeks her out. Demelza’s immediate reaction is biting sarcasm. She is full up with his behavior. “You’ll not right any wrongs by drinkin and gamin’.” He tries to change the subject by criticizing his class—“over painted, over dressed and over stuffed.” She sees through his ploy and curtly reminds him that if he thinks “that the all the stupid, fat and ignorant” people are in his class, he is mistook. The conversation degenerates to his proclaiming that if, “she behaves likes this she will not go to another ball.” She, in the perfect comeback, she throws it back at him and retorts that if, “he behaves like this, she will not want to.” Wow! Snap, crackle, pop.
“When did you know that he was cheating?”—Delemza Poldark
“Almost at once. I wanted to know for sure before I challenged him.”—Ross Poldark
As the evening progresses, the gaming gets more reckless. Ross has become more than acquainted with George’s brandy and the card table as he begins to lose heavily to Sanson in a game of speculation. He bets and loses his grandfather’s watch and then stakes his mine. Horrified, Demelza offers her new broach that Ross has just given her, and then that is quickly lost too. Then in a last ditch effort he stakes his mine. One last round and then he catches Sanson cheating. It is apparent to all, save George, that he has been played and demands that his loses be returned. Ross blames George for including such people at his parties. As morning breaks the Poldarks depart in Francis’ carriage. An eventful night that gave Ross more ammunition against George, until he learns that Sanson is his cousin.
“Hope for marriage? Pick me liver. Best to be hoped for is not to be cuckhold thrice a day by every man, dog and mule in the county.”—Jud Paynter
Mark Daniel is waiting for Ross at Nampara as he and Demelza return home after the party. He is upset by gossip that his wife Keren has been with Dr. Enys. Jud’s approach to the eventual outcome of marriage does not help him, but it was another bon mot in this tightly infused episode that could not be overlooked.
“What is the matter with the women in this family?”—Franics Poldark
“The men.”—Aunt Agatha
The deconstruction of the Warleggan ball continues at Trenwith the next morning. Aunt Agatha, who has foretold more than a few truths with her tarot cards, proclaims that “It is an omen. A fiendish black omen.” Prompting Franics to openly question what is wrong with the women of the family. I could not agree more with Aunt Agatha’s reply, a fitting end to this episode.
The second act of a play is always my favorite. The plot has been building to the climax—a turning point in the hero or heroine’s fate—and right before the big payoff for the viewer. The brilliantly crafted Warleggan ball in episode 6 of Poldark covers what would be the second act if this television series was a play, and it does not disappoint. (If we were reading Pride and Prejudice it would be the moment when Elizabeth receives notice of Lydia’s elopement.)
At the ball, the dramatic scenes and conflicts for the main characters play out like an intricate dance. Ross, our beleaguered hero, is reeling from the death of Jim Carter. He arrives with Demelza, drunk and angrily blaming the harshness of the magistrates who condemned Jim. She is dressed to the nines and ready to party at her first ball. He is a warrior ready for battle.
Ross abandons her to the card room where he drinks more brandy, loses heavily at cards and spars with his arch-enemies: Reverned Halse, who represents everything he hates about his class, and George, whose business ethics he abhors. While Demelza attempts to quell the powder-keg of Ross-hate building in the community, she dances with randy neighbors, manages a tearful Verity and fends off the local high-brows who seek to put her in her place. The dialogue is sparkling and witty and very Jane Austen-ish with its rapid fire repartee and biting retorts. In fact, I saw so much of Pride and Prejudice in this episode that I pronounce it is absolutely the best writing of the season so far, coupled with excellent direction and fabulous acting. Winston Graham is always at his best when a group of toffs gather in a ball room and Duke it out behind fans and foppery, and the screenwriter Debbie Horsfield has done a superb job transforming his words to the screen.
Next week we will have a two hour season finale of Poldark as episode seven and eight are broadcast back to back. We shall see if anything can surpass my awe and amazement of the Warleggan ball. I think Aunt Agatha’s prediction of a black omen may be foreshadowing for us, so take heed.
Poldark continues next Sunday on Masterpiece PBS. Join me during the broadcast, August 2nd, 2015 9/8c as I co-moderate the live Twitter Event of episode seven and eight of Poldark, hosted by Masterpiece Classic PBS. Just use hashtag #PoldarkPBS to have your share of the conversation.
- My recap & review of Episode Five of Poldark
- Poldark Season One Character Guide
- Ross Poldark, and 15 Other Ultimate Romantic Heroes to Fall in Love with This Summer
- Visit the World of Poldark website on Masterpiece PBS
- Enter a giveaway chance for the first two novels in the Poldark Saga
Images courtesy of Mammoth Screen, Ltd & Masterpiece PBS © 2015; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2015, Austenprose.com