From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress:
We were mesmerized by last week’s premiere of Poldark on Masterpiece. Even though it was a front loading fest—to get us up to speed on the characters and lay of the land—the energy and tension really propelled our interest (and admiring gaze) toward what promises to be a swash and buckle summer.
This week in episode two, Ross dances, George schemes, and Demelza washes her hair!
BRIEF RECAP (there be spoilers ahead)
A scandalous suicide and closure of another mine shocks the community, bringing the dangers of being a mine owner close to home. Undaunted, Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) is determined to reopen Wheal Leisure, his father’s derelict copper mine. After discussions with friendly banker Mr. Pascoe (Richard Hope), they are hopeful to acquire investors in the scheme. Ross asks his cousin Francis Poldark (Kyle Soller) to join him as a partner in his venture, but he is reluctant, surprised by Ross’s altruistic reasons for resurrecting the mine to help his tenants. In a rare moment of doubt, George Warleggan (Jack Farthing) expresses concern to his Uncle Cary (Pip Torrens) of their culpability in the death of mine owner Lord Basset after not extending his loans.
Ross and Elizabeth dance together and sparks fly again
A Country Dance Incites Emotions
Verity (Ruby Bentall) asks her cousin Ross to escort her to the Truro Assembly Ball where his liberty is in danger from a great many girls who would like to acquire his family’s ancient name. Captain Blamey’s (Richard Harrington) immediate attraction to Verity is returned, resulting in a possible beau for the spinster. When Ross’s flirtatious dance with Elizabeth (Heida Reed) reveals his lingering love for her, community tongues wag, turning her husband Francis from doting newlywed to embittered cuckhold. After a warning from Verity of his pronounced attentions to Elizabeth, Ross darts from the dance and into the arms of Margaret (Margaret Leity), the local light skirt who helps ease his pain.
Demelza Washes her Hair!
Demelza is making every effort to fit in at Nampara, including scrubbing herself “raw as a bullock of beef” to meet Ross’s standards. Later, Jud finds her inspecting Ross’s personal belongings in the library and is leery of her intensions, telling her that she is not wanted there and should go home. Feisty Demelza will have none of it. While picking wildflowers by the cliff with her dog Garrick, and dreaming of her employer, Demelza spies on Ross skinny dipping in the ocean. Ross and Demelza ride together to Truro: he for a business meeting to pitch his coper mining pursuit and she to buy fish. While George talks Francis out of participating in his cousin’s business venture, Ross acquires investors.
Francis Poldark and Captain Blamey face off in a duel
Elizabeth arrives unexpectedly at Nampara, distraught, claiming that it cannot go on any longer. Ross blindly assumes that she means her marriage with Francis. He follows her back to Trenwith, embarrassed to learn that Verity is the cause of family concern. Her father and brother are outraged by her association with Captain Blamey, whose purported dark past as wife murder is totally unacceptable to them. She is forbidden to see him again, but seeks Ross’s support with the relationship. He agrees to let them meet at Nampara in secret. Eventually, Francis and Charles learn of the trysts and Francis calls Blamey out in a duel which ends in disaster: Francis, seriously wounded and Blamey winged. Verity and Blamey agree that is hopeless and they cannot meet again.
Demelza Claims her Ground
Ross patches Francis up and saves his life, but ungrateful Uncle Charles blames him for the incident, calling him a disgrace to the Poldark name. Hurt, he rallies his own troops for a cliff-side dinner at his mine. While the sun sets, he offers Demelza a chance to return to her family. Taken aback and offended, she thinks he wants to get rid of her. She loyally claims that she belongs here, with him at Nampara.
Philip Davis as Ross Poldark’s servant Jud Paynter
“Mining is in the blood. Like a vein of copper. T’is the bread of life. Eat, sleep, live and breath it. She’s your salvation and your downfall. Make you reckless, make you bold. Many a friend it break. And many more will follow. T’is a fools game. T’will end in tears.” — Jud Paynter
This was a surprising speech from a servant who has spent most of his time so far drunk and incapacitated. For those who have read the books, we know that Jud was friend to Joshua Poldark, Ross’s father, helping him with his mining. Since Joshua is now with the “blessed above,” these words of wisdom speak from the grave.
“These ancient families lack backbone. I wonder they survive.” — George Warleggan
I do not often agree with what the Warleggan’s say, or do, but in this instance George is right during these times. The landed gentry was in flux as power and money shifted away from land owning aristocracy and toward trade and the middle class. They could no longer rely on the family name and estates to support their lifestyles. Those families who did not adapt by marrying well, or finding income away from agriculture, did not survive.
“I fear I possess few of the refinements of polite society, ma’am.” — Ross Poldark
This quote draws a picture of Ross very neatly. He is a romantic Byronic hero: rebellious, broody, impulsive and introspective. He works outside of the norms of polite society. He is a classic romantic rebel archetype.
“Remind me Captain Poldark. Was I engaged to you for this next dance?”—Ruth Teague
“Not that I recall. Will you excuse me?”—Ross Poldark
The Assembly Ball in Truro is one of my favorite chapters in the book Ross Poldark, and remains one of my favorites of this adaptation so far. It is the closest that we get to anything resembling a Jane Austen novel, and, is so cleverly written by Winston Graham that I am certain he was an admirer of her work. The action is quick and the conversation witty. Screenwriter Debbie Horsfield has done an excellent job in translation, and actors Aidan Turner as Captain Poldark and Harriet Ballard, as the assertive debutante Ruth Teague play this scene to perfection.
Demelza daydreams in a field of blue cornflowers with her faithful dog Garrick.
“Saddle my horse, and remind me to thrash you when I return.”—Ross Poldark
I often enjoy the humor in period drama more than the tragedy. Ross has a quick, sarcastic wit that is endearing him to me, more and more.
“You must take tea with us at Teague House. Perhaps we can show you what a woman’s touch can do to a home.”—Mrs. Teague
“I thank you ma’am. But I fear that your efforts would be wasted.” — Ross Poldark
Touché. Another great comeback line for Ross. I love how he gallantly bows to kiss each of their hands while delivering this line. It is not mentioned in this adaptation, but widow Mrs. Teague is a grasping mama with five unmarried daughters. Shades of Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice!
“I belong here. I belong here.”—Demelza
Demelza has worked hard to fit in a Nampara, She has scrubbed the house and herself to please Ross and contribute to the household. When he offers her the chance to return to her family, we can hear her heart breaking and we silently scream, no you idiot. Why would anyone want to go back to their shady father when we have seen YOU sea-bathing. Nope. Not gunna happen.
Episode one was all about introductions and hooking us into the series. Now that has been accomplished it is on to character development and drama.
We have come to understand Ross’s real personality more by his choice of re-opening his father’s mine for the benefit of the local starving workers. In opposition, his cousin Francis is astounded that he feels responsible for them. Unfortunately, this view was common by the ruling class of this time, and one of the main reasons why Ross abhors them. He is a man uncomfortable in his own class because he cannot abide their views or actions.
Demelza’s development is interesting. She is still “somewhat feral” but is changing and adapting to her duties and her environment. Eleanor Tomlinson is so believable in the role that it is hard to fathom that she portrayed the elegant and fragile Georgiana Darcy in Death Comes to Pemberley last year. I read in an interview that she was eager to move on from “drop curl roles,” and she has certainly proven her mettle. Her growing fondness to Ross is more hero worship at this point, but prospects look good for more.
A Dastardly Villain
We would be remiss if we did not mention Jack Farthing as George Warleggan. This despicable character could easily become fake and wooden in the wrong hands. His wig is really iffy, and his dandyish attire looks more Beau Brummel than late Georgian foppery, but I rather like that since he is a forward thinking man of business, he is also in dress. When he appears on the scene, I want to clutch my purse and hold my breath.
Beautiful Costumes vs. Editing Choices
Over-all this adaptation is well-cast and beautifully produced. The ball gowns at the Assembly Ball where particularly stunning and I love what they dressed tart Margaret in too—a combination Madonna during her Like a Virgin years and a third hand Claire Randall from Outlander. My only quibbles are with too many cliff-side galloping scenes and the slow motion effects. Both are totally unnecessary, and lower the quality of the production.
Join me next Sunday, July 5, 2015 9/8c as I co-moderate the live Twitter Event of episode three of Poldark, hosted by Masterpiece Classic PBS
- Poldark Season One (2015)
- Studio: Mammoth Screen, BBC, & PBS
- Directors: Edward Bazalgette & William McGregor
- Screenplay: Debbie Horsfield adapted from the novels of Winston Graham
- Cast: Aidan Turner, Eleanor Tomlinson, Jack Farthing
- Length: Eight (58) minute episodes
- Read my recap & review of Episode One of Poldark Season One
- Read my recap & review of Episode Three of Poldark Season One
We viewed this television series on Amazon Video with our subscription to Masterpiece PBS. Images courtesy of Mammoth Screen, Ltd., Masterpiece Classic PBS © 2015, text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2015, austenprose.com, an Amazon affiliate. Updated 24 January 2023.