Last week in episode 6 of Poldark, we had the “Pride and Prejudice Poldark Edition,” in which talk of frocks, balls and beaus resounded with snappy repartees and witty retorts, in true Jane Austen style.
This week in episode 7 of Poldark, it’s just another day in Cornwall when an epidemic strikes the community, tragedy befalls the Poldark family and a rip roaring shipwreck sends more than a ship to the bottom of the sea, in the thrilling and heartbreaking 2 hour season 1 finale.
Side Note: Masterpiece Classic chose to combine episodes 7 and 8 of the UK broadcast into one episode. This will be confusing to some. Do not be alarmed. Both episodes are included.
(Fair warning. There be spoilers ahead)
“Where’s Verity?”—Elizabeth Poldark
While George Warleggan (Jack Farthing) reminds Ross Poldark’s (Aidan Turner) business partner Sir Jonathan Tressider (Mark Seaman) where his true interests lie in light of the debt that he owes to Warleggan Bank, Verity (Ruby Bentall) makes her move (finally) and elopes with Captain Blamey (Richard Harrington). Francis Poldark (Kyle Soller), the narcissistic cad that he is, does not take the news well. He is convinced that Ross aided them in their plans. His wife Elizabeth (Heida Reed) questions his rash accusations, defending Ross proclaiming, “I stand up for no one, but it’s the merest justice not to condemn people unheard.”
“Don’t bend ye brows at me girl. You ain’t nothin’ but a trull from Illugin.”—Jud Paynter
Jud (Phil Davis), Ross’s man servant, drinks too much “duty free” brandy and in a drunken rage vents his spleen on Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson). Ross overhears his scurrilous admonishment of his wife and fires him, throwing him out. Prudie (Beatie Edney) goes with her common law husband and they live in the hedgerows (with Mrs. Bennet after her husband’s death, no doubt). Even though Demelza is the injured party, she shows compassion and allows the Paynters to live in their barn. This is a great example of how Ross and Demelza react to different situations. He is quick to condemn, she to forgive.
“This must stop Keren, your coming here. Your husband does not like it.”—Dr. Enys
Keren (Sabrina Bartlett), wife of miner Mark Daniel (Matthew Wilson), finally has her way with the reluctant Dr. Enys (Luke Norris). She slinks home to find that her husband has been waiting for her for hours. They share angry words and in the ensuing scuffle he breaks her neck. Mark panics and flees. The contrite Dr. Enys arrives the next morning to confess all to Mark. Only Keren remains. Dead Keren. Ross encourages Dr. Enys to leave, but he is determined to stay and help the people who have only showed him kindness.
“What did I ever do that he should go behind my back like this?”—Francis Poldark
“Well, I suppose you married the girl that he loved, didn’t you?”—George Warleggan
George Warleggan arrives at Trenwith in the midst of a heated argument between Elizabeth and Francis to offer restitution for his cousin Matthew Sanson’s (Jason Thorpe) card sharking, relieving some of his gaming debt to the tune of £1,200 (worth about £74,292.00 in 2013 real value or £1,065,240.00 in percentage value. That is $1,664,283.00 in US dollars. Wowza! They are ecstatic and not destitute after all. George maneuvers Francis into revealing what he came for in the first place: the list of the investors in the Carnmore Copper Company so he can break the coalition and his enemy Ross Poldark’s dream of thwarting the Warleggan stronghold on the copper industry.
“She has the courage of her convictions, which I applaud, even if I disapprove.”—Elizabeth Poldark
A letter arrives for Ross from Elizabeth. She is certain that they are aware of Verity’s elopement, but informs them otherwise that she will be married tomorrow. Certain? Why would she think that? How would they know? Puzzled, Ross goes to Trenwith. In a touch of irony, Elizabeth reveals to Ross that she is happy that Verity chose to marry for love and not to remain the dutiful sister. (She did not have the courage to do so herself.) In an angry tirade Francis blames Ross for Verity’s elopement. “It must be your doing, and that impudent brat that you married,” believing Demelza assisted in the letter exchanges between the couple. Enraged, Ross denies it. He and Francis fight before Elizabeth breaks it up and he storms out.
“Have a care for the law. ‘Tis and cranky and twisty ole thing.”—Captain McNeil
As Garrick dozes by the hearthside many visitors to Nampara will interrupt his sleep. First, Dr. Enys pops in for a consolatory chat with Ross who is not at home. Next, Mark Daniel and his brother Paul arrive looking for Ross to assist Mark in his escape to France. While Demelza directs traffic, attempting to keep the two men apart, Ross returns and sends Dr. Enys on his way. On the beach, the fugitive and his assistants are delayed by soldiers searching for him. While they wait for their opportunity, Mark reveals that he discovered a load of copper on the east face of Wheal Grace. During his escape, Paul shoots one of the soldiers. Afterwards, Captain McNeil (Henry Garrett) arrives late in the night at Nampara to question Ross, warning him to take care of the law. He suspects Ross’s involvement, but cannot prove it.
“For months you have lied to me?”—Ross Poldark
After Ross tells Demelza that he has broken with his cousin Francis, she goes to Trenwith in attempt to mend the split by revealing that she is to blame for re-uniting Verity and Blamey. Back at home, Ross is astounded by her news, realizing that Francis, in an act of revenge, has shared the confidential list of Carnmore Copper Company investors with the Warleggans. While Demelza truly feels she was only bringing two people together, her actions have had a much wider consequence—the demise of Ross’s company, the ruin of good men and a breach between cousins. She is devastated, believing she has betrayed him, ruined their love and broken his trust. Will he ever forgive her? He does not know. She married into “a peculiar family. Poldark’s are hasty, sharp tempered and strong in their likes and dislikes.” She reveals that she will never be happy until the rift has healed. Ross warns her she will have to wait a very long time.
“What is it that offends you Ross? That we Warleggans have dared to drag ourselves out of poverty and aspire to gentility?”—George Warleggan
“Poverty does not offend me, nor does aspiration, but you are mistaken if you think greed and exploitation are the marks of a gentleman.”—Ross Poldark
There is fever afoot in Cornwall. An epidemic of putrid throat (the Harriet Smith disease) sweeps through the county and the wile Warleggans are calling in loans of those who support the Carnmore Copper Company. Outbid at the local ore auction, Ross realizes that the Warleggans have been very efficient and that they must bow to the inevitable. With no copper to process at their smelting works, they have been run out of business. Many will be out of work and the investors ruined. The two enemies meet in the street revealing to us their divergent attitudes and beliefs. George strives to be a gentleman and earn respect using the very tools that a gentleman would never use: money and greed. Realizing that all of his assets are mortgaged, Ross gambles everything on a high-interest, short-term loan that will either make or break him. With this last setback, the Warleggans have become complete masters of the district.
“You’ve heard the news from Trenwith?”—Jinny Carter
“Tell me.”—Demelza Poldark
All the servants and the family at Trenwith are infected with the putrid throat, so Demelza sets off to help. While Ross is in Truro, she nurses Francis, Elizabeth and baby Geoffrey Charles through the night, assisting the very family that had previously banned her from their home, but are now grateful for her attention. Demelza returns home and soon she and baby Julia become ill. Ross summons Dr. Enys, but there is little he can do and Julia dies. While his wife fights the infection Ross buries his daughter. Fever-ridden Demelza has a nightmare that Elizabeth has come for Ross.
“She’s a prize of a ship carrying food. There will be pickings for all.”—Ross Poldark
While his wife lies unconscious and still grief stricken after the death of his baby daughter, Ross sights a ship foundering off Hendrana beach. Knowing that it will wreck and there will be plunder, he alerts the local villagers who swarm the beach and capture the spoils. Drunk from their booty they are fighting amongst each other and out of control. Ross looks at their revelry with a self-satisfied smirk. The ship that wrecked was the Queen Charlotte on her maiden voyage, owned by the dastardly Warleggans. When they learn of the wreck, George pays off the excise officer to make sure that the leader of the rabble will be charged with a capital offense. Among the dead is Warleggan cousin Matthew Sanson. While Ross escorts the ship’s survivors to his house, he encounters the excise officer and his men, warning them that the people on the beach are fighting drunk and if they interfere they will turn on them.
“She saved my child and lost yours in return. Oh, Ross. If I could do anything…”—Elizabeth Poldark
“You can. Pray to God I do not lose the love of my life.”—Ross Poldark
Ross returns home to find Elizabeth attending Demelza. She is moved by the dire condition of his wife and offers any help. In return, he squarely makes it known where his allegiance lies and that his wife is the love of his life, and not her. (Huzzah) Interesting moment. When Demelza finally awakens from her delirium she is concerned that Elizabeth is there to take him from her. His reassurance and comfort is short lived. He informs her of the death of their daughter. She devastated and bereft with grief.
“I was very sorry to hear of your loss. The world is a darker place without her.”—George Warleggan
“And a brighter place without him [Matthew Sanson].”—Ross Poldark
The next morning, Ross returns to Hendrana beach to find the authorities clearing away the cargo that was not appropriated by the villagers. Also there is George to collect the body of his cousin Matthew who drown in the wreck. While George offers sympathy, Ross finds any kindness from that man a lie and rejoins his comment with an insult. Georgie claims that Ross insists that they should be enemies but should be allies. “God forbid that I should be so desperate.” he relies.
“These are strange times Elizabeth. We should no longer stand on ceremony.”—George Warleggan
“If you say so.”—Elizabeth Poldark
George arrives at Trenwith shaken by the night’s events. He seeks out Elizabeth and in an odd conversation tells her that his feelings will no longer be misunderstood, nor his intensions. She must declare a side. Confused at first, she eventually gets his drift and tells him he must not say these things to her. So, now there is a third man in her life!
“Will you make it up with Francis?”—Demelza Poldark
“Even though he betrayed us?”—Ross Poldark
“You make me ashamed. Your heart is so generous. You always see the good in things.”—Ross Poldark
After the death of her daughter, Demelza feels guilty for not being there when she died or at the burial. Ross, in a kind gesture, takes her to the cliff top for a private goodbye. Demelza is set on making things right between Ross and Francis. She does not want the breach between the cousins to continue to undermine her marriage and their friendship. She presses him to forgive Francis, even though he betrayed them. He is amazed by her generous spirit and softens to her request. She seems relieved. There is hope now and Julia’s death will not have been in vain. In a symbolic gesture, she releases Julia’s namesake ribbon that she created for into the wind. Their private moment is interrupted by the arrival of the excise officers who have orders to arrest Ross for wrecking, inciting a riot and murder. Uncredulous, Demelza watches as they take her husband away to the goal.
It took me days to finish writing this recap & review of the season finale of Poldark. I was psychologically stymied. I put off the inevitable by dithering on Twitter and procrastinating on Facebook. I listened to the audio book of Demelza and watched episode 7 several times for inspiration. Finally I came to the realization that I was blocked because it was the FINALE, and if I finished my review Poldark would be over after months of work. Monday will indeed be the day after the wedding for me.
All sentimentality aside, the last two episodes that Masterpiece combined into one were electrifying, tragic and heart wrenching—all testament to author Winston Graham and screenwriter Debbie Horsfield who really know how to pull out all the stops and take us on an emotional roller-coaster ride. Episode seven was a cliff side cliffhanger! Paramount in my mind are the scenes of intense poignancy, i.e.: when Demelza realizes that her good intentions in re-uniting Verity and Blamey have wider and more devastating consequences; when George confronts Ross about his aspirations to become a gentleman and Ross points out that his methods do not exemplify his desires; and when Ross, in the depths of despair over the loss of his daughter, and possibly his wife, asks Elizabeth to pray that he does not lose the love of his life. Riveting, heart stopping moments that still resonate.
There is much to ruminate over in this last episode and the first season as a whole. It is period drama at its finest: carefully crafted, beautifully produced and excellently cast. An engaging story of the struggles of right and wrong, obsession and regret, and love and loss that a group of characters experience. It does not get much better than this in the period dramasphere and I am very grateful to the BBC and Masterpiece for presenting it. I am all anticipation of what they will come up with next season now that we know that they have expanded the season from 8 episodes to 10 which should rectify my initial objections to rushed scenes and scant dialogue. In the meantime, we can all read Jeremy Poldark and Warleggan, the next two novels in the Poldark Saga, and wait for 2016.
I am sending you off (for now) with beautiful original Poldark inspired artwork, part of “The Cornwall Series” by Elizabeth McGlasson (also known as Red Sangre), a 3D Graphics Artist and Digital Painter from Las Vegas, NV. Focusing mostly on stylized artwork rendered in 3D, her work brings to mind the darker imaginings of gothic horror, fairy tales and fantasy scenes. Visit Elizabeth on Twitter as @Red_Sangre, on Facebook as Red Sangre’s Artwork, on Tumbler and purchase her artwork on RedBubble.
- My recap & review of Episode Six of Poldark
- Talking Frocks and Breeches with Poldark Costume Designer Marianne Agertoft
- Q&A with Poldark Historical Advisor Hannah Greig
- 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 and Elizabeth McGlasson © 2015; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2015, Austenprose.com
Disclosure of Material Connection: We received one review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. We only review or recommend products we have read or used and believe will be a good match for our readers. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”