The age of romantics and revolutionaries, the era in which the BBC One TV series Poldark from the books by Winston Graham written and created for television by Debbie Horsfield is set, is a period in history full of conflict, a feud, passion and drama. The late eighteenth century early nineteenth century was a time for great characters; of reform, revolution, scientific discovery, dazzling artistry, literary excellence, military milestones and both political and social scandal.
The wild, powerful waves crashing over the rocks on cliffs of the cove below Nampara, Ross Poldark’s farm in Cornwall are like a metaphor for the storm and tempest still to come as the feisty Demelza Poldark (Eleanor Tomlinson) and her dashing husband Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) in the final two episodes, 9 and 10 of Season 2, are at war with each other.
Up until now the very obliging Demelza, who once took pride in her husband and the life they had made together, has put herself under threat. Now she has failed to value herself in the ménage à trois equation she believes still includes Elizabeth (Heida Reed), Francis Poldark’s widow, despite Ross’s protestations
Don’t read any more I you don’t want spoilers.
In the previous episode Ross had stormed off to Trenwith and bedded his former fiancee Elizabeth after a decade of pent up frustration when returning from war where thoughts of her kept him alive, to find her engaged to his cousin Frances whom she married. He has discovered now the deed is done that basically after much thinking he finds he wants to move on and remain with his wife, although it is not going to be that simple
His idiotic reaction has made him realize he doesn’t want the delicate hot house rose Elizabeth after all. Interestingly, after releasing all the resentment he’s carried for years, his life and luck seem to change, at first in terms of exploration at his mine, Wheal Grace.
Demelza’s anger continues in yet another scene. She shuns him at every turn, banishing him to sleeping in a trundle bed in the library. She will not engage him in conversation as he would wish and it leaves them both caught between a rock and a hard place because the great trust between them has fled and their honest communication dries up.
After the rock fall when Ted one of the villagers is killed, Ross is riding along the cliffs home when he runs into George Warleggan (Jack Farthing) who tells him that he and Elizabeth are engaged and that he ‘appears to have won’. Ross acknowledges his enemies’ victory.
Elizabeth is still roaming the Trenwith estate waiting to see if Ross will come to her, leaving Demelza. She is urged on by her aunt Martha, who is hoping she will continue pursuing Ross, not knowing Elizabeth has promised to marry George Warleggan.
Ross returns home where his servants Prudie (Beatie Edney) and Judd Paynter (Phil Davis) are complaining about the latest developments. He has come to tell Demelza he’s shutting Wheal Grace, but keeping to her bed she ignores him.
He tells that he never claimed to be perfect… and she reminds him that they promised to ‘forsake all others’ in their wedding vows. “Did I not respect, revere and love you long before you were my husband,” she says… “…You had a kind of nobility I admired”, Demelza reminds him, telling him it’s not her own pride that’s wounded, but her pride in him.
She has put him too high up on that pedestal where the only way to go, is to fall off.
George is busy organising the wedding and sending out invitations while Elizabeth continues to wait, hoping against hope Ross will turn up.
Ross is getting increasingly frustrated with Demelza who continues to be upset, especially when she thinks a letter that has arrived is from Elizabeth. He tells her it isn’t and he’s going to have to go to Truro and see his old friend Richard Tonkin (Rory Wilton), who is to be released from debtor’s prison.
He tries to talk to Demelza but her anger boils over yet again. While he doesn’t blame her, he does however wonder how her angers services them both now, expecting her to get over her distress quickly. Now he realises it is going to take time.
Elizabeth sends George a letter asking the ‘smallest of favours’ to postpone their wedding and annoyed he rides to Trenwith to see her. She tells him this one week before the scheduled wedding. He asks her is her decision to do with Ross, and her hesitation means to George that it is, making him very angry indeed.
He demands she name another date immediately and she falters yet again, but then agrees under pressure to a month from today. What do you hope will happen in the meantime he asks?
She promises, realizing that once again Ross has slipped away from her grasp and that he will not come to her as she would wish.
Sir Hugh Bodrugan (Patrick Ryecart) sends a servant to find out if Ross and Demelza are coming to his party and she accepts to go on her own.
Demelza lifts her glorious red dress out of her box to wear and Prudie her maid cautions her that going on her own and wearing it will ensure that no good will come of it at all.
Francis’s sister Verity (Ruby Bentall) arrives at Trenwith and Elizabeth having worked herself up to think it is Ross she is talking about to her, not her former husband, faints dead away.
Ross runs into Dr Dwight Enys (Luke Norris) on the road to Truro and he tells him he has married a remarkable woman in Demelza. They agree to have supper together on Ross’s way home. Dwight is on his way to visit Elizabeth where Verity tells him the wedding to George has been postponed.
Ross arrives in Truro where he meets his old friend Richard Tonkin, who wants to tell him about a venture he has entered into a boat building business in an equal partnership with another man Harry Brewer, who Ross had helped a few years ago.
He tells Ross the business is now flourishing and they consider because of the loan that allowed them to get started, that he is in fact a stakeholder. They have tripled their investment and not only want him to repay him the loan, but also give him shares in their enterprise. Things are looking up.
Demelza meanwhile has been given the ‘red room’ at Hugh Bodrugan’s house party where from her window she watches as the attentive Captain McNeil (Henry Garrett) arrives, sure to target her now that she’s alone.
She paints and powders herself as an aristocratic woman would and arrives in the ballroom where George Warleggan orders his assistant Mr Tankard (Sebastian Armesto) to seduce her for fun. Flirting outrageously, she’s claimed by the Captain to escort him to supper.
He also asks her to call him Malcolm because he’s leaving tomorrow to go to war. He’s determined to bed her it seems and invites her to take a turn in the garden where he kisses her. When he tells her he now has an appetite for more, and she tells him Sir Hugh has put her in the ‘red room’, surely that of a ‘Scarlett woman’.
Ross and Dwight have supper together and he tells him about being offered a share in the new business, but confesses he’s thinking of re-joining his old regiment and going back to war. Dwight senses Ross’s distress and talks to him about Elizabeth’s fainting fit, telling him she’s postponed the wedding to George.
Demelza goes back to her room where Captain Malcolm arrives and she knows she’s not going to be able to hold him off. She tells him she cannot give herself to any man but her husband… and he tries to change her mind trying to force his advances until she pushes him off… and he realizes she is serious and leaves.
After all, he is a Captain and a gentleman.
Ross joins his miner friends who are drinking away the last of their coin, who tell him that they want to see Wheal Grace re-opened no matter the cost. They all believe she will yield up her secrets soon.
Demelza becomes aware Sir Hugh and Mr Tankard are fighting outside her room about who will claim her. And they toss a coin to see who wins. Mr Tankard enters to find that she has flown… out the window and Sir Hugh laments that he has never known a woman who promises so much and delivers so little.
From her sitting room window where Elizabeth is pining, she sees Ross pause at the entrance to Trenwith on his way home. However he rides on and she now knows the die is cast and he will never be hers.
He arrives back at Nampara looking for Demelza. Prudie and Judd tell him she’s gone to the party and he finds her wandering on the beach, shoes in hand, her glorious dress trailing in the waves.
She won’t believe he hasn’t been with Elizabeth and while he asks her to have patience with him … she tells him she’s not content to be second best.
He tries to tell her the good news about reopening Wheal Grace, but she refuses to listen and again, storms off.
Her Aunt tells Elizabeth she must take her decision about what to do about Ross alone. Now her rage at his failure to materialize leaves her with only one possible choice, and she and George are married.
Ross spends Elizabeth and George’s wedding day with his miners at Wheal Grace while Verity reminisces with their Aunt about times past at Trenwith.
The miners set off to reopen Grace with Dwight Enys on hand to help if required. He wonders about joining the navy as a surgeon.
George and Elizabeth visit Caroline in London. On the way home George tells Elizabeth he has a fancy to live at Trenwith. She is happy with prospect because it will mean enacting revenge on Ross, with the ‘Warleggans’ living in the Poldark family home.
Back at Wheal Grace Ross is called down the mine where the men show him the huge new seam of tin they have found and he races to tell Demelza that now he will be able to repay all his debts and plan their future. It means not just survival, not just a good living, but wealth. Has it come too late is the question?
The seam of tin they find is very deep and will last for years, keeping the local villagers who mine for it in work and coin for the foreseeable future with Ross and his partner reaping the profits. As an owner this will take the burden off Ross’s shoulders and allow him to expand his vision for the future,
Wheal Grace is busy and active once more with the silver rolling in to help all those in district who rely on it for their livelihood. Soldiers are in the village looking for men to enlist and Ross looks wistful.
At Trenwith where he and Elizabeth now live, George has Francis Poldark’s portrait removed as he is going to have John Opie paint a portrait of he and Elizabeth to replace it.
He challenges Ross over the legalities of his purchase of Francis’s son Geoffrey Charles shares in Wheal Grace. It all ends up in fisticuffs, with Ross being thrown out of Trenwith by George’s aids.
Dr Enys informs Demelza he’s joined the navy to become a surgeon in the war and Ross considers that he may as well re-join his regiment too; the situation at home is so bad.
Ross rides off to Truro once more to visit his lawyer about George Warleggan’s challenge and to find out what to do to put his own ‘house in order’.
“How long will it take you to forgive me?” he asks of Demelza when he arrives back home and she tells him about Captain MacLean coming to her room at the party. She questions their lack of trust in each other and he agrees that their marriage may indeed be over if they cannot find a way back to each other.
Demelza receives a letter from Verity scared of giving birth on her own and so she goes to help. The sensitive and caring Verity asks her what Ross has done and when she tells her she advises “…that reason cannot guide you, only the heart… and what it dictates often makes no sense at all, but it must be followed”.
Dr Enys and Ross are both separately leaving to go to Plymouth to consider enlisting for the war with France at the same time, perhaps becoming brothers in arms.
At first though, on the way Ross goes to visit Caroline in London whom he has learned was his mysterious benefactor when the chips were down.
He congratulates her on her engagement to a Lord that has been reported. However he finds out she hasn’t committed to anyone at all and so he susses out if she does love his friend Dwight Enys, telling her that he has left to join the navy much to her alarm.
Demelza goes to Trenwith to visit Elizabeth who has told George she is expecting a baby and he’s ecstatic. As she approaches the house, Demelza seems to think better of it, until she sees Elizabeth exit by a side door.
She confronts her in the wood surrounding Trenwith and tells Elizabeth ‘You’ve marred my faith, broken my marriage and I pity you, because you never could make up your mind’. What you and Ross did cannot be undone, but I will no longer be ruled by what he did. “You’re welcome to him,” she tells Elizabeth.
As she leaves Demelza is shot at by one of George Warleggan’s guards as she clambers back over the fence, telling Prudie and Judd when she gets home, which may not turn out to be a wise move as they are unable to keep secrets.
Dwight and Ross meet up in Plymouth for dinner where he springs a surprise on his friend, having bought Caroline with him from London. He had explained to her how Dwight had saved his life on that night he was supposed to elope with her and it makes the difference.
Ross wants them to talk to each other and to forgive each other. In telling them about his own ideas of true love, he virtually talks himself into not re-joining his regiment, to go home and try to work things out with the love of his lie, Demelza.
Ross’s servant Judd Paynter goes to the Pub to stir up the village folk to march on Trenwith and teach George Warleggan a lesson. Thankfully Ross arrives back in time to stop the lynch party.
Caroline goes to see her Uncle Ray whom she has found out is very sick from Dr Enys, so that she can nurse him while Dwight is away at sea. They have pledged their troth to each other.
George coldly tells Elizabeth he is sending her and Francis’s son away to the Harrow school… so she can concentrate on his son that she is carrying.
Demelza has packed her bags and tells Ross she’s taking Jeremy to her father’s house. She asks Ross to deny he loves Elizabeth still. “But you are imperfect he tells her, human, real.
What that night with Elizabeth taught me was that my arrogance and idiocy have been spectacular” he says. After that night I came to see that if you take an idealized love down to the level of an imperfect love, there is no comparison.
What Ross knows now is that his true abiding love is not for Elizabeth it is for Demelza and he promises her that Elizabeth will never come between them again.
At Trenwith the child she is expecting, Elizabeth’s aunt tells her, must be Ross Poldark’s. Glory be, we know that should stir up passions in Season Three.
Forgiveness reigns in Cornwall as we leave our favourite TV couple with the waves crashing over the rocks in the cove in spectacular style. Standing high up on the cliff they are finally back together and watch as the tall ships with Dr Enys on board, sail off to war with the French.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016