BBC One Poldark Season 2, the story of Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) and his wife Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) living in late eighteenth century Cornwall in the South of England, is now more than half way through, thoroughly engaging our emotions on every level.
Great performances from a talented ensemble of actors working with truly wonderful scripts adapting Winston Graham’s original and much-loved novels engages our attention and ensures our continuing to follow the characters we have learned to love, hate or admire, as they draw us in.
There has been a deep sadness at Trenwith since the funeral of Francis Poldark, with his widow Elizabeth (Heida Reed) left not only in straightened circumstances, but also entirely without the practical or professional skills needed to continue to manage a large estate.
Her and Ross’s nemesis the thoroughly evil George Warleggan (Jack Farthing) is preparing to take advantage of her in every way he can.
Please don’t read any more if you don’t want Spoilers.
Ross Poldark is trying to financially and personally support his cousin’s widow and sells his shares in Wheal Leisure to pay her back the 600 pounds Fraancis invested.
Elizabeth has got used to Ross responding to her every beck and call. She is really quite helpless, having been brought up to be ‘a lady’, waited on hand and foot.
Elizabeth lacks the down to earth practicality so integral to the character of the former miner’s daughter Demelza, married as she is to Ross, the man who always follows his heart before his head. Although Demelza wouldn’t have it any other way, at least until this point.
Over the course of episodes 6 – 7 Ross begins to realise what a unique and very special person his wife is, especially when she stands by his side through thick and thin and when the chips are down. It rekindles the love and trust between them.
There is an informant in the district they are all endeavouring to unmask, advising English soldiers about the movement of trade and goods landing in the cove below the Poldark farm, Nampara.
Demelza begs Ross to not aid the smugglers, to no avail because he needs the money they will pay him. He agrees they can build a stash hole under the floor of his library, where they hide goods on a short-term basis, much to Demelza’s dismay.
Keeping it a secret will be the challenge.
The Warleggan’s continue plotting and planning to make Ross’s life a misery. Having purchased the promissory note for a thousand pounds+ 40% interest which he took out to invest in Wheal Grace they decide they will call it in on the day after Xmas, which is near.
George knows full well Ross won’t be able to pay, giving him an excuse to seize his hated rival’s assets and to have him thrown into debtor’s prison.
Ross and Demelza are rescued when his banker advises him that an anonymous benefactor has provided the money to buy the promissory note from George.
Ross and Demelza greatly enjoy delivering the money in person.
George is furious and vows revenge, one that will require his subtlety; Elizabeth is the key, as he knows she still yearns for Ross who was her first love.
Seeking yet another avenue to make money with his mine Wheal Grace failing fast, Ross learns his former miner Mark Daniel is living in the Scilly Isles an archipelago off the Cornish Coast.
Mark informed Ross in Series 1 he had found a whole new seam of copper in Wheal Grace before having to flee for his life. Ross wants to track him down and find out where the seam may be, the only choice he can make if they are all to survive.
Ross leaves home for a few days catching a lift on the next smuggling run so they can drop him off on the way and pick him up again on the way home.
While he is away that engaging slime ball George Warleggan is up to his usual evil tricks, scaring Elizabeth by sending his steward Tankard with messages about fictional dangers in the district and sending ‘tinners’ to prospect on her land allegedly under some ancient ordinance, frightening her yet further.
Francis’s Aunt Agatha is not fooled, although her advice is neither welcome or sought by Elizabeth and she sends for Ross who is unable to answer her message because he is away.
Not being a party to his movements, Elizabeth is entirely miffed he has not answered her latest summons so she rides to Nampara farm where she comes upon Demelza who is not feeling in a particularly forgiving mood, cross as she is with Ross and suspicious of Elizabeth and her motives.
“He’s from here,” says she abruptly to Elizabeth following her enquiry about his being given her letter.
“Then I expect he was too busy to reply,” says her ‘rival’ for Ross’s affections.
“Yes,” replies Demelza. “I expect he was” without elaborating.
So Elizabeth huffily rides off and predictably turns to George for help, which is exactly what he wants; she will become his wife soon after all, his vindictiveness has no bounds.
Dr Dwight Enys (Luke Norris) is still meeting the lovely but entirely spoiled Caroline (Gabriella Wilde) in secret.
She persuades him that she not only returns his feelings but also wants him to leave Cornwall, to get married and to live with her in Bath, making a home together from scratch.
He’s entirely reluctant at first. Caroline wants to force her Uncle Ray Penvenen (John Nettles) who has control over her estate and is opposed to their union, to finally accept the situation. However, not before he has given Dwight a tongue lashing.
Dr Enys annoyed and knowing he will never change her Uncle’s mind finally agrees to run away with her.
They plan a night a few days hence to leave, which coincidentally will be the night Ross will be arriving back home in the cove with the smugglers.
In the meantime Dr Enys has been attending a family in the district and the daughter Rosina apart from having a crush on him, has had a crippled leg for a long time.
Studying the anatomy of the leg from a corpse, Dwight believes it is only dislocated and persuades the family to let him try to pull it back into place. His assessment is right and his patient finally freed of her affliction is overjoyed.
Having regained her independence Rosina receives a proposal from a local sail maker Charlie Kempthorne who the good Dr notices when he calls on him as Rosina says he is sick, has some pretty fancy curtains and silver candlesticks in his parlour.
This is not usual for a man with this profession. Could he be the informer and when Dwight notices a publication belonging to the law enforcer Jim Vercoe’s son on his sideboard, he knows its true.
Dwight races to warn Ross his friend, lighting a bonfire on the cliff to warn him off. Ross escapes the cove after hastily sending the smugglers back out to sea, pursued by the military.
What Demelza doesn’t know is that under the stash cupboard in the library is another secret compartment, big enough for a man to hide out.
Despite the soldiers being informed about the main compartment Ross manages to elude them and disappears from sight leaving her wondering where he is too.
Staying there for a full day, he organises through the smuggling boss Mr Trencrom for three witnesses to testify at his trial charged with smuggling, that he was in St Ives, and so his case in Episode 8 is dismissed. His lucky stars are still shining at this point anyway.
Dr Enys gets only a fine for lighting the bonfire, escaping lightly being a man of means able to explain away his presence. His letters to Caroline however are returned and she sends him one telling him never to contact her again. How could he put tending the sick and warning his friends over her needs and their future. She will never understand.
Ross played the game this time and won, but apologises to Demelza for his recklessness. Idleness allows us too much time to think… say’s Ross to Dwight who agrees.
Francis’s sister Verity comes to visit with her stepson a young lieutenant in the navy, who on meeting the good doctor tells him how the navy needs good ship’s doctors and Dwight just may be seduced to go to sea to get over his broken heart.
The English Captain McNeil comes to visit Demelza… not in the pursuit of pleasure, but in the pursuit of business.
He tells her George Warleggan has ordered his wedding clothes, but she won’t tell Ross. She wants him to hear the news from Elizabeth herself, little realising how disastrous that will be for her.
In the middle of all this seriousness, Sir Hugh is holding a ball and everyone’s invited.
Ross’s miners discover more tin in Wheal Grace, which gives them hope, and Ross’s friend Captain Henshaw (John Hollingworth) sinks 100 pounds into following the seam to see if copper exists under the tin instead of the usual vice versa.
Another rock fall however kills one of the young miners and Ross declares he will shut Wheal Grace as it has only ever caused pain and suffering. All seems lost.
At Trenwith Elizabeth’s mother has a stroke and Dr Enys declares she will require full time care from a nurse, which alarmingly for Elizabeth means she will have to become her primary carer, that is unless she can access means to pay for one.
She sends for George and tells him of her problem, knowing he will fix it. She’s good at manipulating men.
Seizing the day George declares his love for Elizabeth and asks her to marry him… he’s hoping she will accept.
He offers her everything, a house, clothes, carriages, jewels… all the kingdom’s off the world and their glory… quotes Aunt Agatha from Matthew 4:8 of the Bible …
… he’s the devil Aunt Agatha warns her… what is he expecting in return?
Elizabeth’s ears however are only deaf ears. After all George wants to give Elizabeth the key to her cage… and Aunt Agatha’s protestations will only ensure she finally accepts his proposal
She needs to tell Ross and solicit his reaction first and sends a letter to Nampara that has the desired result.
Ross always thinking with his heart not his head races to Trenwith, despite Demelza’s protestations where he kicks open the front door and enters Elizabeth’s bedchamber where she’s waiting for him.
She wants her revenge and gets it in no small measure as Ross slams her down on her bed to take her.
He’s been so easily played and with no further resistance from Elizabeth the urgent sex between them both is only suggested by this production team.
Next morning as he dresses to leave before the household awakes Elizabeth goes to ask him… “what shall we” … he says he “must think”… “when will we”…
…“soon is the answer” and Elizabeth watches him leave with satisfaction.
When he arrives back at Nampara Demelza is hanging out the washing. She knows what his staying the night has meant.
“What Can I say” he says, “it was something I cannot explain” he says “ you must see I had no choice”.
“Nor I” Demelza says as she lands the perfect punch, knocking him down onto the ground … she’s one feisty woman.
George Warleggan has played his long game well. However the goods he plans to enjoy himself have now been tarnished by two men, first Francis and now Ross his despised enemy.
While he may deal with the former, the latter well, that’s another story, his hatred runs so deep.
Aunt Agatha too would savour telling George … we will have to wait though, to see if she does!
Life is certainly not dull in Cornwall at the beginning of the so-called ‘romantic’ age where sex, hope, money and grace are not an illusion.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016