POLDARK, the BBC One directed by Joss Agnew, asks many questions of its characters in Series 4, Episode 2. It starts with Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) re-asking her landowner husband Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) in their discussion of last week “… do you think there is room in a woman’s heart for two men?
Well we would in the early moments of Episode 2 think not while watching Demelza and Ross enjoy each other while he is having a bath, a scene we have witnessed previously.
However, the director seems determined for us viewers to covet seeing our handsome hero expose much more of his abbs and bare flesh this season. Imagine that many of us are not too immune!
Do Not Read Any More Unless You want Spoilers
Along the coast of Cornwall, it’s a calm clear morning as Ross, Demelza and their children on a family outing together walking along the clifftops near the road. They watch a coach go by on its way to London, where life is lived by other rules, and the imagined euphoria of the country life they enjoy a long way away.
Hugh Armitage (Josh Whitehouse) is in bed with headaches once more and when Dr Dwight Enys (Luke Norris) attends him and tells his father Lord Falmouth (James Wilby) he cannot tell him what he wants to hear, that Hugh will be fit the following week to run for parliament.
So predictably Lord Falmouth sacks him and calls in a Mountebank or is he a Quack? Dr Choake (Robert Daws) would seem an appropriate name for a man who would prefer to cover his client in leeches, bleed him and plan to perform a trepan procedure (boring a hole in his skull) hopefully, to let the evil humours out.
George (Jack Farthing) and Elizabeth Warleggan (Heida Reed) in the meantime are talking while walking in their garden at Trenwith, plotting a return to London town where he will be the representative of his burough for Sir Frances Basset (John Hopkins), his patron.
Little does he know following the hanging last week, Sir Frances is having second thoughts about his chosen candidate and has done all in his power to keep him dangling while he decides about re-endorsing him.
George Warleggan’s thug Tom Harry (Turlough Convery) in the meantime, challenges Demelza’s brother Samuel Carne (Tom York) to a boxing match because he’s angry that he and his brother Drake (Harry Richardson), managed to cheat death through Ross Poldark’s intervention. He uses the ‘love’ of Sam’s life Emma Tregirls (Ciara Charteris) to make the contest happen.
Dr Dwight Enys and his wife Caroline (Gabriella Wilde) come to tell Ross and Demelza they are having a baby, much to their friend’s surprise and happiness for them both. They all visit Hugh to tell him too and Ross can see Demelza’s distress at Hugh’s being confined to a sick bed.
Dwight and Ross go to the pub to talk where George is discussing with Ossie how to meet the Prince of Wales at the top of his voice for all to hear.
Caroline invites Demelza to visit her, because she wants to talk about how they can help Hugh win a seat in parliament by having Lord Falmouth and Sir Frances Bassett (John Hopkins) settle their feud, combine both their voting districts and hopefully out vote George Warleggan.
It’s a bold plan, but Caroline has invited them both to tea so they can discuss the common sense attached to their proposal. They are very persuasive.
The men while being amused at first by the lady’s simple arguments, finely agree as Caroline and Demelza use all their womanly wiles to convince them, little knowing how really ill Hugh is.
After church the next day the wrestling match following is high on the agenda, as all the parishioners arriving to watch the battle between Samuel and Tom Harry. The outcome will not be as everyone expects.
Thank heavens Lord Falmouth realises before Hugh’s head is shaved, that Dr Choake is not a suitable man to look after his nephew and sends him packing, realising his mistake with Dr Enys.
He sends for and invites Ross to be the new member for a combined Cornwall, telling him that he and Sir Francis have settled their differences and want Ross Poldark to go to parliament in Hugh’s stead.
He and Ross debate the issue and he asks him to work to reform parliament within the house, which is very tempting to Ross finally, that he would have a chance to make a difference.
Ross goes to tell Demelza and asks her could she bear it if he spent half the year in London and she agrees. Ross then declares his terms to Lord Falmouth and he agrees.
Demelza though agreeing is really disquieted as she reads another note Hugh had managed to write and slip to her when she left his bedside, which unbeknown to her Ross has also found and read.
He tells her George will win, he will stay and Hugh will live, something she earnestly wants to believe as does he now. He doesn’t want to lose his wife.
Ossie delights in breaking the news to George Warleggan at lunch that Poldark is to oppose him. He is none too pleased.
Prudie brings Ross a note from Lord Falmouth asking Demelza to go to Hugh’s side.
Ross sends her off with his trust and goes to see Dwight about what is happening with Hugh, who tells him his client does not wish to live and fears it is now beyond his ability to heal him. The young man has to wish to be better first.
Demelza tells Hugh who is begging her to reconsider, that she is not in her power to fufill his dying wish that she would give him the hope to live by leaving Ross for her. He has declared he will die from wanting her and she is sitting with him as he passes. She is heartbroken.
Ross is meantime while all of this is happening, in a battle with George that sees him thanks to Sir Frances Basset, win the local seat in Parliament by the narrowest of margins.
Dr Enys tells Ross after congratulating him, about Hugh’s passing and how their friend will become immortal by dying so young, “…while the rest of us mortals pale by comparison” he says.
Emma comes to tell Sam she will go a way for a year to test their love for each other. And if he’s still there when she comes back they will talk again.
He declares he will, his faith will give him patience.
Meanwhile, Ossie the local Vicar and reputedly, a man of God, is busy taking the local prostitute to his bed and indulging in a great deal of toe sucking.
As he leaves the ‘whorehouse’ he meets his wife’s sister, who tempted him so badly last season.
She left because she declared she was having his baby, and he calls her a maid of the devil.
However, as she now informs him, there is no impediment it seems.
This gives us hope Morwenna (Ellise Chappen) Drake’s great love may be saved from having to resume ‘conjugal relations’ with the horrid fellow, by her sister’s timely return.
Prudie cautions Ross to allow Demelza grieve for Hugh and come back home of her own accord.
She has gone to Caroline for comfort… and when she finally arrives, and while sobbing, she tells Ross she cannot explain something she doesn’t understand herself.
Ross begs Demelza to try for the sake of their love and friendship, which existed and they shared so frankly and warmly before Hugh came into her life.
He assures her the hurt of her heart over Hugh’s loss will mend and how miracles do happen. He won the election and now everything will change.
As it will, as he boards that very same coach to London.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2018