Poldark Recap: What Is Terminally Lazy Can Never Die


Episode Two
Season 2 Episode 2
Editor’s Rating *****
Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza.
Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza. Photo: PBS

Now that Ross is home from prison, things are relatively back to normal in our little Cornish hotbed of intrigue. He is flat broke, despite having more money than essentially anyone else in the neighborhood. The world’s worst servant, Jud, is literally pulling his forelock and toadying up to him like it’s his job, which it essentially is. I happen to think that almost sending his employer to the gallows out of pique is a much milder breach of trust than claiming he fathered his cousin’s child, and so, it appears, does Ross, who seems content to let bygones be bygones. What exactly do you have to do to get permanently fired from this job?

Ross faces a more pressing issue, though: His banker has called in the interest on a thousand-pound loan — 40 percent! — which he immediately hides from Demelza. Their marriage has always benefited from hiding unpleasant truths from each other, so I’m sure this will work out in their favor. How he continues to attract investors after literally sending a handful of his previous partners to the poorhouse is an utter mystery, but these idiots would likely back him in a purchase of magic beans. Unfortunately for Ross, the Warleggans dispatched an agent into their midst who actually asks probing questions about this latest scheme. The guy bears a striking resemblance to Grima Wormtongue, which is no doubt intentional.

Let us joyfully leave the interminable dullness of copper mining and focus on what really matters: I think Captain MacNeil is putting the moves on Demelza? Prudie definitely thinks so, and they did share glasses of rum and some pleasant conversation about a sick cow — the 18th-century Cornish equivalent of sexting — so I’m intrigued to see where this goes. Demelza is, after all, the second-most beautiful woman in the country, which no one seems to remember unless she’s wearing a fancier dress than usual, so it’s nice to see someone pay attention to her. Ross certainly isn’t winning points for his husbandly concern at the moment. When she suddenly goes off on him, it’s a bit of a shock, since Demelza has traditionally been annoyingly grateful that he deigned to marry her. Almost dying appears to have stiffened her marital spine a bit. Good for her! Ross is passive-aggressive and prone to sour looks, why not tell him so?

Apparently Ross responds well to being told plain truths, as he apologizes and coughs up the bare facts of their depressing finances, to Demelza’s immediate horror. “Just, uh, sell some shit?” he suggests. I’m sure her three dresses and a pair of earrings will net the 400 pounds needed to keep them out of debtors’ prison. Demelza, in keeping with her tradition of taking family business to a third party, heads off to coax money out of acquaintances and finds herself getting felt up by Sir Hugh, who literally says “woof woof” while scrabbling at her bodice. It does the trick, however! No doubt he’ll return to call in his sexual loan at some point.

On the other side of the metaphorical tracks, George Warleggan has taken to bare-knuckle boxing a manservant in his drawing room. (For practice, I guess? He looks like a complete prat, needless to say.) The unpleasantness of the season premiere seems not to have worn off, and the Poldarks and the Warleggans are now openly at war. A rare smile passes between Francis and the even-more-radiant-than-usual Elizabeth as they flatly decline an invitation to George’s upcoming party. (The most cutting insult Francis can imagine mustering, no doubt.) Francis has found a whole new lease on life; by not killing himself, it seems, he’s perked up to no end. He even passes up at least two opportunities to imply Elizabeth is a slut! Good for you, Francis.

I had pledged to pay zero attention to Pug Lady, but she sucked me back in by telling Dr. Enys she suffers from “a tingling in her throat” and requesting his professional opinion on what could be done to ease it. Listen, what power does this man have over women? He’s a cute doctor, but should panties be dropping all over Cornwall? His dick already has a body count, after all.

The gut-punch of the episode is the sudden and unexpected end of Jud, apparently beaten to death by Ross’s enemies. Prudie posthumously paints him as God’s most precious and well-meaning child, while a mildly sad Ross eulogizes him as “the most useless servant under the sun.”

“R.I.P., you red-faced goon,” I thought to myself, but I should have spared him the sympathy. The bloated loudmouth turns out to be alive and well after all. He had been cold on the slab for a full day, so you can excuse me for feeling rather manipulated by his return.

For good or ill, the ensuing rapprochement between Francis and Ross is rather touching, though I was distracted by the weird Wicker Man–esque chant Francis bursts into while gesticulating wildly with a bale of hay. As someone whose main priority in watching Poldark is the Ross-Elizabeth-Demelza triangle, I welcome the return of friendship between their two families. If you’re not talking, you’re not flirting! Sure enough, within an hour of their reconciliation, Elizabeth and Ross have a Moment (a wildly inappropriate one on Ross’s part), which, obviously, is overheard by Demelza, who picks this same moment to reveal her pregnancy. In response, Ross musters some of the weakest enthusiasm I have ever heard, but considering he was putting the moves on Elizabeth not half an hour earlier, I guess he did okay.

This is a surprisingly dull episode, considering it involves the unexpected and violent death of a recurring character followed by his Christ-like resurrection, but it does tie up enough ends to serve our purposes. Between Pug Lady’s aching throat and Sir Hugh’s busy hands, expect plenty of sexual intrigue to come. I’m hoping Demelza throws down with Elizabeth next week.

Shirtlessness Report: Ross wears a shirt unbuttoned to just above his navel, so we get a little thatch of his lustrous chest hair.

Poldark Recap: What Is Dead Can Never Die