For the record, I am still hugely pissed at Ross Poldark. Last season, as you may recall, he cheated on his beautiful and wonderful wife Demelza with the basically same-amount-as-beautiful Elizabeth, and possibly put a baby in the latter. They reconciled by the end, but it’s a pretty tentative détente, especially looking down the road to when Elizabeth is probably going to give birth to a “premature” black-haired baby and not some weaselly Warleggan spawn.
Now, let’s get to it! CORNWALL, TAKE ME AWAY.
We open on Elizabeth on a runaway horse heading toward a cliff, pregnant as balls, to be narrowly saved by Ross. George pulls up a few minutes later, all “we don’t need your help!” so things are definitely proceeding as one would expect. Our first glimpse at the state of Ross and Demelza’s union suggests that he is again cutting her out of his deeper thoughts and trying to expel his demons via getting up early and working hard. We’re very different, Ross and I!
The show rather hamfistedly communicates that Elizabeth may be deliberately trying to miscarry Probably Ross’s Baby — in addition to her dangerous ride, she’s also been hoisting heavy things and going on long walks. Her corset is tight enough to be smushing the poor kid without any outside help, in my opinion. George is a fool, but the old lady isn’t! She’s always had Elizabeth dead to rights.
Young Jeffrey Charles is substantially older looking than the purported gap of … seven months? … between seasons, and DEFINITELY old enough to be extremely sassy toward George, especially George’s suggestion that he should start going by the surname of “Warleggan.” He’s on Team Poldark, the young lad. Watch your mouth, kid, or you’ll be shipped off to some terrible, expensive boarding school posthaste.
Meanwhile, Pug Lady’s uncle is clearly circling the grave, but still trying to marry her off to someone who ISN’T Dr. Enys. You all know how I feel about Pug Lady at this point, but Ross gets a letter which suggests her bethrothed WITH WHOM SHE HAD SEX will be coming home to her tomorrow, and her face did light up very sweetly. Ross’s hair is visibly receding, by the way, and it’s a shame.
A handsome young man strolls up to the Poldark farm. His name is Drake, he’s Demelza’s brother, and he’s come to fetch her home. Demelza’s terrible father is dying and wants to say good-bye. She declines, on account of him being such a useless waste of skin, but is very happy to see her brother just the same.
Speaking of brand-new characters, say hello to the Chynoweths, an aristocratic mother and daughter who’ve fallen on hard times and have come to speak with George at his bank. They’re cousins of Elizabeth, which probably means they have more breeding than sense, but I’ll reserve judgment. George has decided that the daughter Morwenna will be an excellent governess for Jeffrey Charles, for the express purpose of separating him from his mother. George would punt Jeffrey Charles off a cliff if he thought he could get away with it.
Demelza relents to her conscience and decides to go see her terrible father on his deathbed, just as Pug Lady sneaks away from her uncle’s deathbed to marry her beloved doctor. (She does not bring the pug.) Her father, terrible as he is, was at least not lying about being close to the grave. He makes a last stab at bringing his particularly unpleasant variant of God to Demelza, with the expected result. The older of her two brothers, Sam, is more of a true believer than Drake, who is obviously itching to get the hell out of that weird little cottage into a better life.
Demelza gets home just in time to usher Pug Lady into the church to meet her groom, who is smiling so wide it looks like he’s had extra teeth installed since we last saw him. Since Ross cheated on Demelza, I no longer believe in love, but I hope things work out for them.
Elizabeth is clearly about to have her suspiciously early baby, and proceeds to pretend to hurl herself down the stairs to explain her precipitous birth. Smarter than I would have expected! Dr. Enys is dispatched to tend to her, and breaks the news to George that the baby is coming now. You know, because of her fall. Demelza, upon hearing the news that Elizabeth is in labor a month early, clocks it RIGHT AWAY, and Ross begins tossing back the port with great vigor.
Demelza is about to confront Ross with her suspicions when a note from Dr. Enys reveals that Pug Lady’s uncle is now dying (he hangs on just long enough to learn of her marriage and give her his blessing), and things aren’t looking so hot for Elizabeth, either. ALSO there’s a lunar eclipse, which obviously has the notoriously superstitious Cornwall residents jumping out of their skins with terror.
In very short order, we witness the death of Demelza’s dad and the birth of Elizabeth’s son. (Yes, yes, he’s big and fat and healthy and obviously not George’s.) This is very bad news for Jeffrey Charles, as George now has an heir, or so he thinks. Elizabeth tells him the baby looks just like him, and with the vanity of his sex, he promptly agrees. Ross sneaks close enough to the house to hear that Elizabeth has borne a son, to be named Valentine. (I know, I know.) Agatha can NOT stop not running her mouth — “So that’s what an eight-month baby looks like!” “We should name him Ross!”, etc. — and George finally gets tired of her lip and tries to have her carried bodily off to her room. Agatha goes FULL WITCHY and says the baby is CUUUUURSED! just before they drag her out.
Ross, in lieu of returning home to his DAMN WIFE, stays out all night and then runs along the beach ripping his hair and rending his garments. Nothing Demelza likes more than when Ross spends the night elsewhere for no reason, especially when he offers no explanation. AND he says he needs to speak with George? This is great. This will go well.
Ross arrives at George’s office with a bargain in mind. He will remove himself completely from George’s life in exchange for George’s promise not to use Agatha or Jeffrey Charles or the mine or Trenwith to punish him. George is QUITE triumphant, seeing this as a victory.
On the road, Jeffrey Charles and Morwenna run into Drake and Sam, who are on their way to Nampara. Drake and Morwenna have an immediate vibe, so we should get ready for that plot arc too. Drake is to work at the mine, and Sam is apparently to hassle miners about Jesus. They’re staying at Nampara for the time being. There’s a bit of room since Jud appears to have blown town? Prudie just mentions it offhandedly, and I realized I hadn’t noticed he was gone. He’s gone off to earn money or something.
Demelza is pregnant again, and Ross reacts a lot better than he did last time. Abandoning Elizabeth and her family has gotten a few things off his mind, and he seems to be a better husband, for now at least.
An old friend of Ross’s dad, Tholly Tregirls, shows up at the mine, rough and brawling, and Ross seems genuinely pleased to see him. He’s a PIRATE. I am hugely confident that he will play a part in whatever ill-advised, probably illegal get-rich-quick scheme occupies Ross’s energies this season.
George, thirsty as always, is angling for the position of magistrate that Pug Lady’s uncle left up for grabs with his death. Elizabeth is like, “Whatever, it always bored Francis to tears,” but she seems pretty crabby these days. I wonder why? She does perk up a bit when George presents her with a fabulous necklace.
A breath of fresh air drifts in as Verity arrives for the christening with her own adorable chubby baby in tow. Verity and Pug Lady are making small talk with George and his uncle when they learn that a recent skirmish with the French has cost the English some ships, which they fear may include Dr. Enys’s AND Verity’s husband’s. Ross asks around and regretfully reports that, at the current time, both ships are believed to be lost. He’s asking all his old cronies in the free-trading business to keep an eye out up and down the coasts. I imagine that one, but not both of them is dead.
Drake and Sam run across Morwenna and Jeffrey Charles a second time as the former make an illicit shortcut across Trenwith land. The vibe continueth, and Drake even presents her with some hastily picked wildflowers. He’s a nice boy. The minister at the slightly uptight Trenwith Church is less impressed with them, as they are grubby and overly enthusiastic, and do not understand why the entire church service must grind to a halt until the Warleggans arrive. “Let’s sing some hymns!” our young men suggest, which the minister hates and the congregation seems pretty into. Sam has a great voice. I think he’s actually cuter than Drake, but a bit too devout, possibly. “That’s Methodists for you,” says the minister. I didn’t know what they were, but that does seem to make sense. George insists the minister ban them from the church, which is … excessive.
Ross, who always has to be extra, is determined to find out whether Dr. Enys has survived the naval skirmish, and wants to haul his cookies to France in wartime (!) to find out, but is willing to wait until he beats the bushes a little bit. The very wealthy Sir Francis Basset has invited the Poldarks to his home (George is sucking up to him like it’s going out of style), where there will be French nobleman, and Ross hopes to get more information before venturing off.
Elizabeth is not being a great mom to Valentine, whom she’s leaving to cry a lot, by the way. I’m sure this will be a thing. She probably resents the baby for the distance George is making her place between herself and Jeffrey Charles. Verity is bothered by it, as well as her general terror that her husband has been lost at sea. In typical Verity fashion, she feels that her six years of happiness are enough to sustain her for a lifetime, if necessary. She barely has time to weep prettily before learning her husband’s ship is safe and putting into port in Lisbon. Dr. Enys remains unaccounted for.
Bascom’s party is very fancy, filled with French aristocrats as well as George bowing and scraping and being his slimy self. I love how this show is deeply contemptuous of new money graspers! The IMPORTANT thing is to have a very very old name, it seems. Bascom has an eye to make Ross a magistrate, because he doesn’t have enough on his plate. Ross has no interest, but if he doesn’t do it, they’ll give it to George, which is a sufficiently nightmarish prospect.
Tholly rolls in very late at night to report that his smuggling compatriots hear that hundred of English prisoners from Dwight’s ship are being held in a repurposed convent, and Ross decides to journey to find him at all costs. You know, just a possibly fruitless suicide mission, leaving his pregnant wife behind. It’s very Ross.
I’ll be honest: This was a fairly bloated start to the season, which is what happens when you jam two episodes into one and need to kick off all your story lines at once, but now we are ready for everything that they can throw at us.