I often suspect the reason why so many period dramas are produced — despite their extraordinary cost and niche appeal — is that the constant improvement in smartphone technology renders so many tried-and-true plot devices null and void. If Dr. Enys had Snapchatted Pug Lady last week to say, “Sorry, something came up, have to resched, here is a pic of me wearing a halo,” the mood around these parts would be very different.
The court, where we spend so much of our time these days, has been roused to try Ross and Dr. Enys. Ross is flanked by a shockingly clean Jud and Prudie to vouch for his whereabouts. Jud’s hair is a flaxen sort of blond! Who knew? Ross dodges responsibility, while Dr. Enys gets a 50-pound fine for his bonfire and a Dear John letter from Pug Lady, who has heard his explanations and moved on with her life. I think it’s for the best, personally, but I’m sure she’ll be back. He’s thinking about taking to the sea, which is SUCH a thing. Why not, I say!
Flush with success from having dodged the logical consequences of his actions once more, Ross decides to tell Demelza about the fast one he pulled to infuse Elizabeth with cash. She is, predictably, less than thrilled. She later speaks rather touchingly of her fears to Verity, but if she thinks that Ross would leave her for the now-single Elizabeth, she’s bananas. Worrying merely about his affections being forever split? That’s altogether more reasonable. Oh also: Verity, who never gets to talk about her own stuff, is pregnant. I’d like to state this for the record: If Verity dies in childbirth, I will burn this mother down.
As we wait for Demelza and Elizabeth to reach their invariable showdown, the crux of this particular episode brings the question of Elizabeth and George to the conclusion for which he has been working. I have looked at this in many possible ways, and I hate to tell you this, and I expect to be rightly judged for it, but I think she should accept his offer of marriage. He is a grub, but he loves her. He is super rich. Ross is married to someone else, and could never provide for her or her HORRIBLE now-bedridden mother.
The old lady delivers what is really an A-plus biblical speech about how the Devil also took Jesus up to the mountain and promised to give him furs and dresses and phaetons and trips to Bath and London in exchange for his soul, and I totally respect that game, old lady, but you are 90 years old and Elizabeth is the mother of a young child and faces destitution. The fact that some of that destitution is the result of conscious choices by George designed to trap her into marriage aside, I am very unconvinced that she would be worse off with George than with Francis, who was a nice enough, well-meaning man, but also an idiot. Life is hard in 18th-century Cornwall, Elizabeth! Marry him and then put a pillow over his face in the night, if he proves too arduous a mate.
I had begun this episode immediately bored by another Ross-narrowly-dodges-justice story line, but Poldark masterfully handles both the culmination of George’s machinations and Elizabeth’s fluttering quite well. When Demelza hears the (rumored) news of their impending engagement from her own redcoat admirer, she resolves not to let Ross learn of it until it’s all done and dusted. That’s hugely understandable, isn’t it? His instincts toward Elizabeth have never been unmixed altruism, and seeing her safely married to a third party would be a relief. He’s distracted by a mining cave-in with two fatalities at Wheel Grace — OSHA really needs to start paying attention to Ross’s establishments — while George Warleggan runs merrily to tattle to Elizabeth. CLASSIC GEORGE BEHAVIOR.
The final ten minutes of the episode are balls to the wall, with Ross receiving a letter from Elizabeth, insisting on riding to Trenwith, Demelza trying to stop him, Ross storming off like a bat out of the hell that birthed George Warleggan, only to find the door barred against him.
She meets him at the literal threshold of her BEDROOM, where she SLEEPS, with her hair DOWN. My bosom is heaving like whoa right now. He goes offfffff on her. He has no justification in this behavior, none. Absolutely none. He is married to someone else, she needs to be able to buy groceries, he’s reeling from his own private disaster. It’s all out on the table now.
I hardly know how to tell you what next transpires. I will say only that he wakes up in her bed, having seduced instead of raping her, which is how the story plays out in Winston Graham’s novel. Demelza’s face on his return is like a mask. And so, she lays him right the fuck out with one punch.
The episode is fantastic television. All the protagonists have made BRUTAL ERRORS of judgment and morality. I have no idea where we go from here. See you next week.
Shirtlessness Report: [Immortan Joe voice] “MEDIOCRE!”