Time moves on and we with it! The Poldark season four finale takes us from 1780 to the end of 1799 as we see what a difference two decades and countless pensive gazings at the sea make for the inhabitants of Cornwall.
One thing that seems unlikely to change, no matter how many decades slip by, is the propensity of the women of Poldark to go to extreme lengths to appease the men in their lives. While George and Ross swan about setting fires for other people to put out, Elizabeth and Demelza place the responsibility of solving their relationship problems — and the attendant blame — squarely on their own shoulders
Case in point: The bulk of Ross’s plotline in this episode has to do with his many feelings about Demelza leaving him in London to go back to Cornwall after his idiotic duel last week. Duels are infuriating for any number of reasons, but this one was also mired in Ross’s extremely insulting jealousy about Demelza and Adderley when his wife was in fact being sexually harassed and was nearly assaulted. Caroline suggests he go back to Cornwall with her, which he surprisingly does (though not without getting in some quality sulking time in the carriage).
This duel was obviously a way for him to exorcise his feelings about Beautiful Poet’s, a.k.a. Hugh Armitage, dying, thereby leaving Ross mired in uncertainty as to who Demelza would have chosen had he lived. He could talk to her about this, but instead he murders someone. I would feel bad for him, maybe, except Demelza has put up with his Elizabeth-moping THIS ENTIRE TIME and been extremely Demelza-y and wonderful about it, so Ross can go suck an egg. Not only is he consistently selfish, but he’s also very prone to claiming that anything he doesn’t want to do would be a betrayal of his Principles. Okay, Ross.
Elizabeth thinks back to her church conversation with him, when he said she should definitely try to get pregnant again and lie about the due date so George just thinks she naturally has normal-sized babies at eight months along. Unfortunately, her nausea makes it clear she’s pregnant before she can lie, so she goes to a doctor in a shady-looking area of London and gets a vial of something that sounds like the fungus that maybe caused the witch panic in Salem. After an infuriated George calls Valentine “that child” and demands the ’94 claret (in what seem like definite moves towards Peak Villainy), Elizabeth gets him to admit that Aunt Agatha told him Valentine is not his son. She then tells him a series of enormous lies to persuade him that Valentine is definitely his. Normally I’d have qualms about this kind of deception, but George is clearly nearing some kind of meltdown and it really seems like it’s close to her only option.
The sacrifice of health and self from the women on this show continues as Elizabeth swallows the contents of the vial while muttering, “His happiness.” She promptly faints, is revived with smelling salts, and soon gives birth to Ursula, and everything would be back on track for the Warleggan family when the ill effects of her shady London pharmaceuticals suddenly kick in.
Ross hears about Elizabeth’s rapid decline and basically stares Demelza into saying he should go see her, despite his previous avowal to stay out of George’s life (don’t worry, he’s already broken that promise a million times this season!) and George’s threat to have him shot the next time he comes into his house. Who would Ross Poldark be if he didn’t let the whims of the moment carry off any thought for the people depending on him? He must do what his heart demands!
After barging into the house, a paler-than-normal George tells Ross that Elizabeth is dead. Ross goes to see her and kisses her goodbye on the mouth, because why not. When he is back at home, Demelza patiently assuages his fears about Hugh and says only Ross has ever owned her heart. Can Demelza just leave and start a successful bakery on the opposite side of the country? She deserves so much better than this.
We also see a fair amount of Drake and Morwenna in the finale. Look: When these kids were slow-motion running down the beach at each other I was extremely over it, but now they are one of the only plotlines I truly care about on this show. Last episode, Morwenna explained her complete aversion to physical intimacy thanks to her last, extraordinarily horrifying marriage. Drake points out that there’s more to a relationship than sex, like “the glow of corn and the smell of spring.” It’s actually very sweet.
They have their banns read, but not before George calls her a trollop and has her chased through the dark forest by men and slavering dogs, because why should Morwenna have anything nice? Drake saves her and they have an extremely picturesque Austenian wedding. I hope those kids get the hell out of Cornwall and join Demelza’s bakery far away from Ross and George, who together manage to consistently ruin the lives of everyone around them. If this show were The Bachelorette, Ross and George would have been put on a two-on-one date and both sent home ages ago.
With the death of Elizabeth, George promises to be more ruthless than ever. Earlier in the episode, George said to her “You know you are the only person I have ever cared about,” which seems 100 percent true based on his behavior toward her versus his behavior toward every other person on the planet. So now she’s gone and he is left with Valentine, whom he has promised to cease regarding with suspicion (until someone else says he looks exactly like Ross, and why would you ever SAY that to someone, Geoffrey Charles? Go back to vomiting in a bush!), as well as his new daughter Ursula.
Valentine seems very sweet so far and Ursula is literally a newborn baby, but if I were going to name an extremely rich villain’s terrible children anything, it would probably be Ursula and Valentine, so I’ll be keeping a close eye on them for early signs of moral turpitude.
We end with Elizabeth’s headstone, which reads “Elizabeth Warleggan.” Geoffrey Charles says she was not a Warleggan and Verity (hi, Verity!) says no, she was a Poldark, which, no. She was a Chynoweth. And what IS our patriarchal naming system anyway? We can cover that later, because for now we have to focus on the smoldering rage in George’s eyes that shall surely bear fruit next season. George is getting a knighthood! How will he wield it to ruin the lives of Ross and everyone connected with him? Will season five involve a sudden time-jump to the next generation of Poldarks and Warleggans? Will Verity finally be back with us for more than a few scenes each season? And who will gaze most pensively at the sea? Until next time!