Recapping 'Poldark': Season 1, Episode 2

Ross and Elizabeth have a moment. (Photo: Courtesy of (C) Robert Viglasky/Mammoth Screen for MASTERPIECE)

Poldark Sundays, June 21 - August 2, 2015 on MASTERPIECE on PBS Part Two Sunday, June 28, 9:00 - 10:00pm ET Determined to open his risky copper mine, Poldark seeks backers. Verity’s big chance leads to a showdown. Shown from left to right: Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark and Heida Reed as Elizabeth (C) Joss Barratt/Mammoth Screen for MASTERPIECE This image may be used only in the direct promotion of MASTERPIECE. No other rights are granted. All rights are reserved. Editorial use only


Previously on Poldark: Ross Poldark returns from the Revolutionary War in America to find that everyone thought he was dead and has moved right on with their lives, among other Very Bad Personal Issues. Ross’s father has passed away and left the estate in such ruin that he has almost no inheritance, his sort of girlfriend Elizabeth has gotten engaged to his cousin Francis and the family servants are somehow still living in his house with hay and a bunch of random barn animals. Welcome home, dude. Elizabeth marries the cousin while literally everyone Ross knows tries to convince him to give up on Cornwall, move to London and start over. He’s not having it because he has like an emotional attachment to the land or something to that effect, but he does do a lot of moping around about it before coming to that decision. Oh, and he rescues a random street urchin who turns out to be a super pretty girl named Demelza and hires her to be his kitchen maid. And, for future reference, Ross went to school with a smarmy dude named George Warleggan, who is a banker and an obviously terrible person and they hate each other, so that will surely turn out well. 

Second episode, folks! Let's do this! 

Spoiler Alert: Mining is Hard. Our episode opens with Ross, looking at various mining tools and implements and thinking about the family mining business, which obviously sucks as a pastime because he looks very depressed. Disgusting Jud gives him a pep talk about how mining is in his blood because he’s from Cornwall and it runs through them all there but it’s a fool’s game that will end in tears. To amp up the drama of this already over the top monologue, his words are used as a voiceover while some other noble guy kills himself over his mine being foreclosed on by bankers. Oooooh nooooo.

And just in case that wasn’t enough to clue you in that the Warleggans are terrible people, George rushes in to tell his uncle (father? I’m not real sure on this relationship, though I’m also not sure the specificity makes a difference) the news that Lord Bassett has committed suicide because their bank called in his mine loans. George is kind of anxious about this, because he thinks it makes them look terrible, as people, if their customers are committing suicide left and right. (Spoiler alert: It does.) Uncle Whoever is all ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ about it, but lest you think that this means George is a good person, the prostitute he’s been sleeping with wanders into the study at that precise moment and everything is gross again. Ugh, Warleggans are the worst, y’all. 

Ross Wants to Reopen the Family Business. Ross, having decided to turn down his uncle’s offer to fund his relocation to London, goes back over to his place to give his money back. His uncle isn’t shocked at all, but surprisingly doesn’t make a thing about it, because he just knows how Ross is stubborn and whatnot. They chat for a minute about how Lord Basset killed himself and Uncle Charles reveals that his own mine has a loan with the (gross) Warleggans too. So, that seems like the kind of plot info that will come up again later.

On the way back to Nampara, Ross runs into his random tenants/friends/whatever on the road, and they all tell him that they’d love to come work from him at HIS Stupidly Named Mine as soon as he can get it going again. Sure, they work for his uncle already, but he pays terribly and they’re already all tenants/friends/whatever already! Ross says he can’t promise anything, which is totally code for yes, if ever gets the whole thing going again, which he clearly will because this is only the second episode of the season and we have a lot of plot time to fill.

Later, Francis comes to see Ross as well. He’s happy his cousin is staying in town and the boys dish – what else – mining some more. We learn that part of the reason Ross wants to open his mine up again is to help the guys that just got laid off from the mine where the owner just committed suicide because, in case you hadn’t noticed, Ross is like super noble and cares about his homeland and its people or whatever. Francis laments that he actually doesn’t know anything at all about mining. He says this is because his father doesn’t trust him with anything to do with their mine in any way, and for some reason this confession of complete and utter ineptitude prompts Ross to suggest the two of them go in on opening his derelict pile of rocks back up together. Ross is clearly going to be terrible at running anything. I mean, the man just told you he has no mining skills or knowledge?

This thesis is further proven when Ross goes to visit his dad’s banker again, whose name is apparently Harris Pascoe (I had to Google that, don’t feel bad if you had no idea). He says he wants to open his father’s mine, but admits that he is completely lacking in important business-running things like capital, assets or knowledge. Harris looks unimpressed and says that means Ross will need to find investors to fund his (clearly terrible) plan then, which could be a problem given his obvious lack of skill and somewhat scandalous reputation. (Why does he have a scandalous reputation, again? People keep saying this but other than having gotten thrown into the army for gambling Ross seems to have pretty much kept to himself? Weird.)

Verity is So Interesting. Ross’ (awesome) cousin Verity seems to spend most of her time horseback riding and being oppressed to varying degrees by her father who, as we know, is pretty terrible. She sneaks over to visit Ross at Nampara and manages to convince him to be her escort to a local dance (it’s called “an assembly” or something else equally ridiculous though) at some posh neighbor estate, because Verity never gets to do anything for fun and if it were up to her father to find her a husband or friends or anything, she’d be a recluse forever. Ross immediately agrees to take her, because Verity is legitimately the only person who is unfailingly nice to and supportive of him, and she deserves to have some fun sometime.

So the two of them head out, and the town girls are all aflutter that Ross is there, because apparently it doesn’t matter how probably broke or potentially scandalous he is, he still has an old and valued name. He basically ignores all the ladies though, in favor of talking to some other older guys from his dad’s era about finding more investors for his mine. Ross seems like the least fun party guest ever. Meanwhile, Verity hits it off with a sea captain by the name of Andrew Blamey and looks quite fascinated by all his talk of riggings, which seems like a clear sign that she needs to get out more. But, it seems to be working for her, as Andrew asks when he can see her again. They’re sort of adorable together, but I’ve watched too much TV to trust that any guy who comes on this strong at a party won’t turn out to secretly be garbage in the end. 

Hygiene is an Apparently Ongoing Concern. Demelza, it would appear, is still mad that Ross is forcing her to ruin her life by bathing all the time, because he has feelings about anybody being around him who might have, as he so elegantly puts it, “crawlers”. Yiiikes. Demelza is displeased about this, but really needs to find her chill, as it would still appear literally everyone on this show is obsessed with cleanliness (outside of Jud and Prudie, who also appear to have disavowed dentistry) since even the most obnoxious poor people look like a Pantene commercial.

Demelza seems to spend a lot of time sort of skulking about and looking afraid of everyone, which probably has a lot to do with the fact that Jud and Prudie are still both terrible to her and clearly are doing absolutely nothing to make her feel welcome at Nampara and regularly tell her how she doesn’t belong there. While the two other servants get drunk one night, Demelza sneaks into Ross’ study to look through all his maps and mining paraphernalia and get the same swoony look on her face that he always has. Because I guess she loves mining too, since literally everyone else does. 

The Ross and Elizabeth Show Rolls On. Ross and Elizabeth spend a large part of this episode staring moodily at each other, avoiding each other, or behaving longingly in some way or other. They dance together at the ball Verity drags Ross to, and as soon as they tough the episode takes on a weird Instagram-filter quality where everything gets kind of fuzzy and slows down and the music gets extra soft and mournful. Saints preserve us from their pining.

Of course, Francis gets kind of jealous about their dancing, because George Warleggan, human garbage, is standing next to them the entire time making gross innuendos about how they’re still into each other. Which, obviously, they are, as everyone at the party seems be aware of, since the entire room pretty much grinds to a halt to stare at them laughing together at one point. Verity, who remains awesome, forces Elizabeth to go hang out with Francis again and tells Ross that he needs to tone his obvious longing down because people are going to gossip. She insists that Elizabeth has moved on with her life, obviously, and he needs to do the same. This of course immediately drives Ross to go seek out the prostitute he met earlier in the episode, and of course it’s the same prostitute that’s also sleeping with George Warleggan. Because there’s just the one? I don’t even know. Ross is obviously angry and upset and clearly sleeping with this woman because he’s mopey about Elizabeth. But still. Ew. 

It Turns Out Demelza’s Kind of a Creeper. Not in a villainous sense, obviously, but still. She’s out wandering Cornwall’s beautiful scenery, which everyone in this town seems to do whenever the actual pressing matters of living are not occupying them. She discovers Ross skinny dipping in the ocean and totally spies on him from up on a clifftop. Which, I guess, yay for all the viewers who’ve been waiting for Aidan Turner’s big ol Mr. Darcy moment like he’s in Pride and Prejudice or something?

To be fair, the man is very easy on the eyes. But the scene seems sort of shoehorned in for no reason, if you ask me. Is this meant to indicate to us that Demelza is also attracted to Ross (as apparently most people seem to be)? It’s obvious we’re headed in a love triangle-ish direction of sorts since Elizabeth is currently very married and very off limits as a love interest, and I guess if this is mean to indicate that Demelza is into him – and I guess apparently shares his weird love of mining? – then it’s not as terrible as it could be, but man, talk about ham-fisted. Even if Turner is very very pretty.  

Who Else is Tired of Hearing About Mining? Uncle Charles comes to Nampara to see Ross and – of course, what else?? – talk about mining some more. I hate mining. It is now my least favorite thing. Ross tells his uncle that he’s “exploring” the idea of opening his father’s mine again (duh) and Charles tells him he’s being rash and stubborn (duh again), but that sort of behavior is just the curse of the Poldarks, he supposes. But it could also be their salvation, he pronounces dramatically, because this is the kind of show where people say things like that randomly out of the blue like it’s normal conversation.

Anyway, Charles has decided to give his blessing to having Francis be involved in Ross’s mining adventure, because his son needs to learn something about how mining works at some point in his life if he’s to inherit, and I guess Charles is cool with it as long as his inept son is out there potentially wrecking someone else’s business with his incompetence. Ross says they’re meant to meet with his dad’s banker friend the next day so maybe after that then we, as viewers, will be able to see the people on this show talk about, oh, anything else. Ross also tells his uncle that he might want to encourage Francis to be discreet about their plans, especially as he’s BFFs with (disgusting) George Warleggan.

The next day, Ross goes to town to see the bankers and such, and he takes Demelza along because she wants to buy some fish. When they get there, he ends up having another extended walk and conversation with Elizabeth, which of course (vile) George Warleggan sees from a distance and immediately tells Francis all about. Francis, now angry and convinced that Ross is trying to steal his wife from him, maturely decides that he doesn’t want to go to this mine meeting with Ross after all. Seriously, everyone on this show is twelve years old. (Gross) George Warleggan hangs out in the background, smirking.

But, it all works out okay in the end, though, or at least it does for now, because Ross manages to convince everyone to invest in him and his Stupidly Named Mine (which is actually called Wheal Leisure, and I definitely had to Google that) in hopes of finding a good vein of copper in it. Ross’ speech about risks and gambling and why nobody should take loans from the Warleggans is super effective, and boom, they’re all drinking a toast and in business. If only they could have done this about twenty minutes (and about 400 mentions of the word “mine”) ago. 

Yeah, Verity’s Romance isn’t Going So Well. As expected poor (awesome) Verity couldn’t just meet a nice guy at a party and live happily ever after.  Her family is currently freaking out because it turns out that Andrew Blamey has some kind of deep, dark secret. Elizabeth rushes off to fetch Ross, insisting that he has to go see Charles and Francis ASAP (there’s an awkward moment where Ross thinks she’s come to tell him she wants out of her marriage, which is terrible and awkward).

Anyway, according to Charles and Francis, it turns out that Verity’s sea captain used to have something of a drinking problem, and apparently beat his wife to death. They insist that the family has to come together to protect her, and that she won’t be allowed out of the house until she swears to never see this guy again. However, Verity, illustrating the idiocy of this statement by sneaking out of the house to talk to Ross, insists that the death of Blamely’s wife was an accident, claiming that she fell and hit her head when she was fighting with him. She claims that Andrew has more than paid the price for what happened – he lost his commission and went to prison – and she knows 100% for sure that he loves her and would never hurt her. Ross, ever a sucker for a love story, wants to know how he can help. Verity asks whether she and Blamely can meet at Nampara, which really just illustrates that Uncle Charles has zero control over anything happening at his house.

Francis Continues to Make Poor Decisions. It doesn’t take long for Francis and Uncle Charles to find out that Verity’s sneaking out to see her sea captain at Nampra. Ross tries to argue that they’ve misjudged Andrew, but Francis isn’t having it and storms to the house to confront him. Verity, being awesome, attempts to assert that she is her own person who should have some say in her own life, possibly, but no one listens to her, and her father actually physically restrains her. Francis and Blamely argue and things escalate rather quickly and suddenly they’re punching each other in Ross’ dining room. After that Francis challenges Blameley to a duel, again despite and over Verity’s protests and Ross’ refusal to get involved at all.

They basically head right outside to shoot at each other and suddenly it’s all very When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong, as one by one, every family member realizes that these two idiots are serious about this. Verity’s screaming and promising to go back home with them right now if they’ll just stop this, Charles is saying they should just fight each other with their fists like normal people,

Francis is determined however, insisting that he can’t let this kind of insult stand or just everyone will think they can take advantage of their laughingstock family. He even ends up pushing Verity to the ground in anger, which is a nice gesture when this whole thing ostensibly started because they don’t trust the other guy to not be violent toward her. Ugh, gross. The fastest duel ever is over in about ten seconds, and both these idiots shoot each other. Turns out that Blamely is a way better shot though, since he appears to mortally wound Francis, and he just looks like he got nicked in the arm. There goes Verity’s love life, probably. (Literally, Blameley rides away about 2.5 minutes later.)

Ross and Demelza to the Rescue. Ross carries Francis into his (dirty, poorly lit, clearly crawling with infection) house and attempts to save the day (and his life). Prudie refuses to help because she’s afraid of blood, but Demelza jumps right in to serve as his nursing assistant. Happily, despite neither of them having any sort of notable medical training, they patch Francis up, and all is well. (It turns out that Ross learned some basic first aid and battlefield surgery during the war, so whew, I don’t have to get but so mad about that.) Elizabeth rushes in out of nowhere, distraught, and furious that Ross “let Francis die”. She’s very relieved to be proven wrong and is actually grateful for Ross’s help, unlike her father-in-law, who accuses his nephew of being a disgrace to the family name and solely to blame for everything that happened. (Seriously, was he paying attention to all that stuff that just happened?)

Elizabeth, on the other hand, tells Ross that she’s extra grateful for what he did for Francis, because she needs him at her side more than ever since she’s pregnant. Ross looks surprised and kind of devastated, and the music swells up really loudly so you know for sure how dramatic this is. He’s disappointed in himself for believing that things might be different, apparently and decides to throw himself (and Prudie, Jud and Demelza) into the whole fixing-up-Wheal-Leisure project. He also offers Demelza a chance to go back to her family if she wants to, but she insists she belongs with him. (Start swooning, shippers.)

Lots of interesting fun things happened this episode, but a lot of it was unfortunately overshadowed by the constant mining talk. Here’s hoping for a better balance in subsequent episodes. Looking forward to hearing what you all think! 


Lacy Baugher

Lacy's love of British TV is embarrassingly extensive, but primarily centers around evangelizing all things Doctor Who, and watching as many period dramas as possible.

Digital media type by day, she also has a fairly useless degree in British medieval literature, and dearly loves to talk about dream poetry, liminality, and the medieval religious vision. (Sadly, that opportunity presents itself very infrequently.) York apologist, Ninth Doctor enthusiast, and unabashed Ravenclaw. Say hi on Threads or Blue Sky at @LacyMB. 

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