Recapping 'Poldark': Season 1, Episode 3

Demelza and her amazing hair shine this week. (Photo: Courtesy of (C) Robert Viglasky/Mammoth Screen for MASTERPIECE)

Previously, on Poldark:  Everyone loves to talk about mining. Ross is thinking about reopening his father’s mine (Wheal Leisure) and has to jump through a lot of hoops – including his cousin’s anger – to secure the funding to do so. In personal matters, Ross’ life also continues to be terrible – despite his fixation on Elizabeth and their constant flirtation, he’s crushed to learn that she’s pregnant and committed to staying with Francis.   Luckily, Demelza is there to help out, and shares Ross’ love of mining (UGH SHUT UP ABOUT MINING) so get ready for that flirtation to get going, I guess. And Awesome Verity Poldark manages to finally meet a nice man, find out he maybe murdered his wife, forgive him, watch him shoot her brother in a duel and break up with him, all in one episode. Go on, girl. 

And now that we're all caught up - onward! 

Great Success: Wheal Leisure Reopens. Thankfully, a time jump of several months has occurred between this episode and last week’s, which means we get to fast forward right ahead to Ross successfully reopening his father’s old mine instead of spending another 45 minutes on mining lessons and debate like last week. (KILL ME.)  Hurrah! Our episode opens with a really hilariously awesome slow-mo shot – of all the guys who used to work at Ross’s uncle’s mine cheerfully assembling for their new jobs at Ross’s mine via extremely dramatic slo-mo shots, like they’re all some kind of Mining Avengers preparing to fight Thanos.

There’s lots of hugs and high-fives, and for some reason a metric ton of dust flying around, which means that various workers and women and random townspeople get to emerge out of an Instagram filter to head up the long road to the mine opening. Soooo dramatic! Ross is happy and anxious, knowing the risk he’s taking, but he still manages to make a great speech about what a communal success it is that they’re reopening Wheal Leisure at all. His faith is rewarded when his workers find evidence that the new shafts are showing signs favorable to the discover of copper, and everyone’s hopeful things are going to go well for them.

Demelza in particular is happy for everybody, the miners, their families, Ross, the lot of them, and trots around passing out drinks and making small talk with people. Of course, this does nothing to discourage the people who want to gossip about her relationship with Ross, and whether or not the two of them are living in some degree of sin or other. Some of the more “noble” townsfolk are pretty gross about it and ugh everyone is just pretty terrible, generally. Meanwhile, Uncle Charles and Francis watch from a distance – Charles tells Francis that while he may have forgiven Ross for the whole Verity incident, Francis has got to get his act together as concerns their own mine and figure out a way to stop their workers from abandoning them to go to Wheal Leisure instead. Francis snorts and says that’s gonna be hard when their wages are terrible, but his father is undeterred.

Babies and Weddings and Other Domestic Struggles. Elizabeth, now very pregnant thanks to this episode’s convenient time jump of about nine months, goes into labor. Verity, who is still depressed about the loss of Andrew Blameley and never allowed to have nice things, sends for a doctor and gets pressed into what seems basically to be midwife duty at the same time. Happily, Elizabeth is safely delivered of a healthy son, and Francis and the rest of that side of the Poldark clan are all over the moon that she’s had a boy and the line will continue blah blah we all saw The Tudors we know these attitudes about inheritance.

Meanwhile, Ross discovers that young Jim Carter – the young miner he’d hired on as a farmhand after he lost his job – has been both poaching animals illegal to feed his mother and sister, and sleeping with Jinny, the daughter of one of Ross’ army of tenant/friends/people. Ross has a talk with the boy about his illegal activities and newly pregnant girlfriend, before giving them a rent-free cottage to stay in and helping the two of them get married. Ross is awesome, if you haven’t gotten the memo yet. He even bullies the two of them into getting married and goes to their wedding as a guest. 

Ross and Demelza Are Definitely About to Be a Thing.  Not that you should be surprised by this – both because it’s obvious and also because the promotional material has been hyping it for months – but suddenly we’re starting to see signs that the whole master-servant relationship between Ross and Demelza may not be all that platonic. Of course, we already got the infamous “girl spies on boy’s naked swimming time in the ocean” scene loast week , so maybe we’re already supposed to be feeling that Demelza’s got a thing for her boss, but this scene is here to let you know that Ross is starting to maybe think about her in that way too. During Jim’s wedding reception, we’re treated to another long slo-mo scene, in which Ross watches Demelza dance, carefree and beautiful, with the other villagers and tenants and random people, as the music gets all dramatic again. Ross even manages to get in on the dancing eventually and seems to have a great time, and basically all signs point to something happening between these two sooner rather than later.

In other news, Jud (who is apparently abusive as well as unhygienic) has managed to sprain Prudie’s arm during one of the seemingly regular physical fights they engage in, so she’s incapable of cooking for Ross for a month or so. Demelza, of course, has to step in to cover for her, and takes her job VERY seriously indeed. But, she needn’t worry, as she is obviously the designated Mary Sue of this show who can do anything she sets her mind to, I guess because she is both scrappy and kind IDK. Anyway, she throws herself into making dinner for Ross and of course it turns out perfect and of course he loves it and of course he asks her to try and keep Prudie on the disabled list, as it were, for as long as possible. (I really do like Demelza a lot – at least she is fun and has a personality, which is more than you can say for a great many of Poldark’s characters – but goodness outside of hating bathing does she have any flaws?)

Francis is So Dumb, Seriously. Uncle Charles throws a reception in honor of his new grandchild and he’s full of pride and excitement about it. Francis and Elizabeth are also both very happy, though Ross is kind of depressed that the woman he loved has had a child with another man. He hides it reasonably well though or at least better than he has in the past, and manages to even with Elizabeth and the baby without being terribly awkward about it.

It appears that Charles has suffered a “heart stroke”, whatever that is, but doesn’t die. However, his condition is severely debilitated. Meanwhile, Francis is doing his best to be awful to everyone in his family – trying to force his way back into his wife’s bed and jealously accusing Elizabeth of being “more animated” around Ross during the party because she secretly wishes the baby was his. He also gets mad at Verity when he runs into ther in the hallway, insisting that she always takes Elizabeth and Ross’ side. Verity is still just straight up mad at Francis for ruining her chance at marriage and happiness with Captain Blamely and tells him he’s acting crazy. He stomps off in a huff because he is secretly a twelve year old child. 

Demelza Goes Snooping. Jinny goes to see Demelza to ask if she can get Ross to talk to her new husband Jim about the fact that he’s still poaching, despite the fact that he’s promised to stop now he’s married. Demelza says of course, but when she goes to see Ross, he’s not in his study. So, as anyone probably would, she decides to use this time to snoop around her boss’s office. She spends a minute looking over the mining paraphernalia and rocks again, as well as some of the ledgers and papers on his desk. (I’m not entirely sure that Demelza can read, so this may not be the super betrayal I’m automatically conditioned to assume it is.) She also opens a random trunk which, for some reason, contains a very pretty teal colored dress. She admires it for a minute before she has to shove everything back where it came from when she hears Ross calling her.

Ross ends up asking Demelza to eat dinner with him that night – after he finds out she’s so busy with household stuff she sometimes forgets to get anything for herself. The two of them chat about what a good worker Demelza is and how she’s a million times more productive than Terrible Prudie ever is. She also tells him about how Jinny’s super worried about her new husband’s poaching and Ross decides that he’ll do better than talk to the boy again, he’ll give him a better job and make him Assistant Purser at the mine. Demelza’s happy, and obviously impressed by Ross’s commitment to improving the lives of the people who work for him. This is actually kind of a cute scene, and possibly the first time the prospect of the two of them being a thing isn’t terrible?? Not sure why entirely, maybe it’s all the domesticity.)  

Anyway, Ross is equally impressed by Demelza’s ability to anticipate the things he wants when she brings him some brandy without him asking. So in case you were wondering where Ross’s threshold for relationship success is, there you go. 

Oh No Jim Gets Arrested. Unfortunately, however, Young Jim has some seriously terrible luck. That same evening that Ross decides to give him a better job so as to help him stop committing crimes, Jim decides to head on one last poaching expedition. He even gives Jinny his word that he won’t do any poaching ever again after this, hahaha – and of course he gets caught and arrested. Everyone in this town has terrible lives.  

The next morning, Jinny goes to the cottage to tell Ross the news about Jim’s arrest and cry on Demelza’s shoulder. Ross blames himself for not going to see the boy the night before and races off to see the magistrate and ask for clemency on his behalf. He offers to make good on anything Jim took, but it’s too late as the magistrate has already sent him off to the jail to be held for trial first thing that morning. After all, he had an early hunt to get to and everything. Ross is angry, in that way that he’s been getting all episode when someone in “his” class does something he thinks is especially terrible in relation to the “lower” class. So, naturally, Ross heads off to put in a good word at Jim’s trial, which somehow seems to be happening that same day, because I guess the British justice system was just superswift back in the day, IDK.

Anyway, Ross appears as a witness at the fastest trial in the West to give to a statement in support of Jim’s “good character” since he’s his servant and everything. (He also tries to insert some commentary about the present day difficulties facing the poor in general, but mostly gets shot down by the judge on that score.)  He also asks the court to consider the fact that Jim has pretty bad asthma and likely wouldn’t survive a stint in jail. Oh and also his wife is at home giving birth like right that second.

Unfortunately, the judge isn’t much swayed by any of this emotional business, though he promises to at least be somewhat lenient in his sentencing decision as a result of it. “Lenient” turns out to be a two year jail sentence, which Ross does not see as any sort of mercy at all. He gets snarky with the judge, insisting that the law has failed in this instance, that the law is savage and is being interpreted without charity. The judges threaten him with contempt of court, and Ross storms out. It’s all very dramatic.

Demelza’s Dad Stops By Again. Demelza’s terrible father shows up at Nampara out of nowhere, in order to inform his daughter that he’s a changed man. He’s gotten married again and found religion or some such and now he sees the error of all his previous garbage human behavior. And since he’s not drinking or living in sin – and/or presumably being a domestic abuser – anymore, he wants Demelza to come back home to live with her family. He also wants her to get away from Ross Poldark, because he pretty much thinks they’re sleeping together. Demelza protests that nothing’s happened between them, and besides that she doesn’t care what people think anyway. Her dad says she’s got a day to get her affairs in order and then he’ll be back to take her home because I guess while he was busy learning to be a better person he didn’t bother to find out anything about agency or free will?

For some reason, Demelza’s response to this ultimatum is to go back to the house and stare longingly at that random dress she found in the trunk in Ross’s study. It would seem we’re meant to interpret this as some kind of desire for a life she doesn’t think she can have but it’s also just kind of weird. She even tries it on this time, and starts doing a lap around the room, saying goodbye to all the items in it. See? Weird. Then she bursts into tears about how she can’t leave Ross and it’s also all very dramatic. 

And Suddenly the Rumors Are True. Anyway, all the drama and self flagellation and angst combines into its Ultimate Form when Ross comes home to find Demelza in the study wearing the dress from the trunk. He doesn’t even notice at first, he’s so busy wallowing in his personal tragedy about not being able to do enough for Young Jim and what that says about his own worth as a person. Then he does notice, and they kind of fight about her presumption in going through all of his stuff and he yells at her and she cries and they end up staring tensely at each other and then they make out. Because of course they do.

(Meanwhile, I'm still wondering why Ross had a dress in a trunk in his study? Can anyone enlighten me abou this? Whose dress is it?)

This goes on for a bit, but Ross finally puts a stop to things, insisting that he didn’t bring Demelza into his house for this and that she should just go to bed. He stomps off, Demelza ends up following him into his bedroom because she needs help getting out of the dress - aaaah the age old “my dress unhooks in the back” problem – and the two of them end up sleeping together. Ross seems to have some concerns about making all the rumors about the two of them actually be true, but Demelza doesn’t seem so worried about it.  (Sidebar: The music in this scene is kind of hilariously dramatic.)         

Then Consequences Happen. The next day, Demelza goes out into the beautiful and picturesque countryside with her dog, to think on everything that’s happened. Later, she ends up watching Ross cut wheat (or grass, I’m not sure but it also doesn’t matter) shirtless and that seems like a morning’s entertainment well spent. (Can we pause for a second and just give some props to Demelza’s amazing hair? I mean seriously, she needs to stop wearing that Cinderella in the ash heap headband forever, because her hair is incredible.)

Back to the action: Elizabeth shows up unexpectedly for a visit and she and Ross have an awkward conversation about Jim’s trial, the Warleggans, her son and how Wheal Leisure is doing, because there apparently cannot be one person on this show who is not obsessed with the ins and outs of mining. Of course Demelza pops in unexpectedly while they are talking and has an awkward encounter with Elizabeth – complete with hamfisted metaphor about flowers dying out that just seems kind of extra weird and out of nowhere. Maye it’s meant to indicate that Elizabeth has used her magical powers of being an ex-girlfriend to divine that something’s happened between Ross and Demelza but I have no idea.  (Any thoughts on that? It definitely seemed like she knew something was going on.) 

Surprise: A Wedding! Anyway, all this drives Demelza to run away, because she’s realized she can’t just keep being Ross’s servant after what’s happened between them. He realizes this too, apparently, and chases after her, and the two of them get married. Because not only does Cornwall have the most swiftly functioning justice system on earth, it also has the most efficient wedding complex, as Ross and Demelza end up in front of a Reverand about ten minutes later, with Prudie and Jud as witnesses.

In theory, there’s a process for this – banns to be read and whatnot. And since the two of them are wearing different outfits it’s possible that’s all happened. But it seems weird that even Verity is not there? I dunno. But Demelza’s Seriously Great Hair Streak is still alive, which is really what is most mportant to me at this moment. Let’s hope marriage is good for her in that regard, at least.

Anyway, Ross and Demelza, married by the end of Episode 3. Who would have thought? Man this show moves quickly!

Thoughts? Ardent Ross/Demelza supporters? Critics? Just happy that the show focused on other things besides mining this week? Hit the comments and let us know. 


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 Twitter at @LacyMB