Recapping 'Poldark': Season 1, Episode 4

Ross and Demelza and the pretty scenery. (Photo: Courtesy of (C) Robert Viglasky/Mammoth Screen for MASTERPIECE)

Previously, on Poldark:  Lots of stuff happens, finally! Ross manages to successfully reopen Wheal Leisure, the family mine, and everyone’s hopefully they’ll strike copper any day now. Ross and Demelza end up hooking up after her father tries to convince her to leave Nampara, and when they realize their relationship can’t continue as master and servant after that, (surprise!) they get married! Meanwhile, at the other Poldark residence, Elizabeth has a baby boy, Uncle Charles has a stroke, and Francis has a complete personal meltdown (gambling and prostitutes are involved) because he thinks his wife is still hung up on Ross. 

Time to Tell Everyone the Big News. Obviously, the biggest thing going on in the world of Poldark the show, as well as in the life of Ross Poldark the character, is that he just married his kitchen maid Demelza. And it’s all legal and binding, no takebacks blah blah, so they have to tell everyone they know about their new status. Well, first they both have to wander around the scenery a bit, because it’s pretty, and they’re pretty and if there’s not at least five hidden advertisement for the Cornwall Tourism Board it’s not a proper episode.

Anyway, Prudie and Jud don’t seem to much approve of the situation, because Demelza’s a servant and Ross is not, and she’s just some random girl who showed up at Nampara to work and has now found herself lady of the house somehow. Demelza herself is rather nervous about her currently elevated status, and worried that people won’t understand how this thing between the two of them came about in the first place. Ross is weirdly zen about the whole thing, and not particularly bothered about the prospect of anyone’s reaction.

This is probably a good thing, because everyone’s reaction is, in general, not great. The first person Ross breaks the news to is Francis, who seems shocked that his cousin has chosen to marry so far beneath him. He says that with such a wife, Ross won’t be welcome in polite society anymore. Ross is equally unperturbed by this pronouncement, because Ross is over polite society these days anyway. The reactions from the rest of the townsfolk are fairly predictable: Elizabeth is shocked, Uncle Charles is scornful, the Warleggans are varying degrees of snarky and gleeful that this means his business may fail, Elizabeth’s horrible mother decrees that society will never forgive him and Ross’ prostitute friend just wants to know if his new wife is pretty or not.

He even has to explain himself and his new marriage to his mining investors, some of whom are so turned off by Ross’ decisions regarding his love life that they’re questioning whether he’s too reckless to be trusted with their money. (Ultimately, Ross wins and secures enough funding to keep Wheal Leisure open, but it’s an awkward thing indeed.)

Only Verity – awesome Verity who knows well the strife of difficult romantic attachments – writes to wish Ross and Demelza joy. She promises to call as soon as she can get away from her demanding father to tell them how happy she is in person. Yay, Verity! 

The Poldarks Make a Go at Married Life. Demelza, meanwhile, is struggling to fit in to her new role at Nampara. She’s not sure what Verity means by “calling”, or what she’ll be required to do, and is generally flummoxed at the prospect of figuring out what to make of her new station in life, now that everything she’s known has been upended.

Ross is handling these big life changes rather easily, in comparison. Beyond his issues with his mining investors, he seems rather contented with married life on the whole, bringing Demelza home presents and encouraging her to visit him and his workers at the mine, since wives are supposed to take an interest in their husband’s activities. In all honesty, their scenes are pretty adorable, but given that Ross was mooning over Elizabeth in a sepia-toned Instagram fantasy last week, his sudden achievement of personal zen seems rather sudden. But, he’s much less annoying, so let’s go with it, shall we?

In the end, Demelza’s visit at the mine seems to go well, and the men like her. She’s not comfortable going back for another visit though, because she feels like she’s giving herself airs trying to pretend to be some sort of lady, when she’s not. Ross decides that what will best help Demelza is showing her that she’s not a servant anymore – by letting her have her own servants, of her own choosing, as she is now the mistress of Nampara. So Demelza chooses young Jinny to serve as the house’s new kitchen maid in her place. 

Awww, Poor Uncle Charles. Uncles Charles is still ill, but determined to get to the family mine and clean up some of the mess that Francis has made due to his constant gambling and consorting with prostitutes. Unfortunately, this is a terrible decision, because he has another heart attack while trying to mount his horse. Good job, Francis. Look what your terrible ability as a son hath wrought.

Ross comes to see Uncle Charles while he’s laid up in bed again. He seems to be doing okay, since he feels well enough to joke about how Francis is relieved about Ross’ wedding, as it means it’s marginally less likely now that he’ll manage to steal Elizabeth from him. Uncle Charles is a terrible person. Ridiculously, Charles finds his his not-even-that-funny joke about Ross and Elizabeth and infidelity so entertaining that he actually laughs himself into another heart attack and has to start making his final goodbyes to his relatives. Seriously, this is a thing that actually happened.

Now confronted with his impending death, Uncle Charles decides to tell Ross that he appreciates him, and realizes that his own son is not half the man that he is. He asks Ross to look after Francis and the rest of the family, and to safeguard the Poldarks’ good name. Ross gives his word, and Charles conveniently dies right after, because sometimes this show is just hilarious. 

Verity Comes to Visit. Awesome cousin Verity pops over to Nampara for an extended visit. Ross is thrilled to see her, as always, and Demelza’s anxious because she’s never actually spent any time with Ross’s family at all.

The visit goes wonderfully, of course, in part because Verity is awesome and non-judgmental, and in part because Demelza clearly just needs a friend really badly. Verity tells her new cousin-in-law how thankful she is that Ross married someone who’s made him come alive again, and that she doesn’t care at all where she comes from or who her father is or whether she knows how to curtsy or not. In turn, Demelza admits that she loves Ross, even though she doesn’t think he’ll ever feel more than kindly toward her in return.

Verity also does her best to help educate Demelza about the ins and outs of being a nobleman’s wife, including the fine art of curtsying, how to set a table, successfully deploy a fan and do various types of dances. Demelza is pretty bad at it all, to be honest, but the entire sequence is adorable, and the sort of scene they should have given her character ages ago.

The best part about this is that the show is finally letting us get to know Demelza a little bit – Eleanor Tomlinson is a tremendously charming actress so it’s pretty hard not to love her when given a chance, but so much of Demelza’s development to date has been about where she fits in as a plot piece, either as her father’s daughter or Ross’ servant or, now, wife and nothing about herself. It’s nice to finally see the show address that.

Verity also takes Demelza shopping for new dresses and accessories as befit her new station in life. (This is also the part where Demelza confesses she’s pregnant, but hasn’t told Ross yet dun dunnn.)

The Mining Continues. Despite the various issues and concerns about continued funding in the way of Ross’ scandalous marriage, the work at Wheal Leisure continues. The gang keeps striking more ironstone, which is said to indicate that they could find copper soon, but thus far their efforts have proven fruitless. Everyone’s frustrated and anxious. The digging continues; we even get a montage about it to indicate the passage of time. 

They decide that blasting is their only hope, so they start blowing stuff up in the hopes it’ll turn up a vein of copper. Unfortunately, they’re not having a lot of luck with this method either, and once again Ross must attempt to find more investment money. This plan doesn’t go so well, largely because of that one nobleman from earlier, who’s convinced half the investors in town that Ross’ rash decision to marry his kitchen maid means that he is too much of a risk for their money.

The mine has enough capital to stay open until Christmas – but Ross insists that he doesn’t want to ruin the holiday for his workers, so he orders his minions to keep things running until at least the week after no matter what happens. The digging continues, there’s still no success, and Ross is getting more and more depressed about it.

Christmas with the In-Laws. Ross and Demelza receive an invite to spend the holidays with Francis and Company at Trenwith. Demelza really really doesn’t want to go, insisting that she the rest of the family will look down their noses at her because she’s not “their sort”. What it actually appears she means is that she’s afraid Elizabeth will look down on her, but Ross seems to think she’s being ridiculous and accepts for them despite the fact that she’s still not into the idea.

Verity, of course, is happy to see Ross and Demelza when they arrive, and ignores that her new cousin-in-law is openly gawking at the house around them. Even Elizabeth is surprisingly kind given how entirely uneager she was to see Demelza when she initially heard that she and Ross were married. The best part is when Ross’ Weird Old Aunt Agatha starts acting exceptionally crazy, attempting to figure out where Demelza is from and making her sit next to Elizabeth so that she can see how she “measures up” to her.  It is awkward and horrible and awesome. Crazy Aunt Agatha is the best and should probably get a spinoff.

Meanwhile, Francis, whose transition into a complete garbage person seems to be proceeding apace, tells Elizabeth that he knows she’s only being nice to Demelza because she wants Ross to think well of her for it. Which, seems like it is at least sort of probably true in some way, but that probably has as much to do with the fact that her actual husband has started sleeping with prostitutes and gambling the family inheritance away. Just guessing.

Oh Good the Warleggans Are Here. In case you somehow still haven’t realized that the Warleggans are trash, the entire family basically crashes the Poldark Christmas Eve dinner uninvited. They’re horrifying. One of them calls Ross a weird recluse to his face and another openly makes jokes about Demelza’s kitchen maid past. Happily though, while all this is going on, Demelza herself was busy upstairs getting herself into a new dress that she’d had made specifically for the party, so she looks exceptionally refined and grown up and not at all “scullery”-esque. Ross looks proud of her as he takes her around for introductions.

The group meal is as awkward as you’d expect – rife with innuendo about Demelza’s attempt to rise about her station, commentary about Ross’ struggles with Wheal Leisure and mean comments about Verity’s unmarried status. These people are legit horrible – who is this terrible Warleggan woman anyway? – and it’s so over the top at times that it’s nearly comical. None of them appear to have any redeeming qualities whatsoever and it’s kind of a stretch to imagine why anyone would have them as a guest at their dinner table or tolerate them for moments longer than strictly necessary. Ugh.  In happier plot twists, Demelza ends up singing for the group on what is basically a dare and impresses everyone and Ross is so into it and it’s all just too entirely cute. (I think we’re meant to take this as the moment that he realizes that he’s – surprise! – actually in love with his wife?)

And the Christmas miracles aren’t even close to over. The next day, they manage to strike copper at Wheal Leisure, saving the fortunes of this side of the Poldark family and keeping Ross from having to fire everyone. Plus Ross tells Demelza he’s in love with her (at least the show isn’t dragging that out!) and she tells him that she’s pregnant. Everyone everywhere is happy, which of course means something terrible is clearly about to happen to all of them, I'm sure. 

Anyway - This was, hands down, the best Poldark episode yet. Lots of dramatic ridiculousness happened, Ross and Demelza finally felt like a legitimate romantic option worthy of being taken seriously, Verity was amazing as per usual, and it was just loads of fun. Let’s keep doing this show.

Curious to hear what you all thought of this – hit the comments and share! 

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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