Recapping 'Poldark': Season 1, Episode 6

Ross is so dashing. (Photo: Courtesy of Robert Viglasky/Mammoth Screen for MASTERPIECE.)

Poldark Sundays, June 21 - August 2, 2015 on MASTERPIECE on PBS Ross Poldark rides again in a swashbuckling new adaptation of the hit series that helped launch MASTERPIECE in the 1970s. Aidan Turner (The Hobbit) stars as Captain Poldark, a redcoat who returns to Cornwall after the American Revolution and finds that his fighting days are far from over. Robin Ellis, who played Poldark in the 1970s PBS adaptation, appears in the role of Reverend Halse. Eleanor Tomlinson (MASTERPIECE “Death Comes to Pemberley”) plays the spunky Cornish miner’s daughter taken in by the gallant captain.  Shown: Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark (C) Robert Viglasky/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: Lots of stuff happens! Demelza has a little girl, whom she and Ross decide to name Julia. She’s also decided to entertain herself by doing her best to reunite Verity and her somewhat problematic ex Andrew Blamey. She is ultimately successful, and the two confess that they still have feelings for one another in the middle of a miners’ riot, because what could be more romantic? In other mining related-news, Ross and some of his miner buddies have decided to form their own smelting company, to try and mitigate the influence of the Vile Warleggans and also to get a better price for their copper. Francis, certified idiot, manages to lose his family mine, Wheal Grambler in a card game, with a shady friend of George Warleggan’s, but Elizabeth vows she’s not going to let the family’s diminished circumstances get her down. 

The New Smelting Company Shakes Things Up. The first auction day since the creation of the miner owners secret cooperative smelting company rolls around. Ross is ready and excited to take on the establishment and help people earn better wages all around, but Francis poo poos his enthusiasm, insisting that he’s never going to get “justice for all” no matter what he does. He also warns his cousin to have a care about George Warleggan who, as we all know is vile and evil, but also, for some reason, insanely influential.

Ross rides through the beautiful scenery of Cornwall to town, and arrives as the auction bizarre. The sales are announced in some seemingly predetermined order (I’m not sure how this counts as an auction when no one is bidding on anything that I can see, but let’s just go with it.) Anyway, this mysterious new Carnmoore Smelting Company keeps buying up all the ore from the surrounding mines, and at considerably higher prices than the product had been previously fetching.

This, of course, irritates the rather snooty looking representative from the South Wales Smelting Company, which had been backed by the Vile Warleggans. He raises something of a stink about it, wanting all sorts of proof and receipts about this new company’s existence and claiming that he doesn’t even think they’re real. One of Ross’ random miner friends stands up to be identified as the company’s official “agent”, and Snooty Smelting Dude wants to know whose backing the group. They all refuse to reveal themselves, particularly as its an open secret that this South Wales Smelting thing is just basically a front for the Warleggans anyhow. Score one for the good guys!

Verity’s Secret Relationship is Sort of Not So Secret. Rumors are swirling around town that Verity Poldark has started seeing Andrew Blamey again. So scandalous! Of course, it doesn’t help that they’re mostly all true – Verity has decided that she wants to be with Blamey, she just hasn’t managed to figure out how to break this news to her brother and cousin as yet. She insists that she’s absolutely going to tell them the truth, sometime very soon, but she’s just waiting for the right moment. Which has, apparently, yet to arrive.

However, Verity is really adorable about how excited she is every time she’s meant to see Andrew, and they’re doubly adorable together, so it’s hard not to root for them to work things out even if it’s super easy to see that neither of them is making any sort of smart decisions about the way they’re handling things.

Ross complains to Demelza that he’s hearing all sorts of potentially scandalous things about Verity, but his wife refuses to comment, confirm or deny one way or the other and conspicuously says nothing when Ross wonders about how the two met again, since, you know, it was totally her doing entirely.

Remember Young Jim? Yeah, Things Don’t Work Out So Well for Him.  For those of you who don’t remember, Young Jim used to work for Ross, is married to Demelza’s kitchen maid Jinny, and is currently serving time in jail for poaching. Unfortunately, the conditions in the prison in which he’s being kept are abysmal – it’s overstuffed with prisoners, there’s an outbreak of jail fever and people are basically dying left and right.

So Ross goes to fetch his adorable, dorky doctor friend Dwight Ennis, and the duo set off to do what they can to save Jim. When they arrive at the jail, the circumstances are even worse than they thought – it’s filthy, there appears to be no supervision or management in any capacity, since they just basically lie their way right in, and the prisoners are all suffering from extreme neglect. Poor Jim is basically delirious with fever and one of his arms has gangrene. Ross and Dwight basically drag him out of the jail – break him out is probably the more accurate term, but when someone is half-dead it seems less necessary sort of? – and proceed to attempt some life saving surgery. In a random dirty room (?!) in the dark, and without any tools at all, which basically seems like less than ideal doctoring conditions, but I guess it’s still good that they’re trying. Jim’s completely out of his head, and Dwight’s not feeling great about his chances for living. He says that he could maybe make it through the fever, by itself, but his arm is a disaster and he won’t live through them trying to remove it. Ross begs him to attempt the procedure anyway, which they do, even though I have no idea what kind of equipment for this sort of thing Dwight could possibly just be caring around with him.

Sadly, however, Dwight’s initial prediction was accurate and Jim does not survive the surgery. They bury him in a field outside, and Ross burns his clothes to get rid of the pestilence. Yikes.

The Warleggans are Giving a Ball. Verity informs Demelza that the Vile Warleggans are throwing a ball and they’re all invited to it. Demelza gets super excited about this and they talk about how it will be a great way to mark her “entrance into society” which is a comment I completely don’t understand as she’s been married to Ross for at least two years at this point, yeah? I don’t understand time on this show. Anyway, Verity promises to help her learn the latest new dances, and generally get ready to not make an idiot of herself in front of all the society people who probably can’t wait to hate her.

Meanwhile, over at Trenwith, Francis is also complaining about the ball situation, since he’s broke, and everyone knows it and his wife will have to go in a made-over dress and oh no the humanity of it all. Elizabeth tries to make light of the situation, insisting that no one has money for new clothes these days anyway, but Francis is still pouty about it. (He also makes another disparaging comment about Verity’s former attachment to Blamey, which stops his sister from saying anything about their romance. Again.)

Ross Has a Crisis of Conscience. Ross tells Demelza about what happened to Jim, and looks pretty wrecked while doing so. His death – and the conditions in the prison – seem to have hit him particularly hard, and his dealing with his emotions in the grand tradition of drinking about it. Demelza’s worry about there being payback about Ross breaking the law, and breaking both in to and out of a prison, but he’s so amped up about the terrible conditions there and his new justice crusade, he doesn’t care.

He also declares that there’s no way they can go to the Warleggens’ dumb ball, because he hates all those people and their constant ignorance about the plight of the poor and downtrodden and tacit support for horrible work and jail conditions. (Or something. I’m paraphrasing. It’s close.) Demelza is clearly heartbroken about it, because she’d been so looking forward to it, but gamely pretends to agree with Ross that of course there’s no way they can go, even though she discovered that he ordered her a pretty new dress special for the occasion. Poor Demelza, being married to Ross must be exhausting.

Happily, Verity shows up the next day, to express her condolences about Jim, and also inform her (totally still-drunk and still drinking) cousin that he needs to get his act together before the ball that night. She says she knows that the ball will be full of all those rich people who basically condemned Jim to die, but that he’s got to go among them, to remind them all that he’s a gentleman just like they are. She says this may keep them from moving against him, given that everything that he did about Jim was completely illegal, and that Demelza and their child would suffer were he to get arrested. Ross is very salty about the situation, but agrees.

Man, This Warleggan Party is Straight Up Terrible. The fancypants Warleggan party begins and is basically a festival of awkward. Ross shows up basically wasted, and announces that his immediate plans for the evening are to get even more wasted. Demelza is concerned, especially given the fact that her husband hasn’t managed to be sober since he got back from the jail. (Somehow, however, drunk Ross got it together enough to get his wife a pretty new necklace? IDK.) Verity has her own set of problems when Andrew Blamey shows up with no warning – she still hasn’t said anything about their re-acquaintance to her family – and she abandons Demelza to try and get him to leave before he and Francis can get in a fight.

Left to her own devices, Demelza must face the gawking party crowd all by herself, and it’s very clear she’s worried they’re all judging or laughing at her for her less than noble origins. She latches on to Dorky Doctor Dwight, who introduces her to a sort of creepy old man who apparently is the Poldarks’ neighbor. He seems to want to hang out with Demelza a lot, though I kind of don't understand why, other than the fact that she's young nad pretty. (Maybe he's just kind of weird and/or lecherous? IDK.)

It’s a Fine Time to Develop a Drinking Problem.  Ross, deeply committed to his plan of drinking everything alcoholic in the Warleggans’ home, ends up hanging out with Vile George and his random Vile Friend, whose name turns out to be Matthew Sanson. This is the same card shark dude who played Francis into the ground last week, and won Wheal Grambler off of him in the final game, and who is clearly a complete garbage person. Surely this will go well.

George suggests that the pair of them should play cards together, so that Ross can have a chance to win Francis’ honor back or something dumb. Ross tries to say no, but since Demelza is off dancing with Lecherous Neighbor Hugh, he doesn’t have an easy excuse. And is also drunk. So they adjourn to the game room and join a table with Francis amd Reverend Haylse (aka the Original Ross Poldark in the first miniseries) who Ross already hates anyway because he’s the one who threw Jim in jail in the first place.  So it’s not surprising when Ross spends half the game snarking at him about how he sucks and has no principles or any decent humanity. In turn, the Reverend says that Ross is classless trash with no manners and that he’ll be looking into what he did at the jail in due time. Way to smooth things over, Ross. Good going.

Poor Verity, Y’all. Seriously, does Verity have the worst luck of anyone on this show? Can someone let her be happy? Ugh. She ditches Demelza to go try and convince Andrew that it’ll be disastrous for their relationship if they’re seen together at this party. She wants him to leave ASAP, he wants to confront Francis and tell him the truth because, IDK, maybe “he’s mellowed” over the years or something. Verity looks at him like he is crazy, because Verity is not an idiot.

Of course, they do run into Francis in a random hallway and the showdown is on. Blamey tries to explain about things, including how he feels about Verity and the fact that she should be allowed to make her own decisions, etc. etc., but Francis is too furious at just seeing his face to listen. He actually tries to hit him, but because Francis is actually terrible at doing anything, his blow doesn’t come close. Blamey easily blocks his (weak) punch, but does not actually beat the snot out of him. He stalks off, and Francis forbids Verity from every seeing him again. Soooo, we’re back to this again, I guess?

Verity is heartbroken and convinced that Andrew will never forgive her for being so timid about telling her family. She cries to Demelza that he left without a backward glance, and she’s sure she’ll never see him again. Poor thing.

Meanwhile, Back at the Card Table.  Ross is still playing cards with George Warleggans Loser Friend, only now it appears half the party has gathered to watch them play. Both Elizabeth and Demelza attempt to get Ross to stop, and maybe take a look at his life and choices, but he ignores the former and is openly rude to the latter. In fact, he tells Demelza if she doesn’t reign in her nagging he’s never taking her to a ball again. Drunk!Ross is a jerk!

The card playing situation continues well into the night, and Ross is losing badly. Ross is also turning into a walking cautionary tale. Seriously he looks like a complete hot mess. But he keeps right on playing, all the way until he ends up forfeiting all his cash, Demelza’s new necklace and  his father’s antique pocketwatch, before he finally puts up his stake in Wheal Leisure on a bet. Hilariously, all the drunk party goers in the room perk up as one, and we the viewers, all groan out loud because didn’t we just see this last week? Haha, no! Turns out that Drunk!Ross is still able to spot a card cheat from 50 paces and uses the bet of his mine to trap the Warleggans’ Vile Friend and expose him. Turns out he’d been…not just counting cards which I’d sort of been expecting, but actively inserting false cards into the deck/his own hand by magic, I guess. That Ross is this wasted and still able to spot his trick really does not speak well for Francis last week, y’all.

Anyway, Ross names and shames Vile Friend as a card cheat and throws him bodily over a table before he storms out. Happily, Ross takes all his money back, but no one seems to be super motivated to do anything about the fact that this same man, who is clearly a cheater and liar, actively stole Francis’ mine from him last week. I’m assuming this is going to be addressed eventually, but I feel like if you get busted for card sharking in a venue this public you have to give your opponents back the stuff you stole?

Dawn breaks over this ragging party and all the Poldarks and their friends and entourage leave as the sun rises. Man, people really knew how to throw down back in the day, apparently? Elizabeth tells Ross that people were talking about his exploits at the county jail during the party, and that many felt some sympathy for his intentions about it.  Francis, the joy killer, follows this cheerleading by reminding Ross that some of the members of the board of his new Canmore Smelting Company were magistrates, and might feel compelled to take action about what he did vis a vis the jail situation. He also points out that that the Warleggans’ Vile Friend was also the Warleggans’ Vile Cousin, so the family might feel compelled to respond in some way once the story about the card cheating and table slamming and general public humiliation gets out.  I guess this is why we’re meant to assume Francis isn’t fighting harder for what he lost? I don’t even know. Are the Warleggans the Corleones in this town or what?

The Poldarks arrive home, where Ross is confronted by rumors that Adorable Doctor Dwight might be having an affair with a recently married village lady (who has been throwing herself at him mercilessly) and Demelza receives a secret note from Andrew Blameley that she must help him get Verity to make a choice between her love for him and her family. So, next week should be interesting?

What did 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 Twitter at @LacyMB