Recapping ‘Poldark’: Season 1, Episode 7

Poldark looking pensive. He's got a lot going on.  (Photo: Courtesy of Robert Viglasky/Mammoth Screen for MASTERPIECE.)

Poldark Sundays, June 21 - August 2, 2015 on MASTERPIECE on PBS Part Seven Sunday, August 2, 9:00 - 10:00pm ET When Verity makes her move, Poldark gets blamed and events spiral out of control. An epidemic leads to tragedy. And a shipwreck is both a blessing and a curse. 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: Behold the drama! The Warleggans are mad that this mysterious new smelting company has arrived on the scene and is forcing their company to pay more for the miners’ products. They vow to find out who’s behind this and ruin them (even though they’re pretty sure its Ross and his friends). Former Nampara servant Jim gets sick in jail and ultimately dies, basically because he was forced to live in horrible conditions in prison, and Ross is devastated. Meanwhile, Francis is terrible at being poor, Verity’s started seeing Andrew Blamey in secret again and the Warleggans throw a ball, which excites Demelza until she realizes that Ross has no plans of calling off the drinking bender he’s been engaged in since Young Jim died. Anyway, the party goes on, Ross gets wasted but still manages to bust George Warleggan’s friend as a card cheat after he nearly gambles his own mine away, and Francis finds out about Verity’s secret love life and forbids her from seeing Blamey ever again.

Oh, and Ross’ Cute-But-Dumb Doctor Friend has an awkward, ongoing flirtation with one of the village ladies, who is very married, and there’s all kinds of gossip about their relationship. (Which, wow, girl is like injuring herself on purpose to see him, so this relationship is all kinds of healthy on every level.) 

Whew. They pack a lot into an hour, let me tell you. Luckily, tonight’s season finale is a special two-hour installment, so prepare yourselves. (Warning: This means the recap is probably also going to be supersized, so bear with me.) 

This Week in “Look at Your Life, Look at Your Choices” Theater. Karen, the village lady who’s been basically throwing herself at Doctor Dwight, tells her husband that she’s been too busy to do things like bake or clean their house because she’s off helping the good doctor with his work. Her husband, Mark, looks suspicious about this, and tells her that she’s not married to the doctor. She sniffs and says the village people depend on him. This is so going to end terribly for probably everyone.

Ross catches Mark giving Doctor Dwight a death glare and decides now is maybe the time for a BFF talk about choices. He tells him to be careful, but Dwight doesn’t seem to listen, as is evidenced by the fact that he continues to let Karen come do…whatever he’s having her do in his office. Which, seems to be read random labels, ask questions about herbs and make revoltingly over the top innuendos. Yikes.

For like five seconds, Dwight actually does try to tell Karen that she has to stop coming to see him because her husband doesn’t like it. Her response to that request is to ask him to kiss her, so to say that are at cross purposes seems to be something of an exaggeration. Anyway, of course they end up kissing and of course they end up sleeping together and we all could have predicted this two episodes ago, probably.

Verity Makes a Choice. Demelza, because she ships Verity and Captain Blamey like they were Mary and Matthew from Downton Abbey, has been helping the two lovebirds pass letters back and forth, since Francis has forbidden them from seeing one another.

Verity, it turns out, has decided to run away and marry Andrew. She waits until Francis, Elizabeth and their son are out for a walk, then packs up all her belongings and sneaks out, leaving a note with Crazy Aunt Poldark, who sleeps through the whole thing. When Francis comes home he is furious, and doesn’t even finish reading the goodbye letter she wrote. Instead he launches into a rant about how ungrateful Verity is to abandon her family in order to wed some wife murderer, and immediately tries to figure out how Verity – a capable adult, mind you – managed to communicate with someone in the outside world. (Apparently Francis was basically keeping her prisoner in her own home, because he appears to have cut off her mail? Ugh, Francis is so terrible.)

Anyway, he immediately jumps to the conclusion that it must have been Ross who helped Verity, because his cousin let him meet in his house that one time like five episodes ago. Elizabeth tries to point out that Francis has no proof of this, but he just yells at her that of course she defends Ross because she’s still into him. Then he starts shouting and cursing his family and it’s all very horrifying and embarrassing. Being married to Francis seems to be like being married to a perpetual five year old, so, yeah, I feel for Elizabeth, y’all. I’d rather be single.

The Warleggans Resort to Blackmail. In their quest to shut down the rogue smelting company that’s ruining their lives by making them pay a fair price for copper, the Warleggans start blackmailing everyone they know that’s connected to them.  George uses the family’s status as rich bankers to basically threaten to financially ruin anyone that’s willing to help the Cornwall Copper guys do anything, starting with the mill owner guy who provides rolling and cutting services for them. The Warleggans are such garbage people.

George Warleggan then goes to visit Francis and Elizabeth. He arrives just as Francis is really leaning in to his “I hate Ross for helping Verity elope” rant and listens to him go on about betraaayaaaaaal for a while. (If you look hard you can see the wheels turning in George’s head, here, too.) Anyway, George has come by because he wants to give Francis and Elizabeth some of their money back, since he lost so much of it to the Warleggaans’ cheating card shark cousin Matthew. Francis is thrilled, George gets creepily affectionate with Elizabeth again for no discernable reason and no one at all manages to mention the fact that while the Warleggans gave the Poldarks some money, the issue of the family mine – which Francis also lost to the cheating cousin – is not brought up. So I guess they’re not feeling that bad about everything.

Of Course Something Terrible Happens. Mark comes home to find his wife missing, and goes out searching for Karen. He heads straight for Dwight’s house where he (correctly it turns out) assumes she is, and basically waits in the bushes for her to leave. Creeper, much? Nobody is coming out looking great in this situation.

Back at their house the next morning, Mark confronts his wife about her whereabouts and what she was doing. She tries to lie her way out of it, then tries to claim it was nothing, then insists that Mark’s to blame anyway for leaving her alone all the time. Then the two of them end up fighting –like Karen is wildly slapping him, and Mark grabs her to try and stop her flailing around. And somehow in the middle of all this he….breaks her spine? The way the scene is shot is terribly awkward and confusing – it basically looks like he hugs her to death, and there’s a sickening crack when her back breaks. She’s dead, of course, and Mark has killed her, and he looks horrified when he realizes what he’s done.

Francis is So Terrible. George hangs out at Trenwith for a while, drinking with Francis and listening to him complaining about the Verity/Ross/Andrew situation some more. George Warleggan has endless patience, apparently, I’ll give him that. Francis goes on and on about loyalty and betraaayaaaaaal some more, and George insists that he doesn’t understand Ross at all either. He starts complaining about how Ross doesn’t want to bank with his family when everyone else does, and how he basically created that whole second smelting company to thwart the Warleggans. (How does he even know Ross is part of that? I mean, it seems an easy assumption but still.)

Francis, for a minute, tries to do the right thing on this particular issue, insisting that Ross only wants to secure fairer prices and wages for all the miners and smelters and shareholders involved. George is basically just convinced that Ross is doing it because he hates him, and he doesn’t deserve that, any more than Francis deserves his betrayal of the family.  Sensing a friendly audience,  Francis proceeds to get drunker and drunker, and complain about his cousin more and more aggressively.

Because he is an idiot, Francis can’t keep his complaining confined to the Verity issue, he has to start ranting about Ross’ extensive “scheming” and how he’s disgraced the Poldark name. George just lets him talk and keeps right on digging for more info about the smelting company, and Francis is drunk enough and mad enough to tell him everything. He gives George the names of all the other people who have invested with Ross, because Francis is just so incredibly terrible and easily led. Ugh, Francis, why.

Karen’s Body is Found. The next morning, Mark leaves his cottage, still in shock about Karen’s death and appears to just start walking the earth. A few minutes later, Dwight shows up, ostensibly having gotten up early to go to a strange man’s house and confess his adultery, I don’t know. Anyway, he’s the one who finds Karen’s body and things move pretty quickly from there.

Two of Mark’s miner friends run straight to see Ross, to tell him what’s happened and insist that maybe it could still be an accident and they’re not BFFs with a murderer. Ross insists that he has to talk to Mark so they can try to figure out what happened. He also says that he’s known Mark since they were boys and he has no wish to turn him in or see him hung, I guess because he’s convinced he never would have meant to kill his wife, I guess.

(Sidebar: I’m already sort of furious about this – whatever I get they’re all friends and the show’s trying super hard to sell this Mark’s just a big nice guy who doesn’t know his own strength and Karen was terrible anyway angle but come on. He just murdered a woman. And it makes me sad that whether he meant to do it or not – I’ll give him that he didn’t – he still did it and doesn’t deserve to escape punishment for it, let alone have the main hero character help him out while people rant about justice. Harumph. End sidebar.)

Meanwhile, Dwight is just all kinds of upset about what happened to Karen and blames himself. Ross explains that he doesn’t think the villagers will help them catch Mark and that Dwight himself is also probably at risk for some form of retaliation from them as well. He urges his friend to leave town for a bit until the Mark situation is handled. Dwight refuses because he doesn’t want to run off and hide while the man “he wronged” is hunted down by authorities (for the murder he committed BUT whatever). Ross is all ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ about it and says Dwight’s blood is on his own head then if Mark just happens to murder him in a rage. Everyone in this storyline is possibly too stupid to live, the end.

The Poldarks Decide to Hide a Fugitive. Ross heads home to tell Demelza the latest about the Dwight, Mark and Karen situation. She’s concerned about everybody, and especially worried that Mark will get hanged if he’s caught. Of course that’s right when Mark and his random friend (brother?) show up at their house looking for help.

Mark says he didn’t mean to kill Karen, but he did. His friend/possible brother pipes up that obviously Karen drove him to do what he did, her and Dwight. Ross says that the courts won’t ever accept that, probably because it is an incredibly stupid and gross defense, but whatever. Mark is also concerned about being a threat to others, specifically Dwight Ennis, because he apparently doesn’t think he’ll be able to stop himself from violently murdering him on sight. (Arrggh, just need this storyline to be over so badly it’s making me crazy.)

For some reason, this all convinces Ross that he needs to help Mark get away, and concocts a plan that involves him sneaking away in the Poldark boat from Nampara Cove. He tells Demelza that they have to keep Mark away from Dwight, because of the likelihood of violent murdering, and she agrees. Moments later, a group of soldiers show up at their house, having been deputized by the local magistrate in the search for Mark. Ross and Demelza entertain them, make small talk, and pretend they don’t know anything about Mark or his whereabouts.

Verity’s Getting Married! Elizabeth sends Ross and Demelza a note about Verity’s impending nuptials. Demelza seems pleased, but Ross is concerned about the curt tone of the message and decides to head to Trenwith to try and smooth things over with Francis and Elizabeth. This is a very dumb idea, because as we’ve all seen about six times previously, Francis has no chill. Particularly as regards his sister and any choice she might take it upon herself to make about her own life.

So, Francis shouts at Ross for awhile about how worthless he is and accuses him of being the reason for all the family’s ills, since he’s the one who helped Verity communicate with Blamey and sneak out. Ross strenuously denies this, saying that after Francis was nearly killed in that stupid duel he wanted no part of any of the Blamey situation. Francis is having none of this, and Elizabeth suggests that Ross should probably leave.

Farncis, meanwhile, is still shouting about how Verity couldn’t have managed the elopement on her own, and Ross must have helped her, and calls him disloyal and insults Demelza. Things almost come to blows before Elizabeth steps in to break things up. Ross starts to leave in a rage and Francis starts shouting crazily about how he has no cousin or sister anymore and ugggggh.  This entire family is so stupid. Crazy Aunt Poldark is better than all of them.

The Great Escape Begins. Meanwhile, Dwight comes by Nampara looking for company, only he doesn’t know Ross is out dealing with all his current life drama. Demelza tries to convince Dwight to leave, explaining that a bunch of stuff is going down that night, probably, but before she can get him out of the house, Mark and His Random Friend/Possible Brother show up, insisting that there are soldiers everywhere, and they didn’t know where else to go. Dun dun dun….

Predictably, Mark and Dwight immediately get in each others’ faces, because this is obviously about them and not the fact that a girl is dead. Whatever.  Demelza jumps in between them, and tells them to stop – well, more like asks them to not commit murder in her house. She argues that Dwight can’t tell the soldiers he saw Mark without implicating the Poldarks, and that means they can trust him. Everyone calms down and eventually Ross returns to lead Mark to the boat they’ve had waiting. But of course a bunch of random soldiers show up out of nowhere and they all have to fight them off (and shoot one of them dead I guess) so Mark can escape. Then Ross races back home and goes through an elaborate costume change so he can pretend to have been asleep in bed the whole time, even though I’m pretty sure at least one of those soldiers had to actually have seen him, but who even cares at this point. Just make this dumb storyline be over.

Demelza Has Kind of Made a Mess of Things. Verity and Andrew Blamey get married and they look really happy whilst doing it, too bad that literally everyone else hates their relationship. Demelza goes to Trenwith to confess to Francis that it’s her fault that Verity ran away, and tells him that she served as the go between for their letters and everything. Francis is crazily furious at her, too, and calls her some unflattering names and tells her to never come back to their house again.

That’s not even the worst thing. Ross gets summoned to a secret smelting company shareholder meeting, where he’s informed that the Warleggans have basically met with all the partners who bank with them (like 80% of their board). He knew who they were because Francis got drunk and told George all their names while he was in a snit at Ross. And the Warleggans have promised to call in all their loans and bankrupt them or have them thrown into debtors’ prison or whatever. The company is probably ruined because now they have no more money or capital and some of the shareholders are probably going to jail.

Demelza then has to fill Ross in on the trip to Trenwith and the fact that she was the go-between for Verity and her boyfriend and encouraged them to be together. He’s also furious with her now, because the destruction of the smelting company and all its members has come about solely because Francis was so stupidly mad about the Verity situation, and blamed Ross for it. Ross is furious at her,  and says that because of what she did – good men are reduced to poverty and bankruptcy, their family is broken, their smelting business is probably ruined and all manner of terrible things are probably going to happen, because Demelza shipped Blamey and Verity so hard.

Demelza then really freaks out, suddenly that she has betrayed Ross, and caused his cousin to betray him, too. She’s upset that she’s broken Ross’s trust and wants to know if she’s ruined things between them forever or if she has any hope of winning his favor back. Ross says he doesn’t know, and Demelza again insists that she was only trying to help. She begs him to forgive her – and goodness but if this scene isn’t uncomfortable and terrible, she’s literally on her knees to Ross for half of it – and he says he will try. He doesn’t particularly sound like he’s going to try that hard, but whatever. Anyway, Demelza goes on for a while longer about how Francis will never forgive them and she’s caused a rift in their family. She declares she won’t ever be happy until the break is healed and Ross basically tells her to get comfortable with being unhappy for a long time then. Womp womp.

The Putrid Throat Arrives in Cornwall. People all around town start getting violently sick with something attractively described as “the putrid throat”. The poor are the worst off, but it seems to be becoming something of an epidemic, as all the servants at Trenwith appear to be affected. Dwight is not super clear on what entails, but the name is basically enough for me to know I want nothing to do with it. Ross rides to Trenwith to ask after the family, but their dumb doctor insists that they’re all fine. Of course, since the next shot is of Francis coughing aggressively, it seems unlikely that that is true.

That guess is born out when, what appears to be mere minutes later, Jinny tells Demelza that everyone at Trenwith is sick, all the servants are laid up, and there’s no one to tend to anything. She also mentions that Useless Doctor has gone off to Truro. Demelza, who is trying her hardest to be the World’s Best Person in the wake of her earlier mistakes, high tails it to Francis and Elizabeth’s house to nurse the family on her own.

Smelting Company Drama Continues. Ross and his compatriots have scraped up enough capital to make one final try at the latest ore auction – with the hope that they can keep things going if they can just manage to buy some copper. They all slow-motion walk into the building, so you know they’re serious, but sadly, they are unsuccessful. The Warleggans manage to buy everything, because of course they do, and the fate of Ross’ smelting company seems pretty dire.

Really dire, actually. Ross has a meeting with the two other smelting shareholders that remain – whether the others are in debtors prison or in hiding or what is unclear. Since they’ve not managed to actually purchase any copper, they decide to dissolve the copper company entirely. George Warleggan then adds insult to injury by creepily stalking Ross around town to try and get him to sell some shares in Wheal Leisure. Ross, of course, is not having it, and George snits that eventually he’s going to be broke and friendless and will have no one to blame but himself. Spoiler alert: George is human garbage.

Sickness is So Gross. Demelza, after creeping around Trenwith in the dark for a bit, discovers that literally everyone but Crazy Aunt Poldark is bedridden and grossly ill. Of course Crazy Aunt Poldark appears to be fine, and seems quite put out that there’s nobody to take care of all these sick people that have materialized around her.

Elizabeth, who looks like something out of The Walking Dead herself, is frantic with worry about her son, who is also ill and vomiting all the time. Demelza promises to stay and take care of the whole family, and Elizabeth starts weeping in gratitude. Even Francis manages to say something nice about how great it is that Demelza has been able to overlook their past grievances to help them. Demelza is a really rare thing – that Mary Sue character you kind of can’t help but really like, no matter how endlessly perfect they turn out to be.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished. The next day, Demelza heads home after nursing the other half of the Poldark clan, and confesses to Ross that she went to Trenwith. Ross is sort of snotty about it, even though nursing your sick family back to health without considering any risk to yourself is exactly the sort of thing he’d do, but he finally admits that Demelza’s action was meant kindly and probably really helped them.

Unfortunately, despite her well meant intentions, Demelza has only ended up bringing the putrid throat home with her to Nampara – she herself falls extremely ill, and so does little Julia. Ross races off to fetch Dwight, who confirms that they’re both very ill and counsels Ross to prepare himself that they both might not live through the night. He advises his friend to pray. Ross installs himself at his wife’s bedside as Demelza tosses and turns in that way that attractive way that sick people on television always do. She starts hallucinating and seeing visions of her father and Francis  and Ross berating her, and Elizabeth encouraging her to let go so she can have Ross all to herself. It’s really creepy, actually.

Things get even worse when Dwight breaks the news that he’s not going to be able to save Julia, and that the little girl is going to die. Ross promises to stay with his daughter, so that she won’t be afraid and it’s all pretty heartbreaking all around, especially when he returns to Demelza’s bedside with that little bracelet she’d made her daughter all those episodes ago. The lesson here we should all take away is probably that no one on earth should ever do anything nice for Francis Poldark.

They bury Julia the next day, and the whole town turns out to pay their respects. Even Vile George Warleggan has the grace to look sad and abashed when his father tells him the news.  

And Then There’s a Shipwreck. No, Really. Back at Nampara, Ross is busy having a breakdown, which is probably to be excepted at this point. He blames himself for not providing for his family better, insisting everything he touches is cursed. Dwight tries to comfort him but Ross isn’t listening to that right now. He wanders the estate in a storm, distraught. It’s so dramatic!

While he’s wandering the estate he does see the Warleggans new ship, the Queen Charlotte, dashed on the rocks off one of the many area cliffs, which seems like the sort of plot point that will be important later for multiple reasons. For the moment, Ross is just excited because it means the cargo can provide for the townspeople, and immediately races off to find Jud so they can start spreading the word that the people will be able to find plenty to help sustain themselves in the wreckage. And somehow, this is true – as it appears the bulk of the ship’s cargo has not only managed to safely drift to the shore but also not be damaged beyond repair by either the massive storm or the ocean.

The Vile Warleggans, of course, are livid when they find out what is happening, and start making plans to prosecute Ross for plunder and lawlessness. (Which apparently it’s legal to take things from shipwrecks if they wash up on your land so IDEK what their logic here is.) Anyway, Vile Warleggan the Elder doesn’t even care if he was actually involved or not (“You’re not suggesting we wait for actual evidence?”), he just wants to see Ross punished and beaten down, probably just because he is vile.

The situation on the beach devolves rapidly when the ship’s crew and the red coats arrive. Fighting breaks out and somehow like everything is on fire. There’s an awkward slow motion sequence that seems to be inserted her for no reason, and Ross eventually discovers a pack of survivors himself. They chat for a minute, and the ship’s captain is all sort of salty about how “disgraceful” it is that people are all over the beach taking whatever they can find. Ross says that the world’s full of monstrous things and if they want some shelter for the night they should come with him and just looks 10000% done with everything. He takes them back to Nampara.

Meanwhile, Demelza Pulls Through. While Ross is out dealing with the shipwreck, Dwight is staying with Demelza. Elizabeth shows up to help, since apparently she just got over the whole putrid throat thing with serious quickness. But, she’s still there, which counts for something. When Ross gets home she tries to apologize for missing Julia’s funeral and for the fact that the reason his family is sick in the first place is because Demelza was taking care of Elizabeth’s. She wants to know what she can do to help, and Ross says she can just pray to God that he doesn’t lose the love of his life.

Elizabeth seems kind of taken aback by the directness of this comment, and watches Ross sit at Demelza’s bedside and beg her to wake up. So, this is kind of weird, right? I mean, yay, I guess it seems like Ross is making a definitive statement about which of the two of them he loves more, but it kind of also feels super unearned, especially as he’s been treating Demelza so poorly since the Verity situation, and also because Ross always just seems to have a general air of “pining for Elizabeth” about him, no matter what he’s doing. I’m not sure why that is, especially this late in the show, but other than a sudden deathbed conversion, as it were, they’ve shown us very little in the way of how or why Ross’ feelings have evolved. Whatever, maybe now the show – and the character – can move forward past this love triangle that never even seemed to really get started. Here’s hoping.

Anyway, Demelza eventually wakes up, seemingly having beaten the disgusting putrid throat, and asks after her daughter. Ross has to tell her about everything that’s happened while she’s been ill, including the shipwreck and the fact that Julia was taken ill. He can’t bring himself to actually say she died, though, and just hands Demelza that tiny little bracelet she’d made her. Demelza starts crying and asking if Julia was afraid when she died and it’s all very heartbreaking and sad. Demelza sobs and sobs into Ross’s shoulder.

Time to Set Things  Up for Season 2! As the episode winds down, it’s time to start putting the pieces into place for Poldark to continue next year.

Vile George Warleggan shows up at Trenwith to see Francis and Elizabeth. Francis says he can’t deal with this, so Elizabeth has to handle him by herself. He tells her, in the creepily flirtatious way he always gets when he’s anywhere near Elizabeth, that his cousin Vile Matthew the Card Shark died in the shipwreck off Poldark’s beach. He then makes a weird, rambling speech about choosing sides and declaring loyalties and apparently it’s meant to let Elizabeth know – clearly, he says, though obviously his definition of that word is different from mine – that he has a thing for her, and wants to be with her. He kisses her hand. This is officially the most roundabout, bizarre declaration of love I have ever seen. Vile George says he doesn’t want his intentions misunderstood, which I guess is great but I hope Elizabeth is picking up what he’s putting down because I have no idea what he’s talking about. Does he want to have an affair with her? Does he want her to divorce Francis? Does he want her to look the other way while Francis falls down a mine shaft? What is even going on?

Demelza is sitting on Julia’s bed, still crying, and lamenting the fact that she didn’t get the chance to say goodbye to her daughter because she’d been so sick when the funeral happened. Ross takes her – where else – on a horseback up to one of the cliff tops, so they can stare at the beautiful scenery together. She says that in light of everything that’s happened, Ross must make things right with Francis. He says her generosity of spirit makes him feel ashamed, and that he’ll invite Francis to join him at Wheal Leisure and they’ll try and resurrect the Poldark mines together. Demelza cries some more – Eleanor Tomlinson is sure a very pretty crier – and releases Julia’s little bracelet into the wind.

And of course, just in case you thought the season was going to end on a hopeful note, that’s the exact moment that a random squad of red coats shows up to arrest Ross, on charges of wrecking, inciting a riot and murder. Apparently he’s been accused by George Warleggan. Ross is taken away by the squad of soldiers, as Demelza looks on, distraught.

Boom, that’s the end of Season 1! What did you think, guys? I thought this season had a lot to recommend it – but also a lot of boring, unnecessary bits. Will be interested to hear 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 Twitter at @LacyMB