Recapping 'Poldark': Season 2, Episode 2

Ross and Demelza in "Poldark" Season 2 (Photo:  Courtesy of Adrian Rogers/Mammoth Screen for BBC and MASTERPIECE)

Poldark, Season 2 MASTERPIECE on PBS Episode Two | Sunday, October 2nd at 9pm ET on PBS | George tries plan B against Ross. Jud pays a steep price for treachery. Francis has a meeting of minds with his cousin. Demelza breaks difficult news. Shown: Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza and Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark (C) Adrian Rogers/Mammoth Screen for BBC and MASTERPIECE

© Adrian Rogers

Previously on Poldark: Ross is arrested and put on trial for encouraging wrecking and inciting a riot. Vile George Warleggan makes it his personal mission to try and get Ross thrown in jail for life or hanged, because he hates him completely. For some reason. He even tries to bribe Ross’ awful servant Jud to testify against him. After much angsting from literally every other character on the show about Ross’ future and a long speech to the jury where he talks about how rough poor people have it in the world, Ross is acquitted, just like we all knew he would be. New characters the Penvenens arrive on the scene, and Miss Caroline is quite taken with Ross’ dishy doctor friend Dwight Enys.

Need more details? You can find last week’s recap here

Ross’ trial is over, so we’re on to a whole new story this season. Let’s get into it. 

Our Post-Trial Season Begins.  Now that the mess of Ross’ trial is out of the way, the new season of Poldark can get a proper start. It’s almost harvest time, and Ross is busy wandering the gorgeous fields of Cornwall, so everything almost feels normal again.

Elsewhere, Vile George Warleggan is learning how to fight. I think that proper gentlemen probably call this “boxing,” but George is busy throwing punches at nothing in his living room and hyping himself up that these are the skills that are going to protect him from Ross. He seems pretty sure that Ross is out for some serious vengeance and possible physical violence since he, you know, tried to have him killed and all. His primary creepy flunky tells Warleggan that even though Ross isn’t dead, they can still go after him in other ways. Particularly his finances, because they are terrible.

This statement is proven true almost immediately, when Ross gets a letter that informing him that he has a thousand-pound debt coming due, like, this week. Of course he actively works to keep this info from his wife, because Ross isn’t so much with the sharing. For her part, Demelza wants to know why Ross hasn’t been around much since escaping the threat of prison or worse last week.  He just says he’s been busy with the mine and harvest stuff, and he has to head off to Truro for a shareholders meeting anyway, so he really doesn’t have time for her feelings or anything messy like that. Demelza heads off to the beach, to contemplate how to tell Ross that she’s pregnant, or maybe to think how good it would feel to hit him in is dumb face sometimes.

Hi, Ross’ Random Army Friend! Captain McNeil, an old army buddy of Ross’, shows up one day out of the blue at Nampara.  He says he’s in town because the laughably named Unwin Trevaunce his hired him to oversee local security, but he’s happy he can use this time to catch up with old friends. He seems very taken with Demelza, and tells her that Sir Hugh Bodregun would really like it if she’d come visit his sick cow. There is much to unpack here – first of all, I had to google who Captain McNeil even was, because I had completely forgotten him. Apparently he did actually appear in Season 1, when he was in town to investigate some smuggling and murder. He also has the world’s worst accent – it’s honestly difficult to understand him in places. What accent is that even supposed to be? Scottish? Oh, and also Sir Hugh is apparently an infamous lech, and Demelza doesn’t look like she’s planning to go see him anytime soon. 

Anyway, Ross comes home in the midst of this conversation. He’s surprised to see his old friend, but they bro it out with plenty of dumb army-related jokes. Ross says if Demelza wants to go over to Sir Hugh’s she can, and he’s sure she can handle herself. He’s actually really salty and rude to both his wife and his friend, and it seems to come out of nowhere. Later, Demelza wants to know why Ross so incredibly rude and also left her stuck entertaining his dumb friend on her own. Ross continues to be short and rude to her (where is this jerk behavior coming from??), and also manages to imply that his friend Captain McNeil has a thing for her on top of everything. (I mean, he probably does, which whatever, but the truly gross part of this is that Ross straight up implies that Demelza is both encouraging and enjoying his infatuation. What a hero!) Ross also maybe kind of implies that Demelza is the kind of person (read: a dumb, country rube) who might easily find herself swayed by a pretty uniform.  Wow.

Man, Demelza is way too good for Ross. She storms off to go angry power walk through the forest and brood about the fact that she’s having a baby with this idiot. 

Captain McNeil rides to the rescue. Or really just a visit. Still. (Photo:  Courtesy of Mammoth Screen for BBC and MASTERPIECE)
Captain McNeil rides to the rescue. Or really just a visit. Still. (Photo:  Courtesy of Mammoth Screen for BBC and MASTERPIECE)

The Shareholders Meeting Seems Fun. The next day, Ross heads to Truro for the Wheal Leisure shareholders meeting, which basically sounds like my idea of hell. It turns out that some random woman we don’t know has sold her shares in the mine to some other random man we don’t know. This matters because the random man is a Warleggan proxy and is represented by George’s Flunky in Chief.  (His name is apparently Tankard, just in case you thought he couldn’t’ possibly get stupider as a character.) So the Warleggans now have a puppet vote on the Wheal Leisure board, who will clearly be driven by their irrational Ross hate. Fun! Ross is pretty irritated that the Warleggans have gotten a foothold in his mine.

Turns out that he also doesn’t have the greatest financial news to report. The mine’s been open for four years and they’ve doubled their number of employees, but they’ve consistently only displayed a small profit. No one’s getting rich off of that, but things are mostly going okay. Ross is hopeful that they’ll find more copper soon, and wants to devote the quarter’s profits to opening an exploratory tunnel to speed up the search. Creepy Tankard doesn’t like this, and wants to know who’s going to do all this digging – the folks who already have day jobs? He thinks this will impact his client’s profits.  Ross wants to hire six new men to help, which means they’ll have to pay more men. Tankard looks smug, but the bulk of the rest of the shareholders vote to let the plan go forward.

Well, This Feels Kind of Humiliating. Ross finally apologizes to Demelza for being a jerk about his army friend before. His apology is immediately followed by a confession that the two of them are totally broke. All they have are his shares in Wheal Leisure, which isn’t exactly making wild profits these days. And it turns out that Ross isn’t even taking a salary – he’s plowing all his money back into the mine, in the hopes it will help them find copper faster. Seriously, what are the two of them even living on??? Anyway, they have no money, and that thousand pound loan that Ross took out last year without telling Demelza is coming due. Plus 40% interest. Yikes.

Ross says it’s time to start trying to sell everything that isn’t nailed down, and, in the meantime, he’s going to try and get the loan extended for another year. Demelza, looking to help, decides that it’s time to visit the lecherous Sir Hugh about his sick cow. She convinces him that his cow is worthless and asks if he might want to buy theirs as a replacement. Unfortunately, Sir Hugh has heard about the Poldark family’s financial straits. He says he’d be willing to help them out “if the terms were good”, which seems to translate to “if Demelza will basically prostitute herself to him”. He even tries to force himself on her, but happily Captain McNeil and his dreadful accent are there to save the day.  (Also wow, Captain McNeil is so into Demelza, y’all! This is so not going to end well.)

Meanwhile, Ross manages to get his loan extended again, provided that they can pay the interest on it in the next 24 hours. This works out to be like 400 pounds, so he and Demelza have to start selling off everything – farm animals, estate goods, furniture, household items. He even sells a piece of Demelza’s jewelry. It seems pretty embarrassing and awful.

Eleanor Tomlinson has the best hair. Wow.  (Photo:  Courtesy of Adrian Rogers/Mammoth Screen for BBC and MASTERPIECE)
Eleanor Tomlinson has the best hair. Wow.  (Photo:  Courtesy of Adrian Rogers/Mammoth Screen for BBC and MASTERPIECE)

Jud is Our Fakeout Death of the Week. Vile Warleggan’s creepy flunkies corner Jud in the woods. They’re there to basically dole out some payback for that time he reneged on their deal to provide him with money in exchange for his testimony against Ross. Since Jud kept the money and testified the exact opposite of what he was supposed to, the Warleggan flunkies are pretty mad.

Jud tries to play stupid and feeble, but it doesn’t work. He finally offers to just give the Vile Crew their money back and call everything square. Too bad for Jud that they’ve already decided that they don’t actually care so much about the money as they do about teaching him a (very painful) lesson. So, Unnamed Random Flunky proceeds to just beat the living crap out of him, as Creepy Tankard watches from a distance.

And then, because this season appears to be going for a weird thing where they try and convince us that a major character has died every week, the show spends quite a bit of time letting us think that Jud has actually been beaten to death. But we all know that I will never in life be that lucky, right? His “body” is brought to Prudie, everyone talks about how great and pure and selfless Jud was, and how great it was he didn’t testify against Ross. They even have a funeral wake, kind of? Honestly, they let the “Jud is dead” conceit go on for a really long time – body stealers, really? – and it’s sort of irritating, actually. I mean, did anyone actually believe that Jud is dead? Did people find it charming that he suddenly woke up from his coma or whatever it was and complained about how improper it was there wasn’t any booze to drink when he woke up? Why?

I know that my constant hating on Jud Paynter is probably annoying some of you all, but I honestly can’t help it. I don’t see what value this character adds to the show, and I don’t know why he’s supposed to be amusing or entertaining. Can someone explain this to me like I’m five? Couldn’t this time have been better spent explaining why the ostensible hero of our story is acting like a bitchy pod person post-trial? Or, you know, anything

Time for a Harvest Party! Elizabeth wants to mend fences between her family and Ross and Demelza. So she gets Enys to invite the two of them to a Harvest Supper that Francis has decided to throw for his tenants and friends to celebrate the season or whatever. Enys passes along the invite, but Ross totally doesn’t want to go at first because he’s still blaming Francis and Elizabeth for getting Julia sick. The attack on Jud makes him change his tune though, and he suddenly realizes that being angry with Francis is exactly what Vile Warleggan would want him to do. And since both he and George are pretty much living their lives thinking about the other at this point, Ross decides that it’s time to fix things with his cousin.

Ross and Demelza head off to party at Trenwith, and Francis and Elizabeth are both so delighted to see them. After a few moments of awkwardness, Ross and Francis hug it out, say some flattering things to each other’s wives and everyone scythes some wheat together in harmony. They all end up walking back to the house in slow mo, lit by a beautiful sunset and bathed in the satisfied glow of a hard day’s work well done. Or something.

Francis shouts about some weird harvest ritutal (I have no idea), and when they arrive back at the house there’s music and dancing. Suddenly everyone remembers how to have fun! Isn’t this show great when everything’s not so gloomy??

Dwight and Caroline are So a Thing.  Dwight Enys and Caroline Penvenen’s flirtation continues this week, but, honestly, the most notable thing that happens is that Caroline gets and AMAZINGLY STUNNING red riding habit. It’s so gorgeous! That hat!

Other than Caroline’s stunning clothes, things sort of continue as they were: Enys and Caroline stare at each other across various distances and in town they have an awkward conversation about how difficult it must be for the Poldarks to have to publically sell half of their belongings. And Caroline uses a sore throat as an excuse to have Enys come and check her over for any potentially deadly illness she may or may not have. (She’s fine, for the record. Apparently her sore throat was caused by a chicken bone stick in her throat.) Can these two just get to the smooching already? Their “flirting” is kind of terrible.

Caroline's dress is so gorgeous!  (Photo:  Courtesy of Adrian Rogers/Mammoth Screen for BBC and MASTERPIECE)
Caroline's dress is so gorgeous!  (Photo:  Courtesy of Adrian Rogers/Mammoth Screen for BBC and MASTERPIECE)

Ross Has Some Heart to Hearts. Francis and Ross have a drink together at the harvest supper and finally patch things up between them. Francis tells Ross all about his plans to get back into mining, and goes on for a bit about how happy he is to have him under his roof again. It’s very sweet, and I love it. I also love this post-suicide-attempt version of Francis, who seems to have decided to embrace the love in his life with both hands. It’s adorable, and Francis is maybe my favorite of everyone at the moment.

Anyway, Ross stays up for a bit after Francis goes to bed, and helps Elizabeth clean up. The two of them also end up having a talk, because ‘tis the season I guess. Only theirs…goes a little differently They discuss the family finances and how both of them have changed in recent months. As the conversation progresses the two start skirting around the edges of their previous feelings for one another. Ross gets very nostalgic about the way they both used to be, and the life they might have had together. He’s stares rather mournfully at her, and stands inappropriately close to her, and there’s a weird sense that he’s probably going to try and kiss her at any moment. Elizabeth, for her part, tries to explain that she’s learned to appreciate what she has in her life, instead of what she lacks. That she’s attempting to make the best of the hand she’s been dealt. She says she doesn’t think she and Ross would have ever been happy together, because they have such different characters. Ross says he still thinks love can always overcome obstacles like that. There’s another long moment where it looks like he’s either going to kiss her or say something more direct, but after some intense staring, Elizabeth just tells Ross he should go to bed.

See, here is the thing. In the end, I am not averse to Ross and Elizabeth acknowledging that they have a complex history together and they each have complicated feelings where the other is concerned. That’s honest. And it’s only natural that both of them wonder what might have been – and it’s not like the fact that Elizabeth agreeing to marry Francis automatically turned either of their feelings off. I actually like the two of them together, in some ways. The show is much more interesting when the complicated threads of this quartet of people are acknowledged honestly. But this seems like Ross just…not being happy with his wife for whatever reason, and wanting attention from Elizabeth to make up for it. It feels extremely immature – especially given that if we’re to believe the rest of the story, he and Elizabeth have barely seen each other in forever anyway. Where is this weird nostalgic pining coming from? It feels like something that’s happening because the story says it should, rather than a natural occurrence because Ross has been still thinking about this. (There’s been no sign that he’s given Elizabeth a second thought in months. Where is this coming from?)

Maybe I’m missing the point of this. I don’t know – I’ll be curious to hear what y’all think in the comments.

Of Course Demelza’s Been Listening. Naturally, Demelza’s been creeping outside the door, listening to this entire conversation between her husband and his ex and she’s not happy about it. (Though I expect any wife is probably not going to love hearing her husband tell his ex how perfect she is.) But she rushes off before either of them can discover her.

When Ross comes to bed, Demelza doesn’t mention what she heard. Instead, she tells him that Jud is miraculously not dead, and the two of them reminisce about the last time they were at Trenwith. That was the first time Ross told Demelza he loved her, and was also when she told him she was pregnant with Julia. Demelza snorts and says those were clearly different times since now he doesn’t want any more children at all, and back then he would never have looked twice at another woman. Ross, who is a jerk, eyerolls and says of course men look at other women sometimes. Because Ross is kind of terrible, y’all! Seriously, it’s a good thing this week that Aidan Turner is so stupidly goodlooking because Good Lord but if every woman on this show – and I’m including Crazy Aunt Agatha – isn’t too good for Ross Poldark. Season 3 story idea: Maybe all the women can just ditch their weak men and form sort sort of Themyscira-esque female-only society like in Wonder Woman. I’d watch that.

Somehow this conversation leads to Ross figuring out that Demelza is pregnant again though. Because now is the time he finally decides to be insightful, I guess? Anyway, Demelza says she knows he doesn’t want another child, but it’s happening so best make the best of it. Ross says he still doesn’t think he wants another child, but since this is a real baby now and not a hypothetical, he’s willing to risk his heart again. They hug it out and everything is cool now, I guess?

And that’s the end of our episode. Are we just supposed to assume that all is well now between Ross and Demelza because she told him about the baby and he managed to act vaguely like a non-jerk human being? Are we going to deal with what Demelza overheard, or the fact that she clearly still feels threatened by Elizabeth in some way? Guess we’ll have to wait till next week.

Hit the comments, though, and let’s discuss. 

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