Recapping 'Poldark': Season 2, Episode 4

Kyle Soller as Francis Poldark. (Photo: Courtesy of Mammoth Screen for BBC and MASTERPIECE)

Poldark, Season 2 MASTERPIECE on PBS Episode Four Sunday, October 23rd at 9pm ET on PBS George maneuvers Poldark toward checkmate. The law hunts down free traders. Caroline chooses between Unwin and Dwight. Francis goes missing. Shown: Kyle Soller as Francis Courtesy of Mammoth Screen/BBC and MASTERPIECE

Previously on Poldark: Desperate to get out from under the thumb of Vile George Warleggan, Ross and Francis decide to go into business together and reopen the mine at Wheal Leisure. They’re pretty excited about it, and it’s very cute to watch the whole Poldark clan mend fences and reunite with one another. Francis even decides to finally forgive Verity for marrying Andrew Blamey! Elsewhere, Dwight Enys teaches Caroline Penvenen about how hard it is to get medical treatment as a poor person. As a result, she donates several batches of oranges to help those villagers stricken with scurvy and she and Dwight flirt some more. Elsewhere, Demelza goes into labor in a rowboat, before being rescued by Ross and giving birth to a boy. 

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

What’s Up with this Time Jump? Get ready folks, because there’s a very bizarre – and possibly unnecessary? – time jump this week. In the end, we’ve moved the story forward at least a year. I think? According to in-episode dialogue, a year has passed since Caroline Penvenen left to go back to London. But the child that Demelza had last week looks like he’s well older than a year now.  And of course somehow Elizabeth and Francis’ son looks basically the same age as he always has. Y’all, I have no idea. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Anyway, some stuff’s happened in the year-or-however-long-it’s-actually-been since the last episode. Francis and Ross’ new mine at Wheal Grace is chugging along, but they haven’t managed a real copper strike just yet. The random villagers’ local smuggling ring is having some issues because someone keeps informing on them. Everyone’s suspicious of everyone lese all over the village. As a result, Demelza wants Ross to stop letting the smugglers use Nampara Cove as a drop point, so as to avoid him getting arrested again. But Ross likes the money more than he’s afraid of the risk.

Caroline Penvenen returns to her uncle’s house, ostensibly because her sort-of, sort-of-not boyfriend Unwin Trevaunance is supposed to announce their engagement.

And Verity has apparently made up with Francis enough for them to be speaking again, but not for her to be a regular presence in her family home. This is a straight up guess, but given everyone’s reaction to her visit here, especially Crazy Aunt Agatha Poldark’s decision to act sick to try and get her to stay, it seems like Verity hasn’t exactly been to Trenwith much lately.

Heida Reed as Elizabeth Poldark (Photo: Courtesy of Mammoth Screen for BBC and MASTERPIECE)
Heida Reed as Elizabeth Poldark (Photo: Courtesy of Mammoth Screen for BBC and MASTERPIECE)

Where is this Ross and Elizabeth Business Coming From? Ray Penvenen throws a fancy dinner party, ostensibly to announce Caroline’s engagement. (Spoiler alert: He doesn’t, because Caroline has managed to avoid having to officially say yes to Unwin yet.) During said dinner, Ross is seated with Elizabeth, while Demelza is seated with Captain McNeil. The two have a long conversation about the current state of their respective relationships, as well as another completely unprompted discussion about the history between them. Elizabeth also basically admits that she loves Francis, but she loves Ross too, and that the two of them will always carry a piece of the other in their hearts. For his part, Ross looks kind of surprised by this sudden openness on the subject, probably because Elizabeth sounds like a completely different person than the last time they talked about this.

And because of this episode’s weird time jump, this conversation is even weirder than it appears on the surface. We all remember the awkward late night conversation that Ross and Elizabeth had after the harvest party at Trenwith. Well, here they are basically having it again – over a year later! Why? And Elizabeth’s entire attitude toward discussing the issue of their feelings for one another appears to have changed. Again, why? In their first conversation, it was Elizabeth who basically shut Ross down and reasserted her commitment to her husband. Where has her sudden change of heart come from? Has something happened during the Great Unseen Year? Or, even if she secretly still had Ross-related emotions in her heart, why suddenly decide that now is the time to discuss them? I mean, they’re at a public dinner party. I don’t get it. It’s been over a year since they last time they talked about this, after all. Where is it coming from? (And why can’t we see how the two of them got there?)

Let me be clear, though. I know that stories like this are often messy, and they need romantic drama to keep going. I’m not averse to Ross and Elizabeth both still dealing with ramifications of their feelings for one another – after all, their break-up was pretty sudden and Elizabeth only agreed to marry Francis because she thought Ross was dead. It makes sense that, even after all this time, there are still unresolved things between them. Love is messy and people have complicated emotions.

But the problem is – Poldark doesn’t play it like that. There’s really no consistency in how Ross and Elizabeth relate to one another, and we don’t see a realistic development of how either of them might be realizing or dealing with these feelings. In one episode they act completely normally together another and are loving toward their respective spouses. In another, Elizabeth behaves awkwardly around Ross. In a third, it’s Ross who seems hung up on the past and their relationship. Where is this going? It feels so unplanned, as though these characters behave in this way when it’s convenient for the story/plot that they do so, not because it’s an organic expression of how they feel. 

Vile George Warleggan Strikes Again. Elsewhere, Vile George Warleggan’s equally vile manservant Tankard informs his boss that he’s discovered Ross is in serious debt. And not only has he discovered the news about the debt, he’s learned what lender is in charge of it. Since his family already owns several banks it’s not much of a stretch for Warleggan to acquire the promissory note on Ross’ debt, which means that he can call it in whenever he likes. Or refuse to extend the loan again, which is the only way that Ross and Demelza survived the last time this loan came due. And they had to sell half their belongings just to pay the interest. So this is a potentially life ruining thing that George has, and can deploy basically whenever he wants.

Vile George also goes to see Elizabeth, to try and pressure her being friends with him again. Or, barring that, making Francis be friends with him again. It’s really gross, but because of the associated threat the promissory note has over Ross, Elizabeth says she’ll see what she can do about Francis. Oh, and on that same visit, Vile George also wishes Crazy Aunt Agatha dead to her face, if you needed yet another reason to hate his guts.

Caroline and Dwight Finally Make Some Progress. After a lot of back and forth, and cold shoulders and avoidance, Caroline and Dwight finally talk things out. Dwight admits that he hasn’t been able to stop thinking about her for the past year. He says has been living in fear about when he’ll hear the news that she’s married.

After much awkwardness, the two of them admit what is painfully obvious. Neither of them know anything about dating. Or wooing. Or even what to do when you like a person in a romantic way. As an heiress, Caroline only represents an extension of her money to most men. And as a doctor, Dwight doesn’t meet a lot of women except outside of illness and medical cases. Neither of them have any idea what to do or how to talk to each other.

It’s lucky that these two are cute when they’re being oblivious. Yes, this is an incredibly silly explanation for the, quite frankly, very immature behavior of both parties in this episode. But they have great chemistry, and have at least moved past the “I’m going to be really mean to you to show you that I like you” stage of their relationship.

And at least they finally figured out how to kiss each other.

Caroline says she has to go back to London until December, because her uncle’s angry at her. She says that in December, though, she comes of age, and that means things will change. They both look very hopeful at this, so I’m assuming it means that once she’s her own boss, so to speak, she’ll be able to choose for herself. (Does it? I have no idea. We’ll see!)

Kyle Soller as Francis Poldark. (Photo: Courtesy of Mammoth Screen for BBC and MASTERPIECE)
Kyle Soller as Francis Poldark. (Photo: Courtesy of Mammoth Screen for BBC and MASTERPIECE)

It’s Too Obvious Something Terrible is Going to Happen to Francis. Ever since Francis tried to kill himself earlier this season, he’s had a new lease on life both literally and figuratively. Yes, he survived what should have been a fatal gunshot wound to the head on the vaguest of technicalities, but you can’t argue that he didn’t make the utmost of his new lease on life. He’s been a changed character – supporting Ross, loving Elizabeth, basically being dad of the year to Geoffrey Charles. He’s told George Warleggan what he can go do with himself more than once. He’s even finally forgiven. Verity for falling in love. In short, Francis is freaking awesome right now. He’s a straight up joy to watch, and has been a real highlight of Season 2. So, since we’ve all seen television before, we should know that we can’t trust any of this.

The show isn’t subtle about the fact that something real bad is coming for Francis this week. He’s given many scenes whose sole purpose appears to be tying up loose ends – he’s kind to Verity, he reaffirms his love for Elizabeth, he’s determined to be the person that saves Wheal Grace. He apologizes (again!) for that time he sold Ross out to George. He stands up to George. He discovers the vein of copper that’s going to save them all. He even tells Demelza that she needs to get her self-esteem in check, because she’s an asset to the Poldark family.  Whew.

It probably shouldn’t surprise anybody that of course he literally falls down a mine shaft after all that. Where else have they left for him to go?

Ugh, Why Does This Show Hate Me? The impending doom I was stressing about after last week’s episode? Turns out to be totally accurate. Because of course Francis dies.  Of course he dies, because this show can’t let us have nice things ever. (I’m so salty about this because they really did a serious rehabilitation number on Francis this season, and he was the best part of it and now he’s gone, ugh.)

His death scene is really rough too – they try and drag it out, make you think Ross and the other miners are going to show up just in time to rescue him. There’s lots of shots of Francis clinging to the rocks and crying out for help, interspersed with weird flashbacks to their childhood. Ross and the others discover Francis what seems like just moments after he lets go, and drag him free of the water. For a moment, it’s easy to think that this is just another in this season’s long list of death fake-outs, but it’s not.

Because the point of those childhood flashbacks, was to clue us all in that Francis never learned to swim. He drowned, before Ross could get to him. It’s a complete gut punch. Ross is beside himself, but he’s not nearly as upset as I am. Dang it! Francis was my favorite thing about this season right now!

What’s Next? Well, the episode ends with Francis’ funeral, where everyone looks sad and heartbroken. Elizabeth sobs and sobs in Ross’ arms. Demelza watches from a pew, and looks pretty conflicted, since she knows that the two of them have talked about their apparently not-at-all dormant feelings before. Are we about to have a love triangle? I hope not. Though I’m not entirely sure what else they could do with Elizabeth now that Francis is dead, unless they marry her off again. And considering that probably means she’d just get stuck with disgusting George, I’d almost rather see her throw herself at Ross. It sill feels weird though.

Thoughts, folks? Hit the comments. 

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