Recapping 'Poldark': Season 2, Episode 8

Demelza looks amazing - that dress! (Photo: Courtesy of Mammoth Screen for BBC and MASTERPIECE)

Poldark, Season 2 MASTERPIECE on PBS Episode Eight Sunday, November 20th at 9pm ET on PBS Demelza and Ross wage bitter war. Elizabeth postpones a big event. Demelza toys with temptation. Ross’s good deed is repaid. Lady luck pays a visit. Shown: Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza Courtesy of Mammoth Screen/BBC and MASTERPIECE

© Adrian Rogers

Previously on Poldark: Elizabeth agrees to marry Vile George Warleggan, because she’s a broke widow with a child who’s out of options. Ross, as you might expect, doesn’t take well to this news and barges over to Trenwith to confront his ex about her choices that have no impact on his life at all. The two of them end up sleeping together, in an act that’s in an uncomfortable grey area, consent-wise. (Surprise: Ross is the worst!) Elsewhere, things are looking up for a moment at Wheal Grace when the miners discover a significant tin deposit, but a cave-in destroys all their hopes. (And kills a couple of people.) Dwight gets a letter from Caroilne, asking him to stop writing to her. And Ross admits to Demelza that he “had no choice” but to sleep with Elizabeth, and she knocks him flat.

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

Things are Not Great at Nampara. Not surprisingly, given Ross’ completely unapologetic confession to adultery last week, things are not so good between the Poldarks at Nampara. Ross is moping about the disaster at the mine, and Demelza is refusing to even come down for breakfast with him.  She’s also refusing to help with the chores or cook or do anything other than care for her son. This is funnier than it should be, because it leaves Ross to struggle with Prudie’s horrible cooking

Ross tries to apologize to Demelza again. Well, perhaps “apologize” is too strong a word, when he basically says that he never promised to be perfect and he knows her pride is hurt in the wake of what he did. That’s not exactly an apology. Demelza, who has every right to be as furious as she clearly is, says that she can’t believe she used to look up to his trifling self. She says it used to seem to her that he had an innate nobility of character, and she was proud to marry him. So it’s a shame that he actually turned out to be less than other men, so much so that she can’t be proud of him anymore.

I maybe rewound this scene and watched it twice, because I’ve been dying for someone, anyone to tell Ross Poldark about himself for this entire season. It’s just a shame that it took this long. 

Elizabeth Postpones Her Wedding.  For her part, Elizabeth is hanging around Trenwith, waiting for Ross to text her back. Metaphorically speaking of course. It’s obvious that she believes the fact that the two of them had sex has radically changed the landscape of her life. Even Aunt Agatha basically believes Ross will eventually choose Elizabeth over his wife. It’s just a matter of time.

Meanwhile, Vile George is busy sending out invitations to his wedding with Elizabeth. So he’s kiiind of taken aback when Elizabeth tells him that she wants to pump the brakes on their impending nuptials. She says that plunging into a new marriage so quickly looks tacky and she fears that she’s been rash. George is annoyed because he’s been inviting everyone and their mom, even though Elizabeth said she wanted a private ceremony. He wants to know if her sudden change of heart has anything to do with Ross, which Elizabeth denies. She says that he clearly doesn’t approve of their match, but just being around him made her think about how it hasn’t been that long since Francis died. George says that he’ll try to be indulgent as long as she picks a day for sure right now. She doesn’t really want to, but decides on a month, which you’d think we be enough time for Ross to make up his mind.

It seems worth saying though: Elizabeth is really good at managing George. 

Ross and Demelza Have It Out Again. Ross tells Demelza that he’s off to Truro on some business or other. She snorts, clearly believing that “business” means “going to see Elizabeth”. He tries to argue that he would never knowingly hurt her, but that “in the moment,” he didn’t think of her at all. He says it was like he was possessed, because heaven forbid that he actually take responsibility for himself. He even says, amazingly, that he had thought that he might get some understanding from Demelza, since they know each other so well and all. What “understanding” there is to be had here escapes me, though I expect it’s something to do with how hard it would be for Ross to put literally anyone else ahead of himself ever. He basically doesn’t understand how Demelza’s (completely and totally justified) rage serves the two of them now. Apparently Ross thought that his wife would just be…okay with what he did? Because he didn’t deny it? Because Elizabeth’s his ex? Because Demelza has in almost all other instances with him been such a pushover that he thinks she’ll just sit there and take some more crap treatment? Good for Demelza for being angry. Her rage is absolutely understandable, and I hope she stays mad at him for the rest of the season. Ross doesn’t deserve her forgiveness, and he’s doing absolutely done nothing to earn it. 

Demelza Tries to Be a Bad Person. Demelza decides that she’s in the mood to get herself some revenge, so she sends Ross’ regrets but takes herself to a house party at the lecherous Sir Hugh’s place. Captain MacNeil, her flirty man friend who’s been popping up off and on all season is also there. Demelza dresses herself up to the nines, in a super dramatic red dress that is gorgeous. She goes to the party to dance and flirt and just generally let men (MacNeil especially) tell her how pretty she looks. She even lets MacNeil kiss her a couple of times while they take a stroll around the backyard at one point.

She eventually invites Captain MacNeil back to her room, but ultimately can’t go through with the act of cheating on Ross. She wishes it weren’t so, but she’s bound to him, even though he is total trash. MacNeil tries to talk her in to sleeping with him anyway and Demelza eventually has to shove him off her when he gets too grabby. I mean, I guess we’re lucky in that Poldark didn’t feel the need to feature rapes in back-to-back episodes, but ugh, seriously, is Dwight the only moderately decent man in this village? Captain MacNeil leaves. Demelza starts crying, saying that she hates Ross. Us too, honey. Us too.

Ross Evaluates Things. Ross has dinner with Dwight, who informs him that Elizabeth has decided to delay her wedding to Warleggan. He then decides to go have a drink with his miner friends because he’s actively trying to not go home and face the wreck he’s made of his home life. They all tell him that they don’t blame him for last week’s cave in – they’d all been willing to work without safety measures and would 100% do it again. The mine gave them hope, and if they could get past the pile of rock that buried it, they’d be back in that mine tomorrow. (Sure, I guess?)

At dawn, Ross goes to ride by Wheal Grace again, as sad violin music plays in the background. He then rides past Trenwith to mournfully stare at the house for a long minute. He doesn’t know this, but Elizabeth, who had been pacing in her sitting room, is watching him stare at the house from her window. Ross rides away, and Elizabeth looks on as he goes. Honestly, I kind of feel bad for anyone whose life Ross touches. Everyone seems miserable. 

Demelza’s Long Walk of Personal Realization. Eventually, Demelza has to climb out a window to escape Sir Hugh’s house, because both her host and Vile Warleggan’s vile manservant Tankard are also determined to seduce her. (Gross.)

She walks home in slow-motion along the beautiful Cornish beach. Her face is tear-streaked, she’s carrying her shoes in her hand, and sad music plays in the background as she aggressively ruins the train of that beautiful red dress. Ross, of course, is riding home just in time to see her. He stops her and they snipply discuss Elizabeth again, and whether it’s likely she’ll go ahead and marry George after all. Ross says he understands why Demelza is angry (understatement of the year), but she just needs to be patient for a while, while things sort themselves out. He says it’s not a question of whether or not he wants his wife, but whether he wants Elizabeth too. Because I guess Ross is a special person who thinks that he should always have all the options he wants? IDK. It’s gross. Anyway, he says he doesn’t know how he feels. Demelza says she’s not content to be second best and she doesn’t know why Ross is still with her, unless it’s that he’s afraid Elizabeth can’t decide what she wants. Or that she knows George is a better bet for her own personal safety and comfort than Ross will ever be? Sick burn, Mrs. Poldark.

Ross poutily says that he came back with good news – that since that random guy he lent money to can repay him so they can afford to reopen Wheal Grace again. He says this like he expects a cookie, or a hug or some other effusive praise. But Demelza, awesomely, just keeps trudging on through the surf away from him.

Is there a “Free Demelza” petition on the internet somewhere? She doesn’t deserve being stuck with this loser. Seriously, does Ross actually have so little self-awareness? General relationship understanding? Sense? In what world does he live in where a woman that he’s married to is just going to wait patiently and quietly for him to figure out whether he feels like leaving her? Barf.

You Know What? Elizabeth Doesn’t Deserve This Loser Either. Meanwhile, back at Trenwith, Elizabeth is fuming because this guy she’s possibly going to upend her entire life for, is basically ghosting on her. Aunt Agatha drops some knowledge on her – she tells Elizabeth that she’s got to decide for herself whether she wants to marry George or not, and not wait on Ross to make up her mind for her about the future of her life.

Elizabeth is also all kinds of hurt that Ross would show up, protest the idea of her marriage so vociferously, sleep with her and then skate on any emotional consequences.  (I know I’m ignoring the consent issues from last here, but honestly, I don’t even know if I have the energy to tackle it. It’s gross and the show glossing over it is gross and I’m just over everything.) Anyway, she says that Ross has left her with only one possible choice.

And, like we all knew would happen, Elizabeth marries George Warleggan. This is also extremely horrible, and as a fan who actually likes Elizabeth, I’m sad for her, but I’m also not sure what she was supposed to do. Ross didn’t exactly give her any other options, or seem particularly motivated to upend his life for her. This is not to say that he should have, or that it would have been particularly good television if he had done so. It is to say only that Elizabeth’s decision is an understandable one. And goodness knows she’s going to suffer enough having to live with Vile George anyway. At least she’ll be rich, I suppose.

While I’m happy that Elizabeth has made a decision so we don’t have to sit through multiple episodes of Ross being paralyzed by his own crappiness, I’m sort of angry that he didn’t have to make one. This seems like one of those things we should expect that the noble hero of the story is capable of doing, rather than sitting there and stringing along two people at once. I think that in the end Ross probably would have chosen to honor his existing marriage, but I don’t know that (and neither does Demelza) because he didn’t have to. And he can say how much he cares for her forever after this, but when it came down to it, Demelza wasn’t his immediate first choice. Neither was Elizabeth for that matter.  He chose himself and his…I don’t know whininess, I guess. It’s hardly admirable behavior.

And maybe that’s the secret real point of Poldark, that this isn’t actually a story about a heroic man trying to do good, but the story of a man realizing that he’s not actually that heroic in the first place.  

Changes Abound. Anyway, Ross is, of course, upset about Elizabeth’s’ decision to marry Vile George.  He heads back out to the beach to pace and be sad. He and Demelza are still sleeping in separate beds, and when he tries to guilt her about what their son must think of it, she shoots him down.

Meanwhile, the mine reopens, because I guess it didn’t actually take that long to dig all the rock out of the tunnel that caved in. And of course they immediately find the tin load that was buried in the cave in. Ross rushes to tell Demelza about it, and stresses that they can pay off their debts and have actual wealth. Demelza looks very unimpressed, but Ross’ pleadingly asks her if this salvation has come too late for them.  She doesn’t say anything.

George and Elizabeth visit their big new house in London, and being rich now certainly seems to suit her even if her husband does not. They have tea with Caroline Penvenen, who asks after Dwight and Cornwall. But afterward, George decides that he thinks he’d rather take up permanent residence at Trenwith, because he, who knows, wants to rub his marriage in Ross’ face, or murder Aunt Agatha in her sleep, I don’t know. Ross rides by to stare creepily at Elizabeth's house again and look angry, because it’s any business of his what she does with her life.

Ugh. Can someone please tell me that this story is going to get interesting again? Or that all the men on this show will just drop dead and Caroline, Elizabeth, Demelza and Verity will form a matriarchy out of the ashes of Cornwall? That is 100% a show I would watch.

Thoughts on this week’s developments? 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 Threads or Blue Sky at @LacyMB. 

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