This review contains spoilers.
Ross Poldark, stay out of trouble? Not on your nelly. He’s got trouble written right through him like a stick of Cornwall rock. Demelza may as well wish for pigs to fly or for a bodice that adequately covers her cleavage as for Ross to live adventure-free. Like mining, swarthiness and rebellion, acts of derring-do are in his DNA.
So it’s off to France he goes at the end of episode two, in search of excitement and Dwight Enys. If all goes smoothly, he’ll retrieve his pal from the French firing squad and bring Demelza home a nice bit of lace from duty free. But then, when does all go smoothly for Cap’n Ross?
If episode two had a title, it might have been ‘So much for the quiet life’, for which Demelza can be held entirely responsible. When she wasn’t anxiously kneading dough or rubbing her belly with a faraway look in her eye, she was tempting fate. “The last thing we need is more discord between our two houses,” said Demelza, cueing more discord between their two houses. “Perhaps we can hope for a little peace in our lives,” said Demelza, before an ominous knock at the door. “Now life will be calm as a mill-pond and entirely free of dramatic incident of any variety,” said Demelza, immediately causing the French to invade, Ross to impregnate eight more women and Prudie to spontaneously combust.
We’ve always known that Demelza was one of the fay, now we know what sort – she’s the irony fairy.
In the month that’s passed since last we saw them, our Trenwith friends seemed to have rubbed along. Aunt Agatha had refrained from strangling George, but only, one imagines, due to a lack of opportunity and/or wrist strength. George had secured an invitation to tea at the estate of Sir Francis Bassett, and almost secured the offer of a magistrate’s position – a prospect he took a moment to celebrate by grasping his lapels and tasting the air with his lizard’s tongue.
At Valentine’s christening, the levels of dramatic irony were so high it’s a wonder they didn’t all pass out from the fumes. “My son!” declared George. “A true Warleggan!” declares someone else. When it was pointed out that Valentine has darker colouring than George, Aunt Agatha was forced to bypass language altogether and make the noise of a horse with a cold.
By the end of the episode, George had accepted a place on the bench and was vibrating with excitement about the prospect of being able to send poor people to the gallows for looking at one of his daffodils. He wasn’t the first choice for the position, of course, the offer having initially been made to, and rejected by, Ross. In work as in love, eh George? You could almost feel sorry for the man had he not the moral rectitude of an especially cruel paper towel.
Despite his innate sense of social justice, Ross is right about him not making a good magistrate. You need a level head to sentence people to death (else the wig falls off). As established, Captain Ross is far too impulsive and unpredictable. He knows it, we know it, and Tholly Tregirls (Sean Gilder) also knows it. “Adventure’s in the blooooooood, son,” he told Ross, rolling his vowels like a bowling ball down a well-oiled alley.
We met the piratic Tholly mid-fist fight. Thirteen years’ absence hadn’t quelled the ire of local husbands and fathers against him (gingivitis and having a hook for a hand being a massive turn-on in the eighteenth century, the women of Cornwall find Tholly irresistible). Though it was tricky to translate the exact meaning of his gnnrghs, arghs and flrrrns, he appears to be here to waylay Ross from the path of domestic contentment and cause general mischief. Top stuff.
Mischief, or at least disobedience to his odious stepfather, is also very much young Geoffrey Charles’ game. He’s become firm friends with Cousin Morwenna since her arrival. While Elizabeth has been bored out of her skull and resenting her newborn, those two have been gaily traipsing about forbidden Poldark land and giggling over textbooks. What’s so funny? Elizabeth asks. You wouldn’t get it mum, says Geoffrey Charles, turning his back. My guess? They just learnt that the French for ski wax is fart.
The heart-meltingly sweet romance between Morwenna and Drake continues. He followed the established Cornish courtship ritual of picking her flowers, making her a shell bracelet and bringing her to visit a holy well. She played her part by blushing. Then he blushed in return. Then they both blushed at the same time and my TV screen threatened to crack at the sheer loveliness.
It wasn’t all blushing and gags about Prudie’s womanly needs though. This splendid episode (complete with fancy party – always a highlight) concluded with a great deal hanging in the balance. Captain Blamey was safe, but Dwight was decidedly not. The Carne brothers had earned George’s enmity, which will no doubt prove dangerous.
Speaking of danger, it all ended with Demelza mournfully watching Ross row out to peril untold. Luckily for him, she stopped short of saying farewell with the words “Goodbye my love, I’m one hundred per cent certain you’ll absolutely come back safe without your head chopped off.” Then we know he’d be done for.
Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode here.