The Age of Poldark Is Upon Us
Watch out, America, there’s a new heartthrob in town and his name is Ross Poldark.
How do we even begin to to explain Ross Poldark?
Ross Poldark is flawless.
We hear his hair is insured for £10,000.
We also hear he does horseback riding commercials with Seamus… in Cornwall.
His favorite hobby is brooding.
One time he fought a war in Virginia… and he died.
One time he came back to life and returned home to find that his entire world was turned upside down…
And it’s awesome FOR US. This is a review for the people. We here at CAPSLOCKit have decided that it’s our duty to watch the premiere of Poldark so that we can serve you, our gentle readers. It was a hell of a chore, as we’re sure you can imagine, but Leah Dorito and the Wiener Soldier (née Erika) have teamed up without complaint to bring you a very professional and flawless rundown of BBC’s Poldark.
Beware of spoilers but mostly, we hope you enjoy.
Leah: What I’ve gathered from the first episode of Poldark is that life is going to be seriously rough for the title character. I know we like our angst and everything, but man, this guy gets seriously shit on all within the first five minutes and it pretty much only goes downhill from there.
Erika: Well, Aidan Turner is in it, I don’t know what else we could have possibly expected.
Leah: So the story starts with Ross Poldark somewhere in Virginia, fighting in a war. He’s playing poker, he’s being sassy — our first glimpse at the ever present attitude that basically defines everything Ross does — and we get a few flashbacks of a beautiful girl he’s obviously very much in love with.
And then everyone gets shot and dies.
Erika: BBC, am I right?
Leah: This is where my conspiracy theories of Ross Poldark and John Mitchell (Note: Aidan Turner’s character in BBC’s Being Human) being the same person begin, because that shot of Ross lying on a battlefield with blood all down one side of his face is exactly the same shot as when Mitchell wakes up a vampire. Look, it makes sense if you’re me.
Erika: Well, it’s not all that far-fetched. Mitchell wears a wedding ring under his precious little fingerless gloves throughout the series so clearly, he died as Ross Poldark, woke up as a vampire, changed his name to John Mitchell, and went out to buy a wedding ring so he could forever hold onto the guilt of never going home to his beloved. Because John Mitchell is a walking guilt machine. This is just where it all started. Seems legit.
Leah: WOW, rude. Right, so everyone seems to be dead. Except Ross.
Erika: Sad trombone.
Leah: It’s much worse for Ross because everyone back in Cornwall just thinks he’s dead. He comes back three years later and finds out that pretty much his whole life has fallen apart while he’s been gone playing dead in Virginia. His father has died, his land is falling to ruin, the mine has shut down, he’s dirt poor and everything sucks, goodbye.
Erika: He has a pretty horse, though. Good ‘ol Seamus.
Leah: Also his family. So he goes to see them, since they’re still the light of his life.
Erika: This is fantastic because you almost get the sense that Ross was standing outside the door getting all pumped up. “Okay, it’s been a minute since you’ve seen everyone so just be cool, make a good entrance. What should I say? ‘You all look like you’ve seen a ghost!’ Little on the nose? Nah, nah, just keep it chill, keep it chill.” Then he walks in all “WASSSSSUUUUPPPPPPP!”
Leah: Then he finds his girlfriend Elizabeth Chynoweth is having dinner with them. Because his girlfriend Elizabeth is going to marry his cousin Francis.
Erika: His face, though, this is so not the reunion Ross was expecting. Meanwhile, everyone around the dinner table looks like they want to moonwalk the hell out of the room. They should be staring into the camera Office-style right about now.
Leah: This is a big blow to Elizabeth, too, because she thought Ross was dead. And also he’s about 567303493043 times more awesome than Francis, who’s basically just a giant wiener.
Erika: You can pretty much pinpoint the exact moment when she realizes she got the short end of this stick.
Leah: Also, I will fight anyone who badmouths Elizabeth at this point. I WILL ACTUALLY FIGHT YOU, DON’T TEST ME.
Erika: Seriously, nobody should test you. But you know it’s going to happen because so many parts of fandom can be… passionate. (Note: For Leah Dorito’s thoughts on shipping wars within the fandom for The Walking Dead, click here.) I’m all for finding your prime ‘ship and all, no question about it, but we’ve been around the internets for a good long while. I remember seeing shit fall apart within the Supernatural fandom between the Wincest and Destiel fans (Note: For those not up to speed on the obsession with portmanteau couple names in this day and age, ‘Wincest’ refers to the Sam/Dean ‘ship while ‘Destiel’ refers to Dean and Castiel) and more recently, at least in my own personal experience, the Sterek fans versus pretty much everyone else in the Teen Wolf fandom.
It’s weird because fandoms always start out so nice, too. In the first couple seasons of Teen Wolf, everyone seemed to respect each other, it didn’t matter who you ‘shipped because it’s a personal preference, not everyone sees chemistry on-screen in the same way. I swear, it seemed like all the trashing started overnight and all of a sudden, being a Sterek fan was more of a stigma than anything else. I’m obviously not saying that everyone participates in ‘ship bashing, but it’s definitely a consequence of being in fandom. It exists out there, whether you like it or not; but I always think it’s strange when fandoms divide like that. Shitting on the ‘ships other people have is just the most ridiculous thing to me, and I admit this was kind of a tangent but it all ties together, really.
See, Elizabeth, she’s freakin’ stoked to see that Ross isn’t dead. She loved him, okay, she gave him her ring as a promise but goddamn, if he’s dead, he’s dead. Obviously he’s not, but she had no idea. I’m already pissed at what I’m sure we’ll hear about her, that she was a bitch for not waiting for A DEAD MAN or that if she was going to move on, why’d she have to do it with Ross’ cousin? Look, sitting across from Elizabeth in this dinner scene is her mother, who clearly isn’t pleased to see that Ross is back. Mama Chynoweth orchestrated this marriage, it’s obvious just from the way she looks between Ross and Elizabeth, she wants her daughter to have status, to marry into a good reputation, to have money. Elizabeth wouldn’t get that with Ross because his side of the Poldarks has always been viewed as little more peculiar than the side that resides in Trenwith.
Three years is a long time to grieve before moving on, and it’s not like she’s actively been trying to dishonor his memory. Yes, Ross is hurt; yes, he’s angry and confused; but that doesn’t make him unreasonable, and it doesn’t make Elizabeth a terrible person.
Side note: Is it just me or Elizabeth Chynoweth totally of a distant relation to Elizabeth Swann? Is Pirates of the Caribbean another AU of Poldark? HOW FAR DEEP DOES THIS RABBIT HOLE GO????
Leah: We can see here, too, that another defining characteristic of Ross is this incredible need to just keep going. I’m not sure if it’s strength or stubbornness, but whatever it is, he’s not one to give up.
Erika: For real. Come back from a three-year absence to a greeting this cold, and Ross is still just like, “WELP, GUESS I’MA HAVE TO KEEP ON KEEPING ON.” Except the music makes it seems like he’s about to go all serial killer on their asses.
Leah: It really does look like Ross might actually go full serial killer and just murder everyone in the room, but he manages to refrain. The news that the woman he loves is marrying his cousin hurts him deeply, but rather than let it kill him, he pushes it down, he ignores it, and he goes on with his life as best he can. He uses it to fuel his work on his father’s land and when Francis comes to see him, he does his best to swallow his pride and meet his cousin with a smile.
Except then they go down in the mine.
Erika: I love this exchange, too. Francis asking, “Is this wise??????? BRO, IS THIS WISE, THOUGH?” Ross is just like, “NOPE!” and Kanye shrugs all the way down the damn tunnel.
Leah: OF COURSE Francis takes the perfect opportunity of being in a small, dark, unstable hole in the ground to pester Ross about coming to the wedding. SEEMS LIKE A GOOD PLAN, FRANCIS, A+ REASONING THERE, MY FRIEND.
Erika: FRANCIS, YOU IGNORANT SLUT!
Leah: Ross keeps trying to be good-natured about it until he finally snaps, because seriously, what the hell, bro? Why would he want to come watch you marry the woman he loves?
Erika: It’s like Francis is just begging Ross to wedding crash but this is where I start to really dislike him because he seems fine when we meet him, seems sweet enough, but I think that if you take a closer look at this scene, he’s really just baiting his cousin. Francis knows, he fucking knows, that Elizabeth still loves him, it was written all over her face in that dinner scene. I think that he probably finds a perverse pleasure in showing Ross up, in proving that he’s got it all now, the money and the fully functional home and the bride. If it causes Ross some pain, them’s the breaks, but I suspect there’s probably been a lot of comparison between Ross and Francis as they’d grown up together.
I’m not saying that he isn’t right to be a little anxious about the whole situation, if my future husband’s formerly dead ex came back all assuming that they’d get back together, I would be losing my goddamn shit. But leave well enough alone, man. Ross doesn’t want to be there, he’s trying to be cool about the whole thing, he’s even staying away from Elizabeth because it’s just too painful for him to look at her and know exactly what he’s lost. LET IT FREAKIN’ GO, FRANCIS, GAWD.
Leah: Ross keeps it together for a whole two seconds, he politely asks Francis what his problem is (translation: he screams in his cousin’s face) and Francis is
such a little bitch so startled that he slips and falls into a giant hole filled with water. And, as makes complete sense for someone who lives so close to the ocean, Francis can’t swim. He flails around in the water for awhile — keep in mind, they’re still in the mine at this point, so if he dies, NO ONE IS EVER GOING TO KNOW BECAUSE THEY’RE UNDERGROUND — and Ross just lets him. His serial killer moment is finally happening!
Erika: The best part about this is that when Ross finally decides to pull Francis out of the water, it is the actual most awkward thing. Francis is like, “LOLZ, BRO, I TOTES THOUGHT YOU WERE GOING TO LET ME DROWN THERE FOR A SECOND!” and Ross is like, “LMFAO, YOU KNOW WHAT, BRO, I TOTES THOUGHT I WAS, TOO.” But let’s be real, Francis…
It’s all a little shady, a little messed up, a little insane that our hero nearly let that happen–and you can see it in his expression, he was really considering letting it happen–but I think it was such a great way to show that he has that dangerous side to him. He’s got the Poldark stubbornness and temper, and it’s a great way to show for the first time just how far he might go for someone he loves.
Does that make him a bad guy? Does it make him any less of a hero of this story? I don’t think so. No hero is without flaws, after all, and I’ve always thought the best ones are those who are complex. The same goes for Ross Poldark. He’s been compared numerous times already to Mr. Darcy of Pride and Prejudice, but I feel like that’s become tired at this point. Aidan should get credit that he most assuredly deserves, for being talented enough to allow Ross to stand on his own and apart from a character like Darcy, especially when the basis of the comparison is what they look like at their most smoldering.
Aidan has helped to shape a hell of a character in Ross Poldark, this enigma of a man that the people in his life have to struggle to figure out most of the time. He’s a guy whose witty comebacks tend to amount to a more elegant version of “no, you!” and the sort of person you probably wouldn’t think you’d want to get to know if you just ran into him on the street. Mostly because Ross would probably just scowl about it and stomp away. Ross is a pissy little shit sometimes, there’s no two ways about it, but he also has a drive to do the right thing. He’s willing to suffer a bit to make his own way, he’s not looking for handouts or pity or anything of the sort. Maybe he has his questionable moments but for the most part, he’s a good man.
Leah: Well, he at least seems to feel guilty and decides NOT to let his cousin drown in a hole in the ground and drags him out.
Erika: Yeah, so there’s that. See? So very nice of him.
Leah: He even goes to the wedding, which is awful to watch, both because he’s so freaking sad and because there’s a bunch of close ups of Aidan Turner’s hands and I’m pretty sure they made him wax his knuckles, which is really weird.
Erika: THIS REALLY GETS MY GOAT, OKAY. AIN’T NOBODY’S HANDS THAT HAIRLESS, ESPECIALLY NOT AIDAN TURNER. LOOK AT THAT MANE. IT’S LIKE THEY HAD HIM GROW IT LONGER JUST SO THEY COULD GET RID OF HAIR EVERYWHERE ELSE. DON’T EVEN GET ME STARTED ON CHEST HAIR CONTINUITY BECAUSE IT DOTH NOT EXIST.
Leah: Just let the poor, hairy man be hairy, guys! It really is okay! People like it!
Erika: We are so passionate about Aidan Turner’s body hair, we maybe need to take it down a notch. People might think we have problems. Right, so the wedding.
Leah: Yes, so after the wedding, his uncle comes to tell Ross that everything still sucks, which Ross already knows, but thanks for driving it home, bro. He says the mines are failing, he won’t be able to take care of the people who live on his land and that it’s probably time for a change of scenery. He keeps insisting it would be for Ross’ own good, but it’s pretty clear he’s doing this for Francis, since he’s worried Ross is going to steal his wife. And who wouldn’t be worried about that? MY husband should be concerned and Ross Poldark isn’t even a real person.
Erika: Fair and true.
Leah: But Ross, pretty much the most stubborn human in existence, is just like, ‘…nah!’ What he does instead is go home, collect all his valuables, including the ring Elizabeth gave him and his father’s pocket watch, and he goes to the market to sell everything so he can buy a cow.
Erika: A legitimate business plan.
Leah: Probably some other stuff, too, but I don’t know what goes into running a farm, and Aidan just looked really good in these scenes, so I was sort of distracted.
Then Ross comes across a dog fight.
Erika: THERE ARE NO DOGGIE DEATHS, FOR THOSE WHO ARE SQUEAMISH ABOUT THAT SORT OF THING. I sure as hell am.
Leah: There’s a large group of men dragging a very reluctant dog into the fight and with the dog comes a VERY upset girl. How anyone mistakes Demelza for a boy is sort of beyond me given that she sounds very feminine while screaming at people not to put her dog into the fight, but okay. Everyone thinks she’s a boy for some reason…
Erika: Well, as we all know, girls have long hair except wait, Ross also has long hair and some of the older gents wear wigs and gosh, okay, the theory has fallen apart.
Leah: Everyone gets pretty violent, so Ross steps in and smacks some guy across the face with his cane and saves Demelza’s dog. And Demelza. Even after he takes her into a pub to get something to eat, he still thinks she’s a boy, which I really don’t understand.
Erika: Ross, you are such a dumb idiot sometimes. Meanwhile, I love that Demelza is basically like SCREW YOU, CLOWN but eats up whatever it is that Ross has ordered for her and girl, I totally feel that.
Leah: And then, while taking her home to her super abusive father, he offers her a job instead. Which Demelza jumps on right away, because if the choice is between a father who beats you and Aidan Turner… well. I mean, if the choice is between literally anything and Aidan Turner, I know what most people would pick.
Erika: I feel that, too.
Leah: So Demelza goes home with Ross to become his kitchen maid and even though Ross tells her that her dog has to sleep outside, she sneaks him in anyway, thus setting the tone for their entire relationship.
Erika: Oh, Ross. I hope you’re prepared for a lifetime of telling Demelza not to do the thing, which will promptly be followed by Demelza doing the thing. I REALLY LOVE DEMELZA. AND ELIZABETH. AND VERITY. AND AUNT MARGARET. ALL THE LADIES, BASICALLY, RAPTOR JESUS HAS BLESSED DIS SHOW.
Leah: At this point Ross goes to see his uncle for some reason and instead he runs into Elizabeth. The two of them fight, but as he rides off, she begs him to still remain friends. For the first time he says what everyone has been thinking, that the two of them can never be friends, and it’s really kind of sad. They’re both stuck in this situation they never wanted and they clearly still love each other, but there’s really nothing to be done about it.
Erika: But like I was saying earlier, neither of them is in the wrong here, and the show doesn’t force us to take sides. This scene, in my opinion, exists to tell the viewers that this isn’t going to be easy for Ross or Elizabeth throughout the series. It’s a fantastic set-up, and I love that we aren’t meant to walk away with Ross thinking that this is all bullshit, that Elizabeth should leave Francis for Ross by virtue of the fact that Ross exists in her life again. She has choices to make, duties to fulfill, and she’s not a bad person. That Ross is upset by this also does not make him a bad person. They’re human, the both of them, with very human feelings, both sides of which I can fully appreciate and understand.
That’s one of the things that I like most about the show. There are characters I despise, characters I have legitimately wished death upon, but for the most part, they aren’t polarized bad guys. Everyone has their reasons for being, their motives, and that might not necessarily make them sympathetic or makes the viewers like them, but those motives needs to exist. Basically, this is a show with really well-developed characters, which is so important when there are only eight episodes in the first series.
Ross walks away from Elizabeth thinking he’s so done with this place, and it’s not just a tantrum, we can fully understand why.
Leah: Right, he makes the decision to follow his uncle’s advice and leave forever. Cornwall doesn’t have much of anything to offer him, that much is true, and he arrives home, prepared to leave, only to find Demelza’s father and brothers waiting for him. Given how pissed off he is at this point, it was probably the worst time in the world to pick a fight, but they do.
Demelza’s father is angry that Ross stole her (insert eyeroll here, because ugh) and Ross is just an angry sort of fellow for the most part, so Demelza’s dad beats on Ross for a little while. Ross takes the beating, then gets up and beats the living hell out of him in return, which seems to earn him the respect of Demelza’s brothers, as they shake his hand before leaving. I’m not really clear on what they hoped to accomplish with the beating, but okay.
The fight, for whatever reason, seems to change Ross’ mind and he decides to stay in Cornwall and fix up the mine. THE END.
Erika: THE END, INDEED. Kind of. The fight was a full-on pissing contest, that’s all it was. And I have to say, the choice to beat the shit out of the main character in the very first episode is fantastic. It was unexpected, at least for me, because I know for sure that when I first watched this, I was waiting for Aidan Turner to get naked, not bloody. LOOK, I HAVE FEELINGS, TOO, OKAY. HE’S AN INCREDIBLE ACTOR, ONE OF MY VERY FAVORITES, AND I RESPECT HIS WORK BUT I ALSO RESPECT HIS BOD.
Actually, I think that one of the wisest choices the producers of the show made was to leave any sign of Poldark skin out of the first episode. Fans of Aidan and those who have been anticipating the show in the U.S. have likely already seen THAT picture, you know the one*, have swooned over it and wondered why the world has chosen to torture us so; but as close to Ridiculously Physically Perfect as he is, that’s not what the show is about. If you’ve seen Desperate Romantics, you’ll remember how much Rossetti ass and torso was put on display for the masses to admire and even Being Human had Mitchell half-naked nearly half the time, but there’s a distinct lack of that in Poldark‘s premiere episode, which I can appreciate. It helps us all remember that the story is important, too.
Not only that, but I hate to see the incredible performances undermined by Aidan Turner’s bare chest. Even his curls seem to get more attention than the quiet subtleties of Ross, the vibrant spirit of Demelza, the sass of Aunt Agatha, the timid hope of Elizabeth, the muted bitterness of Francis, or the sweet strength of Verity.
Leah: Yes, Aidan’s abs may have stolen all the publicity, which is seriously unfair, because his performance as Ross Poldark is phenomenal, and he’s not the only one of this cast who is remarkable. Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza is a goddamn delight from the first moment she’s on the screen. She honestly lights up every scene she’s in with her sweet, coy smiles that are always tempered by that stubborn streak she possesses.
While I love both these actors, both these characters, and think both their performances are brilliant, for me, Ruby Bentall as Ross’ cousin Verity repeatedly stole the show every time she was on screen. Her performance is subtle, but it’s really beautiful and while she might not always have the most dramatic storylines, hers certainly aren’t lacking by any means, and she plays them all brilliantly.
Erika: Serious props to Kyle Soller, too, for almost IMMEDIATELY making me think of Francis as a total bitch. He is my second least favorite Poldark, preceded only by Uncle Chuck, who is played by the late and great Warren Clarke. Special shout-out, also, to Jack Farthing for the Draco Malfoy effect when it comes to George Warleggan, just instantly slimy from the get-go.
Verity and Aunt Agatha can stay forever, though, LADY POLDARKS FOR LIFE. AGAIN, JUST ALL THE LADIES OF THIS SHOW, TO BE HONEST, THEY’RE ALL SO FABULOUS AND ABOUT TEN THOUSAND TIMES BETTER THAN MOST OF THE DUMMY MALES THEY HAVE TO DEAL WITH EVERY DAY.
Leah: I know I’ve been super sarcastic throughout most of this review, but nobody should read this at all as a negative thing. Poldark is fantastic right from the first moment of the first episode.
Erika: And all the way to the very last. The last line of the episode, spoken by Ross, is perfectly poignant:
“I lost sight of something. I went in search of it. Having found it, I’m going home.”
He rides away from Elizabeth then with Demelza, and it’s a beautiful way to end the premiere.
Leah: Elizabeth was like “ROSS, STAY!” and he was like, “Girl, I am.”
Erika: “Girl, CHILL, I ain’t quittin’ town, but I’m quittin’ you!”
But seriously, we’ve watched him struggle throughout the episode with things he just can’t change, no matter how hard he tries to ignore them or fix them, but he makes a choice. Ross chooses to look forward, not to replace his old life but to build a new one, and it’s lovely foreshadowing, in a way, of what his relationship with Demelza will eventually become.
The moral of this review? WATCH POLDARK. DO IT. DO IT NOW. You won’t come out of it with an ounce of regret, except maybe for the fact that the next one won’t air until next week.
Poldark premieres tonight, June 21, 2015, on PBS Masterpiece at 9/8c.
*In case you do not know the one, THIS IS THE ONE. We recommend not opening this while at work.
Photo Credit: Tumblr, BBC