Poldark, Episode Four: A New Poldark
Here’s a taste of what we learned from last week’s episode of Poldark: Francis and Elizabeth have a baby boy, Francis is still a wiener, George is a pretty great example of what kind of man Ross could have become if Ross wasn’t a BAJILLION TIMES BETTER IN EVERY WAY, Demelza is a cutie and Leah will burn down [uninhabited] villages if anyone disagrees with her, poaching is bad, banging your maid is not but then you have to marry her, and finally, SCYTHING SHOULD BECOME A NATIONAL SPORT IN WHICH ONLY ROSS POLDARK COMPETES.
More than that, though, this week will almost definitely bring the inevitable. If they haven’t decided it already, this will likely be the episode that causes people to cross a line and start actively hating poor Elizabeth, and we will be forced to start fighting those people in response. FIGHTING THEM WITH WORDS THAT YOU WILL ONLY READ HERE.
Erika: Episode Four. Halfway through this roller coaster ride of emotions. Let’s get this party started.
Leah: These opening shots of Demelza and Garrick are beautiful. Why is it that I remember the dog’s name and not the names of any of the people? Because the dog is better.
Erika: I, on the other hand, had forgotten the dog’s name. Let’s give it up for the animal stars of Poldark, shall we?
Leah: At Nampara, we see that Prudie and Jud seem pretty pissed about the marriage but honestly, WHO CARES? Because Demelza and Ross have been adorable and perfect from the start and remain so now that they’re married. ALSO, DEMELZA STILL CALLS HIM SIR.
Erika: I feel like Ross is so mortified by that, he’s just like DEMELZA PLS DEMELZA NO! It’s the first sign of a continuing trend in this episode, though, of Demelza feeling utterly confined by her status and confused by what it means to have married someone of the higher class. Ross is encouraging in the only way he knows how but by now, I think it’s pretty obvious that he is the worst when it comes to talking about his feelings in a proper way so rather than sit down with Demelza and getting a better idea of what has her so bothered, he’s pretty much just like LOL NAH WE’RE THE ONLY ONES THAT MATTER.
I wouldn’t say he’s wrong, if you’re looking at it as him thinking purely romantically, but it’s not enough for Demelza because she’s the one who’s being looked at as someone who’s trying to rise above her station, as Ruth Teague so loves to put it. I do love that they’re both trying to understand what the other wants, they just aren’t quite getting it yet, and I think that’s a nice way to show that yeah, the decision to get married was just a little bit sudden but this is how things are going to be now. There a lot of shots of Ross being pensive in this episode, supposedly about his relationship with Demelza, but I think they’re all a bit misleading. Everyone in his life is questioning why on earth he would marry this woman, this maid, and I think we’re meant to believe that Ross is wondering the same thing; but in the end, it’s quite the opposite.
We already know that Ross hates so much about the way his class chooses to be, and I think that throughout this episode, he’s trying to think of what he can do to show the judgmental buttholes around him that it’s not his wife’s roots that should matter. He doesn’t want Demelza to think of herself as his kitchen maid anymore because to him, that’s simply not what she is. His thought process is so amazingly simple, he sees things for what they are and just thinks that people should think the same way. He doesn’t get why Demelza wouldn’t just be able to stop doing the things she’d done as his employee because in his mind, she’s his wife now. She shouldn’t have to do that kind of stuff anymore. For Demelza, it’s more complicated because like Ross, she’s very aware of what people will think or say, but she isn’t sure how to toe the line between Ross’ maid and Ross’ wife. As far as Ross is concerned, there just isn’t a line anymore. MEN.
Leah: Cut to Francis being a dick. Surprise. He’s a dick to his employees, he’s a dick to his cousin, and he’s a dick about Elizabeth.
Then he’s a dick about Demelza, telling Ross if he takes such a wife he can’t expect to be allowed into respectable gatherings. He’ll have a life of ‘peace and seclusion,’ as Ross calls it. Clearly he’s happy with that idea. Ross Poldark: super introvert!
Erika: That could be his superhero name.
Leah: Proving that she’s a thousand times better than her brother, Verity’s reaction to the news adorable. She’s so pleased for Ross and I JUST LOVE THEM, TOO.
Erika: I’m pretty sure this is just an episode made to be a shippers’ dream. I don’t think we see Ross smile this much in any other episode and that’s why I think it’s ludicrous to think that he didn’t really love Demelza when he decided he wanted to marry her. It’s true that he later admits that he basically thought she’d be a good rebound but he’s also quick to say that he was wrong. Not the ideal way to go about discovering you love someone, no, but here we are.
Leah: Look, HE BOUGHT DEMELZA A BOOK TO PRACTICE HER WRITING, OKAY.
Erika: And he wants her to go to the mine because she’s his wife and he wants her at his side. Beyond that, I think he wants her there because he’s already been told by Elizabeth how frustrating it is that Francis doesn’t include her in any of his work-related affairs. We’ve already seen that Ross highly values Demelza’s opinion, he’s gone to her for advice before and to share his woes because he trusts her. He doesn’t want to be the guy who makes his wife feel like she’s being an afterthought, which is exactly how he sees Francis treating Elizabeth. Ross doesn’t want to make those mistakes and he says it right in this scene after giving Demelza the gift of a book and ribbons for her hair, he has no idea how this is supposed to work. The last time he had a woman he cared for, they weren’t together long enough for him to do things like this. Ross, as always, just wants to make Demelza happy.
Leah: When she does go to the mine, she’s literally the cutest thing in the world. She tries so hard to be right for Ross and all he wants is for her to be herself. He wants her to feel like she’s allowed to be more than what she’s always been told she has to be. At first it might seem like Ross is trying to change her, but what I really see it as is trying to help her gain confidence in herself. He believes she’s a strong, smart woman and he wants her to believe that about herself, too. She’s allowed to be more than just his kitchen maid, he really believes that. Class doesn’t mean anything to him, he doesn’t think it should define people or bind them to a certain kind of life and he tries to teach her that, but sometimes Ross can be a little pushy or heavy-handed. Demelza often sees it as regret that he married someone below his station.
Erika: And I absolutely love that misunderstanding in this episode because honestly, how else could she possibly react? She still doesn’t get it, she even admits to Verity that yeah, things are great between them in the sack and all, but she doesn’t think Ross could possibly love her. She’s beneath him, undeserving of him, and it’s just devastating to hear that she thinks that way but at the same time, it makes it all the sweeter when Ross finally manages to make it clear just how much he loves her. I JUST HAVE A LOT OF FEELINGS ABOUT THESE TWO.
Leah: Ah, look, Francis’ father finally bites it but not before pointing and laughing at Ross about getting married because it means Francis is slightly less paranoid now that Ross will steal Elizabeth from him.
Erika: I can’t! I honestly can’t, this is just the weirdest conversation and Ross is just like HAHA YEAH SMILE OKAY WHAT DO NOW????
Leah: Even though I still think Francis a giant dick, it’s obvious as ever that his father’s opinion of him is a big part of what has made him the way he is. The expectations placed on him are heavy and the comparisons to Ross are almost non-stop. How many times has it been pointed out now that Ross is still down in the mines, unlike Francis. Being in the mines was never just for show, Ross was never doing it to look good to the men he was employing. He was doing it because he needs to be down there with them. Months later, still struggling through iron in order to find copper, he’s still digging and getting his hands dirty in a way Francis can’t comprehend. He’s as much a miner as any of them and that’s why they’re still all there working for him.
Francis, on the other hand, only keeps his employees because they need a job and where else can they go?
Erika: Even after everything Francis has said and done, Ross is still willing to be there for his cousin. That’s something Uncle Chuck never taught his own son, how to stay loyal even in the face of a bitter past. SO LONG, UNCLE CHUCK, YOU LIVED A LONG AND DICKISH LIFE.
Leah: Verity looking out for Elizabeth at the funeral is such a lovely thing. She’s always there, always helpful, always supportive and caring and loving. They’re such wonderful friends and it makes me so happy.
Erika: Yeah, Elizabeth needs a buddy, she lives such a sad and lonely life otherwise. Aside from her baby, but it’s not like he can talk back.
Leah: Seriously, though, Elizabeth is in a far worse position than Ross and if you feel even a little bit bad for him coming back to the version of Cornwall he does, then you have to feel bad for Elizabeth, too. You have to. It’s required.
Erika: There’s just no other option for you, this is not a Jedi mind trick.
Leah: She falls in love with this great man who clearly encourages her to be exactly who she is (as evidenced by the scene in last week’s episode where she and Ross speak briefly about the mine), who loves her not for the status he might get out of marrying her, but because he just loves the woman she is.
Erika: Actually, it’s clear that Ross isn’t in it for the status because if anything, we learn from that very first episode that Mama Chynoweth wants to marry her daughter off to the Poldarks BECAUSE of the reputation it will earn her family. So yes, Elizabeth isn’t on the same level as Demelza class-wise, but if anyone was really going to get anything out of that connection, it would have been the Chynoweths. Except the Ross side of the Poldarks were always more known as the Trash Poldarks so honestly, Mama Chynoweth was probably insanely relieved when the rumors that Ross had been killed in war started going around.
Leah: Everything Francis sees and seethes with jealousy over is imagined. She’s at ease around Ross because he’s pretty much the only person who lets her be herself. She never tries to ~~steal him~~ from Demelza. (Note: It would be especially hard for Elizabeth to steal Ross away, considering she didn’t have any clue whatsoever until the last episode that there was anything even remotely romantic brewing between Ross and Demelza.) She never says a bad word to Francis or verbally compares him to Ross until FRANCIS TRIES TO RAPE HER.
Erika: In fact, she does what she can to try to assuage Francis until she noticeably just stops because it just isn’t worth it anymore. No matter what she does, Francis will always assume, based on his own insecurities, that Elizabeth will always want Ross. And you know what? He’s probably not wrong. The important thing to remember, though, is that Elizabeth legitimately just wants everyone to be happy. Like, that’s all she wants. She gave up HER OWN HAPPINESS because she did what she thought was the right thing at the time.
Is that choice? Actual choice? Did she make dumb decisions and is now just throwing herself at Ross because she wishes she’d chosen him? If you answered yes, GET THE HELL OUT.
Leah: Yep. Then her shitty, stupid wiener of a husband starts sleeping with prostitutes because he’s a jealous little dick. She’s completely alone with the exception of Verity and she’s clearly very unhappy. Would she still have felt this way had Ross not returned? It’s entirely possible she wouldn’t have, if only because her husband wouldn’t have turned into such a goddamn idiot. She might not have been deliriously happy but she could have been okay. Now, it’s all too late because she’s had no real choice in the way her life has gone. Everything has been taken out of her control and the people surrounding her are generally pretty terrible. So yeah, I WILL DEFEND THE CRAP OUT OF ELIZABETH. I WILL DEFEND HER TO MY GRAVE.
Leah: Right. Recapping episode four.
Verity comes to visit Nampara, which terrifies Demelza because according to Ross, she thinks Verity is a great lady who will show Ross his mistake in marrying her. And Ross’ response to this is to just leave the two of them alone together.
Erika: The way Demelza looks at him when he bails is the way I look at my boyfriend when he tells me I shouldn’t have ice cream before dinner.
Leah: Verity ends up surprising Demelza by listing all the reasons why she and Ross are a good fit, and it’s beautiful and it makes me cry. She misses Captain Blamey so much, and she’s just so happy to see Ross happy. She makes it very clear she doesn’t care where Demelza comes from, only that she and Ross are happy together and suddenly they’re friends, which is EXACTLY what Ross wanted. He looks pretty smug when he returns home to find them giggling together. And the montage of Verity teaching her how to be a lady is absolutely the sweetest thing, too.
Erika: Verity is just the freakin’ queen of Cornwall, okay, she should rule all the lands and make all the big decisions because even though she’s bummed about losing her love, she’s still the one who’s got her shit together the most. It’s also just so nice to see Demelza getting the support she deserves because she’s facing so much ridicule and criticism, even though part of the reason she’s so reluctant to leave Nampara is because she very fairly doesn’t want to hear any of it.
There’s actually a great scene that I think gets attention for kind of the wrong reasons, in a way, and it’s between Ross and Margaret, the lady of the night who is so very fond of servicing the Poldark men. It’s a very brief scene that I think can easily be glossed over aside from what some may consider humor and others may consider rudeness on Ross’ part, but I think the conversation they have is fantastic:
“Is she wealthy?”
“Not at all.”
“Is she beautiful?”
“In a way.”
“So… you love her?”
“We get on.”
I know what some of you might be thinking: Ross, you asshole, why aren’t you defending your wife? Ross, you dumb jerk, why did you marry her if you don’t even like her that much?
NO. JUST NO.
I can fully understand watching just this scene and thinking Ross is being a bit callous, especially without Demelza there to ‘defend’ herself, but I wholeheartedly disagree. Of course he loves Demelza, you can see it in every look, every smile, and every way he tries to include her in things that women aren’t typically part of in 18th century Cornwall.
Ross knew damn well that there wouldn’t be a single person in town, save for Verity, who wouldn’t question why the hell he married his kitchen maid and it’s been made clear more than once in the episode by now that HE DOESN’T CARE THAT PEOPLE THINK HE’S A LITTLE OFF HIS ROCKER. He gives answers like ‘we get on’ because as far he’s concerned, IT’S NOT ANY OF THIS WOMAN’S GODDAMN BUSINESS WHY HE MARRIED DEMELZA. The way Ross looks at Margaret says it all, there’s a playful wryness in his expression that speaks to how utterly done he is with the conversation.
He literally walks away from it and honestly, I applaud him for that. Ross doesn’t feel the need to justify his relationship with Demelza at all and that’s what I think so greatly separates him from the rest of his class. He makes no apologies for who he is or who is wife is, and Ross Poldark is sometimes thick in the skull but he’s such a precious cinnamon roll at the same time.
Beyond that interpretation of Ross, though, is this brief glimpse of Margaret, a woman who isn’t of the upper class but spends such quality time with them, who doesn’t understand why Ross would care for his maid because Margaret’s job essentially requires her to be submissive. She gets to pretend on a regular basis to be ‘above her station’ and I think that’s why this scene is so important–she’s trying to figure out how the hell someone else did what she’s not yet truly managed to do for herself.
Leah: Back to the perfection that is Demelza and Ross in the same room together, we discover that Francis has written to invite them to spend Christmas at Trenwith, and she’s INCREDIBLY RELUCTANT. She’s sure Elizabeth is going to look down at her and it’s clear she’s very nervous about the thought of seeing her now that she and Ross are married. She even gets pretty sassy with him about it, but he accepts the invitation anyway, even though it clearly makes Demelza incredibly uncomfortable to think about.
Erika: Ross is so clueless. I feel like he does things and just teehees all the way back to his study, patting himself on the back all, “YEAH, you did good! This will prove to her that she has nothing to feel nervous about, yeah, YEAH, GOOD WORK, ROSS!” He’s just so flippant sometimes and perfectly happy to sass right on back when the occasion calls for it. What an idiot.
Leah: Oh, the mine’s not doing so well either, and I know that’s a serious plot point, but if they wanted me to pay attention to that, they shouldn’t have made Ross and Demelza so goddamn adorable.
Erika: A fair and true point.
Leah: Then it’s Christmas, and it’s just as awkward as Demelza anticipates. Especially once Aunt Agatha tells her to sit beside Elizabeth so she can compare them. That’s not weird at all.
Erika: At least she doesn’t say anything too offensive. Batty Aunt Agatha. Except not really because she’s actually frighteningly perceptive most of the time??????
Leah: At least we get something good out of it. Elizabeth reaches over to take Demelza’s hand, comforting her in the midst of such a weird situation. THESE WOMEN ARE SO FUCKING FABULOUS TOGETHER. And then Francis is a piece of shit to his wife, as usual.
Erika: I seriously just want to rip Francis’ face right off. He accuses Elizbeth later of being kind to Demelza just to impress Ross and sometimes, I feel like he’s truly been brainwashed or something because he’s known Elizabeth for a long time now. He would know that she’s a genuinely kind person in general but all this poison he has in his mind makes him paranoid about absolutely everything.
Leah: I want to stab him in his stupid fucking face. Sorry, Kyle Soller, you do too good a job.
Erika: Francis is truly such a prick. Every episode, I eagerly await his untimely death and am disappointed over and over again. Ross/Demelza OTP but hey, consider this: Elizabeth/Ross/Demelza OT3.
Leah: I’D GO DOWN WITH THAT ‘SHIP.
As much as I love Ross and Demelza, the scenes between Ross and Elizabeth remain some of my favourites. Their connection runs deep and it’s clear from the way they speak to each other even now, when Ross has clearly moved on and found happiness elsewhere, that they still care for each other a great deal. He respects her, he thinks she’s smart and generous and kind, and he wants her to be happy. She trusts him more than she trusts anyone else it seems, including Verity. He’s the only one she can talk to about the awful things Francis is doing like gambling away his inheritance and cheating on her. YOU KNOW, THE SHIT HE LEARNED FROM GEORGE.
Speaking of which, George, Uncle Cary, Crappy Ruth, and Ruth’s husband John then show up for Christmas dinner.
Erika: When and how the hell did Ruth get a husband???? Talk about a rebound, bitter that Ross rejected you much? She is such a vile excuse for a human being. Anyway, the best part about them being there is that George is literally just like, “Oh, we were around.” THEY WEREN’T EVEN INVITED. ARE THEY EVER INVITED?
Leah: Basically, they all suck and it is the world’s worst Christmas dinner. Demelza is great and they all need to shove it.
Erika: Even Ruth’s husband thinks Demelza is great, and I think that’s what really sets Ruth off. She failed in getting Ross to want her and now he’s married to a lowly kitchen maid. To Ruth, that’s unfathomable, she doesn’t understand it. The only thing she can latch onto is the notion of wanting a higher status, so she just assumes that’s what Demelza is trying to get out of Ross. Ruth even takes a shot at Verity, implying that nobody over the age of twenty-three could possibly find a husband, and Demelza makes Ross proud by taking a shot right back but goddamn, I can’t believe nobody physically removes Ruth from the table because she is excessively cruel in this scene.
Leah: I REALLY HATE HER. Wow. If she and Francis could be shot out of a cannon or something, that would be fantastic.
Anyway, after dinner, Elizabeth bores everyone except Ross with her harp recital and then Ross volunteers Demelza to sing for the room. Really, Ross?
I think it’s the most beautiful scene in the whole series and Ross just… his face. It’s not at all what he expected and he can’t stop staring at her.
Erika: The entire time she sings, Demelza and Ross never break eye contact. We see everyone else’s reactions, we even see Elizabeth and Francis exchange a glance that is so different from the way Demelza and Ross are looking at each other because there’s so much being said in just that one moment. The love between Ross and Demelza is obvious, it sparks, and Elizabeth knows she’ll never have that with Francis. She looks so heartbreakingly sad because I think all this time, she’s known that her marriage to Francis is a very empty one, but she hasn’t wanted to give up entirely on the guy who fathered her child. Francis, on the other hand, just looks frustrated because even with Ross gazing all starry-eyed at Demelza, Captain Wiener still believes that a lingering love exists between his cousin and his wife. As I said earlier, it’s like a poison in his mind. It’s been driven into his head that there’s no competition here where there should be, Ross will always be the better man and everyone knows it.
That’s part of what makes Francis and Elizabeth’s relationship so tragic. I think that Elizabeth would have been happy to let herself fall in love with Francis, even with Ross back, if only Francis had really let her. FRANCIS JUST RUINS EVERYTHING.
As for Demelza, this is such a raw moment for her. She’s spent time before this dinner making sure she’s dressed to impress and trying to say the right things, but Ross looks at her now like there’s nobody else in the room. Elizabeth’s harp accompaniment fades away, and it’s just Demelza. It’s just her, completely as herself, and it’s what Ross wants more than anything. This is what he’d wanted everyone to see, his wife for who she is, and I think it’s such a beautifully played scene. Certainly one of the best. THEY ARE JUST SO PERFECT TOGETHER.
Leah: This is a really hard recap for me to do because I’ve honestly spent most of this episode crying and NOW I CAN’T EVEN SEE MY WORDS AS I TYPE. He’s so deeply in love with her and he finally realizes it.
Erika: The last ten minutes of the episode are probably the happiest moment this show will ever give us again.
Leah: THEY FIND COPPER AT THE MINE AND NOW I’M CRYING OVER A GODDAMN MINE. But everyone is just so happy. Everyone knows what this means, they’re going to keep having jobs, wages, a way to feed their families. It’s a big deal.
Erika: What’s an even bigger deal is Ross finally managing to pull his head out of his ass and making sure Demelza knows damn well that he loves her. He said it while she was sleeping at Trenwith, “Merry Christmas, my love,” but of course he hasn’t had the guts to say it out loud. I think part of that has to do with the fact that she seems so skeptical about their marriage that he believes he’s doing something wrong and has no idea how to fix it. Being Ross Poldark, he has no idea how to go about asking.
But even after the ordeal at Christmas, Demelza still asks whether Ross is ashamed of her, and he looks at her like he can’t even believe she would ask such a thing. What he says to her is probably my favorite quote from the show because it’s so simple and so beautiful, and it says so much about the effect Demelza has had on Ross since they first met:
HAHAHAHA B Y E! THE TEARS IN MY FEELS CUP RUNNETH OVER!
Leah: But wait, there are EVEN MORE FEELS BECAUSE DEMELZA TELLS HIM SHE HOPES HE’LL HAVE A LITTLE LOVE TO SPARE FOR THEIR BABY.
Erika: In case you don’t understand, Demelza is pregnant. In case you still don’t understand, I’M UGLY CRYING BECAUSE DEMELZA AND ROSS ARE HAVING A BABY. TAKE CARE OF THAT WOMB, DEMELZA, THAT IS ONE BEAUTIFUL CHILD YOU GONNA HAVE PROBABLY BY THE NEXT EPISODE.
Leah: Basically their lives are absolutely perfect at this point and I would like the series to end right here please so that no one is ever sad again.
FAMOUS LAST WORDS. Join us for another good cry during next week’s recap of the show as we get one step closer to being finished with the first season of the most emotionally tumultuous show on television right now.
Poldark airs on Masterpiece PBS tonight at 9ET.
In addition: we thank one of our trusty readers for pointing out the egregious lack of shirtless Aidan references in this recap. Our utmost apologies, and it shan’t ever happen again. Please do note, if you choose to click and expand the following screen caps, just know that we take no responsibility for the reaction you may have.
Photo Credit: Tumblr, BBC
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- Next Poldark, Episode Five: The Poldarks Strike Back