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Am I the only person who had to look up the definition of the word ‘ignominy’ (after Tankard used it)? If you had to as well, there would be no ignominy in admitting it. Your homework assignment this week, dear Poldarkians, is to use it in conversation without sounding like you should be wearing a powdered wig.
Of course, there were any number of ignominious activities (and intentions) on display in this episode. And speaking of ignominy (or the lack thereof), did you know that the separation between Ross Poldark and King Henry VIII is a mere four degrees? Both Demelza and Elizabeth might argue it’s fewer degrees than that, but let’s break it down…
Too Much, Too Little, Too Late: This is the persistent ballad of Ross Poldark:
Our episode begins with Ross (shiner courtesy of Demelza) doing what he does best: Brooding. And there’s so much to brood about; he’s made a mess of many things. The mine is closing and selling off its equipment. When Heshawe tries to assuage his guilt by telling him that everyone knew the risks, Ross questions if the dead miner’s wives knew the risks. Well, if he’s going to go down that road, did he ever ask himself if Demelza knew the risks before she gave him her heart?
Because there is that Big Brood: the matter of him not being able to make up his mind between his wife and his ever-unattainable mistress. In response to Demelza’s anger, he tells her he thinks it’s counter-productive, that he never claimed to be perfect and wants her to wait for it to play itself out? Did you actually just say that out loud? Putz! If I was Demelza I would have punched him again right there. But she didn’t. Instead she hit him where it really hurt, with a few home truths about how truly disappointed she was in him, and how much less of a man he was than she originally thought. Adding insult to injury, as they pass on the byway, George gloats about Ross’ recent loss, err, losses, saying, with his engagement to Elizabeth, he appears to have won. Ross agrees that George appears to have won, giving George an existential crisis instead of a bachelor party.
Ca-Ching!: Richard Tonkin just out of debtor’s prison sends word he wants to meet with Ross. Ross fears Tonkin is only after a loan, like the one he’d given Harry Bluin (to keep him out of debtors prison) years earlier. But Ross’ days of being able to offer loans is long behind him. As he sets off for Truro, Demelza asks him to give her best to Elizabeth, knowing full well he already has.
Heaven Can Wait: Is the jury still out for Caroline with regards to Dwight?
George and Elizabeth, honeymooning in London, stop by Caroline’s humble abode for tea and a chin wag. She asks of news from Cornwall, specifically about Dr. Enys, but Elizabeth (not a girl’s girl) doesn’t give the best dish. She tells Caroline of Dr. Enys’ lack of financial prospects when you just know that what Caroline really wants to know is whether he’s started galloping around with any Cornish Rosinas. She’ll have to get that news elsewhere, on another day. Till then, when George mentions how Elizabeth kept him waiting, Caroline concurred that it is quite right for a lady to take her time to make the correct decision, the choice of a lifetime. Is she only taking her time, still thinking about marrying Dwight even though he’s been left thinking there’s no hope?
Meanwhile back at the ranch, Dwight seems to be doing some sort of cadaver correspondence course. Are we going to find out he’s a serial killer, or does he just take the opportunity to ’study’ every townie who drops dead? Anyway, on his way to Trenwith, he bumps into Ross on that narrow path where everyone bumps into everyone else, and invites him over. Ross says, sure, let’s ‘sup together’ (sounding like an 18th Century hipster) and is treated to Dwight serving him dinner on the same table he was just using to dissect that unfortunate dead body – fava beans and a nice Chianti, no doubt. Yum!
Willoughby!: Is Elizabeth is Goin’ To The Chapel of Settling For Second (or Third) Best?:
Since that night with Ross (you know the one), Elizabeth spends her days endlessly sitting by the phone, or rather, since it is roughly fifty years before the birth of Alexander Graham Bell, standing by the front window waiting (and waiting) for Ross to call. She may as well be waiting for Godot for all the good it does. She has taken to drinking in the afternoon. Aunt Agatha, who we know heard everything (much to Elizabeth’s horror) supports her in her delusions. Agatha tells her she is sure Ross will return as soon as he puts his house in order. She feels bad for his ‘kitchen maid’, but thinks that even she will have to acknowledge Elizabeth’s prior claim. Hoping to give Ross more time, Elizabeth delays her wedding to George. She frets to him that it does not look seemly, so soon after Francis’ death. George ain’t buying it, but she is able to buy some time regardless. (One suspects that when the interest on that time purchase eventually comes due, which it in all likelihood will, it will not be pleasant.)
As the waiting game continues, suddenly Elizabeth heard such a clatter, she jumped up from the settee to see what was the matter. Unfortunately, what appeared was not Ross, only Verity, causing Elizabeth to faint into a dead heap. Dr. Enys diagnoses it as a fragile disposition. (Though if he’s looking to dissect a rabbit, he might want to try another test.) Verity thinks she knows better and counsels Elizabeth on letting go, confirming that she is quite possibly the only person in Cornwall (or all of southern England for that matter) who doesn’t know who it is Elizabeth actually has to let go of. She innocently thinks all Elizabeth needs is Francis’ blessing and offers it, causing the lips on his portrait over the fireplace to mouth, “WTF?”
With her surety now fading, Elizabeth’s resolve gives way to anger. Ross’ romantic intentions were never declared, but (she reasons) they were implied, and now she hates him for it. Realizing Ross has left her with no other choice, she and George jump the broom. Of course she can play the happy bride. She did it with Francis, but George is another story. Any bets on how long this honeymoon will last? In dithering for too long has Ross lost both women? For now it seems that might be so. As George and Elizabeth return to Trenwith, Ross trots by on his horse, stops and watches the scenes from afar. When Elizabeth see him she gives him a meaningful glare then turns back to her new husband. For Ross it is back to Allenham (or Nampara).
What Do The Gentle Folk Do?: Demelza stakes her claim to Chez Poldark:
Demelza Poldark decides to go genteel, or rather, to finally accept the privileges her married station should have afforded her all along, had she not continued to play the scullery maid, and continued to do Jud and Prudie’s jobs for them. This leaves said jobs to Jud and Prudie who are now back to grumbling (like the shiftless farmhands they are), and causing Ross to starve.
Demelza sits on their bed like a Queen on her throne, taking breakfast like a lady, and possibly taking her life in her hands by allowing Prudie to cook it for her. When Ross pays her a call, she asks, “Are you still here? Should I order Jud to install a screen door so it can hit you in the arse on the way out?” Ross appeals; he claims to be possessed. (Does this mean we have some projectile pea soup to look forward to before this is over?) In the meantime, he is relegated to Julia’s old cot while Master Jeremy sleeps in the big boy bed.
I Want Candy!: Demelza attends Sir Hugh’s dinner party without realizing she is the intended desert:
With Ross riding off to Truro, or as Demelza thinks, to Trenwith, she accepts an invitation to the Bedruggan house party to spite him. She is all dressed up in crimson, with hair crimped high enough to make Jersey girls weep, and a tiny black heart on her décolletage (that a few farsighted guests mistook for a green light). Captain McNeil Malcolm is there for one last hurrah before he rejoins his regiment, and before he goes he has just one request – for Demelza to call him Malcolm. OK, maybe he has two requests. He’s looking for a little sweetness to satisfy his appetite and gets rather pushy about it before Demelza fends him off. She realizes that no matter what her husband does, she is bound to him and cannot play this revenge game, forfeiting her vows the way he did. Malcolm does not handle rejection well. In fact, he handles it like a high school boy before making a snippy exit.
And the next contestant to step up is… wait, it seems that half the men in attendance make a bee line for the Red Room expecting Demelza to roll out the red carpet between the door and the bed – including Tankard who is on assignment from George to debauch and take a drunken selfie with Mrs. Poldark. Luckily, once again, Demelza’s keen spidey sense and building scaling ability save the day. Only this time, it’s her own skin instead of Ross’. She escapes out the window and Sir Hugh and Tankard can do nothing but curse the darkness, and her ingenuity. That’s skillage!
FYI – A Brief History of Beauty Marks: Beauty marks, like the ones Demelza wore to the party, were a big trend in the 18th Century. They were sometimes painted on and sometimes made of fabric and glued on, often in shapes like hearts or stars. Some women used them to hide scars left behind by smallpox, and others simply for adornment, to contrast with the powdered, pale skin that was also in vogue since Queen Elizabeth I popularized it. And where those adornment beauty marks were placed held meaning as well. Demelza’s, on her upper lip and décolletage, were meant to say that she was flirty and generous.
Wedding Belle Blues: George is always a bridesmaid, even when he’s the groom:
Ever the bridezilla, George and Tankard obsess over every wedding detail. Elizabeth is less enthusiastic and when she asks to postpone, he suspects Ross’ interference. (If he only knew!) He demands to know what she imagines will happen? Dare she say? Not when she has so much to lose. She relents and, finally, George gets married to the widow next door. While she hasn’t been married seven times before, he wasn’t her first choice. Or second. Or… but now, before they can even do the Electric Slide it seems things are about to change. As they return to Cardeu (by way of Trenwith), George tells Elizabeth he fancies a change in their living arrangements. What does that mean? We know he’d gladly dispense with Aunt Agatha, but what about Boy? Was George’s interest in him real or just a ploy? Will he be welcome in their new home, or will he be a reminder of Elizabeth’s previous loyalties that George ships off?
A House Is Not a Home: Misty watercolor memories of the way the Trenwith Poldarks were:
So what will happen to Trenwith, the Poldark family seat? Will it now be a dower house? Will Aunt Agatha be left there all on her own, in that big old manor (with Mummy Dearest up in the attic)? Will George (who still owns it) foot the bill for it all, if only to keep his mother-in-law(s) out of sight? Might Verity come back there to live, along with her Captain Blamey, of course, to give it renewed life? Right now the cheese stands alone, and when Verity reminisces about when they were all together and Ross came riding over every day, Aunt Agatha laments, “Ross, yes, how different might it all have been?”
FYI – The Story Behind Trenwith’s Filming Location: In real life, the manor house used as the Poldark Trenwith filming location is a Cotswold, Gloucestershire estate called Chavenage House, which dates to the 9th Century (though the house was rebuilt in the Elizabethan era on the same spot as the original). One of its former owners was Thomas Seymour, the brother of Henry VIII’s third wife, Jane, who (like his sister) was born at Wolf Hall. After Henry VIII’s death, Seymour married his widow Katherine Parr and lived with her at Chavenage House until his execution for plotting against the crown. Among the other TV shows the house has been used as a filming location for is Lark Rise to Candleford, which starred Ruby Bentall, who plays Verity. In 1944 it housed American troops preparing for the Normandy landings in France. If only those walls (and grounds) could talk!
EUREKA!: Did Ross realize there’s no place like Nampara too late?:
It turns out Ross had nothing to fear about meeting with Richard Tonkin. His old buddies only want to pay him back in full and offer him a percentage of their prospering business. It seems that all Ross’ Christmases have come at once. Unfortunately, it also seems some ghosts of Christmas past hitched a ride alongside them. With his newfound funding, a long line of miners march to Wheal Grace to reopen the mine – and wouldn’t you know it, they finally hit pay dirt. It’s too late for Francis or Ted to see it. And possibly too late for Demelza to care. Ross has at long last discovered the elusive vein of tin that will make him wealthy, but is this vein in vain? Did Ross Poldark just have a Glinda moment where he learned he had always had what he had been searching for, all the truest riches his heart could desire, and that he had carelessly thrown it all away by thinking it lay elsewhere? Ross has good news and no one to share it with. Demelza doesn’t want to know. Is this it?
What do you think Poldarkians? With only one episode left this season, how many of these threads will be tied up and how many left hanging?
There’s always a lot to discuss! Join the conversation in the comments section below, or on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #PoldarkPBS.
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