Poldark on MASTERPIECE: Season 2 Finale Recap

Deborah Gilbert | November 27, 2016
Poldark, Season 2 MASTERPIECE on PBS Episode Nine Sunday, November 27th at 9pm ET on PBS The wars tempt Ross and Dwight. An enraged mob threatens George and Elizabeth. Caroline and Dwight have a fateful reunion. Ross and Demelza confront their demons. Shown from left to right: Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza and Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark Courtesy of Mammoth Screen/BBC and MASTERPIECE

Poldark, Season 2 MASTERPIECE on PBS Episode Nine Sunday, November 27th at 9pm ET on PBS The wars tempt Ross and Dwight. An enraged mob threatens George and Elizabeth. Caroline and Dwight have a fateful reunion. Ross and Demelza confront their demons. Shown from left to right: Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza and Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark Courtesy of Mammoth Screen/BBC and MASTERPIECE

If you missed it, you can catch up on all episodes of Poldark on MASTERPIECE HERE.

This week Ross Poldark and George Warleggan become pen pals. It’s rather sweet, really. One supposes that over the off-season many letters will be exchanged, all fraught with longing, recrimination, and regret. Missives from George will read, ‘I know you are, but what am I? Infinity!’, and Ross will respond with broody-face emoticons pressed into sealing wax. But we cannot get on to next season until we break down the finale of this one: Let’s begin with the 9 Essentials…

  1. Sugar, Oy, Honey Honey: No ray of sunshine, Caroline’s Uncle rains on Dwight’s parade (again!):

Dr. Enys gets called to Mr. Penvenen’s sick bed for what Dr. Choake had diagnosed as a bad case of the Creeping Crud. Or maybe it was Cooties. Or maybe menopause. He wasn’t really sure. He never is. Why does anyone continue to call Dr. Choake anyway? But true to his Hippocratic Oath, and despite their past differences (which pretty much destroyed his life), Dr. Enys turns up and diagnoses Caroline’s Uncle Ray with Sugar Sickness and prescribes avoiding pretty much everything he holds dear (except interfering with his ward’s love life).

Sugar Ray is much obliged that Dwight even attended him at all. He now feels honor bound to tell Dwight that Caroline is soon to be engaged, saying, “I hope this information will not distress you.” (Yeah, right.) The lucky contestant in question is Lord Arthur Coniston, son of Earl Grey Windemere Oolong. How can sweet, penniless Dr. Enys compete with a titled tea scion? He fears that he cannot, and his heart is broken beyond repair. After a bit of ocean-gazing/soul-searching, despondent Dwight enlists in the Navy – but only after the recruiting officers describe the war as being ‘long, desperate, and bloody’ (making it sound a lot like a Crawley dinner party). In the Navy, he’ll be able to sail the Seven Seas, set his mind at ease, and forget Caroline (or die trying). But it seems he was a bit too hasty. Not to mention, he’s leaving the villagers at the mercy of Dr. Choake!

FYI: What is Sugar Sickness? Before Insulin was invented in 1921, people with Diabetes did not live for long. There wasn’t much doctors could do other than prescribing very strict diets with virtually no carbohydrates. This could extend a life for as much as a few years, but for some, the diets were so harsh and calorie restricted, the patient died of starvation.

  1. My House is a Very, Very, Very Fine House: George’s reign of terror begins:

First, he takes down Francis’ portrait from above the fireplace. When Elizabeth protests he says he just wants to replace it with one of the two of them by John Opie. Then he builds a wall and makes the neighbors pay for it. Trenwith’s forest is no longer a short cut; it is now fenced off and George orders psycho logger Tom Harry to shoot anyone who dares breech it. Anybody who dares question is given a rifle butt to the forehead for an answer. Even oily Tankard, who looks increasingly like he has lost the stomach for George’s petty schemes, warns him about the danger of courting enemies. However, George is undeterred.

Next on George’s retribution to-do list is seizing the now profitable Wheal Grace mine. Trustee Elizabeth signed Power of Attorney over to him off-camera, so we don’t know if she did it willingly or under duress. But now George takes over Trenwith and Jeffrey Charles’ estate. He gets bitchy, demanding a meeting with Ross. Clearly George thought this would give him a share in Wheal Grace and now he wants Ross to explain why it doesn’t. As Elizabeth stands upstairs with her ears peeled, she hears Ross admit to anonymously funneling the infamous £600 to her via the sale of Francis’ half share in (then worthless) Wheal Grace. And she thought Ross didn’t care, setting in motion her rash decisions and the series of unfortunate matrimonial events that has left her (essentially) a beggar in her own home. She gambled away Jeffrey Charles’ inheritance as surely as Francis did. But George doesn’t see it that way. He claims Ross cheated his ward and that the transaction was not legal. “How would it look?” Ross insults his pride (and boxing skills) by saying the only reason George doesn’t fear an arse kicking is he’s got his army of servants to cover him. A fight ensues, and just as Ross is about to toss him into the fire, George’s toy army arrive to drag Ross off him and out the door. As they do, he yells “get out of my house!” To which Ross yells back that it’s not his house, it’s Jeffrey Charles’ house! One supposes that, seeing how that turn of phrase upset Ross, George will see to it that it is truly Jeffrey Charles’ house no longer.

FYI: Who was John Opie? The artist George mentioned hiring to do the portrait of he and Elizabeth (to replace the portrait of Francis) was John Opie, a real historical figure. Opie was a self-taught art prodigy, born near Truro in 1761, who became a celebrated portrait artist of his day, painting many prominent people including royalty. He was known as ’the Cornish Wonder’, and no less than by Sir Joshua Reynolds who compared him to Caravaggio. One of Opie’s prominent patrons introduced him to the Court of King George III who bought one painting and commissioned another, making him a favorite of the Lords and Ladies. So it makes perfect sense that an insecure social climber like wannabe autocrat King George Warleggan would want the aristocratic status symbol of a portrait by Opie, painter of King George III. Sadly, Opie died in 1807, at the young age of 46, one suspects, at the hands of Dr. Choake.

  1. Soldier Boy: Demelza wonders if Ross will ever be true to her:

At Wheal Grace, the tin, and the money are rolling in. Financially, things have turned around for Ross Poldark, and with his fortunes so go the fortunes of his army of miners, now getting regular weekly shekels. And speaking of army, Henshawe announces there are soldiers in the village looking for men to enlist. Back home after a hard day at the quarry, Ross asks Demelza to give him her hand (the metaphor may have been lost on Ross, but not on Demelza), when she complies he fills her palm with coins, but she’s not impressed and hands them back. He asks her to cast her mind back twelve months, when they thought all was lost; would she wish to be back there? “Would I not, Ross?” is all she said, and all she had to. Ouch.

With his troubles at home, Ross considers rejoining his regiment because, he says, he’s a soldier (forgetting he’s spent most of his time recently running from them). He has put on a uniform to try to escape problems before. Will he do so again? He does look rather spiffy in that now faded red coat, and it seems he will. Demelza is not pleased and reminds him it isn’t the first time he’s considered leaving. She throws shade by candlelight, bringing his messiah complex down to size with the sarcastic, “What it is to be married to such a great man.” Touché.

Ross visits his financial advisor to put his affairs in order. He asks about the sale of Wheal Grace and is told it was all legal but George has the funds to finance a lawsuit and drag it out. Hmmm… He also says he wants to pay back his anonymous benefactor and finds out it was Caroline! Demelza says Caroline must have a crush on him.

Once again Ross implores Demelza to forgive him, even though he still has not copped to the gravity of his betrayal – to Demelza or to himself. It seems that Ross has been reading the pamphlet, Marital Counseling for Dummies. But Demelza turns tables on him and asks, how long would it take him to forgive her? Of course he thinks this is a ridiculous question because Demelza would never cheat…on him. What woman would cheat on Pretty Boy Poldark? She responds, “Are you sure?” Dramatic pause as the realization crosses his face – maybe. She tells Ross about Sir Hugh’s house party and Captain McNeil (leaving out the part about the line outside her door and her hasty exit out the window). He’s disgusted and says her tawdry (almost) affair is nothing like his tawdry affair. The one thing they agree on: If there’s no trust, what’s the point?

  1. What Becomes of the Broken Hearted: Ross plays matchmaker and catches his own catch:

Ross sets off for London, and Caroline’s fine mansion, to repay her anonymous loan, and she wants all the news of Cornwall. (Hint, hint.) Ross say he hears she’s got her own news, “Mazel tov!”, to which she replies, “Not so fast, Bud.” It turns out that engagement announcement was wishful thinking (or a warning to Dwight?) on Uncle Ray’s part. As with Unwin, Lord Coniston has asked but Caroline has said, “Thanks, but no thanks. Next!” She claims she’s also realized she couldn’t spend her life living in a hut, eating sprats and oranges with Dr. McDreamy either. Ross gives her his reading on the situation; that she still loves Dwight, that she may think that love couldn’t keep them together, but Dwight still thinks of her whenever he’s awake (or sleeping). Ignore your heart’s desire at your own peril (and his) as Dwight enlisted for the love of her.

Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone: In his gratitude to savior Caroline and his good friend Dwight, Ross seeks to play matchmaker. He explains that, normally, he doesn’t like to meddle, that is Demelza’s way. Yet lately he has come around to see the value in her way. As Ross stands there explaining the Zen of Demelza, he has an epiphany. He is trying to convince Caroline and Dwight to give it another go, but convinces himself instead. As he is talking about Demelza he is falling in love with her all over again, seeing the remarkability that so many have seen and pointed out to him, but that he (for too long) took for granted as he dreamed of (what he thought was) the greener grass of unattainable Elizabeth. The light bulb goes on. It seems that Ross Poldark’s Elizabethan age is finally over, but is it too late?

Ross exits and Dwight and Caroline get down to business. He puts a love knot on her finger, to hold the spot for an engagement ring, but realist Dwight wants Pollyanna Caroline to understand that all is not rosy yet. He is sailing off to war on the morning tide. It’s their last few hours and Caroline (as Verity would say) wants to make the most of it. She goes bold and asks, “Where is your room?” Hello! But we don’t know for sure what happened next because, like Greek drama, a lot happened off stage. Soooo… did they go right to the room? Or did they find a preacher (or an Elvis impersonator) to marry them first? If they did go right to the boom-boom room, are we going to end up with a Lady Edith/disappearing Editor Charming-type situation here? And if so, what lengths will Caroline have to go to, to conceal their baby? Now that she’s back living with Uncle Ray, how long will it take for him to discover the truth? Will she be forced to marry someone else as a cover to avoid the scandal of an unwed pregnancy?

  1. Luck Be a Lady: Verity gives both birth and advice:

Verity is bliss personified. While everyone else is searching for the pot of gold or wanting things they cannot have, Verity is content with who she is and what she has. She is happy as a clam – and about to pop. Demelza goes to visit, to be a midwife when the time comes – and it does come. Any bets on what she’ll name baby Blamey? Could it be Francis? That would work for either a boy or girl. As Demelza is packing to go home, Verity sees she is troubled and asks what Ross has done. She tells Demelza that she cannot advise her, but then advises her anyway. Her advice? To follow her heart; even though the heart has no reason and often makes no sense, one must follow it. Verity knows whereof she speaks, and therein lies the source of her contentment. But right now Demelza’s heart is telling her pack up and head for the hills. It’s got to be bad if she is considering going back to her bat dung crazy father! As an aside, I loved the scene upon their return to Nampara, when little Jeremy couldn’t help but giggle at Jud and Prudie’s arguing.

  1. Demelza pities the fool: She confronts Elizabeth:

Walking in the woods, Demelza runs into Elizabeth. She asks if Ross knows she’s there, and Demelza replies, “Is Ross my keeper?” That is the difference between the two women and the two marriages; Elizabeth has a keeper. Demelza confronts Elizabeth about the betrayal, about how it broke her faith, and how she was angry but now, “I pity you because you could never make up your mind”. No one wants to hear they are pitied, especially someone like Elizabeth who expects to be envied. Did Elizabeth seem peeved? Did she have a right to be? Demelza goes on to say what is done cannot be undone, and Elizabeth asks what she’ll do. (We know that what Elizabeth fears is that she’ll tell George.) But Demelza just tells her she’s welcome to him (Ross). The thought bubble over Elizabeth’s head reads, “Now she tells me!” To add insult to injury, on her way back to Nampara, Demelza is shot by George’s guard dog, Harry, who threatens to do it again if she doesn’t scram.

  1. Burn, Baby Burn: The villagers see that bonfire night comes early:

After Demelza is shot, and despite her asking Jud and Prudie to say nothing, lest they incite more trouble, the village rabble have had enough and, incited by Jud’s halftime pub pep talk, they grab their pitchforks and torches, and head for Trenwith to burn it to the ground. But here’s where they made a strategic mistake; they paused at the fence to discuss toasting marshmallows. This gives George and his servants time to grab their guns.

Demelza tried to stop it by warning George and Elizabeth to bar the doors because they were about to be lynched if they didn’t, pleading for Jeffrey Charles and Agatha’s sakes, if nothing else. They do not take it well. They don’t believe her, and instead of being thankful, are only belligerent (naturally). George responds by surprising Demelza with the news that Ross has gone off to war because he has been defeated at home. His foe (that would be he, Nellie Olsen) “is in possession of the field”, and his ancestral home, and has impregnated his One Love (or so he thinks). With every move, George makes it clearer that his interest in Elizabeth was never romantic. She is just another pawn in his game – though maybe ‘pawn’ isn’t accurate because while he thinks he is playing Chess, it seems more like he’s playing full contact Parcheesi.

7.5.Stop in the Name of Love: As the would-be arsonists surround Trenwith, Demelza tries to stop it by nobly jumping in-between the firebugs and the Warleggan guns. But it wasn’t until Ross rode up and fired a shot in the air in defense of truth, justice, and the humanity way, asking the villagers to think again, that anyone took notice. (It turns out he didn’t go to war after all.) Even as Ross saves his bacon, George can only taunt him, accusing him of losing his nerve. Ross is there for something more important: Demelza.  Ross saved the day and now he’s masterfully rescued his true love in a rather sexy manner and ridden off on a charger with his damsel in distress. When Ross offered his outstretched hand to Demelza, the look on Elizabeth’s face was priceless. Demelza rides off with her knight in shining armour and Elizabeth is stuck sitting by the fire with George whining on and on about how he made Ross back down.

Ross may have the breeding, the popularity, the charisma, (the everything, really) that George wants, and he may not envy George his money, but George thought he could declare smug victory by possessing the one thing Ross wanted most but could not have: Elizabeth. Now that he sees Ross isn’t all that interested, will he punish Elizabeth? If Ross doesn’t really want Elizabeth, is his ‘victory’ hollow and she now expendable to George? Will she pay the price for George’s frustration?

  1. Twice (Almost) Burned, Thrice Shy: Is George hitting back at the nearest person to him (Elizabeth) and the last Poldark in his midst (Jeffrey Charles)?:

  2.  

As they sit by the fire, with Elizabeth gently stroking sleeping Jeffrey Charles’ hair, George may just be a little bit jealous. He announces that he is sending Jeffrey Charles away boarding school, to Harrow to toughen him up, and given the era, Elizabeth has no say in the matter. Now that he’s got control of Boy’s estate, and a new Warleggan bambino is on the way, there really is no use for Boy. What can Elizabeth do? Seeing this unfold one can understand Caroline’s reluctance to get married. It seems a losing proposition for any woman of means and brains.

Elizabeth still hopes George will relent in March when the baby comes. It takes Aunt Agatha to point out the obvious: Elizabeth will have to hope George can’t count as well, and she may now regret putting the wedding off that extra month. It could make an early surprise more obvious. Then again, so might a baby with a head full of curly black hair. In marrying George, she has handed everything she has, even legal claim to her son, over to him. Her body is now a vessel for (what he thinks is) a Warleggan heir. What might he do if there is ever evidence (AKA, a baby) from that night? She could lose everything. Note that Agatha is careful in how much she says, likely worrying about who might be listening, but she says enough to strike fear in the very heart of the newly minted Mrs. Warleggan. All Elizabeth can do now is wait in anticipation of discovery.

FYI: School Daze: Harrow is a private boarding school for boys which was founded, in its current incarnation, in 1572, under a Royal Charter granted by Queen Elizabeth I, though there is evidence a school has been there since 1243. Weird factoid: The sport of Squash was invented there. Harrow alumni include numerous Prime Ministers and members of royal families, and notables such as Winston Churchill, Jawaharlal Nehru, Lord Byron, Robert Peel (for whom British police officers are named ‘Bobbies’) – and Benedict Cumberbatch! It is interesting to note that even though Harrow is one of the most elite and expensive boarding schools in Britain, the fee for students is currently £12,050 per term, which makes it a lot cheaper than many NYC private schools (which aren’t even boarding schools)!

  1. I Am Demelza, Hear Me Roar: Ross gives love a bad name (but eventually redeems himself):

As Demelza simultaneously realizes that the ball is in her court, she has her own epiphany. She stands in her truth; she is ‘fierce, proud, steadfast and true’. She knows her mind and (more importantly) her worth, and she knows too much to go back and pretend. She neither wants nor needs a man who doesn’t want her. She understands now that what she chooses is more important than what he chooses. She is heading out the door. Ross notices that she is packing and is confused. He finally pours his cheating heart out and has an Afterschool Special Moment: That night with Elizabeth taught him what he should have known all along; that he had been living with an idealized ghost, untouchable Elizabeth, Lady of Perfection, whereas she, Demelza, is real. And in the battle of the real vs. the ideal, the real will always win (call me cynical, but maybe he just found out Lizzie in the sack wasn’t really worth the wait). Anyway, back to the high road: why did it take so long for him to tell her? Did he just assume she knew? Ross and Demelza reconcile, and it is real.

It’s Not Where You Start, It’s Where You Finish:  This season ends the very same way last season ended, with Ross and Demelza standing in an embrace on the Cornwall cliffs. But this season, instead of the red coats coming to arrest Ross, there is the ominous sound of muffled drums (underneath the violins). Are they the drums of war, or has George Warleggan just hired a rhythm section to follow Ross and Demelza around to torment them? Only time will tell.

This finale leaves us some juicy questions to ponder in the off-season, as we wait for Poldark Season 3 (for which filming is already underway).

What do you think Poldarkians? What do you think about this place to pause the story of the Poldarks? What do you think will happen next season – and if you have read the books, please do NOT say. We like keeping this a spoiler-free zone. If you don’t know, please speculate to your heart’s delight. What do you think will happen and/or what would you like to see happen?

Join the conversation in the comments section below, or on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #PoldarkPBS.

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Stream full episodes of Poldark on MASTERPIECE HERE.