Poldark on MASTERPIECE: Season 2, Episode 2 Recap

Deborah Gilbert | October 2, 2016
Poldark, Season 2 MASTERPIECE on PBS Episode Two | Sunday, October 2nd at 9pm ET on PBS | George tries plan B against Ross. Jud pays a steep price for treachery. Francis has a meeting of minds with his cousin. Demelza breaks difficult news. Shown: Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza and Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark (C) Adrian Rogers/Mammoth Screen for BBC and MASTERPIECE

Poldark, Season 2 MASTERPIECE on PBS Episode Two | Sunday, October 2nd at 9pm ET on PBS | George tries plan B against Ross. Jud pays a steep price for treachery. Francis has a meeting of minds with his cousin. Demelza breaks difficult news. Shown: Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza and Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark (C) Adrian Rogers/Mammoth Screen for BBC and MASTERPIECE

After the life and death drama of last week’s first episode, a touch of comic relief was nice. This needed relief came (mostly) in the form of Jud and Prudie. Now, every fan of continuing drama knows that when a character dies, if we don’t see the body, that body ain’t necessarily dead. In this case we did see a body, but still, he wasn’t dead. He was just resting. What a world, eh? What can a body believe in anymore when the dead ain’t really most sincerely dead? But now that Jud is risen, maybe he can save us from this confusing abyss. Then again, he was pretty useless before; now with a newfound Messiah complex he’ll likely be impossible. Then again, maybe he’ll start his own religion: Jud-ism. I’m not sure what this Jud-ism would be about, but if it includes chocolate eggs and Peeps, I’m down with it.

The Thrill is Gone

Suddenly Ross and Demelza are at odds. Did we miss something? Just last week they were all lovey dovey, embracing on cliffs and dreaming of the future. This gulf between them came out of nowhere. Ross is not communicating and Demelza feels neglected. It all comes to a head after Captain McNeil creepily watches Demelza gathering driftwood on the beach, and then shows up at Nampara on a mission for Sir Hugh’s sickly cow. Apparently Demelza is known far and wide for her cow doctoring. Who knew? But when Ross turns up and finds them having a drink, McNeil asks if Ross can lend his wife to a cow in need. Ross replies that she has a mind of her own (and not in a good way), then walks out, leaving her there with McNeil. What kind of jealousy/resentment was that? Later when she calls him on it, it’s another revolutionary war.

Was the appeal of Demelza to Ross that she was a fair lady he carved out of clay; a woman who, because of her (lower) class couldn’t be taken away (the way Elizabeth was) because, after all, who would want her? And now that she is growing into her role, learning music, holding her own with people like McNeil and being called on by members of society, is that a threat to Ross’ ego? Is that the source of his dismissiveness towards her?

Who Ya Gonna Call?

At this point, Ross’ threatening Jud with a thrashing is Poldark’s answer to Ralph Kramden’s, ‘One of these days, Alice; bang zoom!’ Besides, Jud has bigger problems. After his poor performance in court, he is being tailed by Paulie Walnuts and Big Pussy who want to register a complaint. They are representing a very unhappy customer, one George Warleggan, who wants him kneecapped for failure to get Ross hung, drawn and quartered. They finally catch up with him in the woods where Paulie gets a bit too enthusiastic and now Jud is no more.

Naturally Prudie is hysterical, but everything changes with the discovery that Jud mysteriously died with a pocket full of gold sovereigns (15 ginuea, about $75 in 2016 money). It’s enough for thrifty (now angry) Prudie to bury him in a Norwegian Blue coffin and buy herself a new wardrobe and such. It’s a little silver lining that leaves questions in its wake. Then things get weird. Um, didn’t anyone think to call a doctor before they prepped Jud for burial? Apparently not, because Jud’s body vanishes into thin air, or more accurately, a bottle of gin.

It turns out Jud wasn’t dead after all. Apparently, he was just shagged out after a long squawk, and when he awoke, he took himself off to the pub for a drink where all hell broke loose at the sight of him. While it would have been fun to actually see the scene when Jud walked into the pub in his winding sheet and cap and the panic that ensued, it might just be funnier this way, leaving that bit of it to our imaginations as Jud described it.

But wait, in all the excitement of Jud’s return from the other side, everyone forgot to ask The Big Question: Who killed you? Hello!? Must I think of everything? One assumes that (eventually) someone will get around to asking, and when they do, I wouldn’t want to be in George’s dancing shoes.

Everything Must Go

Ross is working night shifts in the mine while Demelza is on her own. He keeps brushing her off, but after the big fight Ross apologizes for his detestable behavior, claiming he’s been distracted by their finances. It turns out he borrowed 1000 at loan shark rates: 40% interest and it has come due. What to do? Grab anything that will fetch a price and we’re going to town.

In his effort to bring Ross Poldark to heel, George is trying to buy up all the shares of the Wheal Leisure mine, and now he’s got some, from a little old lady who only drove them to church once a week and would never butt in. George’s proxy, oily Tankard, shows up at the shareholder’s meeting claiming to represent a Mr. Koch (Did you laugh at that?) but they all know what’s what. With this turn of events, George can know all their plans before they happen, the easier to thwart them. The call is coming from inside the house! Oy.

Bad Dog

Demelza turns up  at Sir Hugh’s manor with a mind to sell a cow at a good price  and ends up having to fend off Sir Hugh’s unwanted advances (AKA to McNeil, enthusiasm). You call that ‘Enthusiasm’? I’d call it something else. Am I right? She barely has the chance to swat Sir Hugh on the nose with a pamphlet before Captain McNeil steps in and calls him to heel. Would Sir Beastie Boy take those liberties with any lady or does he just think he can with Demelza because of her station? And did Captain McNeil step in to sincerely save her, or is he only interested in his own future liberties? Either way, every situation this week seems to illustrate that Demelza is still a stranger in a strange land.

Ross’ recent behavior, with both Demelza and Elizabeth, demonstrates a fundamental contradiction in him: while he claims to not care for the trappings and hypocrisies of his class and works among the common villagers, sadly he still recognizes those class distinctions to the detriment of his wife – and Demelza knows it. There is no safe harbor for her, emotionally or otherwise. It’s not like she can leave him. Given the times and her background, she has no option but to stay. (Unless she wants to be a servant somewhere.)

Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee-otch

George is learning how to box, or dance. We cannot be sure which. It seems to all be in aid of protecting himself from the potentially vengeful Ross Poldark that Tankard keeps freaking him out about. As Ross and Demelza are in Truro to sell all their belongings, they run into George and a game of chicken commences. When Ross gets in George’s face and warns him of disappointments yet to come, I think George may have just peed his pants right there.

In other news, Unwin Peacock is turning out to be an obtuse disappointment to his benefactor/owner George.  George bought him the votes he needed to win, but Unwin is more excited about the pretty new coat he bought himself. It seems that Unwin spends a bit too much time dreaming of all the ways he’ll spend Heiress Caroline’s money once he marries her. George reminds him of two things: first, he hasn’t actually reeled her (or her money) in yet. Second, he doubts there is a closet anywhere in the county big enough to hold that wedding reception. Werk!

Doctor, Doctor, Gimme the News

Heiress Caroline is trying mightily to run into Dr. Enys. She and her wingman even take out her uncle’s car and drive by his house. He is out in the yard but looks away when he sees her. Then she runs into him in Truro and (seemingly) plays the hypochondriac to start a conversation. OK, baby steps. Unfortunately (for her) she quickly drives into a ditch when she feigns concern for Ross, only to show her snooty side by speculating about how simple folk Demelza must not feel as humiliated as Ross would to come to town carting all their belongings like the Joads fleeing the Dust Bowl. Dr. Enys flees the scene so fast he leaves skid marks.

Oddly, in the middle of dinner at Trenwith a letter arrives for Dr. Enys. How did they know he was there? Do they have psychics delivering the mail in Cornwall? We’re not sure, but he is summoned by Mr. Penvenen about a mysterious throat ailment. Uh-oh. Is it the dreaded putrid throat? No, just putrid Caroline who still has that sore throat she complained about the other day. The local witch doctor had already been to see her and diagnosed Quinsy (an abscess of the throat), and bled her (bloodletting was a common practice in Europe until the end of the 18th Century), all to no avail. Now Dr. Enys takes charge with a more modern approach: Tweezers. Like King Arthur before him, Prince Enys pulls a sword from a stone (AKA a fish bone from Caroline’s throat) and passes into legend, to Caroline, at least. She was already smitten. Now he’ll never get rid of her.

Elizabeth inquires with Dr. Enys about Francis and asks if anything funny happened in Bodmin, saying she had a feeling he had intended to kill himself (which makes it ever more curious that she couldn’t bring herself to call after him as he rode off). Dr. Enys doesn’t spill the beans but simply, curiously says to be glad of Francis’ new, exuberant lease on life. And by the way, does Francis ever call their son anything but boy? Is he going to grow up talking like Tarzan?

It’s My (Sister-In-Law’s) Party and I’ll Cry If I Want Too

Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink: Substitute scything for water and you’ve got the gist of it – though it seems this season’s fashion is to scythe in a Darcy shirt, rather than out of a Darcy shirt. But that’s OK, we’ll survive.

Ross accepted the invitation to the Trenwith harvest party only to spite George. This made me wonder, did he put the moves on Elizabeth only to spite Ms. Mind of Her Own Demelza? Whatever the reason, Ross cannot take his eyes off Elizabeth the entire evening, and is too consumed to realize (or care) that Demelza is right there. Maybe he thinks that being of common stock she isn’t bright enough to get it. But she is. Demelza sees all.

She also hears all. It turns out our hero has feet of clay. How very disappointing. Left alone with Elizabeth and a few glasses of vintage 1883 for five minutes and he’s as all over her as propriety will allow. She does not reciprocate, but that’s not the point. Demelza heard the whole thing. Or at least enough of it. Demelza already has an inferiority complex where Elizabeth is concerned. She was uncomfortable just running into her in the woods. She’s uncomfortable whenever she runs into the women she knows her husband cannot get over, really. Forget about hearing Ross reminisce with Elizabeth about the time she was already perfect to him; what did it do to her to hear Ross say to Elizabeth that she was a Lady and would never have played the scullery maid? That’s a real turn of the knife. And not for nothing, but it looks like Francis said thank you to Ross too soon.

Ooh, Ooh, Ooh, Baby Baby

After hearing that exchange between Ross and Elizabeth (and maybe because of it), hesitant Demelza finally drops enough hints for dense Ross to realize that she’s pregnant. And no, he’s not happy about it, but claims his hesitancy is only about them risking their hearts to love another child who might be taken from them again like Julia was. Maybe I’m cynical (because I’m rather perturbed at him after that attempted long squawk with Elizabeth), but Ross’ reasoning is starting to sound self-serving to me. Anyone else agree? Anyway, now that the baby isn’t just a theory he’s on board. But in that closing embrace, what was that look on his face? Doubt or worry – or guilt? I guess we’ll find out.

Noble Prize?

So this week ends on a positive note. Sort of. Maybe not. Clearly Ross is still thinking of Elizabeth, possibly even still in love with her.  Or was that thwarted flirtation just a crime of opportunity (and drunkenness)? It seems he is doing the noble thing even if his heart is not in it. We’re not sure and maybe neither is he. It is reminiscent of when he married Demelza, which was only to be honorable after they had succumbed to that night of passion, not because he loved her. Even Demelza reminds him (and us) that his declaration of love came only after Demelza told him she was with child. He later told Elizabeth, during the Putrid Throat epidemic, that Demelza was the love of his life, but did he truly love her for herself or just love that she was the mother of his child? At the time we thought it was true love, but now we are wondering (at least, I am) – and so is Demelza.

What do you think?

That was a thoroughly enjoyable two hours, was it not? Join the conversation in the comments section below, or on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #PoldarkPBS.

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