As we approached the end of Season 2 of Poldark, Ross came home to Nampara after spending the night with Elizabeth and Demelza flattened him, causing him to finally say, “She will never come between us again.” But never is a long time…
22 Can’t-Miss Moments
The Season 3 premiere was an epic two-hour episode, so we’ve got lots of can’t-miss moments to unpack here. Let’s get started!
22. Riding to Elizabeth’s Rescue
The episode begins with Elizabeth, pregnant, riding out of control on a runaway horse.
She is saved by Ross who jumps into action to stop the bucking bronco. When Elizabeth’s husband George finally comes sauntering up and wonders where she went, she claims the horse bolted, but the horse, through his attorney, responds, “Naaaayyyy!”
Rather than being grateful to Ross for saving his wife, and possibly “his” baby, George has a flashback to last season, when Ross saved their bacon from angry villagers. So instead of thanks, all he can manage is a snippy admonishment that if Ross ever touches anything of his again, he’ll scream.
21. A Risky Pregnancy
What’s this commotion all about? Elizabeth is about to pop, but she doesn’t like the numbers, so she’s trying everything she can think of to lose the baby that could give her away (or, at least, make its “early” arrival seem like an accident). Clueless George doesn’t understand why she keeps overexerting herself. She insists this is all perfectly normal behavior for a pregnant woman. Why do you ask?
Meanwhile, George’s uncle is not best pleased about any of this. He never thought Elizabeth was the best choice of a mate, to which George takes offense. He is confident that Elizabeth is no Anne Boleyn and will produce the required Warleggan heir — a son.
Adding to Elizabeth’s torment is soothsayer Aunt Agatha, whose tarot cards indicate the bambino in question is coming sooner rather than later. It’s understandable why Elizabeth would be panicked. Remember, according to the laws of the day, when she got married she forfeited all her money and property (including her son’s inheritance) to George. If she’s rumbled she’s out on her butt without a bean.
20. Madness Under The Moon
What is it? This was the $64,000 question this week. It seems odd that none of the characters realize a lunar eclipse is happening. Everyone just freaks out. Then again, it was quite an eventful night: A birth, two deaths, a hijacked honeymoon, gloomy predictions, broken hearts and tension all around.
FYI: Poldark novelist Winston Graham may have been inspired by the total lunar eclipse, visible in the UK, that occurred in February 1794. The eclipse has often been utilized in literature as a dramatic device, as a prediction of doom, or a search for religious meaning. Even though the scientific understanding of eclipses began in the time of Aristotle, superstitions persisted for centuries and varied from culture to culture.
Edmund Halley, of comet fame, stepped forward in the 18th century to tamp down hysteria when a well-known mathematician published a pamphlet (that era’s equivalent of a fake-news Facebook post), claiming that the impending eclipse would bring pestilence and destruction across the globe. Halley wrote a scathing editorial refuting the claims, educating the public on how an eclipse actually worked.
19. Where’s Sister Evangelina When You Need Her?
When Elizabeth does have her first labor pains, she just quietly climbs into bed next to George. The next morning, to disguise the “early” labor, she throws herself down the stairs, breaking a perfectly good vase, and landing in a heap. Dr. Choake is called (uh-oh), but thankfully he’s busy.
Spying Dr. Enys at the church earlier in the day, against George’s wishes, Jeffrey Charles sends a note to Nampara pleading for help, throwing water on Dwight and Caroline’s honeymoon. And Dr. Enys’ presence in the delivery room didn’t seem to matter anyway.
Most of my child birthing knowledge comes from watching Call the Midwife, but it does seem like without the coaching to breathe and push, Dr. Enys wasn’t really doing much. Then again, Dr. Choake probably would have treated childbirth with leeches.
FYI: YIKES! I wrote that last bit as a joke, but then looked it up and read that the first recorded medical treatment in childbirth was recorded in 1750 (not too far off), and it consisted of bloodletting to control hemorrhage!
18. My Funny Valentine
Anyway, all’s well that ends well: It’s a boy, and they’ve named him Valentine. (That kid is going to get teased at school). And according to the good doctor, he is no worse for coming a month early. Ahem. On Elizabeth’s face is a look that speaks the fear of discovery. When George arrives she tells him, “he favors you,” and he buys it. George sees what he wants to see — a resemblance to himself.
Always a ray of sunshine, Aunt Agatha insists the child will be cursed because he was born under a black moon. George’s toadies drag her out by her hair while George and his uncle laugh. Now that King George has a son and heir, all semblance of tolerance for anything Poldarkian is gone.
All this is witnessed by Ross, who is standing outside in the shadows, clearly looking through the big windows for a glimpse of this baby that might be his, and using his supersonic hearing to eavesdrop all the way from the front gates. He then rides off to run wind sprints on the beach. Ross returns to Nampara the next morning — just like the morning after that night. Did he stand outside all night?
17. Ross Makes a Deal
Ross goes to see George at his shiny new bank, and George wants to know why. When Ross says, “Fatherhood changes everything, does it not?” George smiles a knowing smile. He hears what he wants to hear. Not a hint of double entendre there. Nope.
But Ross is there to make a Faustian bargain — assuming Ross has something George wants. Yes George, Ross has everything you want but cannot buy. Ross warns George about the repercussions of mistreating his great-aunt and nephew, but adds that if he plays nice with the two of them, there is no need for their paths to ever cross again (except that everyone uses that same bridle path along the cliffs, but whatever).
Of course, that deal to keep himself away is actually a rather convenient way of keeping himself (and Demelza) away from the inconvenient truth, is it not? And Ross has to realize she knows. Yes, Ross. She knows. But George doesn’t. He announces to Elizabeth that Ross has admitted defeat. OK.
16. Good News from the Good Doctor
Elsewhere, good news arrives to Ross via pony express, causing him to go dashing off to tell Caroline. It was from Dr. Enys, who is getting 24 hours of shore leave, just enough time to sneak off and have a quickie wedding to Caroline. Ross is making the arrangements. But wait, did anyone else think they had already gotten married last season, when they had that last night together before he had to report to his ship?
Anyway, Uncle Ray, who is now bedridden from his sugar sickness (diabetes), wants to know his niece will be cared for after he goes. To that end, he informs her that Lord Coniston has written to ask if he may announce their engagement. Caroline says “not so fast, buddy,” and uses the excuse that she cannot even consider it while her dear uncle is so ill.
15. Goin’ to the Chapel of Love
As she is sneaking away to her wedding, Caroline tells Uncle Ray she’s just dashing off to London. She didn’t even bring Horace with her. That’s progress. So those two crazy kids eloped to the Poldark family church where Ross and Demelza (and Francis’ grave) served as witnesses. After which they had a wedding breakfast at Nampara where Dwight said he hoped they’d be “half as happy”‘ as Ross and Demelza, causing a divorce lawyer to knock on the door and hand him his card.
14. It’s Much More Than “Vexing”
The happy couple retire to the Nampara honeymoon suite, but not for long, thanks to Elizabeth’s ill-timed tumble. Is there any love life anywhere in Cornwall that Elizabeth does not disrupt?
Nope. With Dr. Enys on his way to Trenwith, and Ross in a state over the news, Caroline volunteers that the situation between Ross and Elizabeth and George and Demelza, “must be vexing.” Honey, you have no idea.
After spending the night attending to Elizabeth and the baby, Dwight must return to his ship. Thanks to Elizabeth, their marriage is not consummated. Will that matter later?
13. Never Can Say Goodbye
Back at Killawarren, Ray Penvenen is dying. Tipped off by Dwight, Caroline gets there in time for a death bed confession. He regrets keeping Caroline and Dwight apart and asks for her forgiveness. She assures him there’s nothing to forgive and shows him her wedding ring. He’s thrilled, kisses her hand, and then dies. And mazel tov to you, too. Some honeymoon this is turning out to be!
Afterwards, Caroline is still keeping their marriage secret. She thinks it would seem disrespectful for them to have married behind Uncle Ray’s back. So when Dwight returns they’ll have another ceremony, this one public, and no one will be the wiser. But you know what they say about best laid plans. Will she pay dearly for keeping this a secret? We cannot help but worry.
12. Ross Keeps Running
Demelza wonders why Ross keeps himself so busy; thatching roofs, saving damsels in distress, fighting for truth, justice, and the Nampara way. To what purpose? She clearly knows the answer already, and so do we. She’s just trying to give him the opportunity to come clean, but he never does.
Brother Drake tells Demelza that their abusive father has called her to his death bed, supposedly to say goodbye. She doesn’t want to go, saying all she ever got from him was bruises — but it’s a bond, father and child, and despite all, it cannot be denied. Hint, hint, Ross. She decides to go.
11. An Awkward Family Reunion
Demelza’s old scoundrel father is looking for a deathbed conversion from his daughter, though we’re not sure why. Without all the trappings and pushy professing she is already living The Spirit. Demelza is all about kindness, forgiveness, and love. Is there anything better all that preaching can teach her? She already finds the best in people, and makes the best of things. She must, to be married to Ross.
Sam and Drake do make their father a promise to spread the word, and set off to begin their careers as professional God Botherers (as they say in England) by moving in with their sister. But Drake has discovered girls in general (and one in particular), so he’s a bit more ambivalent about all the whole Bible-thumping thing. They are trying to rehab an old building to start a church and utilize a timber from a wrecked ship that’s washed up on Nampara cove. I’m not sure what Norm Abram would say about that. But ’tis a good thing they want to start their own church, since now that George is the benefactor of the Poldark family church, he demands the preacher to keep the riff-raff out.
Speaking of riff-raff, we note that Jud has apparently moved away somewhere and Purdy will have to get her needs met elsewhere, scaring the farm animals — and random boy toys who cross her path — in the process.
10. Another Bundle of Joy
Demelza apologizes to Ross, and tells him she is with child again – as if it’s all her fault. While he’s not crazy about the timing with war drums beating in the distance, he is happy. In a world of war where nothing is certain, at least he can be certain of Demelza. Or can he?
She asks, “Are you so certain of me?” and he responds, “Perhaps I don’t deserve to be.” “No, you do not.” Possibly distracted by her smile, he hears what he wants to hear, and not the subtle warning not to take her for granted. “With you beside me, whatever life sends, we can face it.” Nice… and all too soon he forgets about being at her side and heads off to sea.
9. George’s Least Favorite Son
George says now that he is Jeffrey Charles’ dad, it’s time the boy changed his name. He agrees. He will now change it to Jeffrey Charles Francis Poldark. Snap! It looks like Wheal Leisure is ticking over, and even though he has been banned from visits with his favorite uncle, Jeffrey Charles turns up for a surprise visit, eager to learn all about the business that’s in his blood. Francis’ boy is growing up fast, but he’s a mama’s boy with a jealous stepfather who, by his own admission, is only tolerating him until he has his own son. Then it’s off to boarding school.
And the road to boarding school begins with a new addition to the household: a governess to begin the separation process. She is Morwenna Chynoweth, cousin of Elizabeth, and another in a long line of the destitute aristocrats who people all our costume dramas.
She has no idea that she is part of George’s grand scheme to separate mother from son, so she and Jeffrey Charles become fast friends. He tries to give her the rundown on his family, explaining that George “is kind, till he gets what he wants.” Smart kid.
On their long walks he keeps leading Morwenna toward Nampara and the family he has been banned from seeing.
8. Mommy Dearest
New mum Elizabeth is funny about Valentine. She is ambivalent, detached even. She lets him cry and won’t pick him up, upsetting Verity. She seems to be attributing personality traits to Valentine more appropriate to Ross than to a baby. She sees Jeffrey Charles and Morwenna off at a table giggling among themselves, and she doesn’t like it. Does she resent the baby because he is a reminder of Ross’s abandonment? Or because she sees the baby as the reason she’s been relegated to the sidelines of Jeffrey Charles’ life?
7. Jeffrey Charles and the Secret of the Family
On the road to spread the good word, Sam and Drake first encounter Jeffrey Charles and Morwenna, and they keep running into each other. The boy is intrigued to find out they are relatives by way of Demelza.
Drake searches the beach, very choosy about what he picks up. Turns out he was looking out for special shells to make Morwenna a bracelet (even though he overheard her telling Jeffrey Charles he was “low-born”). This has the makings of a Montague/Capulet-style showdown waiting to happen.
But till then, Drake leads them on a spelunking adventure to find a secret cave with a holy wishing well full of sweet water consecrated a thousand years ago by a saint. OK. Sounds like the plot of a Trixie Belden novel. Despite her remarks about his low birth, we know she’s interested, because she asks Jeffrey Charles to keep their meetings (and visits to Nampara beach) a secret from George.
6. Aunt Agatha Gets Carried Away
Aunt Agatha continues to be the Greek Chorus in the corner, tossing cranky bon mots like hand grenades and countermanding George’s authority at every turn. She is in a wheelchair, but as soon as Little Verity rolls up in her carriage for Valentine’s christening suddenly Agatha can walk — and even run and shove the butler out of the way. It’s a miracle!
5. You Sunk My Battleship!
Uh-oh. Dr. Enys is writing a letter to Caroline with voice-over narration. Whenever a soldier does that in a movie it usually means something bad is going to happen — and it does. Leave it to George to be the bearer of bad news. In casual conversation he tells Verity and Caroline about some recent maritime mishaps. It turns out Dr. Enys’ ship, the Travail, and Captain Blamey’s merchant ship, the Esmeralda, are among the vessels lost off French coast.
Andrew is in Lisbon and Verity goes to join him. When Verity says goodbye, Aunt Agatha acts like this is the last time they’ll see her. We hope not! While Captain Blamey is safe (or at least, accounted for), Dr. Enys is missing. Ross tells Demelza (but not Caroline) that no news is bad news; given the circumstances it seems there are no survivors from the Travail.
Unknown to anyone in Cornwall, Dwight is a prisoner in an unpleasant place. When last we see him, we don’t know if the loud bang we hear was a rifle being shot or the waves crashing on the Cornwall shore, but we hope it’s the latter.
4. Poldark’s Pride Prohibits Progress
Sir Francis Basset, of the new-money Bassets, is having a ball at his grand estate and everyone is invited, including some French nobles who may be of use in finding the lost ship. Then there is social climbing George who is giddy at the thought of going because he anticipates being asked to be the new magistrate. He’s already got his fancy robes all picked out and everything.
Little does he know that Judge Reverend Hulse offers the coveted position to Ross first. Unfortunately Ross, in full self-destruct mode, mocks the offer, reminding the judge (as if he needs reminding) that it hasn’t been that long since he made multiple appearances before him as the accused. The judge argues that he’s got the reformed sinner qualities they seek, but nope, Ross turns it down. Even when told that that means the position will go to George, he lets his pride do the talking and doesn’t change his mind. Putz!
Demelza implores him to think about all the good he could do, and asks if he thinks George will wield the power wisely, but Ross just says he cannot judge his fellow man. Oh, get over yourself, Mary! Why do we have a feeling he’s going to regret this? Post-party, after George brags a bit too much about being the obvious choice, Aunt Agatha rains on his parade by suggesting that maybe they offered it to Ross first. DOH! So that’s what they were talking to Ross about!
The realization sets in. Poor George, once more Ross Poldark got there and planted his flag first. Foiled again, George points his nose in the air, tosses his Nellie Olsen ringlets to the side and flounces out the door. Harrumph!
FYI: There was a real Sir Francis Basset, Baron de Dunstanville and Basset, of old money and nobility. He was a mine owner, banker and politician born in 1757 to an influential family in Cornwall and educated at Harrow and Eton. While he is depicted sympathetically in the Poldark novels, in real life he dominated Cornwall politics, controlling seats in the House of Commons, and opposing electoral reforms that he saw as a threat to his power. Because he died without a male heir, his barony of de Dunstanville became extinct upon his death in 1835. (Too bad Ross didn’t have a thing for his wife.)
3. Charming Tholly Tregirls
After thirteen years, Ross’ old free trading pal Tholly Tregirls washes up drunk as a skunk and twice as stinky. He’s sort of like Captain Hook without the chip on his shoulder. He’s also, somewhat mindbogglingly, described as a ladies’ man, which speaks more to the slim pickin’s in the Truro area than anything else.
His most distinctive character trait is that he carries the bones of his amputated hand (and quite possibly the odd tooth) in a case on his utility belt, which gives his walk an accompanying rhythm section.
2. Running Toward Dwight, Or Away From Demelza?
With yet another temptation, how long can Ross resist the siren call of free trading? Not long. Now that Dr. Enys is missing, and Tholly was able to recover clues through his black market network, Ross makes it his mission to go and find Enys himself.
So he is off to the anarchy of wartime France, ostensibly to find his friend, but a veteran smuggler like Ross should realize how dangerous it will be trying to sneak around anywhere with Tholly’s bones rattling with every step. It must be like wearing bells on your shoes, or Tic Tacs in your pocket. But hey, any excuse to return to free trading — and running. Is he doing the noble thing or just escaping?
As they push their little row boat out into the crashing waves headed for their rendezvous with their smuggling ship, and a three hour tour, Ross looks up at his north star. Demelza stands on the cliff above, with a tear running down her cheek. As with so much of what Demelza leaves unsaid, we are left to interpret exactly who or what her tears are for: Are they for herself? For Ross? For their marriage? For the unspoken fear that she will never be enough to tame his wanderlust and hold him at home for long? That no one could?
1. Setting Up the Dominoes
All the mishegas above comes down to one very complicated math equation: Ross returns to free trading just as George becomes a magistrate. Yeah, this should end well. Sigh. What do you think it will equal, Poldarkians?
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