The Poldark Season 3 premiere episode ended with Ross and old pal Tholly setting sail for wartime France in search of the fate of Dr. Dwight Enys. During the Revolutionary War, Dwight had saved Ross’ life, and now Ross sought to repay him – but things got complicated. For Ross Poldark, they always do. Episode two begins from someone else’s perspective.
Thirteen Essentials of Poldark: Season 3, Episode 2
13. Cliff Notes
As we begin, Demelza stands on the cliff with son Jeremy, gazing out to sea, pondering the question, “where can Papa be?” not thinking about the future abandonment issues this will cause, and the accompanying psychiatric bills. Day by day Demelza waits on the cliff for her ship to come in. She is having doubts about her marriage to Ross (again), especially the whole “obey” part of the vows, since Ross just goes galloping (or sailing) off wherever and whenever it pleases him.
Meanwhile her sister in commiseration, Caroline, is simultaneously hoping for news while dreading it, because as long as there’s no news, Dwight is still alive. She is fretting about the lot of women—to sit idly and wait. Demelza gets the waiting part, but idle? Sorry Miss Maids and Servants at Your Feet, I’m running a house, managing a mine and a farm, chopping firewood, and still finding time to bake bread and traumatize my kid with tales of his missing father – all while pregnant! As nice as Caroline is, she still cannot help being what she is.
But Caroline does decide to take things into her own hands and use her society connections to gain some information. She turns up at the courthouse to compliment George on his service to the country, and oh and by the way, speaking of service to the country, might someone in his exalted position have heard anything about missing ships and soldiers, like Dr. Enys, for example, because many locals would like to know? George coldly tells her that Dr. Enys is on no list of prisoners or survivors.
12. Beach Blanket Bingo
Drake and Morwenna steal their moments when they can: on some enchanted Sunday mornings, making eyes across a crowded church yard, or in the garden. Geoffrey Charles has taken it upon himself to play matchmaker, letting Drake know, “she likes you, she really likes you!”
But then, as nice a kid as he is, he asks Drake if he can read. Turns out, Drake can’t, but Demelza is now tutoring him. Drake can’t read? So he has been preaching The Word without being able to actually read it? How does he know if he’s preaching the Bible or the phone book? One wonders if it is the same for Sam as well (though he is seen setting out prayer books).
When Demelza goes meetinghouse hunting with Sam and poses the musical question, “Where’s Drake when you need him?” we know the answer: he’s on the beach daydreaming about Morwenna. When she arrives they only have eyes for each other, and were it not for the presence of Geoffrey Charles they would have kissed on a dare and, wait… Yo, Lovebirds! Who’s watching the kid?! Geoffrey Charles is splashing around in the surf unsupervised! Did anyone else think Geoffrey Charles was going to get caught in a riptide and (like his dad) drown right then and there? Where’s the nanny-cam when you need one?
11. He Who Smelt It Dealt It
Aunt Agatha, how could you?! Did Poldark just produce Masterpiece’s first costume drama fart joke? We may need a telly historian to answer that question. In the meantime, speaking of windy days, the moment did serve to allow Aunt Agatha to give Morwenna and Geoffrey Charles fair warning that they will need to pay more attention to detail if they want to get away with sneaking off to the forbidden Nampara beach. If she sussed them, so could Elizabeth and George. Between giggles they seem to take heed.
10. Method Dissed
Sam and Drake and their flock officially become annoying, standing outside the gates of the church from which they’ve been banned, singing in protest. They’re looking for new digs and think they’ve found just the spot in the old Grambler Meetinghouse.
The meetinghouse fell into disrepair after George bought and closed the mine, and the village emptied. Francis had gifted the meetinghouse to the village people, but the agreement was only verbal. Now Francis is dead and there’s a new sheriff in town: George. Quite circular. George is also looking for names (of those Methodists), though unlike Ross, not to save anyone; rather to oppress those who displease him.
The Trenwith tenants are ever-solicitous of Elizabeth but give George the stink eye. No surprise there, given that he uses very opportunity to grind them under his boot heel (not to mention he refers to them as “the vulgars,” though given that he is the grandson of a vulgar himself he should really knock that off).
Just as Elizabeth is trying to explain to George that maybe his attempts to garner respect have caused fear instead, slimy Uncle Scrooge turns up to assist with Trenwith estate business. George says Francis was lax and he wants to “tidy his vagaries” (i.e.; put the squeeze on those tenants who bow to her, not him). But given all the revolt across the channel, he worries about it landing closer to home.
He hatches a public relations campaign plan that he thinks will endear him to those pesky vulgars. His first act of benevolence will be a formal deed of gift to re-gift the land Francis had already gifted to the village. The Warleggans are quite generous with property that they’ve (essentially) stolen from the Trenwith estate – but he doesn’t yet know the identity of the mystery singers.
FYI: Watching episode two (and last week’s premiere as well), I didn’t understand what the remarks about Methodists meant, nor why George was opposed to them, other than George is basically against everything except George. We never learned about Methodists in Hebrew school, so I was at a loss.
Curiosity, and the thought that I was missing some kind of inside joke, made me do some research: The Methodist Church began in the 18th century as an evangelical offshoot of the Church of England. When the Warleggan’s Reverend referred to them as “Wesleyan renegades,” that was because two of the main founders of the movement were John Wesley and his brother Charles, though it only became a separate denomination (from the Church of England) after John’s death.
They emphasize charity and serving the sick and the poor. The movement got the name Methodist because they started a “Holy Club” at Oxford University, and fellow students started calling them that because of their rules and the methods they used to conduct their religious affairs.
John Wesley took their mockery and turned it on its head by taking the name. It’s interesting to note that that is exactly what the Impressionist painters did as well – “impressionist” was how an art critic referred to them in a derogatory review of an early salon, and that is how they named the movement.
But back to the Methodists, music was an important part of the movement, hence the singing. And they preached that the working classes were equal to the upper classes, which explains why they were thought of as revolutionary – and not welcome to someone like George.
It’s a big day for George; he is sworn in as a magistrate. Of course he overdoes it on his wig. How many yaks had to have their asses shaved to make that wig? It’s the biggest wig anyone has ever seen on the bench. Huge! We’re talking Duchess of Devonshire territory – and with extra curls (naturally).
He’s a tad upset that Elizabeth declines to accompany him to the courthouse on his first day. (For a moment there, did he look a bit jealous of Elizabeth’s attention to Valentine?) And speaking of Valentine, people (including Geoffrey Charles) keep terrorizing Elizabeth by commenting about how dark the baby is, but he’s got blue eyes and pink skin, so I don’t get that. Anyway, at least she is picking the baby up now. Verity would be pleased.
In court, George quickly makes it clear he’ll be known as the hanging judge. His first decision sentences an old man to be tied to a post and publicly flogged for stealing a pheasant from “one of his betters.” Was anyone surprised? George feels it was a successful day; he even got compliments on his pretty robes. And George already has his eyes on a bigger prize: he wants to be a burgess of the borough. Maybe even Prime Minister, or why not King?!
FYI: A Burgess is a representative of a borough in the English House of Commons. Looks like social-climbing George is moving at an ever-faster pace.
8. Oh, Brother!
The Grambler meetinghouse seems to be the answer, but Sam and Drake will need formal permission. Demelza tells them to go to ask Elizabeth, but make sure she doesn’t know Sam and Drake are her brothers – and she asks Zacky to escort them so they don’t cause any trouble.
At Trenwith, no more than two riff-raff are allowed in the Trenwith 7-11 at any one time, but that turns out to be a good thing since it allows Drake to run into Geoffrey Charles and Morwenna. Inside, Sam over-sells his cause, telling Elizabeth that if she acts now they will personally pray for her soul and throw in a set of ginsu knives (sold separately, shipping and handling extra). Elizabeth agrees to ask her husband, but cannot guarantee he’ll say yes.
While the summit is going on indoors, Geoffrey Charles takes Drake on a tour around the garden, referring to it as “his” garden, which is pretty optimistic. Do we think George will ever give all that Trenwith property back to Geoffrey Charles when he comes of age? Because methinks he will not. I’m pretty certain he will find a way to cheat Geoffrey Charles out of his inheritance. Do you agree?
7. Turn On, Turn Off
When George returns from a tough day of oppressing the masses, Elizabeth tells him about their visitors, but he has got some intel for her: He informs Elizabeth that the Methodists in question are Demelza’s brothers, and she is as outraged as George that Ross is reaching back into her life again. They do not know that Ross has done nothing of the kind. He’s been too busy in occupied France, running from bayonets and random revolutionary hookers. But it matters not. The deed of gift has come undone.
With Elizabeth’s reaction, George sees an opportunity to get Elizabeth to agree to leave for his Truro townhouse, to get away from Ross, taking Valentine with them, and leaving Geoffrey Charles behind. Lizzie buys it. It seems like Elizabeth has been drinking the Warleggan Kool-Aid.
George finds Elizabeth’s anger toward Ross a big turn-on, though one is not sure one wants to think about George turned on. As they leave, Mummy Elizabeth bids Geoffrey Charles farewell with only a handshake and no response to his proclamation that he’ll miss her. What happened to that loving mother who didn’t want to be separated from her son? Could it be that she wants to keep Geoffrey Charles’ inquisitive comments about Valentine’s looks out of George’s earshot?
6. George Lowers the Bar Once More
In Truro, George allows himself to be quickly bribed by a party invitation from Lord Godolphin who, as it happens, has a nephew about to appear before the bench on the charge of assaulting a servant girl. George performs as you would expect: he sides with the rapist nephew, letting him off the hook, and charges the girl with perjury and slander instead, causing much uproar in the court.
Seeing George render his decision on the assault case has Elizabeth completely freaked out. Maybe she sees her own future of paternity discovery and punishment in the way he deals with the servant girl victimized by “her better.”
The doctor is called to give Elizabeth a tincture. A few drops in her sherry will calm her frayed nerves, and get her through her trying days. And on the plus side, being zonked out makes listening to George droning on about his latest glory less of a drag.
5. This Old Meetinghouse
Demelza makes a decision. Ross doesn’t want the congregation on his land either, but Demelza, ticked off over her husband’s extended stay in France, hands over the barn to her brothers, saying “what’s his is mine.” Well, technically no, not back then, but we won’t quibble. The brothers begin rehabbing yet another property. This is now their third DIY renovation project in two weeks.
4. The Spy Who Was Ambivalent About Me
Ross and Tholly land in Rosceaux thinking it is going to be a quaint little market town, but instead it is a hellscape of random violence, anarchy, and public beheadings for enthusiastic crowds vowing to make France great again. They are looking for a Monsieur Clouseau, whom they are told can get them lists of British prisoners and survivors of recent skirmishes off the coast, in hopes of finding Dwight’s name on the lists. It is dangerous business requiring nerves of steel and the stealthy passing of notes. Tholly is, as always, up for adventure; Ross only wants to keep his head down and his mouth shut so he can just go home. But trouble always finds him.
When Monsieur Clouseau appears he says there are English prisoners, and he can get the names… for a price. Ross pays. When he returns, instead of the list, Clouseau reports that it will not be easy and doubles the price. Ross gives him only a deposit this time and he tells Ross to go home and wait for the list, warning him that he is in danger of being arrested as a spy. Ross insists he’s going nowhere, that he’ll wait right there for the list, but he is being watched by a Mata Hari barmaid, who has questions.
3. Pass Intercepted
Mata Hari thows a Hail Mary, but is rejected by Ross, who explains he is married with a child. That rejection had to be the reason she turned Ross in and the police came to arrest Ross for being too sexy for his shirt, much to the dismay of Tholly who was ready and willing to do the job.
Ross is informed that the penalty for a first offense is imprisonment, for the second offense, execution. He humbly offers to pay a fine (AKA bribe) and for that he avoids prison but must leave immediately or be executed. They do not mess with tourists in Rosceaux.
Ross and Tholly are given a police escort to the dock and loaded onto a ship. But Ross has other ideas. He does not want to miss his rendezvous with Monsieur Clousseau and his list. He asks Tholly to get word to Demelza, and with that he dives off the side of the ship and swims back to shore. Have you ever tried to swim in clothes?
We next see him hiding in a barn and disguising himself with nothing but a knit cap; risking death to get that list of survivors. To get that list though, he must return to the pub and the ever-present Mata Hari barmaid.
2. Pow! Bang! Wham!
She wastes no time informing the cops. Surrounded by armed officers Ross calmly looks around to get the lay of the land, then takes them all on. Ross Poldark is Batman! He fights off the entire French army and makes it back across the channel (we’ll have to assume he swam), home to Cornwall.
Just when we (and Demelza) think all must be lost, that there is nothing left of Ross Poldark but the tricorn hat Tholly returned to Demelza, in the distance a figure appears, and highwayman Ross comes riding, riding, riding up to the old Nampara door. As soon as Demelza sees him all her anger melts away. And he comes with good news: Dwight is alive! She says he must go to inform Caroline right away, which he does and she collapses into a heap of relief.
If they only knew the conditions there, they might not be so relieved. Conditions in the prison are no better than on the street. With no supplies, Dr. Enys is trying to treat prisoners, though his bedside manner could use a tune up. When a delirious patient asks if he’s dead, Dwight reassures him that he is, in fact, alive but that they’re all in hell now.
FYI: Made of Money: Ross handed over a tidy sum to get that info about Dwight. A guinea (a form of money no longer used) was worth £1.05. So fifty 1794 guineas equals £6,982 in 2017 pounds sterling (or $9244 in American dollars). And from my count he gave a total of 200 guineas to the list guy and 50 to the French official. That’s £34,910 in 2017 money (or $46,220). Quite a lot for someone who’s always short on cash. Should we assume Caroline bankrolled the mission? Or did Ross finance it himself? And if he did finance it himself, will his pride over it lead to more financial troubles down the road?
1. I Am Demelza, Hear Me Roar
When Ross and Demelza are finally alone, she tells him about the church now in their barn and he asks imperiously, “by whose permission?” But Demelza is not having it. She stands in her truth. She is not like other women. She will bow and scrape no more. He sees she is at least as formidable opponent as any battalion of French soldiers and surrenders without argument. Ross admits that she is his wife, not his chattel (gee, thanks bud), and that he was wrong. And for that, he gets a warm welcome home.
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