It’s hard to make copper sound dangerous and sexy, but Judas’ voiceover does its damnedest at the outset of Poldark’s second installment. The metal means life or death in Cornwall, and for poor Lord Bassett, it just means death: the Warleggans have cut off his credit, leaving dozens of miners out of a job and Bassett himself out of a mine. So he kills himself, and just so we understand they’re The Villains, the Warleggans worry about PR. (Also, George hires prostitutes and makes them call him “sir.” Being rude to sex workers: a sure sign of evil if there ever was one.)
So when Ross sets out on a new business venture, he’s desperate to partner with basically anyone but the uncle-nephew duo. This becomes a slightly more complicated proposition when he decides to partner up with his cousin Francis, who’s both tight with George and a teensy bit insecure about his wife being the love of Ross’s life. George is, of course, extremely aware of this, and proceeds to blatantly manipulate Francis and generally wreak havoc on his mental state.
The man gets plenty of ammo once Poldark pulls out the most important tool in any British period piece’s repertoire: the dance! Ross, being a brooder, doesn’t really want to go, but his cousin Verity makes him so she can flirt with a nice sea captain. He obliges, and proceeds to make some fairly good business decisions (scoping out for investors) and some fairly bad personal ones (rejecting an eligible young woman so he can dance with Elizabeth in full view of the gossiping public). Afterwards, he hires a prostitute, and treats her much more nicely than George.
Demelza, meanwhile, is doing as any pretty young woman in the employ of an eligible bachelor should and snooping around. Judas scolds her with a speech about knowing her place and staying where she belongs et cetera et cetera, but karma gives Demelza her just desserts in the end: spotting Ross bathing naked in the ocean the next day. Also, he tells her that “your place is where I say it is” in a way best described as gruff-sexy.
With Demelza in tow (but not Francis—he’s still ticked about the dance), Ross makes his pitch to the would-be copper investors. Despite all the perfectly sound reasons they list for not investing, they bite! Demelza even gets a new coat out of it. Back at the house, though, things aren’t going so well. Elizabeth thinks they’re talking about her, so of course she cries to Ross about it. Not very good at establishing boundaries, those two.
Instead, the drama’s all about Verity. Her sea captain, it turns out, has a bit of an unsavory past: he’s an alcoholic who beat his first wife to death. But it was only an accident! Or so Verity insists when Ross talks to her about it. So he lets them meet in secret at his house, until Francis, who by this point has gone from fragile to positively unstable, gets wind of it.
One thing leads to another, and before long Francis has pulled out a gun, the sea captain has shot him in an impromptu duel, and Demelza is helping to wipe up the blood (Prudence, the other female servant, can’t because she’s chicken). The day ends tragically all around, with Verity’s engagement over before it even began, Uncle Charles blaming Ross for his son’s injury, and Elizabeth announcing she’s expecting. “I built a castle out of winks and smiles,” Ross tells Demelza forlornly, as if “being married” isn’t enough of a signal he should move on all by itself.
Luckily, Demelza seems willing to help out on the moving-on front! After Ross buys her first-ever cloak, he offers to let her go home to her family if she wants to, having apparently forgotten about the whole “beating Dad into a pulp so Demelza can get away from him” thing that happened, like, a week ago. But she assures him, in a very meaningful voice, that she belongs at Chez Poldark, hinting heavily at Things to Come.