The bells are ringing, the music’s triumphant, and the good working-class folk of Cornwall are headed back to work: Ross has finally reopened his father’s long-shuttered mine, and unlike his uncle and cousin, he’s actually paying living wages. What a thought!
Everything that matters in this episode happens in its last five minutes, but before Poldark hits the good stuff, there’s an awful lot of working class folk to be championed and rich people to be villainized. Here, the working class is helpfully personified in the first few minutes by Jim Carter, a teenage poacher with a widowed mother, a lung condition, and a newly knocked-up girlfriend. Ross quickly gives them a house and arranges a wedding to keep the scandal to a minimum.
Meanwhile, the main branch of the Poldark family sees its fair share of upheaval. Verity is still justifiably bitter about the whole “called-off marriage” thing, Charles is still exacerbating Francis’ jealousy issues by pointing out how much better Ross is at business, and Elizabeth is very, very pregnant. She gives birth to a son, and Charles collapses about two seconds after bringing up the possibility of his own death, setting a new record for “shortest distance between obvious foreshadowing and thing it foreshadows.”
Speaking of foreshadowing: Evil Capitalist Tag-Team shows up at one point to frown at Ross for “fraternizing with the lower orders” and going crazy with radical measures like paying workers enough to feed themselves. Sure enough, Jim shows up just a scene or two later: Demelza’s convinced Ross to give him a proper job so he doesn’t have to poach anymore, but the poor guy gets himself caught before Ross can extend the offer of employment.
Ross then goes on a field trip to the Land of Crazy Wigs, where a judge condescendingly stares through his glasses as Ross insists on testifying to Jim’s “character.” The judge sort of has a point when he points out that Ross doesn’t actually have any evidence relevant to the crime at hand, but decides to give Jim a break—though by “a break” he means sending a teenager with a chronic lung condition to prison. You know, instead of the gallows. Ross gets in his sick burn o’ the week when said judge threatens to hold him in contempt of court: “Such a committal would be an entirely accurate reading of my thoughts.” Mic drop!
While Ross is away, though, Demelza’s father swings by. Apparently Ross and Demelza are the last people in the entirety of Cornwall to catch on to their own sexual chemistry, and rumors about them have been flying around for weeks. After two years, dear ol’ dad has decided he actually cares about his daughter (read: his) reputation and spouts some born again-y stuff about sin. Thus begins the chain reaction that ends with the good stuff.
Wearing a very pretty dress she’d found earlier, Demelza walks through the house, tearfully saying goodbye to various inanimate objects. Ross, having returned from his field trip, calls her upstairs in Peak Brood. Once he spies her dress, he yells at her to take it off with what appears to be zero awareness of how suggestive that sounds. They kiss and he, being an upstanding guy who can also remember that Demelza was a literal child when he first took her in, immediately regrets it. But then Demelza hits him with the classic “unlace my dress, please” move, and the rest is history.
The inevitable love triangle locks itself into place the next morning when Elizabeth comes by. Given Francis’s mounting, highly unsexy paranoia and new habit of sleeping with prostitutes, it’s not exactly surprising she’s seeking out her old flame, nor that she feels the need to make withering comments about cornflowers/servant-mistresses and how they don’t last. Little does she know that Demelza’s on her way out and back to her family anyway.
Or is she? Once Ross figures out she’s gone, he catches up to her and plays dumb about why Demelza feels like she has to leave—scratch that, wants to leave, because Demelza has self-esteem and isn’t especially down for being Ross’s servant and his girlfriend. She’s right, Ross admits…and two seconds later, they’re in a church, with her two co-workers as their witnesses. Relationships moved fast in the eighteenth century!