‘Poldark’ Recap: Part 4


Because this miniseries is a period piece set in England, Poldark was bound to ramp up the class anxieties eventually. “Part 4” does that in spades, dealing almost entirely with the social, financial, and emotional fallout of last week’s shotgun wedding. Surprise: everyone is mad!

The outrage starts with Demelza’s colleagues and the only two witnesses to her wedding, Jud and Pru. (The phrase “who does she think she is?” is uttered, verbatim.) Ill feeling only spirals outward from there, beginning with newly broken-bad Francis (“You will cut yourself out from society!”) and ending with the Warleggans (“His ventures will fail…you can enjoy the sight of him in the gutter along with his slut.” Lovely!). The only good, or even ambivalent, reaction comes from Ross’s old friend the prostitute, who appears to have neither a name nor coworkers.

As he’s repeatedly reminded us, Ross doesn’t actually care about society, but he does care about his mine. And when his mine continues to produce only dirt-cheap iron instead of sweet, sweet copper, he realizes that social standing doesn’t just mean the right to attend lavish parties: it’s also the key to getting people to give you money, which is important for a capital-intensive pursuit like blowing up earth and hauling metal out of it.

Alarmed by Ross’s “reckless” behavior, the Wig Gang denies him more investment—unless he comes up with copper, which is precisely why he needs more cash in the first place. Stuck in a catch-22, Ross turns his attention to Demelza, pulling off a low-key Cornish Pygmalion by giving her books to study, ribbons for her hair, and hiring-and-firing authority over servants. Lesson number one: tackling someone to the ground is not an effective management technique. Lesson number two: hiring friends like Ginny as your kitchen maid may be an act of kindness, but it’ll make the friendship turned employer-employee dynamic decidedly awkward.

In the middle of all this, Ross’s already ailing uncle passes away, leaving a jealous and insecure Francis, in his own words, “one of the most important men in the county.” The consequences of this, beyond a very weighty deathbed speech to Ross about the importance of The Family Name, aren’t immediately clear. Instead, we segue almost immediately to a visit from Verity, who’s predictably the only extended family member to treat Demelza like a human being and not a giant mud stain on Ross’s reputation.

Demelza uses this much-needed Girl Time interlude to make a few confessions. One, she’s in love with Ross, but almost certain he doesn’t feel the same (emotional foreshadowing much?); two, she’s pregnant! Eventually, Verity leaves, and there’s a whimsical if totally pointless interlude of Ross and Demelza joyfully helping the townsfolk unload a bunch of fish.

The episode climaxes in an extremely tense Christmas dinner that doubles as Demelza’s official introduction to the rest of the Poldarks. Elizabeth turns on the charm, only for her husband to accuse her of showing off for Ross’s benefit; a bitchy great-aunt obliviously asks what family Demelza’s from, then orders her to sit next to Elizabeth and demonstrate how she measures up; an even bitchier houseguest asks pointed questions about servants rising above their place and women remaining unmarried at the positively crone-like age of 23.

Demelza blows them all away, however, by giving a beautiful rendition of a folk song instead of, say, a harp performance. This, of all things, is what finally prompts Ross to call her “my love,” and Francis to realize that maybe instead of obsessing over Elizabeth and Ross, he should wise up to the fact that both parties have moved on. Too little too late, given that he’s apparently gambled away the bulk of his inheritance already, but it’s a start.

Christmas dinner goes off without a hitch, though the feel-good moments aren’t over yet: the mine, depleted of gunpowder as it is, finally yields copper. Ross is overjoyed, since he’s still blissfully unaware that the younger Warleggan has bought a hefty chunk of shares from an investor desperate to jump ship. And of course, he finally tells Demelza he loves her when she’s actually conscious, prompting her to tell him about her pregnancy. Ross’s claim that she “redeemed” him comes off as a tad hyperbolic, but what else are Christmas episodes for?