Things have been on a steadily upward trajectory for Ross these past few weeks, what with the marriage and shockingly timely discovery of copper. Part 5 may not reverse that progress, but it certainly halts it, introducing some much-needed conflict into the lives of the Poldarks beyond petty jealousy. Remember: this is Cornwall, and nothing is certain!
For Ross’s part, having copper in his mine doesn’t make much of a difference to his finances when the ore is going for dirt cheap. Consequently, his shareholders aren’t exactly appeased, and Ross is left with the prospect of either ceding more and more control of his business over to George Warleggan or mortgaging his own home.
This decision should be complicated by the birth of his and Demelza’s infant daughter Julia, whose coming into the world takes up about five seconds (and a hilariously awkward crashing-wave-as-visual-metaphor-for-labor-pains) and who receives a minimal amount of screen time thereafter. Demelza’s cool with it, however, and by the end of the episode a mortgage is one of several major business risks Ross has hanging over his head.
In the meantime, there’s an odd, dangling subplot about the visit of Ross’s doctor friend Dwight Ennis from London—the Cornish doctors sure don’t appreciate his newfangled ideas!—and the marriage of Ross’s man Mark to an actress from a traveling theatre troupe. The actress is what one might call “a brat,” demanding that Mark find and/or build a home in less than a week and then expressing her disappointment that said Emergency House isn’t a place by….flirting with Dr. Ennis at her own wedding. It’s not a good look, but it also isn’t terribly relevant to the overall plot.
Ross soon realizes that the root of all his financial problems is the mines’ collective lack of bargaining power against the smelting companies, who collude to keep the price of copper dirt-cheap at auctions. All this is about as interesting as it sounds on paper, especially when Ross starts speculating out loud that things would be so much easier if only the mines formed their own competing smelting company. If only! Anyway, the miners get together and agree to do just that under Ross’s leadership—except for Francis, who doesn’t have the funds.
Poor Francis! He’s finally gotten over his raging case of Ross envy, but he’s still knee-deep in gambling debts and cheating on his sainted wife. While Francis’ deterioration has been happening in slow motion ever since we met him, however, he blows it completely this week by staking his entire mine in a game of cards. He loses it, of course, in front of Ross and his “friend” George Warleggan. Ross’s sanctimony re: George and his uncle can get tiresome, but his response to George’s feigned regret about bankrupting a friend is still a quality burn: “So you leave it to a third party, and your conscience is clear.”
Francis announces the mine’s sale to the workers, writes “I will rise again” in Latin, a language literally none of the workers understand, and walks off to wallow in self-pity. This leaves Francis on the outs, Ross teetering on the precipice of debt and homelessness, and only Verity with a happy ending.
Demelza’s brought in her former fiancé, see, who finally has a shot now that Verity’s father is dead; once he stops saying silly things like “I’m married to my ship” and Verity stops tearfully running out of rooms, the two reunite in the middle of a very romantic miner riot. We won’t know for sure how things work out until next week (probably just fine), but consider this a Demelza appreciation post: the girl literally just learned to read, and she’s already patching up broken engagements via (misspelled, but still) correspondence, all while caring for a newborn. Some 18th century class-mobile ladies really can have it all!