It’s telling that the only character to end Poldark‘s first season on a straightforwardly happy note spends, by far, the least time on screen. Verity finally marries her poor, disgraced captain at the ripe old age of 23, her wedding planned and executed in about three scenes. The rest of the two-hour finale, as is only proper, doubles down on the death and destitution that plagues Cornwall these days. Shall we?
This season’s various subplots combine in a perfect storm this week, starting with Mark and Keren’s unhappy marriage. Unfortunately for her, Keren succeeds in seducing Dwight just as Mark gets caught in a nasty mine collapse, meaning that she’s conspicuously out of the house when he needs her most. Unsurprisingly, Mark’s attempt at working out their differences amounts to physical assault, and before he knows it, he’s accidentally snapped his wife’s neck.
Meanwhile, Verity’s elopement, assisted/enabled by Demelza and her letter-carrying services, pushes Francis over the edge. Never the most in touch with his emotions, he projects all the jealousy he’s been feeling towards Ross and his self-reliant ways onto the situation, immediately assuming his cousin is responsible. Naturally, he vents to George over several drinks—George having restored himself to Francis’ good graces by forgiving a chunk of his likely cheating-induced gambling debt—and proceeds to name every single one of the mining company’s investors.
All of this culminates in two nasty confrontations: Mark and Dwight both turn up at Ross’s house at the same time, while Ross travels to the family estate to figure out why everyone’s so upset about Verity. Mark manages to keep his anger in check—murdering your wife tends to make one cede the moral high ground—but Francis makes the mistake of insulting Demelza. All is not well in the Poldark household.
Things temporarily look up when the soldier in charge of tracking Mark down turns out to be an old comrade of Ross’s, who charms him for long enough to send Mark safely away on his boat, though not before he repays his benefactor by telling him there’s a ton of copper on Poldark Senior’s shuttered mine. Too bad Ross might never get the chance to mine that copper; the Warleggans have called in all their debts, effectively bankrupting all his business partners.
This is when the Poldarks reach the low point in their marriage, as Ross finds out Demelza’s behind Verity’s elopement and Demelza realizes she’s accidentally ruined their family’s finances. Conveniently, the Plot Device of Potentially Terminal Illness intervenes, not that Ross honestly seems that angry with his wife to begin with. Elizabeth and her son are the first to fall ill, along with all of their servants; Demelza helps her through the night, only to inevitably fall ill herself.
While both Demelza and Julia are in their sickbed, we get a peek into Demelza’s subconscious through some fever dreams (you know they’re hallucinations because they’re blurry!). Her abusive, born-again dad still haunts her, as does her lingering insecurities about Ross’s attachment to Elizabeth. Demelza’s so ill, in fact, she doesn’t notice when her daughter succumbs to the sickness, which appears to be some form of strep throat. We’re treated to a horrifying shot of Ross carrying a small coffin on his shoulder as his wife remains too sick to even realize she should be mourning.
Yet another Awfully Convenient Plot Device serves as the finale’s climax: while mourning on the cliffs, Ross witnesses the wreckage of the Warleggans’ latest prime investment, a ship called the Queen Charlotte. Because the precious cargo happens to be washing ashore on his land, Ross exercises his right as a landowner and sics his entire (starving) peasant population on the beach. Once the high of stealing from his enemies wears off, Ross notices that the crowd is devolving into drunken chaos, fighting each other over scraps.
Ross offers the survivors, all of whom are exactly the kind of elitist upper crust-types our hero has spent this entire series claiming he’s not one of, shelter at his house, a move that reads as Ross admitting he is, after all, more like the Warleggans and their kind than the poor he’s so loudly championed. He leaves the mob to be rounded up by the soldiers the Warleggans have bribed into treating the scavenging as theft. (They’re not just being jerks; their cousin Matthew was on the ship and subsequently killed, so the duo have an emotional as well as a financial investment in the ship.)
The next morning, Demelza and Ross finally mourn their daughter together on the cliffs, and Ross promises to mend the break in their family by inviting Francis to be his business partner. Their celebration is short-lived, however; there’s a whole new season to be set up! George declaring his feelings for Elizabeth back at the main house isn’t nearly enough of a cliffhanger on its own. So Ross is arrested for, among other things, murder and theft, and dragged bodily away from his panicked wife. The Warleggans want revenge for their cousin’s death, and Poldark wants another season of old nobility vs. new money throwdowns. Until next year, when we find out if a jail cell makes for a better or worse backdrop for Epic Aidan Turner Broods than the Cornish seaside.