‘Poldark’ Episode 2: To dare to hope

While we swelter in the summer heat, PBS takes us to the blustery coast of Cornwall in “Poldark.” In episode 2, one can “dare to hope.”

This episode starts with the sun coming through the boards of a mine. Poldark is busy studying diagrams and maps of the tin mine, Wheal Leisure.

Jud (Phil Davis) is with him and intones, “‘T’is in the blood,’ your father’d said. ‘Mining t’is in the blood …t’is the bread of life…She’s your salvation and your downfall. It’d make you reckless, make you bold.”

Again, we have men in red coats. They are again on the “wrong” side of a war, but this war is one of commerce. They won’t let the miners in. No work; no money. Wheal Reath is closed. It’s owner, Lord Bassett, dresses himself in his best coat and wig. He ties and neatly arranges his neck scarf as the bailiffs are knocking at his door. Then he puts a bullet through his head.”

With the closing of Wheal Leisure,  Wheal Grambler is the only mine left open and Grambler belongs to Ross’ uncle, Charles. We already know that Charles (Warren Clarke) doesn’t pay them well.

Elsewhere, George Warleggan (Jack Farthing) has his conscience polluted by his uncle, Cary Warleggan (Pip Torrens).  George wonders if they will be blamed for the mine closure. Cary simply says, “Did we furnish the pistol?”

“We called in his loans,” George says.

“No, we declined to extend them,” his uncle replies. “Are we in the business of sentiment or profit,”

George now has a wench, who is about to leave for her other job. George tells her he must now call him “Sir.”

“These ancient families lack backbone,” George says. “It’s a wonder they survive.” A little class hate and a bit of slumming. George can’t seem to find a woman to court.

After consideration, Ross returns the money to his uncle, Charles. If you recall, in the last episode after Francis married Elizabeth, Francis and Charles worried about Ross. They know that Elizabeth has a greater attraction to her. Francis had given Elizabeth the chance to call of their engagement, but due to her mother’s words of wisdom (reputation and money matter), Elizabeth decided against rushing over to see Ross. Charles advised Ross to go to London and find a profession–be a lawyer or what not. Charles provided him with the funds. Hearing this, Elizabeth then rushed to see Ross, but when she meets him at the crossroads, he is not alone. He has retrieved Demelza (Eleanor Tomilinson) at the crossroads. Yes…symbolic, but this is TV.

Ross still has Elizabeth’s gold ring although he no longer wears it.

Charles and Ross discuss the death of Lord Bassett. Ross knows that the problem was with the Warleggans, but Charles tells him, “Everyone has loans with the Warlegans.”

Ross asks, “That doesn’t alarm you?”

Charles shows just how clueless he is about the Warleggans, saying, “George is like a brother to Francis.” Yes, but not all brothers are kind and loving.

While Ross is there, he notices his other cousin and says, “You must visit me soon, Verity.”

“She has no time for gadding about,” Charles exclaims. Oh, Charles. How cruel you are. Did you treat your wife any better? Remember in the last episode Charles had also treated Verity as if she was his indentured servant–an unpaid housekeeper.

Elizabeth (Heida Reed) watches Ross come and go from her bedroom window. After Ross is gone, Francis comes in to see her. “Perhaps I should rest a while,” Elizabeth says.

“Shall I join you?” Francis asks and that only makes Elizabeth look forlorn. Do you think she regrets her choice yet? Does one imagine she sees Ross’ face while she’s with Francis?

Ross has taken in Jim as a foreman. Others ask Ross to take them on, telling him his uncle plays them starvation wages. Ross hesitates to cross the line and anger his only living relatives? Is blood really thicker than the ties of friendship.

Ross is reconsidering his mine. It’s there that Francis meets him. Francis tells him that he’s glad he’s not leaving for London because, “We’ve always been more friends that cousins.”

“I’ve been wondering if this mine has finally been worked out?” Ross explains. Now we learn just how ineffectual Francis is. Francis knows nothing about mines and mining even though he is the only son and expected to take over eventually.

“Father doesn’t trust me with responsibility,” Francis confesses.  “He likes keeps the mysteries of mine-owning to himself.” Oh, Elizabeth. You married a man who has no backbone and no real skills except dressing well and being polite in polite society. Can that be a mistake?

“Perhaps we should open the mine together,” Ross says, feeling generous.

Ross then goes to see his favorite banker, Harris Pascoe, who tells him, “You’d require investors” but Ross might have problems because he has “a reputation somewhat tarnished?” Remember Ross joined the army to avoid being charged as a smuggler and assaulted an officer of the law.

When Ross stops for a drink at the tavern he is approached by the wench we just saw with George. She offers him her services, but when he declines, she reads his palm and tells him “Better days ahead.” She also senses that Ross loves a woman who is lost for him. “Perhaps she loves you still.” Yes, Ross does dare to hope.

Back at Ross’ estate, Nampara, Verity rides out while her father is away. She only has an hour before he returns. As they both pass Demelza who is hanging laundry, Ross introduces them.

Verity asks,  “Has she settled?”

Ross replies,  “Still somewhat feral.” Earlier in the episode we saw Demelza complaining about washing her hair and she also added that she hates taking baths. Servants in the Poldark house must takes baths.

Verity has taken her one-hour vacation from her jailer-father with a mission in mind. She asks, “I wonder if I might ask you the greatest of favors.”

More will come of that, but we also find that Francis is asking his wife,  “Will you not reconsider? You know how I love to show off my wife to the world.” It seems his greatest accomplishment is marrying Elizabeth.

Ross’ mission is to take Verity to the dance assembly, but Demelza notes “He don’t look too glad about it.”

Prudie replies, “Gentlefolks is strange.”

At the dance, Ross assures Verity, “As official escort, I’m entirely at your service.”

Verity quickly replies, “Don’t be.” Verity has her own mission, but she also tells Ross, there are “a great many girls who would be glad to acquire the name of Poldark.” Yes, this is a mating ritual  in polite society.

George manages to politely raise the level of hostility by finding Ross alone in a small room and asking, “Not dancing Ross? Will none of the ladies have you?” Do you think that George is projecting his situation on to Ross?  George advises him to try and get the stink of the lower classes off of him by using perfume. It must work for him, because “Indeed..how would a family of blacksmiths become bankers.”

Elizabeth does come on the arm of Francis. Francis has accomplished something this week. Ross is accosted by a young lady hoping for a bit of romance.

Ross asks Miss Teague, “How do you find your first ball?”

Miss Teague coyly replies,  “Exceeding all expectations.” She wonders if Ross is on her dance card? I guess this is how women indirectly asked an eligible man to dance.

“I fear I possess few of the refinements of polite society,” Ross says kindly before he slips away.

Verity is more of a gentlelady. She has to be. She is not young and fresh although her family is well thought of. She is sitting alone at the edge of activity. A gallant gentleman comes to her rescue. Verity meets Captain Andrew Blamey (Richard Harrington) and gamely smiles and says she is so interested in learning more about ships.

While the masters play, the servants still work. Demelza is scrubbing floor and then sneaks into Ross’ office and looks around at a piece of ore (copper) and the diagrams and maps.

Jud catches her there and tells her, “Go home, back where ye come from. You don’t belong here.”

While we are on the subject of mines, back at the party Ross meets a few people who might become investors while Verity learns about masts and sails.

The captain asks, “If I might dare to hope” to pay court to Verity. Of course, being a proper gentleman, he wants to ask her father, Charles. You can see trouble looming here, right?  Winston Graham, the original author, and script writer Debbie Horsfield, won’t leave off there. The captain is single for a reason. He has a secret. More on that later. 

While Ross didn’t want to dance with Miss Teague, but he does take time to dance a cotillion with Elizabeth. Apparently Francis also can’t dance. That gives George an opportunity to lurk and slither. He whispers into Francis’ ear, “Captain Blamey. Master of the Lisbon packet. A pretty catch…at her age she wouldn’t get more chances,” he says as they look at Verity in earnest conversation with her captain. For the first time, we see Verity happy, excited and hopeful.

Then we have proof that Francis is as boorish as his father or at least he is clueless, “But father couldn’t spare her.”

George twists the emotionial knife in by saying, “And Elizabeth would miss her though doubtless your wife would find ways of distracting herself.” George gives a meaningful look at Ross and Elizabeth.

Francis sees how Ross and Elizabeth look at each other. They start off the dance stiffly. Then as they begin to enjoy dancing, she smiles and his gaze softens. Eventually, their smiles are open and their eyes are filled with joy. I’m guessing that’s something Francis never sees when he’s alone with Elizabeth.

Verity introduces Captain Andrew  to Ross and her sister-in-law Elizabeth. Ross and Elizabeth want to be on their own, but Verity chases after them and warns him to take care. People are watching.

Ross leaves the dance in such a state that he stops at the tavern and decides to take up the tavern wench on her offer. As he returns home, he decides to take a bath himself and undresses at the beach where Demelza happens to be. He doesn’t see her as he goes into for a bit of skinny dipping and Demelza doesn’t avert her gaze.

While he’s thinking about his Francis and Charles problem, Charles comes to visit and asks Ross to allow Francis in on his risky enterprise. Charles hopes that it will help Francis to learn to do something. “He must learn to stand on his own two feet. You must help him.” Everyone must help Francis.

Ross wisely brings up the matter of discretion,  “especially with his good friend George.” Charles still thinks that George will bring no harm to the Poldarks.

Ross takes Demelza on his horse to the village. “It’s an important day for us both,” he says,  “Let’s see who can strike the better bargain.”

Ross meets Elizabeth. As a gentleman, he asks to carry her parcels. Their hands touch and linger a bit too long. She suggests Ross pursue Ruth Teague. Ross asks, “Would that please you?”

Elizabeth says, “I have to go. Verity will be looking for me.” Yet Verity is actually looking for someone else.

Elsewhere, Demelza sees Verity with that captain.

Ross has gone to meet with Francis who shows how little backbone he has and how easily influenced he is. He tells Ross, “I’m in no mood to speculate. I need something I can depend on.”

Ross goes on without him. In a private room, men assemble. Ross begins, “We come here today to decide one thing: Whether to risk good gold in pursuit of copper.”

One man notes, “Welsh mines prosper and Cornwall’s on its knees.”

Yet Ross assures them, “the price of copper should rise.”

Here’s the plan. Ross will manage the mine and be head purser without salary.

Captain Henshaw will oversee workers without salary (until they turn a profit).

Renfrew will supply gear and tackle at a good price.

Pascoe’s bank is willing to draft a note of 300 pounds.

Henshaw notes it could cost the shareholders dear, but Ross adds, “and the miners dearer.”

But Ross also adds, “I’d sooner gamble on a vein of copper and the sweat of 50 men than on a turn of a card.”

The cost will be “50 guineas a piece for three months.” All the men are in.

George, of course, is behind all this. After Ross leaves, George moves in and begins quizzing Francis about Ross’ latest venture as they play cards (because gambling is such a dependable enterprise).

George advises Francis, “She cannot choose our family, but we can choose our friends.” We all know that George is a frenemy, right.

Ross sees that Francis leaving with George. He has an idea that Francis is in trouble. Ross buys Demelza a cloak which is red on the inside and a mellow green on the outside. She is quite pleased with herself. Notice that Ross is carrying the bucket that has groceries in it instead of Demelza.

Back at the estate of the other Poldarks, Elizabeth is eavesdropping as her husband and her father-in-law.

“She should be mistress of her own behavior,”  Francis defends himself.

A lady has been caught misbehaving. Elizabeth rides alone to Ross’ home and is met by Demelza. Soon enough Ross returns and asks, “Have you been offered some refreshment?”

“Your maid tried her best,” Elizabeth says.

Elizabeth doesn’t directly say what the matter is, but Ross fills in the blanks from his own hopeful heart. He loves Francis. Elizabeth loves Francis. He tell her he will follow her back straight away.

Ross has been led astray. when he meets with his relatives they tell him:  “It’s a bad business Ross, but we must make the best of it” and “Verity has greatly disappointed us.”

Her father has an easy explanation, “She’s a plain girl and that make her easy prey.” But Charles then states, “She will not leave this house until she swears never to see him again.”

Now does anyone really think that Charles would have found any suitor suitable for his maid/daughter.

Verity confronts Ross outside (notice she doesn’t confront her father…such is the control men had over women in those days). She says, “I heard what they told you, but it isn’t true.” She continues, “I’m sure. He loves me. I love him. You of all people know what that feels like.” That hits Ross hard. He had hope; it was dashed.

Ross asks,  “What can I do?”

We soon enough learn what Ross will do. He’s allowing the captain and Verity to meet at her place. The captain tells Ross, “She’s my angel of redemption.”

While romance is happening in his house, romance comes in pursuit of him. Ruth and her mother come calling. They think “farming is such an engaging hobby.” They tell Ross, “Perhaps we can show you what a woman’s touch can do to a home.”

Ross meets Francis and Charles and they aren’t happy. They feel that Ross has betrayed them. They know Verity is meeting with the captain.

Soon we learn why they think the captain is a “filthy skunk.” The rumor is that he killed his wife and “We don’t deal with wife-murderers.”

Ross says, “I take no one’s side.”

Francis decides to have a duel, with the captain because “The skunk insulted me.” Francis will botch this, of course. Wounded, he is carried by Ross up to a bed. Prudie is too afraid to help so Demelza helps Ross patch up Francis.  For a second time, Ross saves Francis’ life, but in doing so, he is first blamed by Elizabeth for what happened and then sees how much she cares about Francis, at least, as a husband who gives her her position. As a parting gesture, Elizabeth explains that she is pregnant with his child.

Ross asks Demelza if he has “half-wit” written on his forehead. He realizes that Elizabeth was using him for her own needs. That may be her kind of love.

Ross orders his men and Demelza over the mine, Wheal Leisure. He gives Demelza a chance to return to her father and family, but she tells him she’s happy to be at Nampara. Now all hope is with the mine Wheal Leisure and Ross seems to have given up on Elizabeth.

“Poldark” is available VoD on the PBS Masterpiece website.














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