‘Poldark’ Season 1 recap: Essential questions

Season 1 of “Poldark” was successful enough, that we will see more of Aiden Turner and his thick, unruly curling dark mane. This first series or season sets up the characters and some bitter rivalries, ending with a cliffhanger.

Poldark” is part of PBS Masterpiece and is available VoD.

Episode 1: The Homecoming

Ross returns home after serving in the military. The British have lost the American colonies. Ross’s sweetheart, Elizabeth, is engaged to his cousin Francis. She’s convinced not to break off and marries into the Poldark family at Trenwith. Ross saves a young girl and takes her on as his servant. His father has died leaving him an estate, Nampara, in ruins and tin mines that are closed down. His uncle Charles advises him to leave for London, which distresses Elizabeth, but Ross decides to stay.

Episode 2: The Duel

Ross finds investors to re-open the mine Wheal Leisure but isn’t joined by Francis who is growing closer to George Warleggan as he becomes increasingly estranged from his wife. George’s sister falls in love with a disgraced captain and George insists on fighting a duel. Ross at first believes that Elizabeth will leave Francis, but finds that she only needed Ross to insure that Francis didn’t do anything rash. Ross saves Francis, but learns that Elizabeth is pregnant.

Episode 3: Ross’ Passions

Ross opens a mine and searches for copper. Ross becomes depressed when his employee is caught for poaching pheasants and is sent to prison where he will likely not survive. Elizabeth has a son and during the celebratory party, Francis’ father Charles, has a heart attack. Ross impulsively seeks comfort with Demelza. To prevent her from leaving in disgrace, he marries. her.

Episode 4: Social Shockwaves

The marriage of Ross to Demelza sends shockwaves through this part of Cornwall. Ross’ uncle is offended, but before he died he asks Ross to look after Francis and his family. Verity visits Demezla and Ross and teaches Demelza how to courstey and other manners of the polite society. Demelza makes a good impression at Trenwith during the Christmas celerations and Ross finally declares his love. Copper is found at Wheal Leisure.

Episode 5: The Gamblers

Demelza gives birth to a daughter, Julia, and finds an ally in Elizabeth. In her happiness, she attempts to repay her debt to Verity by bringing her back together with her beloved Captain Blamey. One of the men marries an actress, but her eyes soon wander and she finds herself drawn to the young doctor Dwight Enys, a friend of Ross’ who has come to study lung disease in the mines. Ross also forms a wildcat smelting company to compete with the Warleggans. Francis finds time for a mistress and gambling, finally losing the mine to a cousin of George’s, Matthew.

The play used in this episode is Shakespeare’s “All’s Well That Ends Well.”

Episode 6: The Death of Love

Ross impulsively breaks the law in order to get medical treatment to Jim Carter, but Jim dies anyways. In order to remind everyone of his class, he is convinced to attend a party at the Warleggans. George finds out more about the smelting company. Yet while Demelza is a hit at the party, Ross is drunken and sullen and seems about to lose everything to Matthew when Ross reveals that Matthew cheats. At the party, Francis realizes that Verity and Captain Blamey have been meeting secretly and forces them to break up.

Episodes 7 & 8: The Betrayal and Redemption

Verity elopes, leaving a note for Francis. Francis immediately accuses Ross although it was Demelza. This causes Francis to forbid Ross and Demelza from returning to Trenwith. In anger, Francis reveals the name of Ross’ investors to George and George calls in all their debts.  The actress successfully seduces the young doctor, but is less successful in convincing her husband, Mark, whose fault it is. Mark must flee. The Warleggans seem to have defeated Ross as his partners and he win no bids on copper for the smelting.

The breach between Trenwith and Nampara is mended when Demelza tends to Elizabeth, Francis and their child when the whole of Trenwith comes down with diphtheria. Upon her return, Demelza and then the infant Julia develop diphtheria. Julia dies while Demelza remains ill. The Warleggans have a turn of fortune when their flagship is wrecked on the coast off of Nampara. Ross, as is the custom, gathers his people and they claim all the goods that wash ashore. Ross saves the survivors but finds Matthew dead.  George reveals his affection for Elizabeth, but Elizabeth also realizes that Ross truly loves Demelza. Unwilling to accept a loss, through bribery, George has Ross arrested for theft and murder.

In the finale, Jud and Francis both use the word “trull” which means prostitute to refer to Demelza.

Would Ross have been happy with Elizabeth?

That is the big question. If Elizabeth had followed her heart and married Ross, would they have been happy? In this portrayal although it is clear that Elizabeth values status, she has shown herself to be a survivor and much stronger than her husband Francis. She has also shown kindness toward Demelza, even breaking from her mother’s snobbery when she makes a cutting remark. She is clearly unhappy with Francis who is handsome, but also selfish. This becomes more evident after the birth of their child. As a mother, she must look out for her child and she knows that Francis is not capable.

Would George still compete with Ross?

Yet the problem that Ross faces would be much the same, if not worse. George obviously covets Elizabeth and a little thing like the marriage to his good friend Francis will not stop him. Perhaps a happy Elizabeth would have made George even angrier or more envious. In the first season, George almost seems like one of the unpopular kids show just wants to convince one of the popular kids to like him, really like him. Failing that, George decides to destroy him.

One change of the dynamic might be that Francis would have been more willing to join Ross in his endeavors unless he allowed his jealousy over losing Elizabeth to be the deciding factor. George might have used the loss of Elizabeth to his advantage.

If not Francis and Elizabeth, then Francis and what woman?

If Francis had not married Elizabeth, then it would seem likely that the determined Ruth Teague would have married Francis or at least tried to do so. That would set up a disastrous mixture of vixen filled with vitriol and a failure husband Francis who would likely resort to hiding away–perhaps even behind Ross. One supposes that the pity party Francis would be holding would blame the loss of Elizabeth for all his misery.

The match between Verity and Captain Blamey would have been just as ill-fated although without Elizabeth, Verity would have been even more chained to Trenwith. Who would provide the calming influence.  Would Aunt Agatha be up to some rather vicious counter sniping?

Francis would have likely attempted to gamble away his fortune although with Ruth, one senses an air of ruthlessness. She’d not quietly sit back while the money was spent. She and her harpy mother might have set upon George and Matthew and even that prostitute Margaret.

What was the significance of “All’s Well That Ends Well”?

The female protagonist in the play, Helena, is not well-born. She is a gentlewoman who has a healing ability. The man she loves, Bertram, however, doesn’t love her when he marries her. He does come to love her later after she has pursued him, risked her life and then been thought dead. To a certain extent, Demelza is Helena. She was in love with Ross before he was in love with her. She has his love after they marry and she does eventually risk her life to regain Ross’ favor and heal the rift between Ross and Francis.

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