After a couple of weeks of mildly passive-aggressive staring, the lesser, wetter Poldark cousin changes tactic this week and begins sulking out loud about his wife, his workers and now even his baby son all preferring the irresistible Captain Ross (as does the entire audience). Unfortunate for both Francis’s wife and his marriage, then, that this is news so old it creaks; while Francis frets about what Elizabeth might like to get up to with the Captain, the Captain and the rest of the county have moved onto fretting about what he might like to get up to with Demelza. Especially now she’s taken to smiling and dancing and putting cornflowers in her hair, as one apparently does in old-timey Cornwall when one has it bad for one’s handsome boss.
Before he can get up to anything with Demelza, though, said handsome boss has a to-do list about as long as the Magna Carta to get through. Stupid Elizabeth may throw longing looks his way (again, as does the entire audience) but too late; last week’s dance-based flirtation is barely a footnote in our very busy hero’s diary now, thanks to a packed itinerary that includes setting up two weddings, bewitching two babies and engaging in an astonishing amount of social activism for an 18th century nobleman in a triangle-shaped hat.
This joyously crazy episode begins with Ross opening his mine; the hordes of delighted peasants queuing up to join the Fellowship of the
Ring Wheal having been enticed by the two big draws no other mine can offer – a living wage and a boss with amazing hair who, as his cantankerous Uncle puts it, “(rolls) up his sleeves and (toils) alongside his men.” And also arranges marriages and free housing for them when they get somebody pregnant, because the man is a SAINT.
Not content with providing hope, employment and a stone-built cottage for every smiling smock-wearer in the county, however, this paragon of humanity and handsomeness (and virility, but more of that later, fear not) also provides free legal representation as required, albeit marginally less successfully. Still, since the penalty for poaching is supposed to have been death, Ross getting Idiot Jim’s sentence commuted to two years’ jail time seems pretty impressive to Demelza and I. Especially when every impassioned, angry word our hero throws at the court is clearly intended more to enrapture twenty-first century tv audiences than mollify eighteenth-century judges. I was surprised the Captain didn’t get thrown in jail himself, but I suppose he didn’t have time for that, not with all his romantic business still to be getting on with!
Yes, while Poldark charged about the country on the hardest-working horse in showbiz (if I had to write down HORSE! every time he galloped past, I’d very quickly run out of paper), young Demelza set about becoming indispensable, making delicious pies and dreamy eyes at her boss, while anticipating his every request – which sounds a lot ruder than I meant it to, I promise.
Like any traditional Cinderella story, however, it’s only when the combined powers of a shiny dress (which “unfastens down the back”, natch) and the threat of evil-parent-enforced separation kick in that Prince Charming is spurred into romantic action. (HORSE!)
On one view, it’s a little disappointing that our otherwise enlightened hero with his very modern views on class and social welfare falls for a girl because she cooks, cleans and looks beautiful in a ballgown. Ross has obviously had way too much going on since the series began to catch up with his radical feminism. But, on another, Demelza is funny, feisty, smart and adores him, so I’m going to give Capt Poldark the benefit of the doubt and assume he can see, like everyone watching, just how awesome she is. Yes, that knowledge seems to have come on insanely quickly – other shows could and would have kept the sexual tension simmering for weeks, instead of giving us impassioned kiss, tremulous seduction and SURPRISE! insta-wedding all in the space of ten, very exciting but completely mad minutes – and, yes, I would have liked to be teased for a few more episodes, but there’s a lot to be said for instant gratification when it involves Aidan Turner. On which point, my conscience compels me to point out that there was absolutely no narrative justification for the topless scything/harvesting/as-if-anybody-cares-what-kind-of-work-it-was scene but since Ross is the Saint rather than me, I’m not going to complain about it. As a piece of serious drama, Poldark may be completely, unashamedly, wonderfully bonkers, but, as Sunday night entertainment? It knows exactly what its audience wants and isn’t shy in giving it to them. Good job Winston Graham wrote twelve books, though, otherwise, at this pace, the show would be running out of story faster than that poor HORSE! hurtling across Cornwall every week.