Poldark S2 Episodes 2 & 3 Review
A Tale Of Financial Risks & Emotional Insensibility
by Amanda-Rae Prescott
After an election mandated hiatus, Poldark S2 returns to PBS with more high stakes drama. Although Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) survived the trial, he hasn’t learned his lesson that being an iconoclastic risk taker will lead to more trouble in his life.
A rough paraphrase of a statement Ross made in S1 comes back in my mind as I watched these two episodes.
Do I have the word halfwit across my forehead?
As this season progresses, he indeed acts like a halfwit in personal and financial matters. Time and time again, he refuses to let go of his past with Elizabeth (Heida Reed). Instead of shutting her down at the Trenwith Party in Epi2, he entertains her flirtations and past regrets. In Epi3, she returns to only discussing matters involving Francis with Ross. Based on these two episodes, those new to the world of Poldark can already tell that Ross and Elizabeth are on some sort of collision course. The dance between familial friendship and past longing moves from the pages to the screen in a brilliant fashion.
On the poor financial and legal decision fronts, Ross in Epi3 decides to entertain Mr. Trencrom (Richard McCabe) and his plan to use Nampara Cove for deliveries of tax free liquor, salt, and other goods. Ross believes risking his neck for the “free trade” is worth it because of the quick cash and the chance to give the government the proverbial middle finger. Ross is thinking more about the short-term and escaping from the clutches of Warleggan (Jack Farthing) and less about the long-term consequences. The book goes into far more detail about the economic necessity of breaking the law in this fashion, but the show gives enough visuals of the miners and fishermen to get the point across.
Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) as always has to carry the burden of Ross’ moods and rash decisions throughout this season. She is opposed to the smuggling plan because she has no desire to see Ross hanged or thrown in jail. Her response to their financial woes is to go out fishing.
The extras can be salted for the winter or sold at market. Ross fails to express his natural concerns for her health in a productive manner. Instead of hashing out their grief before the baby arrives, they spend most of Epi3 arguing. The joy of renewed parenthood by the end of the episode overshadows these squabbles, but the peace between Ross and Demelza feels like a fragile state of being.
The second poor financial decision Ross makes is reopening Wheal Grace, his father’s derelict mine in order to find the fabled Trevorgie lode. Even his banker thinks the money should go towards paying down the mortgage. He convinces his cousin Francis (Kyle Soller) to help him anger Warleggan and patch up the residual family feud from last season. Francis is back to being the cool cousin and partner in crime.
Warleggan refuses to give up his financial chokehold. In both episodes he is seen practicing boxing like your average 18th Century dandy, preparing for a physical showdown. When Ross and Warleggan finally come to blows, I found myself pretend punching Warleggan as well. Although rational adults would never behave this way, this feud is, at its heart, a schoolboy feud that has grown to epic proportions. Although Ross jokes that it was because he hated George’s necktie, it is really revenge for the shares in Wheal Leisure and the attack on Jud Paynter (Phil Davis) in Epi2.
Jud paid the highest price for doing the right thing in Epi2. Before the trial, Warleggan’s agents paid him 15 guineas to lie against Ross. At the last minute, Jud claimed he has hearing loss and can’t remember what he previously said. Before the money could be spent or returned, Warleggan’s agents beat Jud unconscious and left him for dead. His wife Prudie (Beatie Eadney) is overwhelmed with grief.
She eulogizes about how good of a man her common law husband was. In a twist that could be likened to the Cornish spinoff of American Horror Story, Jud escapes his coffin and returns to his house wondering why everyone is so shocked. Jud’s “death” is an iconic moment in the 1970’s series, but is far more comedic opposed to a moment of shock in the new series.
Both episodes feature the ongoing flirtation and occasional conflict of the minds between Dr. Dwight Enys (Luke Norris) and Caroline Penvenen (Gabriella Wilde). On the surface, they do not seem like a likely match, but they end up in many ways being the gender-flipped version of Demelza and Ross. Caroline has a strong will and an independent spirit, while Dwight is the down-to-earth caregiver.
The only difference is that Ray Penvenen (John Nettles) has no desire to see Caroline married to a man who isn’t high society. Epi3 shows how Caroline’s sarcastic and self-aware exterior is slowly crumbling in the face of genuine affection. After hearing about a scurvy outbreak among Dwight’s patients, she anonymously donates hundreds of oranges. She shares Ross and Dwight’s concern for the poor of Cornwall, but she is restricted by her gender on how she can express those views.
Coming Up . . .
I am looking forward to hopefully more developments between Dwight and Caroline and how they interact with Ross. Caroline could do a lot more than bail out the fishermen who can’t afford fresh fruit. I am also looking forward to some sort of quiet domestic life scenes with Ross and Demelza.
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