Poldark S2 Epi4: A Tip of the Tricorn Hat to Kyle Soller
by Amanda-Rae Prescott
Although the episode started with other characters in the spotlight, by the end it was clear that Kyle Soller’s tragic final performance as Francis Poldark stole the show. This episode made me realize that for quite a while I have undervaluing his performance.
Francis’s character arc in S2 was a quick rise from rock bottom to the top. Although these events span the course of over a year in Jeremy Poldark and Warleggan, all of the most important low and high notes were captured. It is the ultimate irony of the novels that his failed suicide attempt only led to an accidental drowning. Francis seemed to be on top of the world, living as if every day was the most important day. The way Kyle Soller portrayed his bright mood led to the final moments feeling even more tragic and pointless.
In this episode, Francis was at his highest point of character development. He was teaching his son, Geoffrey Francis, the ins and outs of mining. He patched the holes in his marriage to Elizabeth (Heida Reed). He even achieved the somewhat impossible by welcoming his sister Verity (Ruby Bentall) back to the family after her marriage feud last season. He even had enough courage to unite with Ross (Aidan Turner) in a new mining venture.
My favorite scene in the entire episode was his beautiful conversation at Nampara with Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson). He gave her an incredible boost of self-confidence at a time when she really needed it. In Epi3 and earlier in Epi4, there were hints of Ross appearing to favor Elizabeth more than he should. Demelza’s biggest flaw is her internalization of what her critics say about her. Her self-sacrificing devotion to Ross that elevated her social status. However, all that high society sees is the girl scrubbing the floors at Nampara or a cheap whore who found a meal ticket. This conversation is a complete 180-degree turn for what Francis thought about Demelza in S1. He believed Ross was an idiot for marrying his maid and as a result tarnishing the family name. It’s also a key sign that he forgave Demelza for helping Verity escape spinsterhood.
Another fine moment in the Episode for Francis was his final conversation with George Warleggan (Jack Farthing). He finally mustered up the courage to sever the rope that tied him to the evil machinations of the Warleggan bank. In S1, he was far too consumed with pleasing his father and later on anger over Captain Blamey (Richard Harrington) to see what Ross was going through financially. Seeing Francis give Warleggan the 18th century version of the middle finger was a moment that made viewers everywhere pump their fists in the air.
Francis’s fall into the water was just as harrowing as in the novel. He fell into water too deep to swim in. His head sinks underwater after several hours of struggling to hold onto a rusty nail. Although he had more hallucinations in the novel, the shots of Ross as a child saving Francis from drowning made the situation much more heartbreaking. I cried when I watched the episode, something that didn’t happen when I read the books the first time around or the 1975 version. The soundtrack in the new series was highly effective in eliciting feelings of sadness and irony. In the 1975 series, the scene was much more focused on Francis screaming for help and the miners’ attempting to save him.
How will Elizabeth and Ross cope with Francis’s death?
This question will be the most fascinating development in the next episode. We all know Warleggan would be delighted to see that one of his enemies is no longer a threat, which will make things very interesting.