Poldark S2 Epi 8: Revenge Served Cold
by Amanda-Rae Prescott
In Epi 8, Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) finds himself in the middle of a hurricane. The only logical solution is a full apology to his wife Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) and a clean break with his ex Elizabeth (Heida Reed); but, he can’t seem to do either. In their own way, Demelza and Elizabeth make decisions fueled by revenge.
Demelza accepts the invitation to the Bodgrugan Ball, believing Ross is lying about seeing Richard Tonkin in Truro so he could be with Elizabeth. His feeble attempts at apologizing only cement her fears that Ross sees her as a consolation prize and not his true love. With the help of one of Grace Poldark’s old robe de anglais, she transforms from a modest housewife to what I call “Bad Gal Dem Dem”. In Demelza’s mind, nothing would hurt Ross’s fragile ego more than having her own affair.
To the audience, this outfit is a symbol of revenge and reclaiming of sexuality. Unfortunately, Demelza confirmed to the elite men that she was the kitchen slut they thought her to be. Capt. MacNeil seizes this opportunity to seduce her. At first Demelza encourages him, but as he starts to try to take off her clothes, she realizes that she can’t go through with her revenge. Demelza’s strong sense of loyalty kicks in and gives her the will to fight him off. She is too deeply attached to Ross and also too sexually inexperienced to go through with seeking revenge. She runs back to Nampara before Tankard and Sir Hugh Bodrugan can also take their turn at romance. In the novel, John Trenelgos joins Sir Hugh outside of the room where Demelza is staying. Tankard’s involvement not only borrows from a later storyline, it also cements how low of an opinion George Warleggan (Jack Farthing) has of Demelza.
Elizabeth also feels wronged, even though she manipulated the situation in the first place. She postpones the wedding, thinking Ross would come back to her. She claims that Ross was too forceful during their night together, but she also wants Ross to make a move. I found myself feeling sorry for her that Ross didn’t make his intentions clear and left her with false hope. Yet again, Heida Reed does an excellent job in balancing the two sides to Elizabeth’s character. His failure along with the increasing responsibility of caring for her mother and Aunt Agatha leads her to extract revenge by saying “I do” to Warleggan.
Aunt Agatha (Caroline Blankston) represents the biggest departure from the books in this episode. Her character in Epi 8 becomes Elizabeth’s sounding board. She seems to argue against the convention at the time and thinks it is a good idea that Ross should marry Elizabeth or have him as a lover, which she appears to do in this episode. In Warleggan, she only opposes the new marriage because it would represent total defeat for the Poldark name. The new series plays up Aunt Agatha’s selfishness in order to bring Elizabeth’s inner thoughts out in the open.
To me, this episode has the worst editing from the UK original out of all of the episodes so far. I should note the US BluRay and DVD’s have all of the episodes in original UK format. The scenes that were deleted in this episode are filled with additional context and characterization. Aunt Agatha’s initial speech where she bounces ideas off to Elizabeth about her situation is missing. Another deleted scene shows Ross asking Jud and Prudie why Demelza was out all night. Demelza has an extended conversation with the prostitute Margaret Vosper about virtue, which also reveals a lot about where both women see themselves (place/station) in society. Leaving these scenes out shortchange Elizabeth’s indecision and Demelza’s severe pain. It is important to note that Capt. MacNeil forcing himself on Demelza was NOT edited. The flashback scene of Ross and Elizabeth was also not cut despite that very sequence being deleted from the US airing last week. I find that interesting considering the concerns over depicting sexual assault led to the cuts in last week’s episode.
In Warleggan, Ross cheats on Demelza in May and they finally reconcile in December. Based on the heavy condensing of events in this episode and the next, it is very clear that the last two episodes of this season are prioritizing plot over the personal reflection inside of their minds. Ross’s failure to fully apologize comes to life on the screen, but Demelza’s anger and pain come off at times as far too modern in tone compared to the books.
Upcoming . . .
I hope that the season finale next week will use more direct quotes from the book so that the reconciliation will feel like a complete ending and not a cliffhanger.
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