Poldark: One Grand Gesture

Let’s get the squicky bit out of the way first: Whitworth is, in fact, sleeping with Rowella. Unsurprisingly, she gets pregnant, because these people are nothing if not fertile. Whitworth doesn’t know what to do, so she proposes a solution: let her marry the local bookseller, who’s got a crush on her. Whitworth has already sent this young man packing, but he’s desperate, so he agrees to consider it. The young man shows up and, fully aware of Rowella’s condition, he demands £1000 to take her off Whitworth’s hands. Whitworth turns him down flat, so the boy counter-offers £700. Again, he’s refused.

Rowella steps in and writes a letter to the bishop, telling him all about the affair and offering proof of it. She agrees to hand it over to Whitworth instead if he gives her £500 to get married. He finally agrees. I still can’t figure out what’s up with this girl. Did she really just turn around and decide she wanted to have an affair with this man? Or was this an incredibly risky, elaborate, horrifying scheme to marry the guy she actually wanted?

Of course, Morwenna overhears her husband and sister discussing their affair, and when Whitworth bursts into her room, demanding his conjugal rights, she throws it in his face. She tells him never to touch her again, or she’ll smother their son. He blusters, then leaves. She reassures her wailing infant that she totally didn’t mean it.

Later, she finds a bouquet that Drake has secretly left outside her door. She calls out that she loves him, and he, hiding behind a nearby wall, hears it and smiles.

Meanwhile, Prudie and Tholly spot some French ships off the coast and raise the alarm. The local townsfolk literally grab pitchforks and race to the beach, which is pretty damn brave and crazy of them, but the ships are gone. Tholly figures they were just scouting, but they’ll be back.

Sir Francis gathers the local landowners so they can make plans for what they can only assume is an imminent invasion. Ross takes command of some local milita and begins drilling them.

George returns home, fresh from his first term at Westminster, and is aghast to see Drake calmly working the forge that is almost kind of sort of adjacent to Trenwith land (but not actually on Trenwith land, mind). He arrives home in a snit and throws a wobbler, insisting to Elizabeth that this is just Ross trying to get to him. Elizabeth, clearly SO OVER this, tells George this whole persecution complex is all in his head.

But he can’t let it go, because he’s George, and apparently George is just super evil. He tells Tom Harry to make Drake’s life as miserable as possible.

Tom Harry trashes the forge and, not content with that, later comes back and burns down the stable. With animals inside! Jesus, talk about evil!

Demelza is beside herself at this completely unwarranted and unlawful treatment of her brother, which she knows stems from George. She begs Ross to intervene, but he simply can’t be bothered. He only intervenes when people actually break the law, I guess. Astonishingly, he asks Demelza if she really expects him to make some grand gesture and play the hero here, because that’s not him at all.

What. The. Hell? Ross, remember when you busted a guy out of prison? Was that not a grand gesture? Remember when you led a bunch of starving people to go pick a shipwreck clean? Was that not a grand gesture? Very publicly outing the cardshark who cheated your cousin out of a mine? Grandstanding at your trial, invading France with, like, five guys to rescue Enys from prison? Were those NOT GRAND GESTUREs? Grand gestures are ALL YOU DO!

Demelza apparently realises how incredibly ridiculous this statement is, because she seems to just be done now.

Drake, meanwhile, just wants to get on with his life and live in peace. He goes to Trenwith and pleads with Elizabeth to intervene here. She seems sympathetic, but then George comes in and rudely sends poor Drake away. Drake retreats, but Elizabeth, like Demelza, has had it up to here with her douchebag husband. She yells at him for going after a completely innocent man in this endless, psychotic vendetta against Ross. George protests, pathetically, that Drake put toads in their pond, and even he seems to realise how stupid that sounds when spoken aloud. Elizabeth tells him to get over this nonsense and get rid of Tom Harry.

On his way home, Drake runs into Tom Harry and a pair of his under-thugs. They accuse him of trespassing, and he wearily explains he was doing no such thing but had come to see Mrs Warleggan. They proceed to nearly beat him to death. Tom Harry goes so nuts that one guy has to drag him off. That guy is a rabid animal and seriously needs to be locked up.

Once Drake’s been gone a good long time, Demelza and Sam start to worry, so they go looking for him and find him, beaten and nearly drowned. They get him home and summon Enys. Drake will live, but he’s lucky.

Demelza doesn’t know what to do, and it’s at this point that Prudie arrives with the news that Armitage has come a-calling. Demelza needs someone in her corner just now, and I was kind of hoping that Armitage would be the one to intervene here, but no. As tempted as she is, Demelza holds back, so Prudie gives her a little shove by telling her about Ross and Elizabeth kissing last week.

And that just breaks Demelza a little. She goes to the shore, where Ross and the militia are training, and confronts her husband, angrily telling him he can have his secrets, and she’ll have hers. She goes home and finds Armitage waiting for her. They take a walk amongst the tall sea grasses and he tells her that he’s losing his sight, as a result of injuries he sustained during his imprisonment. He’s got six months before he goes totally blind. She comforts him by, presumably, sleeping with him.

Meanwhile, Sam, fed up with the lack of action against George for what he’s done, goes to the local tavern and raises a rabble. Why, Sam, I didn’t know you had it in you! With Tholly’s help, he gathers the local townsfolk and they prepare to actually storm George’s grain stores nearby. Which is fair, because George has apparently spent all his time in Parliament voting for legislation that will screw the poor as much as is humanly possible and artificially drive up the cost of grain during a famine. He’s a true Tory, this one. Sir Francis, by the way, is NOT happy about any of this because that kind of voting was NOT THEIR DEAL.

Tom Harry overhears this local plot and hightails it home to raise the militia. Ross and his men are dispatched, but instead of facing an attack by French soldiers, he finds himself facing off against his own friends and neighbours. Awkward.

He has a moment where he imagines how badly this could go, militia shooting and people dying and blood flying everywhere and screams and chaos. He then announces that it’s not right that people like George can get away with whatever, so Ross is going to fix that by standing for Parliament the next time he’s asked. Well, Ross, that’s really nice of you, but how does that fix the current problems? Parliamentary elections will be some years off, unless a special election is called. And there’s no guarantee you’ll be asked again.

What am I saying? Of course he will. He’s Ross.

Magically, this is all it takes for everyone to lay down their weapons and disperse. That felt unsatisfying, anticlimactic, and just plain silly to me. Book people, please tell me it went differently on the page!

Elizabeth, meanwhile, has it out with George, warning him that, if he doesn’t shape up, their marriage is over. George completely falls to pieces, panicking and promising everything she wants. Elizabeth forces him to admit his suspicions about Valentine’s parentage, which gives her the opportunity to flatly deny the allegations. She swears on a bible and everything. Looks like we end with a final score of Elizabeth: 1, George: 0.

George heads down to the beach, where Ross finds him. George as a character is repugnant, but I have to give some serious credit to Jack Farthing for his portrayal of him, especially in this scene. There’s a moment, when he glances over and sees Ross there, when the cocky look he usually wears vanishes just for a moment and is replaced by a clear, ‘Oh, shit’ face, only for him to try and re-summon the arrogance. But it’s shaky, and clear that his heart’s not really in it. An interesting few seconds, that. He tries to goad Ross, but Ross is tired, and he won’t be goaded. He basically just shrugs George off and goes home.

Ross has other concerns: Demelza has taken off, it seems. When he arrives home, he finds Prudie at the kitchen table (wearing her own, ‘Oh, shit, what have I done?’ face). He asks where his wife is and just hears, ‘Gone.’ He asks if she’s coming back and Prudie, unconvincingly, says she thinks so. Ross seems to know what’s really happened here.

He goes to bed, and lies awake until Demelza finally comes in, in the middle of the night. The two of them look long and hard at each other, and she admits she wasn’t sure she’d come back. She lies down beside him, and when he starts to speak tells him he’s not allowed to ask any questions. After a moment, she curls up with him, but you can tell things just aren’t the same. It was only a matter of time, really, before Ross started to really drive her away. You can only put up with that kind of dismissive treatment for so long.

And that’s it for this season! Next year: Parliament! Thanks to everyone who followed the recaps and I hope to see you back here again next summer!



16 thoughts on “Poldark: One Grand Gesture

  1. The whole Armitage subplot was totally mishandled,starting with the casting. The Burberry model can’t act, which was a shock in itself, since even the smallest parts on Poldark had been well acted, until then. I haven’t read the books, but my guess is that Armitage is supposed to be a soulful,poetic type, who falls madly in love with Demelza, gives her the kind of romantic wooing she never had with Ross, and touches her heart. Instead, he comes across as a selfish,ungrateful jerk who decides to seduce the wife of the man he describes as ‘my friend and savior’. Nothing, absolutely nothing that he says to Demelza sounds sincere. As for Demelza, she is totally pissed off at Ross, and she feels sorry for Armitage because he is going blind, so she forces herself to kiss him, as she forced herself to kiss Captain MacNeil in the second season. If they did have sex, it was strictly a pity shag, and she feels rotten about it afterwards.

  2. Apparently, Rowella and the Percy Weasley clone knew each other before she came to live with her sister, and wanted to marry, but didn’t have enough money. So Rowella came up with the plan to sleep with and then blackmail Whitworth. To conceive and carry out such a plot called for a cool ruthlessness which is positively frightening in a girl of fifteen. I think she’s wasting her potential marrying Weasley, though; she should follow in the footsteps of Margaret the Ho and become the mistress of a series of rich old lords, and take them for everything they’ve got.

    1. That would make more sense, but it’s also a really insane, risky, gross gambit. Oh, well, guess it worked out for them in the end!

  3. The Eleventh Commandment taught the Chynoweth Girls is, apparently, “Thou shalt not stand up for yourself against a man, any man, especially not your husband. ” Both Elizabeth and Morwenna managed to break their conditioning and good for them !

  4. I’m hoping that in Season 4 the disgusting Whitworth has something awful happen to him so he gets de-frocked or goes to jail or something so Morweena can be free of him. Really enjoy your re-caps. You provide so much detail and insight. Thanks!

  5. The Eleventh Commandment taught the Chynoweth Girls is, apparently, “Thou shalt not stand up for yourself against a man, any man, especially not your husband. ” Both Elizabeth and Morwenna managed to break their conditioning and good for them !

    No, it’s not a Chynoweth Girls thing. It is what women of their class did in the late 18th century England. This story is not set in the early 21st century. The problem is that with Demelza, Graham had created an anachronism . . . somewhat. And his readers and the viewers of this series expect all women to live up to her portrayal. Which is why I find Demelza so frustrating to watch.

    1. ljones1966 Do you think women of strong character are a modern phenomena ? How about Queen Elizabeth the First ? When Demelza and Ross were first married, she was humble and eager to please. But over time, she learned to assert herself. She is as stubborn and strong-willed as he is, and much of the time, more sensible. He would be better off if he listened to her more often. As Aunt Agatha said, he’s his own worst enemy.

  6. Reading the comments about Hugh Armitage on Youtube I am astounded how many silly women think he is just adorable. He’s a despicable ingrate who seduced the wife of the man he calls “my friend and savior”, because nothing says “Thanks for saving my life.” like cuckoldry. Why couldn’t he have died in the jailbreak instead of Captain Henshawe, who was actually a decent human being ?

  7. Elizabeth I was a reigning sovereign, not someone’s wife. Even a strong willed woman had to be careful back then. Unless her hubby was incredibly weak and under her control. Ross and George, for all of their flaws, were not weak.

    1. Well, history is full of strong-willed women who were married to men who weren’t necessarily weak, they were just supportive and progressive. Yes, even going back to the 18th century. Check out Mary Wallstonecraft, Ada Lovelace, Queen Victoria, Emmeline Pankhurst… Their husbands weren’t weak, they just weren’t jerks.

  8. It’s one thing for Demelza to be strong. It’s another to act like a late 20th century or early 21st century woman. Which is how Graham – to a certain degree – and Horsfield have done.

    She has become an anachronism. Why is that so hard to believe or consider? Threatening to leave Ross after he had raped Elizabeth back in late Season 2. Where in the hell was she going to go? If she had done that, she might as well have said good-bye to her son. Demelza was never interested in Ross becoming an MP. She was only disappointed that he had rejected the position of magistrate. Wearing her hair down . . . really? In the 1780s and the 1790s? We’re told that this is a symbol of Demelza being a “free spirit”. I say bullshit to that. It’s just another anachronism that Horsfield has stuck to the character. I mean for Pete’s sake . . . her hair?

    And Horsfield has made so many stupid changes to Graham’s story that I had to refrain from throwing something at my TV set after finishing Season 3. It’s one thing to make some minor changes to Graham’s story. It’s another to nearly re-write Graham’s saga. And than includes transforming George Warleggan into a one-note villain. Horsfield is such a hamfisted writer. How on earth did she become a successful one?

    There are a lot of period dramas I like. But sometimes, these shows go a bit too far.

  9. ladylavinia1932 I agree that the last three episodes of Season 3 were a total trainwreck. In order to ‘justify’ Demelza committing adultery with a stranger she only met five times before, and only really talked with three times, Horsfield turned Ross into a total jerk who suddenly paid so little attention to his wife that he never noticed Armitage humping her leg whenever they met, while pushing her away emotionally and telling her to ‘look elsewhere’ and ‘find someone else’. The ‘actor’ they picked to play Armitage couldn’t act and had zero chemistry with Demelza. Every scene they did together made me me cringe. During their supposedly ‘romantic’ roll in the sand, there was neither pleasure nor desire in her face . She appeared to be forcing herself to do something distasteful. She was an easy lay for a despicable jerk whose way of thanking Ross for saving his life was to cuckold him. Spoiler : I can’t wait for the detestable little jerk to drop dead.

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