Poldark Season 4 Episode 8 Recap: Little She-Bear

Welcome to the season finale, folks! Are we ready for some fireworks and craziness? You’ve got it!

We begin with a flashback to about 20 years ago, a party at Trenwith. Look, there’s Francis! And George with long hair! And Aunt Agatha! Basically all the guys talk about how much they’re in love with Elizabeth, but know they don’t stand a chance because Ross Always Wins. Aunt Agatha flips her tarot cards and is like, ‘Yep, you’re right!’ It’s a totally pointless scene, really, because we don’t learn anything we didn’t already know, but I’ll take it for the nostalgia points alone. Francis and Agatha–I miss you!

In the present day, everyone is very sad. Morwenna, Drake, and Demelza all wander about Cornwall looking sad. Ross sits in bed in London looking sad. George is back to emotionally abusing Valentine by failing to acknowledge the kid on even the most basic levels. It’s enough to send Elizabeth running to a dodgy doctor for something that could send her into premature labour. After giving her a tincture that includes ‘fungus that grows on rye’, which is what causes ergot poisoning and I’m pretty sure you shouldn’t be consuming that when pregnant, or any other time! he warns her that this is risky to both herself and the child (no! Really?), and if things take a bad turn, she must TELL HER DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY WHAT SHE TOOK.

Honestly, I’m not 100% sure why Elizabeth’s going down this route. I know she wanted to fake a second premature birth to convince George that Valentine was his all along, but this baby will clearly be much smaller and look slightly different than Valentine did if it is born genuinely prematurely, so wouldn’t that just kick George’s suspicions into higher gear? Also, this is hugely risky to the baby in a time well before neonatal units.

Meanwhile, George is just spoiling for a fight with Ross. Right after meeting the Prime Minister over lunch, George purposely bumps Ross’s table, and then practically yells, ‘Oh, you wanna fight me? Come on, fight me!’ which seems like a dumb move considering Ross has just killed someone in a duel and George does not come across as the successful duelling type. Ross basically just rolls his eyes and goes back to his meal while George turns with a sneer to Lord Falmouth and asks how he likes his candidate now. Falmouth’s face remains impassive, but I like to think he’s thinking, ‘I’m glad right now I didn’t stick with you, you childish twit!’ My suspicions there are only confirmed when Ross later offers to step down from the seat Falmouth put him up for, and Falmouth refuses to accept.

George asks Lord Falmouth how he likes his candidate now. Falmouth’s face remains impassive, but I like to think he’s thinking, ‘I’m glad right now I didn’t stick with you, you childish twit!’

Things are getting a little tense for Ross in the capitol anyway, so he takes Caroline up on her invitation to share a carriage back to Cornwall. The Warleggan family’s headed back there too, with Elizabeth and Valentine being dropped at Trenwith and George taking up residence at the town house in Truro. Wow, things are tense there.

In the interim, Drake has made an impassioned plea to Morwenna to marry him and at least try to be happy. He tells her it could be a marriage of companionship only: he’d never try to even touch her, unless she wanted him to. And she agrees! Hooray!

Drake, sensibly, worries that something could still get in the way of this marriage, and so wants it to take place quickly. Demelza steps in to pull some strings to get a dispensation that means they won’t have to go through weeks of having the banns read in church. But while they’re off doing that, the first bann is read and Elizabeth is mighty surprised to hear that her young cousin is remarrying.

She somehow figures out that Morwenna is at Drake’s house, happily chopping vegetables (apparently Morwenna had been staying with her mother, for those curious as to where she’d fled to). Seeing Elizabeth on the doorstep immediately puts Morwenna on her guard, but Elizabeth has only come to offer her good wishes. She feels really terribly about how Morwenna’s first marriage turned out and wishes she could make amends. Aww, that’s sweet!

The ladies have tea, and when Morwenna voices some concern over Elizabeth making the long trek home on foot while heavily pregnant, Elizabeth asks if she’ll accompany her. Morwenna agrees, though a bit reluctantly, and when they arrive at Trenwith she also agrees to stay for dinner with Elizabeth and Valentine.

Meanwhile, Drake and Demelza return home with their dispensation and find a note from Morwenna telling them where she’s gone. Drake smells trouble. Sensible man.

And Ross arrives home as well, surprises the kids, and finds out from Prudie where Demelza’s gone. He, too, reaches Drake’s house right as the note’s found and decides to ride to Trenwith to fetch Morwenna. Demelza’s not sure it’s the best idea for him to be setting foot in George’s house, but Ross will Ross, so off he goes. And Drake, of course, heads that way too, because no way is he going to just sit around while someone else is rescuing his lady love.

At Trenwith, dinner is interrupted by the unexpected arrival of George, who’s come with good news but gets super pissed off super fast when he sees Morwenna there. He sits down, orders Valentine taken away, and insults Morwenna, browbeating her until he finds out she’s to marry Drake. He orders her out of his house, and she gladly flees into the gathering dark. And then, just because he’s apparently an evil bastard to EVERYONE now, George tells one of the servants to have Harry Harry drive her off. Jesus, George, what’s Morwenna done to you? Elizabeth is so enraged by the thought of her traumatised young cousin being chased through the woods by a band of uncontrollable men and vicious dogs she quite forcefully puts her napkin down.

And then, of course, Ross arrives, having just missed Morwenna. George goes Full Asshole on him as well, and Ross just sighs and asks George what the hell his problem is. Basically, Ross begins saying the exact things I’ve been thinking for weeks now, so thank you, Ross! To wit: George has everything. He’s rich, he’s powerful, he has the Poldark mine, the Poldark home, and Elizabeth! Why isn’t he happy? Why is he so perversely determined to be unhappy?

Ross says the exact things I’ve been thinking for weeks now, so thank you, Ross!

There’s not much George can say to that, so Ross just leaves him to his thoughts and goes to find Morwenna, who’s now running through the woods with some pretty horrible characters literally on her heels. But then! Whom should she run into, but Drake! And our mild-mannered young man is NOT MESSING AROUND. He grabs a big ol’branch and brandishes it, basically daring these people and their psycho dogs to come after him. Clearly realising they have no chance against someone with pure rage and adrenaline on their side, they wisely back off. Hooray! Drake has saved the day!

Back at Trenwith, George and Elizabeth have it out. Again. He finds her in the sitting room and admits he may have been a little hard on Ross just then. Elizabeth yells at him for being such a douche to Valentine and for continuing to believe this fiction that Valentine isn’t his child. George promises to be better. You know, I feel a little sorry for George. I mean, don’t get me wrong, he acts like a terrible person and taking out his frustration on a very young child is absolutely awful, but this is also a man who’s spent his whole life being treated as less than by all the people around him. He’s got a severe inferiority complex that he’s constantly dealing with, and his wife has been gaslighting him for their entire marriage. It’s kind of no wonder he’s acting a bit crazed. A small ‘huh, I wonder…’ part of me muses on what would happen if Elizabeth told him the truth, or even a whitewashed version of the truth: that when he heard of their engagement Ross flew into a crazy rage and raped her, and that she didn’t realise she was pregnant when they married. Well, nothing good would come of it. George would almost certainly reject Valentine completely and that would fuel his rage against Ross, but then again, he might be convinced to cover the whole matter up, to save face. And the truth would be out there.

But that’s obviously never going to happen. Elizabeth decides to try and put this whole thing to bed once and for all, so she goes upstairs and takes the terrible tincture.

A little while later, George finds her passed out on her bedroom floor. He manages to revive her, and she immediately begins grimacing in pain.

Both Choake and Enys are sent for, with Enys thankfully arriving first. He delivers Elizabeth’s child: a healthy daughter. George is super happy, which is sweet, and notes that this kid came just as Valentine did: early, and after a fall. How about that! It seems he’s finally ready to put those suspicions to rest. Elizabeth decides to name the baby Ursula, which means ‘little she-bear’. Valentine and Ursula. These people are terrible at picking baby names.

George has a little surprise for her: the reason he came home was because he’s received good news. He’s successfully managed to maneuver himself onto the New Year’s honours list by dangling his double votes in front of Pitt, who needs them right now. George will be a Sir! Elizabeth will be a Lady! Celebrations all around!

But not for long. The very next day Elizabeth is looking terrible. The doctors are re-summoned, and it’s clear that Choake has no idea what the hell to do. Enys examines her and notes discolouration on her hands and feet. That suggests she’s got gangrenous ergotism, which is just as horrible as it sounds. There’s nothing anyone can do here. George is summoned, and as he sits at his wife’s bedside, Enys finds the empty tincture bottle and sniffs it.

Caroline, meanwhile, has realised Enys has been gone way too long for the news to be good, so she heads over to Nampara to tell Ross and Demelza that all is not well at Trenwith. Ross hesitates and glances at his wife, who quietly says it would only be neighbourly to go inquire.

Ross hurries right over, arriving to find George looking utterly wrecked. Elizabeth died ten minutes ago. Ross, not quite knowing what to do, asks if he can see her. George tells him to go right ahead, since he knows the way. He can go and ‘see what they’ve all done to her’. That’s a curious line, there. It suggests that Enys told George his wife must have taken something that wound up poisoning her, and yet that doesn’t appear to have been the case (that is, it seems Enys kept the tincture bottle discovery to himself), so I’m nut really sure what George means here. Does he think that the strain of his Ross Rivalry pushed her into premature labour and death? Maybe.

Ross goes upstairs and finds Elizabeth’s body laid peacefully on her bed. He kisses her one last time and goes.

Downstairs, Enys gently offers George a sedative, which George declines. He starts to move into ‘What will I do without her?’ territory, so Enys brings in little Ursula, lays her in George’s arms, and reminds him he still has his kids. George cuddles the baby and remarks that she doesn’t look anything like her mother (heavens, George, the child is, what? a day old? Babies at that point don’t look like anyone, aside from rather smooshed up frogs. Give her a couple of years.) But this doesn’t seem to be putting him off the child, so there’s that.

Enys returns home and tells Caroline that it seems the seeds of Elizabeth’s untimely demise were sown long ago. I’ll say. She decides this is a good time to tell him she wants to have another baby. Seems a bit odd that she’d announce that right on the heels of a woman’s tragic death in childbirth. I mean, that sort of thing would definitely give me pause, and I have a lot more emergency medical care at my disposal than she would. Nevertheless, Enys is delighted. Aww, these two!

Ross takes his time going home, pausing on his favourite clifftop to give that poor horse a break and to remember Elizabeth as she used to be, all those years ago, before Frances and George and Ross and their tug-of-war made her life crazy. Back at Nampara, he and Demelza have yet another TALK, where she expresses loads and loads of sympathy for his loss. He tells her he now knows how she felt when Hugh died, and she’s like, ‘Uh, no, this is a much bigger deal. Hugh was a nice guy who kind of gave me what I needed at a particular time, but Elizabeth was your first love and your relationship with her goes back decades. You’re definitely dealing with the harsher blow, my dear.’ They reassure each other that, although others have touched their hearts, no one could so completely inhabit them as they do. And so, it seems things are once again good there.

And Drake and Morwenna get married! Hooray! And she kisses him on the cheek outside the church, which suggests she might be taking some baby steps towards working through her trauma, which is incredibly admirable. (Also, as a nitpicky aside: the lush greenery, the way everyone’s dressed, and the fact that Elizabeth already has a giant headstone suggests this scene is taking place in the spring, instead of late autumn like the rest of the episode, which makes me wonder what that special dispensation was for). As everyone leaves the church, Ross spots George and Valentine standing by Elizabeth’s grave. He starts to move towards them, but Demelza stops him and says there’ll be time for that, maybe give them some space? The two of them scoop up their kids and follow the rest of the wedding party.

Also taking a pause are Geoffrey Charles and Verity (Verity!). Geoffrey Charles observes that his mother wasn’t a Warleggan. Verity agrees, saying that Elizabeth was a Poldark. Eh, not sure I agree with that. She seemed much more suited to the opulent Warleggan lifestyle than the Poldark one, but ok, I can see why GC might not want to think of his mother as belonging so completely to another family.

And that’s it for this year, though BBC unnecessarily tells us that Poldark will return. Tip of the hat to Heida Reed for her portrayal of Elizabeth over the past four years. It wasn’t always an easy role (especially since it was rather inconsistently written–wasn’t she addicted to drugs for a while there? When did she so wholeheartedly throw herself into George’s rather harsh and heartless way of doing things?) but we still loved her. Or liked her, at least. Most of the time. And isn’t that how it is with people?

Farewell, folks, and thanks for reading!