Poldark: The Wreck

Poldark_episode_8_review__Aidan_Turner_s_Ross_Poldark_faces_tragedy_on_all_frontsPreviously on Poldark: Francis, in a rage because Verity eloped with Blamey, retaliates by telling George the identities of all the Carnmore Smelting Company shareholders, allowing George to start putting the squeeze on them in a big way. The whole situation drove a massive rift between the two branches of the Poldark clan that even a very earnest Demelza was unable to heal.

Demelza sings a really lovely song while she makes some buns and then delivers them to the mine. Looks like things are still a bit tense between her and Ross, but he seems to appreciate the delivery, which he hands out to some of the kids playing around. After the mine, Demelza takes some buns to Jud and Prudie, who’re living not so secretly in a barn on Ross’s land. Ross knows it, too, and chooses to turn a blind eye, because that’s what he does.

At the inn, George and Cary start talking rather loudly—clearly in order to be overheard by another patron—about how Carnmore is shortly to be out of business, since it keeps getting outbid by the other companies now and the shareholders’ mines don’t produce enough to keep it going. The man listening in, who owns the land the land the smelting works is on, looks nervous.

At Ross’s, Demelza tells Jinny she can go for the day, and Ross asks the girl how her daughter is. She’s well, having recently been sick, but not, as was feared, with the putrid throat, which I thought was strep but is actually diphtheria—yikes! It’s making the rounds and wiping people out. Demelza gives her some buns before sending her on her way. Ross and Demelza smile fondly at their daughter and then Ross spots a letter from Verity.

At Trenwith, Agatha wonders when Verity will be home. Francis shortly says this is not Verity’s home before complaining of a sore throat. Elizabeth informs him that all their servants are sick. She’s not looking so hot herself. Agatha thinks honey and licorice are the cure, while Francis reports that Choake thinks it’s leeches all the way. He would.

Ross reads Verity’s letter and notes that she seems content, so Demelza did well on that end after all. Demelza asks about Carnmore and Ross says it all depends on the next day’s auction. If they can bid high enough, they’ll be ok. She begs to be able to help, suggesting they get more capital by raising a mortgage on Nampara (already done) or selling some of her things. She desperately wants to make amends.

As Ross prepares to leave, he tells Demelza he’ll be back the next day. She’s hopeful he’ll do well, and she and Julia wave him off.

Ross rides along the shore (drink!) and meets up with Enys, who’s been kept busy tending to putrid throat patients. He tells Ross that whole families have gone down with it, including everyone at Trenwith. Ross turns and gallops back the way he came.

He arrives at Trenwith just as Choake is leaving. He asks for news and Choake dismisses his concerns, telling him it’s not the putrid throat at all, everyone’s on the mend. Ross clearly knows this is BS, but he goes no closer to the house, looking up at it from a distance before cantering away. Elizabeth, looking like absolute death, watches him go while cradling her son at an upstairs window.

Ross slow-mo walks through the streets of the town, meeting up with two of the other shareholders at the door of the inn. The auction, sadly, does not go well. Carnmore gets nothing.

Jinny, meanwhile, brings the news of the Trenwith illness to Demelza, who’s aghast to hear that all the servants are ill and nobody at the house can tend anybody. What’s more, Choake’s been called away to Truro. She thinks about it for a while, then comes to a decision.

Ross and the other two men meet up and realize they’re all that remains of Carnmore. They have no choice, given the circumstances, but to dissolve the company. Well, it was a good try, gentlemen.

Outside, Ross is immediately met by George, who gossips a bit about Margaret, who’s moved on to some lord, and asks after Demelza, suggesting Ross bring her out more. Ross briskly says he’s too busy with his mine for that. George says he hears that some shares are about to come onto the market. Ross’s shares. Ross tells him he’s mistaken. Way to show your hand there, George.

Demelza arrives at Trenwith and knocks a couple of times before letting herself in. There’s nobody about but Agatha, who briefly mistakes her for Verity. The house is creepily quiet; the flowers on the table not-at-all symbolically dying. The table is covered in dust. How long has everyone been sick? It’s like Miss Havisham’s in there. Agatha sniffs that it was selfish and cruel of Verity to leave when they all need her.

George keeps pushing Ross to sell his shares, but Ross isn’t interested in selling, not to George. George warns him that he’ll find himself without friends and colleagues one day, with nobody to blame but himself. Ross bids him good day and walks along the waterfront and notes a fine new ship docked there.

Demelza makes her way to Elizabeth’s and Francis’s room. Francis is sick in bed, while Elizabeth, somehow looking even worse, is sitting by her son’s bed. Demelza quietly says she’s come to help and Elizabeth comments that’s very kind, then says that her son’s in a very bad way, having spasms, then vomiting, and then starting the whole process over. Yes, that sounds very, very bad. Demelza sends Elizabeth to bed, promising to look after the child. Elizabeth actually bursts into tears at the kindness.

The Warleggans laugh at the idea that Ross and the others thought they could make Carnmore work. While they managed to drive up copper prices in the short term, now the company’s been driven out of business, prices will soon start to fall again. Margaret smirkingly suggests that Ross, soon to be heavily indebted thanks to this failed venture, may soon throw himself on George’s mercy. When George looks away, she looks a little sorry at the thought.

Ross meets up with Pascoe, who commiserates that this whole situation really sucks. Pascoe says he hears the land the smelting works is on will soon be sold to the Warleggans.

Demelza bathes little Geoffrey Charles’s feverish face. Elizabeth is in bed, with Francis beside her. He asks who’s there and, upon hearing Demelza is there, he croaks that it’s good of her to overlook past quarrels.

Ross asks what his debts will be and hears he’ll owe about £900. Ouch. But he could sell some of his shares in the mine. In fact, Pascoe has recently been approached by someone willing to buy some of the shares. Ross knows the man must work for the Warleggans and refuses to sell. He asks Pascoe if he can raise £1000 without security.

Demelza works hard for the family, making honey drinks, burning herbs. She gives Francis something to drink and he asks if his son will die. ‘Not if I can help it,’ she replies stoutly.

The next day, Ross checks out that ship again. Pascoe meets up with him and reports he’s gotten him the loan, but at 40% interest. WOAH! He begs Ross not to take this deal, but Ross has the bit between his teeth now. They talk about the ship: the Queen Charlotte, owned by the Warleggans, of course.

On his way home, Ross runs into Demelza and warns her that she shouldn’t be out alone at dusk. He brings her up onto the horse and rides home with her.

Over dinner, he tells her there’s sickness at Trenwith. She says she knows, and that the baby had it worst, but she thinks the crisis is past. He’s glad to hear it. She then admits that she went to Trenwith and nursed everyone. Ross is surprised she wasn’t turned away and doesn’t seem too pleased to hear that she spent the whole night there. She insists that it was no different than what he’s done for others, like Jim. He backs down and concurs that it was a kind and generous act.

In the middle of the night, he wakes to the sound of Julia screaming. Demelza’s trying to calm her. Ross suggests they bed share for the night and Demelza lays the baby down beside him before going to get a glass of water. She gulps it down and Ross seems to notice something’s wrong. She admits that her throat’s swollen and he sees that she has a rash. And for anyone who immediately thought she must have picked this up at Trenwith: typically symptoms of diphtheria don’t show up until at least a couple of days after exposure, so she probably picked it up elsewhere.

Ross rushes to fetch Enys and brings him back to Nampara as the thunder of DOOOOM rumbles. Enys gets to work checking out Demelza, who’s looking roughly as good as Elizabeth did when we last saw her. Ross cradles the baby. After the exam, Enys breaks the news that both Demelza and Julia have the putrid throat, and that there’s no reliable treatment, but if they make it through the night, they may pull through.

Ross sits with Demelza as she slips deeper and deeper into a worsening fever. Enys, meanwhile treats sweet little Julia, who’s the calmest sick baby I’ve ever seen. Demelza tosses and turns and whimpers and refuses to take anything to drink. In a fever dream, she sees Ross kissing Elizabeth, then her father appears and keeps asking if she’s saved. He warns her to live a pure and clean life. A fever dream Ross tells her she’s ignorant and has no care for consequences. Elizabeth tells Demelza to let go, that she’ll take care of Ross, and Demelza knows he’d rather be with her.

Back in the real world, Enys comes to the room, all teary eyed, and at this point my husband and I both started saying, ‘No. No. NONOINONONONONONONONONONONONO.’ Neither of us can handle dead baby storylines anymore. Not that I ever really could before, but now it’s a billion times worse. It doesn’t help that our son’s had a pretty nasty cold these past few days.

Ok, let’s just get through this. Ross cradles his daughter while Enys sadly says he can’t save her. Ross, barely able to hold back tears, says he’ll stay with her until the end. Later, he goes and sits by Demelza again, holding the little bracelet she embroidered for the baby. At this point, I just started openly weeping.

[cryout-pullquote align=”right” textalign=”left” width=”33%”]George’s face is equal parts ‘Holy shit, what?’ and ‘WTF is wrong with you, you heartless bastard?’[/cryout-pullquote]

And because we haven’t had this tragedy driven home quite enough, we now get an extended shot of Ross carrying the tiny little coffin to the church, where nearly everyone who’s ever had a line on this show has gathered, save the Warleggans. Francis is there, though and lays a comforting hand on Ross’s shoulder.

Over breakfast, Cary tells George they won’t have to worry about Ross being a pain for a while, since he’s a bit preoccupied with his dead baby and all. George’s face is equal parts ‘Holy shit, what?’ and ‘WTF is wrong with you, you heartless bastard?’

Demelza has survived the night, but is still just barely holding on. Ross sits beside her, holding her hand, and tells Enys that he should have provided some refreshments for the mourners. He then goes on to say that everything he touches is cursed, because he still likes making everything about him when he gets the chance. Enys reassures him that’s not true, then comes over and checks on Demelza. No change. He suggests Ross get some air and rest.

Ross walks to the coast, where a storm is kicking up. There, he sees the Queen Charlotte being wrecked on some rocks. He turns and runs back towards home.

Cary and George drink to the demise of Carnmore and the maiden voyage of the Queen Charlotte. Well, Cary drinks. George looks like he feels a little icky.

Ross grabs his horse and tells Enys that he’s found a way to provide for the mourners after all. He gallops off and starts gathering people, even Jud, to go collect any food and cargo that washes ashore.

Everyone heads down to the beach. The wreck is visible just offshore. Ross organizes the villagers, preparing them to receive whatever washes up.

Word of the wreck reaches the Warleggans, along with the news that it happened just off of Poldark land. Ha ha!

Stuff starts washing ashore, and Ross joins the others in retrieving it.

News continues to reach the Warleggans, and Cary’s getting seriously angry over the scavenging. He raves that the captain or, better yet, Sanson, who is aboard, had better testify against Ross. George doesn’t seem terribly happy about any of that. He doubts that Ross will even be there, what with the grief and all, but Cary says that if he is, he’ll be caught.

Food continues to flood the beach and Ross starts to look a tiny bit happy as the villagers help themselves. Looks like someone’s found some rum and started doling it out. Jud appears with the word that some of the Luggan miners spotted the wreck and are on their way, looking for a piece of the action. Ross tells everyone to get as much cargo out of there as they can before the Lugganites get there.

The Warleggans summon some of the local soldiers and tell them to get down to that beach and arrest anyone plundering. The soldier is confused, since what washes ashore is typically the property of whoever finds it, but the Warleggans don’t play by those rules. George hands over a purse of money to ensure their orders are carried out.

Enys and Jinny sit with Demelza. Enys says he hoped she’d have rallied by now. Considering what she has to wake up to, I’d say keep her knocked out as long as possible. There’s a knock at the door and Jinny goes to answer it, saying it’s someone who’s come to help look after Demelza.

Night closes in as the Luggan miners arrive. Ross sends his men home and tells them to lock their doors and stay safe. Jinny’s dad says that survivors are starting to wash up, so Ross goes to help them. It doesn’t take long for the beach to descend into a fairly hellish chaos as the Lugganites arrive. Rowdy bunch, to say the least. Ross kind of stands there and looks around, then hears someone calling for help. He sees two Luggan men ‘helping’ a man out of the water and punching the survivor in the stomach. Ross goes and rescues the man, chasing off the other guys and helping the man onto the beach. He spots another body nearby and turns it over, discovering that it’s none other than Sanson. Well, that’s a loss. He closes the man’s eyes, then walks away.

He finds the captain and surviving crew up the beach and offers them shelter at his home. The captain pulls his sword and asks if Ross has any control over these people. Ross replies that he does not, and that starving people will do desperate things. He starts to walk away, repeating his invitation, and the captain asks how they know it’s not a trap. Ross says he’ll just have to take his word for it.

On their way, they run into the soldiers, who promise the captain that they’ll soon restore order. Ross doubts that, but suggests that the soldiers at least wait until daylight, since most of the men on the beach are fighting drunk and seriously dangerous.

He and the men arrive at Nampara, asking that they please be quiet, as his wife is ill. Enys wakes up and Ross asks who’s sitting with Demelza.

Elizabeth is. Ross goes upstairs and finds her tending to his wife. Elizabeth apologetically explains that she was too weak to come to the funeral, but she had to come help Demelza, considering she saved Elizabeth’s child. She asks if there’s anything else she can do and Ross asks her to pray that he not lose the love of his life. Aww. She readily agrees. He starts stroking Demelza’s face and desperately begging her to come back to him. Demelza rouses long enough to ask if Elizabeth has come to take him. He replies that she’ll never take him.

At daybreak, the rabble on the beach has been dispersed. Ross watches as Sanson’s body is carried away. George has come to retrieve him and tells Ross he’s really sorry to hear about his daughter. Ross does not return the sentiment regarding Sanson. George asks if he could have saved Sanson and Ross says he had no reason to. George tells him that they could be friends, rather than enemies, but Ross turns down his offer of friendship.

Demelza finally starts to come around. The first thing she asks is where Julia is. Ross distracts her briefly by talking about the wreck, but she asks again about their daughter. Ross can’t bring himself to say the words, but the look on his face is enough, as is the little ribbon he hands over. And now I’m bawling again. I think if I were her I’d just go ahead and turn back over and die. Demelza sobs about not having been there for her and asks if she was afraid. Ross promises she was peaceful and he held her in his arms. I can’t even imagine the awfulness of holding your baby in your arms as it dies. That’s just…no. I can’t even bring myself to think of it. I don’t know how people dealt with that sort of thing so commonly back then. So, so awful.

George goes to Trenwith, where Francis and Elizabeth are snuggling their own child. Francis can’t bring himself to face George, so Elizabeth goes to meet with him instead. Probably for the best, as far as George is concerned, since he really wants to tell Elizabeth that he has the hots for her. She tells him he mustn’t say such things, but he doesn’t want his feelings or intentions misunderstood. He says goodbye before she can think of a response to that.

Demelza sits on her daughter’s bed and sobs. Oh, come on, show! Man. Excuse me while I go wake up my kid so I can snuggle him for about an hour and a half straight. She cries to Ross that she wishes she’d had the chance to say goodbye.

The two of them ride to the coast (go ahead and drink, we all need it). She says they must take heart from the thought that Geoffrey Charles is well, and that Ross really should make up with Francis already. Ross says that her generosity and goodness make him kind of ashamed. She makes us all ashamed, Ross. He agrees to invite Francis to join him at the mine and hopefully they can resurrect the fortunes of the Poldark mines. ‘Then there is hope, and will not have been for nothing after all,’ she responds. Damn. Talk about being determined to see the bright side. She holds up Julia’s ribbon and lets it fly away. She and Ross hug and cry for about three seconds before the soldiers show up and arrest Ross for theft, murder, and inciting a riot. He quickly realizes that George has leveled this accusation. He and Demelza share one last long look before he’s marched away.

God, that was grim. You know what? Let’s just take a second to enjoy this video of impossibly cute babies laughing joyously, just to give ourselves a little break from the tragedy:

There, that’s a bit better, isn’t it?

Good news for all the Poldark fans out there: there will be another series. Four more, possibly, so we’ll be back with Ross and Demelza and the rest of the gang next year. And I’m glad, because this was pretty good. Definitely gorgeously shot, well cast, entertaining (except for that one episode a couple of weeks back, which was just strange and annoying). MVP for this definitely goes to Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza. She did a spectacular job taking her from gawky, eager, occasionally defensive and surly girl to a more self-assured and incredibly generous young woman. I believed every minute of her transformation. Bravo, Eleanor, you continue to impress me and I hope to keep seeing more of you.

Ross was a bit more difficult to get into. He’s a strange character, by turns self-centred and altruistic, loving and completely dismissive of his wife and tone deaf to her needs. But he mostly means well, which saves him, from an audience perspective. I seriously did want to slap him many, many times though. Not as many times as Francis, of course, who is a bit of a mess as a character. I don’t know if he was mishandled in the books, but I feel he was definitely mishandled somewhat here. He went from a rather sweet, friendly guy to a debauched jerk almost overnight. Disappointing.

And can someone explain to me the purpose of Jud and Prudie? Why are they here? They seem to serve no purpose to the narrative and were just irritating. Were they supposed to be comic relief? They aren’t. They aren’t funny, they’re obnoxious, and nobody, at that time or any other, would keep on two servants who constantly steal and are drunk and surly.

But these are fairly nitpicky complaints, and overall I really liked this. Looking forward to next year!



3 thoughts on “Poldark: The Wreck

  1. . She asks if there’s anything else she can do and Ross asks her to pray that he not lose the love of his life. Aww.

    What the $#$#$#!@??? What exactly is Debbie Horsfield trying to say? That Ross is finally over Elizabeth? What the ##$#$#@#$%$%??

    1. Not necessarily. One can feel romantic love for multiple people simultaneously. What she’s saying is that, however he may feel about Elizabeth (and honestly I think that’s more of a lust/habit sort of love rather than a deep one, at this point) Demelza is something special. She’s his soulmate. And that’s quite a thing. Elizabeth was his first love, and most of us remember and look fondly back at our first love, but that’s not always the person you spend the rest of your life with. It’s an immature sort of love. Sometimes it grows with us, and matures and becomes the love of our lives, but oftentimes it does not. Someone else takes that spot. And that’s fine.

  2. I realize that it was necessary to move the plot, but there is no way George could receive a letter notifying him that the Warleggans ship has foundered – on the very same day, Before goods washed ashore, even.

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