Poldark: A fan’s review by Sarah Vita-Younan
What an episode of POLDARK Sunday night brought and it has certainly thrown up a lot of mixed emotions this week about some of the scenes from the eighth episode. Sarah Vita-Younan (one of our lucky readers chosen to write a fan review of the series alongside Celia Fox) is back again to share her thoughts on Sunday night’s episode. Take a look at Sarah’s thoughts below:
* Warning: spoilers. Do not read if you have not seen Poldark series 2 episode 8 *
Another Poldark episode has come and gone, and wow! That one was quite the smacker… literally! Opening with Ross about to stand trial (yes, again…) for the smuggling ambush on the beach. Demelza voices all our opinion: “Ross, will you never learn?”
“Possibly not,” he grins. Well, aren’t we cheeky, Ross?
So Ross stands trial, again, this time tried by Rev. Halse (Robin Ellis! Yaaaaaaaaay!!!!!). Ross defends his testimony that he was in St. Ives and produces three, false, witnesses. The case is dismissed.
Then Dwight is called to the stand, also accused of smuggling. He also defends his innocence, and is fined 50 pounds.
That night at Nampara, Ross tells Demelza that there is truly no hope for the mine, and that they will close on Saturday. Just then, Captain Henshawe arrives, with a parcel of tin found at Grace. Ross seems slightly uninterested – afraid to get his hopes up again? – but goes to investigate himself. He does seem more intrigued at the sight of it, but still thinks there is no hope in it. Later that week, the vein continues to seem promising, and Captain Henshawe invests his own money to keep Grace going for another month.
Demelza goes to town to see some friends while Ross is at the mine, and runs into none other than Elizabeth. She tries to avoid her, but is called over. Elizabeth tries to thank Demelza for being so kind in Ross’s frequent visits to Trenwith. Unexpectedly, she answers, “Oh, you’re welcome to him. Just so long as you remember where he belongs, and send him back to me when you’re done with him.”
Both returned to Nampara, Demelza and Ross sit at the table discussing the day while Jeremy plays on the floor. Ross tells Demelza that they’re finding of tin is probably not enough to save Grace. Demelza thens tells Ross that she saw Horace Treneglos in town, and that he informed her that Ross no longer had shares in Wheal Leisure. He tells her honestly about his intentions to help Elizabeth, and that he felt a burden of obligation to Francis and his family. She doesn’t seem angry with him, but she does not seem pleased either. She doesn’t see why Ross must be the one to offer so much assistance to everyone, while they still have to fend for themselves. She also mentions that George seems to be very obliging where Elizabeth is concerned.
Speaking of Elizabeth, at Trenwith, things pile up as she informs her mother of recent affairs, Mrs. Chenowyth seems to suffer a stroke. It seems Elizabeth has no where to turn for help. Except to George Warleggan, who arrives at Trenwith with great sympathy. He offers her any and all help her mother would require. At first she refuses, but George persists. He tells her that if she would not refuse him one thing, that everything else would be solved. Herself. “Now I ask you to marry me. I say that I love you.” He offers her everything she could ever need or want, and a fortune for Geoffrey Charles.
Elizabeth is stunned, but does not decline his offer. He leaves her to think on it.
The next day, Verity visits Trenwith and Nampara with he steps-son, and news that she is expecting a child in October! (Eeeeeeeekk!!!!) Another visitor to Nampara is Captain McNeil, who seems sympathetic to Demelza’s protection of Ross during the ambush. He also apologizes for his last visit, saying that was only his duty and that he held nothing against Captain Poldark. During the conversation, he mentions that George Warleggan bought a wedding suit for his marriage to Elizabeth. Demelza tells Prudie not to say anything to Ross, nor will she.
Thus sets the chain reaction of bad Poldark things… at Wheal Grace, there strikes a rockfall, leaving 2 men dead. Their death shakes Ross, and he closes Grace for good. “It was an ill-conceived venture from the start, it will never re-open!”
As if things couldn’t get any worse, Ross returns home to a letter from Elizabeth. Telling him of her engagement to George. He tries to leave, but Demelza stops him. She says she doesn’t want him going to Trenwith with whatever he intends.
“How do you know what I intend?”
“How do I know anything, Ross? How do I know you? And yet, I think I do.”
He asks her more than once to get out of his way, and she does.
Ross practically flies to Trenwith, jumps off his horse, and bangs loudly on the door. When no one answers, he kicks it in and storms up the stairs calling for Elizabeth. He arrives at her bedroom, and wishes to speak with her.
He states his confusion and resentment about George, his greatest enemy, marrying Elizabeth, who he considers his greatest friend. Also he reminds her that she told him she loved him and not Francis, not even a year ago. Elizabeth defends the union, telling Ross how kind and generous George has been to her.
“Do you marry a man out of gratitude?”
She says she does not, and that she loves him and is doing this for Geoffrey Charles. “What do you suggest for me? 30 years of widowhood? Can you offer me anything else?” she takes a step closer to him. “Do you?” she asks daringly in his face.
He says he does not believe her when she says she loves George, and that it is the same as when she told him she loves Francis. “You ask me would I condemn you to 30 years of widowhood? Why would I need to? You could have you pick of 30 men! But I won’t see you condemned to George!”
She asks him to leave. “I am my own mistress, and I will not be instructed.” She apologizes for how he feels and says she cannot help it.
“Oh, you’ve never been able to help anything, have you?! It’s all beyond your control! Full of good intentions, leaving a trail of havoc in your wake!”
He kisses her. She pushes him off.
“I oppose this marriage, Elizabeth. I’d be glad of your assurance that you will not go through with it. We both know you do not love him.”
“I love him to distraction and will marry him next month!”
He kisses her again. She pushes him again. “I detest you!”
“No, you don’t! You never have and you never will.”
She looks at the bed. “You would not dare!”
“Oh, I would, Elizabeth,” he throws her onto the bed. “I would and so would you!”
Immediately, she is accepting of anything he wants to do. For years, they’ve loved each other and the world has kept them apart. She has always been apart of him and he has always been apart of her. They’ve wanted each other for so long, and until now, could never have it.
Now, this scene has sparked controversy for YEARS in the Poldark fandom. Many readers and viewers feel like this is rape on Ross’s part. And while maybe that conclusion may be misinterpreted when one reads the scene in the book, when you read the entire novels and watch the entire series as a whole, this could not be farther from the truth.
Ross Poldark is by no means a hero. He is not perfect. But he is a man torn between two women. One he has loved all his life and cannot have, and the other he loves with all his heart and does have.
He goes to Trenwith, not with the intent to sleep with Elizabeth, and certainly not to force himself on her! But does sleep with her. The crime in question here is not one of sexual assault against his former love, but one of adultery and unfaithfulness to his wife.
Andrew Graham, the son of author Winston Graham, defends his father’s work: “It becomes clear, from earlier scenes as well as from Elizabeth’s immediate reactions and later mixed emotions that what finally happened was consensual sex born of long-term love and longing.”
Poldark screenwriter, Debbie Horsfield: “One of the first things you learn when you’re adapting a novel is that no two readers imagine a scene the same way! This is even more acute when a scene ends abruptly, as is the case in Book 3 Chapter 5 of Warleggan, when the action cuts out and the rest is left entirely to the reader’s imagination… What you saw on screen is consistent with what we believe those intentions to have been.”
And finally, Ross Poldark himself, Aidan Turner: “It seems consensual, and it just seems right. He goes to talk. He doesn’t go to commit a crime. They talk and it seems like there is still this spark between them, this unfinished business emotionally. Certainly, that’s how Ross feels. He doesn’t force himself upon her. He is emotionally quite inarticulate. I don’t think he quite understands himself… He’s absolutely in love with Demelza. Question is, is it possible to be in love with more than one person?”
It seems people will continue to debate this point forever, but I, as a viewer and a reader of the series, do not feel this scene was at all any form of assault. The strongest word I would use for it would be seduction. And for the record, my defending of this scene has nothing to do with the fact that Aidan Turner plays the character in question. I admit Ross makes mistakes, but a rapist, he is not.
Anyway, the next morning, Ross leaves Trenwith before anyone else besides Elizabeth wakes. She watches him leave… Does she think he will return?
He arrives back at Nampara. One look from Demelza tells him she knows. He tries to explain it, but cannot. “You must see that I had no choice.”
I take this scene to mean not that he had no choice in sleeping with Elizabeth, for he certainly had, but that he had no choice but to try and stop her marriage to George. In which I cannot blame him.
“Nor I,” Demelza answers. And before she walks away, she backhand slaps him straight to the ground (Whoa!)
And unfortunately, we are left there, without even a preview as to what’s coming next! We only have two episodes to resolve things?! HOW ON EARTH IS THAT ENOUGH TIME??? Oh, Poldark, you will be the death of me!
No one disappointed, and I hope we will not be left in suspense like this at the end of the series… Though I have my fears.
Poldark continues on Sunday nights on BBC1 at 9pm