RECAP: Poldark - S1E1 - Episode 1

Meet ROSS POLDARK. A man who “says what he thinks and does what he wants”. Not the most desirable quality in a gentleman; so, naturally, a lot of people dislike him [not the female viewers of course]. Ross joined the army and went to war as a way to escape the consequences of his youthful indiscretions [gambling, we assume], leaving behind his beloved [but not quite betrothed] ELIZABETH.

While in combat, Ross’s battalion is attacked and he is presumed dead. But don’t fret, this is the BBC and they are not about to kill the title character in the first 5 minutes of the show. Ross Poldark is alive and well. He escaped the attack with a leg injury that only acts up when he has to dance and one of those face scars that all leading man should have. But his good fortune pretty much ends there. He returns home to Cornwall, only to discover that daddy Poldark passed away, his lands and mine are in utter decay and Elizabeth, thinking he was dead, agreed to marry his cousin, FRANCIS POLDARK.

Elizabeth is basically everything an eligible 18th century bachelor could wish for. She is beautiful and elegant, she is soft spoken and demure and she comes from “a good family” [it all comes down to that, right?]. So it is no surprise that she didn’t stay single for long, but it wouldn’t have killed her to wait a couple of years! In truth, Elizabeth seems like a good person and I doubt she decided to marry Francis because she saw “his mine, his house and his estate” as Ross suggests at one point. Rather, I believe she lacked the strength to go against what was expected from her. The fact that her mother kept pointing out all the flaws in Ross and his lifestyle probably didn’t help. In the end, Elizabeth agrees to a rushed wedding with Francis. You could say that she made the sensible decision to marry the stable, rich, bore instead of the dangerous, sulking rebel. Guess women always choosing the “bad boys” wasn’t a thing back then.

On top of being dumped, Ross has to struggle to keep his estate a float. A difficult task, considering his mine isn’t producing, his tenants are starving and no-one is willing to give him a loan. Ross’s only ally is his cousin, VERITY, who is probably around 22 and considered a spinster. Other than her, no-one seems too pleased to have Ross back. UNCLE POLDARK (Francis’s dad), who sees Ross as a menace to his son’s marriage and the family name, goes as far as suggesting he should go to London or Oxford to pursue a “profession” like “law” or the “church” [The nerve… he is way too pretty for the church].

As it usually happens, there are the ones that want to take advantage of Ross’s precarious situation: The Warleggans. They are the typical evil son, eviler father duo. As rising “tradesmen”, they have some weird fixation with Ross’s “family name” and might or might not be creating some sort of evil mining monopoly. They conclude that winning Ross’s favour can’t be hard because “people are very friendly when they cannot afford not to be”. But Ross doesn’t care what he can and cannot afford, so he rejects their deal with the devil offer and goes on to sell his family heirlooms to get some quick cash to go to the market [What exactly were they eating before they went shopping?]

Ross’s shopping spree becomes another turning point when he comes across a forced, unfair dog fight. The owner of one of the dogs kicks and screams trying to save the poor animal from an imminent death. Unfortunately, the crowd wants entertainment, so they beat the dog’s owner while everyone watches [including Francis and Elizabeth]. But like any respectable hero, Ross Poldark wouldn’t stand idle while witnessing such injustice. So he steps in and defends the “boy” who turns out to be a beautiful [yet raggedy] young woman, DEMELZA CARNE. Ross discovers that Demelza has been abused by her father and, with complete disregard for social conventions, he offers her a job as his kitchen maid.

Back at the POLDARK ESTATE, Ross receives a care package from his uncle. It’s basically a bunch of “go away” cash. He decides to pay Uncle Poldark a visit [to reject his money, I assume], but runs into Elizabeth instead. Ross seizes the opportunity to confront Elizabeth and demands to know her true feelings [he throws in some guilt-tripping remarks in there too]. Elizabeth is clearly conflicted, but once again, she is paralyzed by social expectations and tells Ross that she loves Francis and hope they can be “friends”. Ross is all “not the ‘just friends’ speech!” So he storms out and decides that London might not be such a bad plan after all. He arrives home and his “escape to the city” plan is interrupted by Demelza’s beating father, who is there to take her away.

Somehow, Ross manages to win against BIG DADDY CARNE and his small village army. Mr. Carne leaves defeated and without his daughter. On his way out, Ross runs into a group of his tenants. He realizes that they valiantly fought against Big Daddy’s goonies. Ross thanks them and they tell him that they would always “fight for their own”. Ross realizes that he might have lost the love of Elizabeth, but that’s not his only reason to be in Cornwall. He has his lands and his people to protect, so he determines to stay until his estate is returned to its former glory. [Demelza and Garrick the dog are invited to stay too, in case you were wondering].


As I mentioned before, I was expecting a "classic British drama". I was not familiar with the original 70s adaptation [or the books], so I didn't know anything about the characters or the story. In a way, I am glad for that, because everything on this show was a [pleasant] surprise. I love Poldark as a character and I love how fresh the story feels. If you are like me [unfamiliar with the source material], you will discover that this story, much like its title character, does not follow the expected path.

“What cause would that be? Liberty or tyranny?” - Ross speaking about the war
“I doubt there are any subtleties in combat on which I can offer you advice” Ross to Elizabeth’s mother
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The TV Empress is a Media Management graduate, screenwriter in the making (and financial engineer in the meantime). She has serious plans to take over global television. You can follow the TVEmpress on twitter @TVRepublik

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  1. Poldark is such a guilty pleasure!

    1. Why "guilty"?

    2. Oh don't take it the wrong way, I think it is a good show. But I don't normally watch romantic stuff...

  2. Great show and an interesting read, but just one small correction...Demelza's dog's name is Garrick not Garret.

    1. Learned my lesson, will spell check dogs from now on... [it has been amended now]


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