Talk about a season finale! Putrid throat comes to Cornwall, and baby Julia is taken before her time. The Carnmore Copper Company fails, a Warleggan ship crashes on Poldark land, and a mob of hungry poor folk takes what they want from the ruins. Of course, Ross is blamed for the riot, and we end on a clifftop with a grieving Demelza watching her husband led away by soldiers. Here’s to season two, right?
Barrett Brountas: The first season of Poldark is over. And what a dramatic finale was that?
Sergeant Tremayne Captain Poldark? I have orders to take you to Truro Jail.
Ross On what charge?
Sergeant Tremayne Wrecking. Inciting a riot. Murder.
Barrett Ross is arrested, baby Julia succumbs to disease and the secret rebellious Copper Company is forced to close.
Tonkin I have to report that today, yet again, we got no copper. And since the prospect seems unlikely to change.
Ross: We bow to the inevitable?
Tonkin It is with extreme regret that I declare the Carnmore Copper Company dissolved.
Barrett: I’m Barrett Brountas, and this is Mining Poldark, a podcast from MASTERPIECE. I’m joined, as always, by the marvellous Robin Ellis, the original Ross Poldark from the original 1970s MASTERPIECE adaptation of the series.
Barrett Just as we have every episode this season Robin and I are going to recap in fast fashion the finale of Poldark, season one.
Robin Ellis: It begins and ends with a song. But between there is little to sing about. A deadly sickness, putrid throat, whose victims would find it impossible to sing rages at Trenwith and spreads to Nampara with tragic consequences.
Barrett: All is forgiven, all is lost. The dissolution of the Carnmore Copper Company though catastrophic is nothing. The shipwreck of the Queen Charlotte and the food it provided the hungry is nothing. The brutality and violence of the Luggen miners is nothing. Nothing matters when compared to the smallness of Julia’s coffin.
Robin: As Ross’ life crumbles, all he can do as a helpless Dwight tells him, is pray. He carries Julia in a small coffin along the cliff paths to the graveyard, where a family reconciliation is in the air. He walks the cliffs for some respite as the storm that mirrors his inner turmoil rages. He spots Warleggan’s new trading ship heading for the rocks and realizes there’ll be pickin’s for all. He rouses the village. When Cary Warleggan hears that the ship is founded on Poldark land, he throws a fit.
Barrett: George will twist the knife further and again. His arrest of Ross tears the couple apart and plunges Ross into further potentially lethal danger.
Robin: Elizabeth comes to Nampara to help. She hears Ross pledge undying love for a recovering but grieving Demelza. Wiley George, after Ross’ latest rejection, slips intro Trenwith and declares his intentions to a bewildered Elizabeth. On the cliff top, Ross promises to include Francis in future mining plans. So there is hope, and it won’t be for nothin’ at all, Demelza says, as she lets Julia’s little wristband fly away. Ross is promptly arrested and led away to Truro jail.
Barrett: It begins with a song and ends with yo it’s so good it’s so good. And it reminds me of all the the parts that we that we have to get into. It’s just an amazing episode. Part of me feels like we should just touch really quickly on the mining because even though it’s a disaster. There’s so much going on with these characters that I almost say Goliath 1 David 0 the Carnmore company is over.
Robin Absolutely yeah, we have to accept that and so does Ross. It was a very moving scene in the pub though with just the three of them together, closing the company down and nearly in tears. I thought that was a touching moment.
Barrett Maybe the sole light moment of the episode came out of that although it was a grim laugh that I had laughing out loud was when Ross was discussing his you know a humongous debt with Pascoe. And he does the unthinkable. He says –
Ross: The Warleggans have a habit of buying up mines and closing them down just to suppress competition to their own holdings. I’ll be damned if I let that happen to Wheal Leisure.
Ross: So. I require capital of a thousand pounds. Without security.
Barrett: You just have to love Ross Poldark. He ends up taking a 12 month loan with interest of 40 percent and Pascoe gives it to him. Okay!
Robin I think he’s in cloud cuckoo land now. You know he doesn’t maybe understand. And Pascoe has a lovely reaction which is just a very very low key sort of jumpy laugh to it as though you have to be joking sort of laugh. Very nice. Well maybe that’s what Henry Ford did when he when he started his company and everybody was saying you’re mad.
Barrett It takes a touch of madness and to be that bold and sometimes it works out. We have many seasons ahead to find out if this was a loan that’s worth making. As we leave mining behind for the episode we are confronted with sickness that’s taken over the residents at Trenwith including all the servants and Ross when he hears of this he he rushes over to Trenwith but comes upon Dr. Choke who’s leaving with total confidence that he’s cured everyone within.
Robin He does and how appropriately named Doctor Choke.
Robin Really unbelievable that he could be so accepting of the situation I don’t know whether it’s professional pride, that he thinks he can’t do anything about it so he’s going to go straight into denial. But clearly the signs are there. I mean those are amazing shots of Elizabeth and later on of Demelza lying in bed looking like corpses basically. I mean absolutely white as sheets. Putrid throat everybody knows perhaps is diphtheria. I remember being inoculated for diphtheria in the 50s it’s a very serious and unpleasant thing and it’s still around I think. But as long as you’re inoculated you know you’re safe and I suppose in those days inoculation didn’t exist really.
Barrett You just realized what a what a dangerous time it was and how there was so much against everyone whether it’s disease starvation. Oh God it’s terrible.
Robin It’s no respecter of position in society at all. It strikes down anybody it gets anywhere near to this idea that you can be near the breath and you know just horrible idea that there is no escape from this dreadful thing.
Barrett It’s terrifying. And so when Demelza hears from Ginny that everyone is sick a Trenwith even all the servants with no one to take care of them. She’s torn over her impulses but ultimately she makes the decision she’s going to go to their aid and when she arrives at Trenwith it’s practically like a crypt already it’s it’s gloomy and deserted. But she comes upon Elizabeth who is practically at death’s door herself. But she’s trying to care for baby Geoffrey Charles.
Robin It’s it’s a dreadful scene but in some ways it’s a relief for Demelza. She she finds an opening to salve her unnecessary as it turns out guilt.
Elizabeth If the servants hadn’t been so ill – but Doctor Choake said half the village is down.
Demelza Ssssshhhh. You ought to rest.
Francis Who is it?
Elizabeth Demelza. She’s come to help us.
Francis It is good of her to overlook past quarrels.
Robin Of course she’s putting herself in danger and also her family. So in a sense she’s again being rather thoughtless about it. But nevertheless at that moment she feels she wants to go ahead and play Florence Nightingale and care for these people. Yeah. And the nice thing is that her caring which is a genuine feeling is received in a very in a good way by these people who especially Francis who have been shouting at her only a few hours before.
Barrett As we get to know Demelza more and more I almost I almost feel like this is something she would have done even if she didn’t have a guilty conscience. I think that that’s who she is. And later when when she admits to Ross that she’s gone there and he says, How could you how could you do this. You know…
Ross: In God’s name, why?
Demelza: Ross, I had to. They were all so sick – even the servants – they had no-one to tend them – an’ Geoffrey Charles was so weak – twice I thought him gone – but this morning he brought round – Dr. Choake says the worst is now over…
Ross: I cannot believe you would do such a…
Demelza: What would you have done? What did you do? For Jim Carter?
Barrett: This is who they are for. For good and for ill.
Robin Well I think it is also the time and her background. She comes from a very poor background and she’s very used to people dying at a very early age. And somehow you know it doesn’t mean as much. You know life life is there one minute and gone the next and so somehow the context isn’t quite the same for her as it is for us as it were. Her instincts are good anyway. I think you’re right about that. That is deeply in her character but it’s also the time really where she is. She comes out of this very difficult background and she’s seen people dying very early and her own instinct is to go and help basically because that’s the only way people from her background survive is by community.
Barrett So it goes the way it would have done right in most cases. And Julia perishes. Demelza gets sick. She’s very very sick. She’s having terrible hallucinations. Tortured you know by all of her worst fears combined with the worst moments that she’s experienced. And while this is going on. Julia dies in Ross’s arms, it’s the worst. It’s the very worst.
Robin Yes it’s it’s deeply deeply sad and because you’ve seen her early in the Julia, I mean – earlier in the episode. In fact the episode starts with her sort of almost taking her first steps across the across the kitchen. And clearly you know there’s a great relationship between mother and daughter and everybody loves Julia and it’s a great future. I felt also that sort of lack of a future in Ross’ extraordinary walk with the coffin to the graveyard where he’s walking with Dwight behind him and he’s on the path that Julia would never take as it were and there’s something very very very moving about that somehow that path should be to the future and in fact it’s to the grave and there are moments really good moments like that in this episode. And I have to say I’d like to say that the director Will MacGregor who I worked with is a young 26 or so when I worked with him. Yeah. Very sympathetic. And in my experience if you have confidence in the actors and this is paid off later on in the episode when Demelza survives and realizes that Julia is dead and the director gives the actors time and that’s very important you know time is of the essence in television production it’s usually come on come on we’ve got to get off ground but somehow Will created an atmosphere where the actors felt or feel confident that they’re not holding things up and consequently that’s a very very moving moment with Demelza and Ross just after Julia’s died.
Demelza: I wish…I wish…
Ross: What do you wish?
Demelza: I wish I’d had the chance to say goodbye.
Robin: If directors give the actors time that the actors will deliver.
Barrett I mean you know this firsthand. And I just know that what I watched they delivered absolutely. It takes time with them in these moments which is is very painful and hard to watch. But that time as she just sobs into him. You know it’s devastating.
Barrett: Let’s take a quick break to hear a word from our sponsors.
Barrett Now we should probably get to the shipwreck and the sort of hell scape that it devolved into as the Luggan miners came and started brawling and looting.
Robin Yes it reminded me very much of the time we did it. And there were a lot of locals were employed which may have happened this time of course and I think certainly I had the impression that a lot of local scores were settled on that beach. I heard a stuntman once yell out to someone who was attacking him rather saying you’re old old mate it’s only a play.
Robin Very effective it was, yes.
Barrett So you had that day where you were carrying the casks and the waves were crashing and everyone the fires were lit and everyone was fighting and brawling that must have been exhausting but exhilirating.
Robin It was, it was, it was. Exhilarating and wonderful. Yeah it was great. Lovely. A lot of wrecking going on. Really enjoyed it.
Barrett And it’s such a great moment for Ross. Every discussion we have we talk about whether or not he’s a hero and in this moment it’s so tricky because he is a hero he’s bringing this food and making sure everyone has it but there’s such a darkness to him. He is in such a dark place that even when he smiles you know it is it is a grim grim satisfaction that he’s taking.
Paul: The ‘Luggan miners be ‘ere, Ross! Far end o’ th’ beach.
Ross: Go home – make the women and children safe – keep your doors shut and bolted.
Jud: Nay, I’ll budge fer no man. ‘Tis our cove, ’tis our pickin’s.
Ross: Let them strip the vessel if they choose. We’ve had the best of her. Take him home – before his mouth gets him into mischief it and I can’t talk him out of.
Prudie: Yes Mister Ross. Lord bless you, Mister Ross.
Robin Oh he’s certainly enjoying the moment seeing because if you remember earlier in the episode he has this scene where he walks out into the dock where the Charlotte is being loaded with all the staff and he somehow he’s looking out at the future that he’s not going to have because his company’s just failed. And so the satisfaction of seeing the boat that he’s watched you know Cary loading with great glee see it wrecked on the rocks. I mean you couldn’t help but smile at that I imagine. And he’s he’s taking advantage of it.
Barrett And he does the right thing he tries to keep the captain and crew survivors safe. He tries to make sure that everyone gets out in time before the Luggan people descend. He does try to do the right thing and yet he’s going to he’s going to pay. And the law is on his side. But of course the red coat is bribed by George and Cary. Oh by the way Cary takes the Francis Poldark award for rage this episode.
Cary: These people should hang! Give me a rope and I’ll do it myself! Captain Bray must testify…
George: To what?
Cary: The plunder and lawlessness! No, better still, Matthew. He can testify against Poldark.
George: Always assuming he witnesses.
Cary: Whether he witnesses or not! Good God boy. You don’t suggest we wait for actual evidence? Matthew is a gentleman. He is a Warleggan. Worth two of any Poldarks and his word will carry twice the weight. And I’ll be damned if we don’t turn this debacle to our advantage!
Robin: It’s the only time that Cary’s got any sort of animation to him. Mind you. Pip Torrance is a wonderful actor and he’s wonderful as the character and so it works even better.
Barrett One of the two things that happen at the end of the episode that get us ready for this plot to move forward into season two is George declaring himself to Elizabeth. Robin what was going on there what was the impetus for this? Is it because she almost died like why did he do this bonkers thing?
George: These are strange times, Elizabeth. We should no longer stand on ceremony.
Elizabeth: If you say so.
George: Sooner or later we must all declare – for one side or another.
Elizabeth: For which side do you declare?
George: For no side. At least, for no man.
Elizabeth: You must not say this to me, George.
George: Oh, I must. And I do. I will no longer have my feelings misunderstood. Or my intentions. I bid you good day, Elizabeth.
Robin It’s at the end of a long sequence which starts just after the Carnmore auction where he comes out and you remember he follows Ross in the street.
Barrett: All the way down the street, yes.
Robin He’s absolutely determined to get these shares and get control and he fails the first time and then he gets. Then there’s a continuation of the scene in the port and he fails again and Ross is extremely rude to him. You know if you think greed and exploitation or something like that is is the way to be a gentleman then you’re you’re much mistaken. And then he comes off the beach having just lost this first cargo and it’s on Poldark land or you know so he’s thinks I know this that really motivates him to do something positive. And he’s of course you know Margaret was in the room is he still hasn’t got a partner a true partner like Ross and like Elizabeth and he thinks I’m gonna go for it. It does seem quite breathtaking in poor Elizabeth is you know gobsmacked frankly. She doesn’t. I mean she’s astonished. Like we all are by this impudence.
Barrett Where does he get this nerve. I could not believe it.
Robin No, because he’s such a quiet chap isn’t he?
Barrett Francis is supposed to be his friend. Elizabeth has done nothing to let him believe that that marriage isn’t all it could be. I mean you know he did overhear their fight but still. That was unexpected. Another thing that is unexpected is that the idea that Ross is under arrest. You know there he is on the cliff top you know newly bereaved of his child with his wife who’s just come back from knocking at a death’s door and up they march and say that he’s arrested on charges of inciting a riot and murder. Who made these charges? George Warleggan. Unbelievable.
Robin I mean I must say this cliffhanger is a bit unfair. When we were doing it you know we continued the next week because it was done in 16 episodes. Now they had to wait almost a year I think to find out what happened. So this is slightly different. So I do sympathise with them.
Barrett I know I think that’s the fashion now right that you have to suffer for at least a year. If you love a television show. The suffering is part of the is part of the satisfaction I guess. But we will have more Poldark and more discussions because like Ross and Demelza you and I are embracing the future.
Robin We are Barrett and we’re looking forward to it with you on we wait for it with impatience as the French say we look forward to it indeed to continuing our conversation. It’s been fun, I’ve enjoyed it.
Barrett It’s been such a delight. Thank you so much Robin Ellis for discussing Poldark Season One with me. I’ve loved every second of it.
Robin Me too, Barrett. Thanks a lot.
Barrett You can’t come this far in a series and NOT expect another season, and obviously, we’re eager to look ahead to the second, and third, and fourth and beyond.
But Robin and I both want to thank you for coming along on this first season of Poldark here on Mining Poldark. We’ve both loved having the chance to rewatch such a fabulous season, and have loved seeing the show through each other’s eyes.
We’ll be back with season two of Poldark soon. While you wait, get ready for JUDGE ROBIN ELLIS, aka, Reverend Halse!!
Rev. Halse: Enough of this insolence. Ross Vennor Poldark, I am committing you for trial at the Bodmin assizes. Bail will be set at one hundred pounds. And may God have mercy upon you — for I most assuredly would not.
Barrett And you can join us in our rewatching adventure here on Mining Poldark by watching the entire series on PBS Passport — a new member benefit from your local PBS station. You can watch select MASTERPIECE titles like Poldark, Downton Abbey or Victoria as a part of the Passport experience. To learn more, visit pbs.org/getpassport.
You can also follow along with us on the MASTERPIECE Amazon Prime Channel, available as a part of your Amazon Prime membership.
Mining Poldark is hosted by me, Barrett Brountas, with co-host Robin Ellis. We’re produced by Nick Andersen, with help from Robyn Bissette. Thanks to Meredith Wheeler for off-site recording. Tina Tobey-Mack is our sound designer. Susanne Simpson is our executive producer. The executive producer of MASTERPIECE is Rebecca Eaton.
Sponsors for MASTERPIECE on PBS are Viking Cruises and The MASTERPIECE Trust.
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