Episode spoiler warning: have the tissues handy because there will not be a dry eye in the house. There will be heartache and tears – buckets of tears, an unrelenting torrent of tears – no matter how many times you watch this episode.
Things continue to go from bad to worse for the Poldarks. Putrid throat has hit the district badly. Unlike “miner’s disease”, this one does not discriminate between rich or poor. Dwight is struggling to contain and treat his patients, knowing it is a losing battle, while Dr Choake believes it is nothing more than a mild case of sore throat. Trenwith has been overrun by the little bugger, all except for 93-year-old Aunt Agatha who has been around long enough to see six generations of Poldarks and shows no signs of letting up.
While Ross is away in town, working hard to avoid bankruptcy, Demelza decides to visit Trenwith to check on their cousins. She arrives to find Francis already bedridden and Elizabeth, herself looking worse for wear, nursing a sick Geoffrey Charles in his cot. No-one protests when Demelza offers to stay to look after them. Even Francis manages to mutter his thanks, grateful that she has the heart to overlook past grievances between them.
Ross finds out from his banker friend that George has sent an agent to offer to buy his share of Wheal Leisure. Determined not to give in to George, he takes out a loan without collateral at a whopping 40% interest. It does not take a financial genius that this is a huge gamble, and a foolish one at that.
Later that night, Demelza and baby Julia both begin to fall ill. The disease has gripped them both quickly. Ross rushes to get Dwight (if only they had telephones!) but we all know that there is not a lot that he is able to do other than to keep them hydrated. It is only a matter of time before the inevitable happens: baby Julia dies in her father’s arms as he cradles her to him, assuring her that she will not die alone.
Days later, Demelza is still bedridden and hallucinating (mostly about Elizabeth stealing her husband away), while her grief-stricken husband cuts the saddest figure, carrying a tiny coffin from Nampara to the graveyard with Dwight walking by his side. The whole community has turned up to share in his grief. Francis, having recovered by now thanks to Demelza, puts aside their differences and offers a consoling pat on Ross’ shoulder. (I am on my third tissue by this point.)
News of Julia’s death has travelled to the Warleggans. Cary suggests that this is the perfect time to strike hard at Wheal Leisure, believing Ross is too busy with the loss of his daughter to worry about his mine. Even George balks at this cruelty – perhaps he does have a heart after all?
As Ross stands by the cliff mourning his loss, he sees a storm approaching, hitting the Queen Charlotte, the cargo ship belonging to the Warleggans with Matthew Sanson on board. He rushes into the village and gathers every man, woman and child and tells them to hurry to the beach to recover whatever they can from the shipwreck that is coming ashore.
When word of the wreck arrives at the Warleggans’, Cary wants to send soldiers to arrest Ross for plundering their goods. By law, whatever is washed ashore becomes the property of the finder, and in this case, the beach is on Poldark land, which gives Ross legal rights to everything – as long as he gets to it first. However, the Warleggans are not above the law. Bribes are paid and soldiers are quickly sent on their way.
The Illuggan miners also see the shipwreck and start to make their way to the beach. By this time, Ross tells his people to hurry home with their goods and lock their doors, but a fight breaks out between some of them and the survivors of the Charlotte. Matthew is skilled in the scuffle, not that Ross is a bit upset by his death. He does, however, offer to provide food and shelter to the other survivors.
When the group arrives back at Nampara, Ross finds Elizabeth is tending to Demelza. Like Francis, she knows she is alive because of Demelza’s kindness, and offers to do whatever she can to help. “You can pray to God I don’t lose the love of my life.” (Cue more heart-melting, and also, “Take that, Elizabeth! Demelza is his one true love.) When Demelza finally awakes to find her baby is gone, her grief is unbearably hard to watch. (More tissues, please.)
The next morning, Ross returns to the beach to find George there, inspecting the remains of the wreck and taking away the body of his dead cousin. He asks Ross if he could have saved Matthew. “Why would I want to do that?” came the reply. George insists they could have been allies but Ross rejects this notion.
Having just been scoffed at by one Poldark, George heads to Trenwith. A cowardly Francis, now a little more repentant and grateful for his little family, declares that he cannot bear to see him. So it is up to Elizabeth to make their apologies. As it turns out, George is more than happy to speak to Elizabeth alone. For a long time, there have been hints that he is interested in Elizabeth, and he now makes his intentions clear to her. Francis will need to start watching his back because the Warleggans make it their business to get what they want no matter the cost.
When Demelza has recovered enough, she asks Ross to take her to visit their daughter’s grave. As they once again stand on the cliff looking out to sea, she asks that Ross and Francis put aside the past. Although she has lost her own daughter, she is at least grateful that Geoffrey Charles is now recovered, further demonstrating she is a better person than any of us ever dare to be.
If only their enemies can be as forgiving as this. While they are still mourning their loss, some soldiers interrupt their grief. George has accused Ross of wrecking and inciting the murder of Matthew. As the soldiers take Ross away, all of us are yelling “NOOOOOOOOOOO!”
Poldark Series 2 is set to return to BBC One on Sunday 4th September.