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Series / Poldark

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Let the swooning commence

This page is for the 2015 version of the series - the original can be found here.

"Cannot a woman love two men? Cannot a man love two women?"

Poldark is an BBC1 series that aired from 2015 till 2019. It is adapted from a twelve novel series by Winston Graham and is the second such adaptation of the books. It follows the story of Ross Poldark, a young gentleman who returns home from war to find his father dead, his estate in ruins, and his sweetheart (Elizabeth) married off to his cousin (Francis).


Poldark contains examples of:

  • Absurd Phobia: George hates toads because Ross used to put them down his trousers in school. Drake starts putting toads in George's pond because he reacts so badly to them, and Drake, Demelza, and Ross then have a good laugh once Ross explains why George hates toads so much. This prank eventually leads George to try and get Drake hanged for a theft he didn't commit.
  • Acceptable Feminine Goals and Traits: Ross believes it's vital for a mine owner's wife to get to know his business in case he should be called away, and to be familiar and kind to the people who work there; accordingly, Demelza is a fixture at his mines and a favorite among the workers. Francis doesn't share this view, believing Elizabeth's early curiosity about the Grambler mine isn't "ladylike." Later, George assures Elizabeth that she has no need to try to understand their business.
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  • Adaptational Consent: The series tried to tone down the incident in the original novels and earlier adaptation in which Ross rapes Elizabeth by having her initially say "no" but quickly start enthusiastically taking part in the sex. This nevertheless got the show attacked in the press and online for engaging in "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization.
  • After Action Patch Up: Elizabeth tending to George's wounds after his brawl with Ross in 2x10.
  • Age Lift: Demelza is 13 at the start of the first book, and she seems to be closer to 17 in the show, which is good as she has sex with Ross in episode 3. In fact, in the book four years have passed and Demelza is indeed 17 when she is married.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The series ends with Ross leaving to spy in France, albeit with the promise to Demelza that he will return before their child is due to be born.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: George, who had been pining for Elizabeth for years, finally finds the courage to tell her of his love in the Season 1 finale, shortly after she has recovered from the putrid throat.
  • Arranged Marriage: Francis and Elizabeth are both so-so about getting married, but their respective parents are very much enthusiastic about the idea.
  • Asshole Victim: Osborne Whitworth.
  • Babies Ever After: Three instances in the final episode: Morwenna and Drake have a baby (Loveday), Demelza tells Ross she is pregnant again, and (in a more borderline example) Caroline opens up to intimacy again wth Dwight as she no longer fears having another child.
  • Beach Kiss: Drake and Morwenna have a Reunion Kiss on the beach after they are separated over Christmas. The scene is shot with swelling music, romantic camera angles and a slow motion run towards one another. It's a textbook Big Damn Kiss if there ever was one.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Dwight and Caroline in Season 2.
  • Birth/Death Juxtaposition:
    • The christening of Geoffrey Charles coincides with his grandfather's first heart attack. Lampshaded by Agatha, who points out the poignancy of a man's health declining in tandem with the birth of a grandchild who shares his name, claiming: "t'is a sign!".
    • Taken Up to Eleven in the first episode of Series 3 where Ray Penvenen and Tom Carne both die as Valentine Warleggen is born. There is also a total lunar eclipse at the same time, which Aunt Agatha reads as a very bad omen.
  • Black Cap of Death:
    • Averted in Series 2. For some odd reason, Justice Lister doesn't bother with it when condemning a convicted revolutionary to the gallows.
    • Played straight in Series 5 when Despard is condemned to be hanged, drawn, and quartered.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Caroline (blonde), Elizabeth (brunette), Demelza (ginger). This trope was also present in the books but switched: Caroline (ginger), Elizabeth (blonde) and Demelza (brunette).
  • Bodyguarding a Badass: Played With. After all of his training, George is a better fighter than any of the goons on his payroll as he's able to fight on-par with Ross. However in a one on one match, Ross still gets the better of him and George needs the (less skilled but more numerous) guards to haul Poldark off and cast him from the house.
  • Chekhov's Hobby: Ross's love of cards is established in the first episode, and mentioned in the fourth in a buildup to his gambit in Series 1 Episode 5.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Demelza's singing skill is shown off at least once in each episode in the buildup to her performance to the Poldark family at Christmas dinner.
  • Converse with the Unconscious: Ross begging Demelza to come back while she has a high fever.
  • Dashed Plotline: Each episode seems to be stretched out over at least several months. Pregnancies last two episodes. The two books that the first series is based on (Ross Poldark and Demelza) cover seven years, from 1783 to 1790.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates:
    • Ray Penvenen is not amused to see Caroline riding with "penniless country doctor" Dwight Enys instead of marrying someone of her own wealth and standing. He changes his mind when he's dying, however.
    • Ralph Hanson is furious about Cecily's affection for Geoffrey Charles, as he is trying to marry her off to George.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Aunt Agatha, Caroline and Francis are prime examples, and even Ross can't help but joke about his own poverty when faced with the possibility of the gallows, or worse.
    Man: I need a list of all your assets.
    Ross: That shouldn't take long.
  • "Dear John" Letter:
    • Caroline leaves one for Dwight after he seemingly chooses his patients over their planned elopement.
    • Ross receives one from Demelza after he kills Monk Adderly, a rake who had been trying to seduce Demelza, in a duel.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Caroline finally reveals her own insecurity to Dwight in 2x05, leading to a Big Damn Kiss.
  • Description Cut: George tries to convince Morwenna that Whitworth is pining away in despair while she puts off answering his marriage proposal. Cut to Whitworth groaning with pleasure as he sucks the local prostitute's toes.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Geoffrey Charles and Cecily don't end up together. They are Doomed by Canon, as Geoffrey Charles marries Amadora several years later in the books.
  • Domestic Abuse:
    • The treatment of Elizabeth by Francis borders on emotional abuse, and Verity is given little to no freedom by her male family members. Demelza claims that she is beaten regularly by her father when she meets Ross.
    • The way Ossie Whitworth treats his new wife Morwenna is definitely this, he threatens to hit her and frequently rapes her, believing that it is impossible for a man to rape his wife.
  • Driven to Suicide: Francis attempts suicide at the beginning of Series 1 Episode 2.
  • Dying Alone: Captain Henshawe is fatally shot in series 3 during Dr. Enys's rescue. Dwight pronounces him dead and they are forced to leave him. However, Dwight later reveals that Henshawe wasn't actually dead and that he lied to make sure that Ross wouldn't stay with him as he died. Instead, Henshawe died alone on the French countryside.
  • Dying Curse: Nat Pearce lands one on Reverend Whitworth in retaliation for similarly cursing him so casually and callously. Sure enough, the curse is fulfilled before the episode is over.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Despite not liking Ross, George is still genuinely appalled when his uncle gloats about the death of Ross's daughter.
  • Everyone Can See It: The rumours about Ross and Demelza, which may be exaggerated, but were inspired by their obvious attraction to each other.
  • Experienced Protagonist: Ross is a war veteran with mining and farming experience.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Even when facing the cruelest death in the book, Ned believes himself a martyr for a greater cause he trusts Ross to champion long after he's gone, and so conducts himself with all the dignity a man to be hanged, drawn, and quartered can retain in his final hours, even refusing to be broken out the night before his execution.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: In episode 3 of season 4, the first speech we see Ross give as an MP calls out the British legal system on this—specifically, its infamous long list of hangable offenses.
  • Finishing Each Other's Sentences: Demelza finds Ross's needs so predictable that she interrupts his requests for foodstuffs and alcohol by setting them in front of him before he can finish talking. Ross finds her ability to understand his needs both beguiling and bemusing.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: Keren, Caroline and Rosina are all Dwight's patients and end up fancying him.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Ned Despard is effectively doomed by history.
  • Friend in the Black Market: Mr. Trencrom runs a smuggling ring throughout different parts of Europe and eventually bargains with Ross to use his beach and house for bringing in goods. Tholly and Jud even work with him as part of the ring and Tess solicits him to forge bank notes in series 5. Trencrom gradually warms up to Ross and it's noted that he takes care of his underlings when they face financial troubles.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: The "bad adultery" of Ross cheating on Demelza by raping Elizabeth is balanced out by Demelza's "good adultery" of retaliating by icing out Ross and cheating on him with Hugh. Most viewers were disgusted with Ross and supported Demelza's decision, even encouraging her to go a step further and abandon Ross for Hugh, though some viewers just became sick of both of them during the arc.
  • Good Doc, Bad Doc: Dwight Enys (careful, compassionate, favors natural remedies where possible) vs. Dr. Choake (indifferent, class-obsessed, prone to prescribing bleeding or dubious tinctures for everything).
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Ross with Demelza.
  • Hair-Contrast Duo: Francis and Ross. As in the books, Agatha calls them "the Dark Poldark and the Fair Poldark".
  • Hope Spot: As Francis drowns in the mine, he has a vision of Ross coming to his side and rescuing him. As we find out, the real Ross is just minutes too late, and Francis dies.
  • Hospital Hottie: Dr. Dwight Enys is considered quite attractive by Keren, Rosina and Caroline.
  • I Kiss Your Hand: George has perfected this art on Elizabeth.
  • Interclass Romance:
    • Ross Poldark, a member of the landed gentry (albeit impoverished) and Demelza, an illiterate peasant girl who starts out as his kitchen maid.
    • Caroline Penvenen, a wealthy heiress, and Dwight Enys, a country physician.
    • Morwenna Chynoweth, daughter of a dean, and Drake Carne, a miner and later blacksmith.
  • Impoverished Patrician: All of the Chynoweths (Elizabeth, Morwenna, Rowella), and, albeit to a lesser extent, Ross.
  • It Has Been an Honor: Ned to Ross, during their final exchange before the former's execution.
  • It Runs in the Family: Much is made of "the curse of the Poldarks" of being stubborn, hotheaded, and quick to form deep emotional attachments.
  • I Will Wait for You: Elizabeth promises to wait for her sweetheart Ross, but she fails to do so because she thought he was dead.
  • Justified Criminal: Jim Carter claims to be this, as the motivation for his poaching is feeding his starving mother and sisters.
  • Kangaroo Court: Despard's trial, to the point where even Stalin looks like a saint compared to the prosecution.
  • Keep the Reward: Throughout seasons 3 and 4, Ross is offered a number of invitations and offices that he's unwilling to accept, usually due to principle but sometimes out of pure lack of interest. This pitches him against George, who desperately craves these rewards and seethes upon discovering that they were offered to Ross instead of or before him. Typically George will get it into his head that Ross does want these rewards and has schemed to get them out of personal spite, even though the audience and many other characters know this is something Ross would never do.
  • Kingpin in His Gym: George Warleggan is regularly shown being trained in combat by a professional boxer, often at the same time as he's plotting against Ross. It's implied that George undertook this training so that he could surpass/win against Ross in every way, whether through financial chicanery or physical combat. Consequently, although George's cultivated manners create a Slobs vs. Snobs contrast with man-of-the-people aristocrat Ross, George averts Sissy Villain by being a quite good fighter. Indeed, in one episode where the two drop social pretenses and get into a bare-knuckle fight, George is evenly matched with Ross, thanks to a combination of all of his training and simply from fighting really, really dirty.
  • Law of Inverse Paternity: It would be better for everyone involved if Elizabeth's baby were her new husband George's. Naturally, it's Ross's.
  • Leave the Two Lovebirds Alone: In the Season 2 finale, Ross ensures Caroline is reunited with Dwight, makes a speech and then instantly returns home, leaving them to promptly get engaged and have sex.
  • Lonely Funeral: Aunt Agatha is given a very quick secret burial with no ceremony. Only Ross is there and he makes a point to dig the grave himself. In the next series, a proper funeral is given.
  • Long-Distance Relationship:
    • Caroline and Dwight in Season 3 during his time in the Navy.
    • Ross and Demelza in Season 4 after Ross is elected MP and spends a good deal of the year in London.
  • Longing Look: Mostly occur between Ross and Elizabeth in series 1.
  • Malicious Slander: The rumors that circulate about Ross and Demelza.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Ross and Demelza.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Ross may be kind to common folk, but he does tend to control their affairs in a somewhat patronizing way (for example when he gives Jim and Jinny a cottage and follows up by saying that they have to get married now).
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Elizabeth's pregnancy in series 3 could be as a result of her new marriage to George Warleggan or her rape by Ross. The baby, Valentine Warleggan, arrives too early to be George's and has black hair, implying he is Ross's son.
  • Marital Rape License: Whitworth repeatadly rapes his wife Morwenna and states his belief that she has no right to refuse him.
  • Married to the Job: Dwight initially claims to be this until he finds out he has an actual chance with Caroline, but it remains a point of conflict when he shows reluctance to elope with her because he would have to leave his patients.
  • Marry for Love:
    • Verity runs away to marry Captain Blamey in Season 1.
    • Caroline is sick of men trying to marry her for her fortune and ends up choosing Dwight instead.
    • George with Elizabeth, even though she doesn't reprociate his feelings at the time.
    • After everything they've been through, Drake and Morwenna finally get to do this at the very end of Season 4.
  • Maternity Crisis: For Elizabeth, during her pregnancies with Valentine and Ursula. Her pregnancy with Valentine appears to progress on a normal nine-month schedule. Unfortunately, for him to be born after nine months would reveal Elizabeth's one-night stand with Ross one month before her marriage to George, forcing her to fake a bad fall that induces her labor at what George believes to be eight months. George nonetheless remains unconvinced for a long while that Valentine is his, leading Elizabeth to use a potion to induce Ursula's birth one month earlier than expected, which has tragic consequences.
  • Meadow Run: Ross and Elizabeth do this in a flash-back in the first episode as a sort of love exposition.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Demelza thinks Ross is cheating on her with Tess, in reality he is pretending for he can get close to the French spying and smuggling ring with whom Tess is associated.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: After Ned had been executed and he himself thrown under the bus, Ross is able to convince the French he can be of use to the Republic. Subverted; he actually volunteered to be a mole for the English in a last-ditch attempt to save face following his role in the Despard Plot.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Ross ... oh God, the Threshing Scene! See Shirtless Scene below.
  • Mythology Gag: The names Ross and Demelza suggest for their next child in the final episode (Isabella-Rose and Henry) are the names of the two children they go onto have in the later books that aren't adapted in this version of the series.
  • My Own Private "I Do": Caroline and Dwight get married in a secret ceremony and then have a big wedding much later.
  • Naming Conventions: Appropriately for a series set in Cornwall, many surnames and place names begin with Tre, Pol, or Pen.
  • Nobility Marries Money: George, a rich banker who is the grandson of a blacksmith and the high born Elizabeth, who is financially struggling after the death of her husband Francis who gambled his money away
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Demelza helps out Francis and his family when they're stricken by the "putrid throat" epidemic, despite his rudeness to her in the previous episode thus exposing herself to the virus and passing it on to her baby daughter.
  • Non-Idle Rich:
    • Ross actually works in the fields and mines himself. Although initially he's been impoverished, he still keeps working alongside his men after earning enough money not to need to. It's one reason he's popular among his tenants.
    • Francis is forced to become this, much to his dismay.
  • Official Couple Ordeal Syndrome: Ross and Demelza have this badly. They get married in the third episode of the whole series and from then on their marriage is rocked by infidelity on both sides, money troubles, Ross's frequent reckless behaviour, and often near death experiences. They always work through it though.
  • Old Maid: Aunt Agatha is an old unmarried woman whose favorite pastimes are spinning and reading Tarot Cards. Verity is worried that she might become this, as she is 26 years old, plain, and unmarried.
  • Opposites Attract:
    • Introverted, gentle Dwight who makes a living treating the poor and vivacious, bold and rich Caroline.
    • Sam Carne, a devouted Methodist and brazen, fun-loving Emma Tregirls.
  • Pair the Smart Ones:
    • George and Elizabeth are frequently shown scheming together in season 4.
    • Dwight and Caroline.
  • Pair the Spares: In the last episode Sam and Rosina (whose previous Love Interests have both since married other people) get married.
  • Pet the Dog: In Episode 8, George genuinely expresses sympathy for the death of Ross's daughter.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • George's actions as magistrate in series 3 end up costing him key support from a prominent local politician who happens to be fed up with the terrible conditions the working class was already facing.
    • Even when Ross convinces Sir Francis Bassett to consider clemency, Jago Martin had shed human blood during the riot, and his sentence stands while the other two at the gallows, the Carne brothers, whose most visible role in the affair was to retrieve Jago from the scene, are reprieved.
    • Reverend Whitworth's attempt to have Morwenna committed on grounds of sinfulness-induced insanity falls flat on account of King George III having recently gone mad himself. Dwight correctly points out that such grounds would insinuate King George III was undergoing divine punishment for sins of his own, an insinuation which risks a treason charge.
    • When Drake confesses that he tried to steal John Conan from Lady Whitworth, Morwenna, even though she understands he was well-intentioned in that regard, can't bring herself to forgive him for it for a while. What he did could be considered kidnapping, which is a very serious crime which, as Demelza explains to him, could upend the Cornish life he and his wife are enjoying and force them both on the run.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Wickham, though he's quick to refuse to believe Poldark's stories of Merceron's attack on him, and his subsequently catching wind of a French invasion, because his reputation is pretty much sunk at this point, at the same time insists he gather more concrete evidence thereof instead of dismissing them outright. Once he has what he's asked for in the next episode, he doesn't hesitate any longer to act.
  • Redemption Equals Death: In series 2, Francis reconciles with his sister Verity, cousin Ross, and wife Elizabeth. He drowns in a waterlogged part of the mine soon after.
  • Regency England: Albeit (largely) in a far corner of the kingdom, and in somewhat Gothic mode.
  • Remake Cameo: Ross Poldark encounters a very severe judge on a few occasions. The judge is played by Robin Ellis, who played Poldark in the 1970s version! Even better, both Ellis and Aidan Turner were aware of it, and when Turner was unsure of his delivery of Poldark's "The Reason You Suck" Speech during their first encounter, Ellis gave him a wink of approval. The same judge later presided over Poldark's trial at the start of Series 2 and ordered Merceron and Hanson held without bail pending trial at the end of the series finale.
  • Rescue Romance: Ross rescues Demelza when she is attacked at the market, kicking off their romance arc.
  • Remarrying for Your Kids: When explaining to Ross why she has decided to marry his Arch-Enemy George, Elizabeth uses this as one of the reasons. George is rich and can financially provide for her son, Geoffrey Charles.
    Elizabeth: What seems like disloyalty to you now, is actually loyalty to my son.
  • Rich Language, Poor Language: The RP of the landed gentry versus the strong Cornish accent of the miners.
  • Romancing the Widow: George Warleggan with Elizabeth Poldark after Francis dies.
  • Runaway Groom: Drake jilts Rosina on the day of their wedding when Demelza tells him that Morwenna's husband has died.
  • Samaritan Relationship Starter:
    • Ross first meets Demelza when he rescues her dog from a dog fight.
    • Similarly, Dwight meets Caroline when she calls him to attend to her sick pug Horace.
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl:
    • Dwight and Caroline.
    • Sam and Emma.
  • Scarpia Ultimatum: By proxy. George coerces Morwenna into marrying Rev. Whitworth by agreeing to withdraw the false theft charge he has placed on her Love Interest Drake (stealing valuables was a capital offence and Drake would hang for it) if she marries Whitworth.
  • Scenery Porn: A lot of shots showing off the beauty of Cornwall.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Ross is offered money to start a new life by his uncle, but turns the offer down out of duty.
  • Scullery Maid: Demelza and Jinny
  • Secret Keeper: Verity acts as Ross's confidant on various matters, and keeps his continued love for Elizabeth a secret.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Despite being so scruffy that she is mistaken for a boy in the first episode, Demelza becomes magically beautiful by the end of episode two, and stunning by the end of episode three.
  • Shirtless Scene: Poldark likes to get his shirt off. A gratuitous amount.
  • Siblings in Crime: In the seventh episode of series 5 it's revealed that Joseph Merceron and Ralph Hanson are half brothers. The latter has his illegal business dealings while the former uses his business connections to push them through. Though it's only revealed late in the series the family resemblance was visible beforehand.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Ross and Demelza after an argument over privacy.
  • Starcrossed Lovers: Drake and Morwenna, it seems for a while that every possible force is conspiring to keep them apart.
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: Ross returns to find this, as the world he left has grown used to his absence. Both in terms of social life and economics his branch of the family has declined rapidly, and this leaves him with a lot of work to do to find a place in his old home.
  • The Matchmaker: Demelza does this often enough that she is teased for her matchmaking. In series 1 she pushes Verity Poldark and Capt. Blamey to get together. And in series 4 she sets up her brother Drake with Rosina Hoblyn.
  • Triang Relations: Type 10. Ross and Demelza are married, but romantic drama is mined from Ross's lingering feelings for Elizabeth.
  • Village Bicycle: Local prostitute Margaret can count Ross, Francis, George, and Whitworth among her clients.
  • Villainous Rescue: The last episode of series 5, George saves Ross from being shot, by shooting both men that are holding Ross at gunpoint.
  • Wham Line:
    • Ross and Demelza have lost their child but still have each other and the chance to build a future but just as they're enjoying their Hope Spot, the police arrive: "Captain Poldark, I have orders to take you to Truro Jail."
    • A major one in series 3 before Aunt Agatha dies she informs George that he may not be Valentine's father: "But what if someone else got there first!"
    • End of season 4. "Oh, Elizabeth is dead, 10 minutes since. She died holding my hand."
  • Wham Shot: When Drake, Ross and Demelza race to Sawle Church and arrive just in time to see that Morwenna has already married Osbourne Whitworth.
  • Worst Wedding Ever: Moments before the arranged wedding between the then-widowed George and Cecily Hanson—with which George is grudgingly going along after accepting that Elizabeth is truly dead—Geoffrey Charles drops the bomb that Elizabeth truly loved Ross and only married George to escape poverty. The priest tries to keep things moving, only for Cecily to speak now and drop a second bomb: that she is in love with Geoffrey Charles and has already slept with him, which would make the paternity of any child she conceived immediately doubtful. This sends an infuriated George out of the church and earns the two lovers a promise of Ralph Hanson's wrath—which Cecily doesn't seem too concerned about.


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