“I will never again be guilty of such recklessness,” said Aidan Turner’s Ross at the beginning of this week’s episode after he cheated his way out of a smuggling conviction before Judge Halse.
Prophetic, and foolish words it seems. Because tonight the long-awaited sexual encounter between Ross and Elizabeth finally arrived.
In the book, he appears to take her by force – though there is room for interpretation and the sexual act itself is never described by writer Winston Graham. In the 1970s series it has been called the “rape scene” at various times, although nothing of that nature was actually shown back then (it was a pre-watershed audience, after all). Ross and Elizabeth argue and they are next shown in bed together.
And here? Well, the producers seemingly didn’t want to taint Aidan Turner’s hero with the title rapist and the incident, while violent at the beginning, then appears to be imbued with a degree of willing passion from both parties. Certainly, Turner himself says “It seems consensual, and it just seems right”.
What it does all have is a grim inevitability. Ross is urged not to go to Trenwith by his wife Demelza when he discovers the shocking news that Elizabeth is marrying his worst enemy, George Warleggan (Jack Farthing). But pig-headed Ross overrules her, crashes open the door, enters her bedroom unbidden and will not leave.
Much of the dialogue is taken from the book, although a lot is also left out.
He sneers his congratulations on the engagement before adding: “Do you marry a man out of gratitude?”, later asking why a woman he considers his greatest friend has decided to wed his greatest enemy.
He clearly forces the issue of their sexual union – and the question marks about consent should start at this point.
But their sleepy-eyed words to each other in the morning (Elizabeth in bed, Ross getting dressed) are civil.
“What shall we…?” she asks him.
“I must think,” he replies.
“What will you..?”
“Soon,” he says, before riding off in the morning sun to face Demelza.
In fact, it’s Demelza who gets the most violent (and who can blame her?), punching the lights out of her husband in a way Ghastly George could only dream of, even after his many boxing lessons.
It was excellent drama, but it wasn’t the only thing that happened tonight of course.
Dr Enys clearly has his sights set on the navy (as well as Rosina, who has her sights set on him). Verity is pregnant (yay!) and there was an accident at Wheal Grace which left three dead and Ross in despair for his doomed mine.
But you couldn’t help thinking that everything led to the moment in Elizabeth’s bedroom. The mining accident clearly put Ross in a black and depressed mood. In many ways Warleggan has been at the root of all his misfortunes, and it was his financial meddling which meant Ross was called away and absent when poor Francis was drowned.
Warleggan arranged the Tinners to exercise their legal rights to dig in Elizabeth’s garden and stoke her fears, prompting her mother to have a stroke.
And of course his plan for Elizabeth has borne fruit. She agreed to be his wife, infuriating Ross and culminating in the violent sex with her former intended tonight…
Warleggan even managed to pick up on the Wheal Grace accident when conversing with his fiance, castigating Ross for cutting corners and becoming, all of a sudden, a very unlikely health and safety zealot. He really is a wrong-un that one.
But Ross also must take his share of the blame, which Demelza realised when she socked him.
“What can I say, it was something I cannot explain?” he said. “You must see I had no choice.”
Whack. Ross hit the deck. Well done Demelza.
Where it goes from here, goodness only knows. Demelza’s pre-existing coldness towards Elizabeth is going to reach permafrost levels and there is always the possibility of a child to come from Elizabeth’s encounter with Ross. Would George take on Ross’s child (if there is one)? Will he be told? And what is Aunt Agatha going to say about it all?
Hold onto your Tricorns, chaps, there are two episodes to go and it’s really kicking off in Cornwall.