Poldark series 2 episode 9 review: Demelza puts on her red dress and shows Ross how to resist temptation
There is more male sexual aggression in Cornwall as Captain McNeil tries to force Demelza to sleep with him. But she is made of prouder stuff than her husband
“It’s the better man we long for, is it not?” said Caroline Blakiston’s magnificent Aunt Agatha in Poldark.
The elderly woman was talking to Elizabeth (Heida Reed), who spent a large part of the episode apparently hoping Ross would come and sweep her off her feet. He did not. But the question has to be asked: how many good men are there in these parts, in these times?
Aunt Agatha said that she never married because she never met her male equal (and I think we can all well believe that). After all, last week we saw Ross betray his marital vows in a controversial scene. That terrible moment has thrown all the cards (and Tricorn hats) in the air.
As Elizabeth longed for Ross, Ross was desperate for Demelza’s forgiveness. And Demelza? She is, you won’t be surprised to learn, hurt and angry.
She started the episode taking breakfast in her room, almost as if she were seeking to duplicate the ladylike ways of her rival. She had eschewed her domestic duties which meant, in a nice touch, that Prudie (Beatie Edney) was in charge and Ross’s breakfast was inedible. The wayward spouse was also consigned to a camp bed in the library but it didn’t take long for all Demelza’s passive aggression to come out into the open as very active bitterness and fury.
In remarks which neatly complemented Aunt Agatha’s comments about good men, Demelza upbraided Ross’s cocky suggestion that her pride was hurt with the riposte that her pride in him was the only thing that had been damaged.
“To think I did always look up to you,” she said, reminding him of his vow to forsake all others when he became her husband. They were gripping moments.
Her anger found another outlet as well. While Ross was away trying to save his ailing mining business, she accepted the invitation to Sir Hugh Bodregun’s ball, wearing her red dress and becoming the objects of many male gazes.
Old lecher Bodregun (Patrick Ryecart playing the cad who had tried it on with Demelza before) thought he had a chance, as did Captain McNeil (Henry Garrett), who extracted a kiss from Demelza and the whereabouts of her room. The woman in the red dress had been put in the red room.
“Would you consider calling me Malcolm,” said slippery McNeil – perhaps the first time those words have been used as a come-on before. And call him that she did before his nighttime foray into her room (“I know how to conduct an ambush my darling,” said the military man). She suddenly regretted her invitation, as is her right.
It was an intriguing scene. Deadly serious, the stakes were high, but there was also something grimly comic about the queue that had built up outside her bedroom.
Ghastly George Warleggan had set his creepy right hand man Tankard (below) on the mission to “debauch” Ross’s wife. But Tankard bumped into Sir Hugh who was there too, candle in hand, fancying his chances.
All to no avail; Demelza dispatched McNeil and, while the two men were arguing, jumped out of the window and back to Nampara. She kept her marriage vows and showed Ross what they meant. She truly has pride in herself and the marriage she has made.
In other news, of course, Ross reopened Wheal Grace and discovered a heap of tin. And Elizabeth appears destined to find out what Aunt Agatha meant about longing for better men.
It was a bright and beautiful wedding day awash with autumn sunshine, but it doesn’t require enormous powers of foresight to work out that matrimonial bliss is probably not the order of the day for Elizabeth and George.
She spent some time in London drinking tea (we also met Caroline again) and returned, giving her son Geoffrey Charles a loving hug under the icy glare of George, who will no doubt provide a more than odious step-father to the lad.
Ross was in the background, glowering away on horseback just outside Trenwith as the married couple returned; Elizabeth merely gave him a glance before entering the house.
You’ve got to pity the poor women of Poldark-land. A good man, really is very hard to find.