Elizabeth is dead. Ross Poldark’s former love killed by… what exactly? Her own folly? Her own ambition? Or… Ross himself?
As Doctor Enys ruefully observed, with her dead body still warm in the Trenwith master bedroom: “What killed her was seeded long ago”.
Ross certainly is the seed, quite literally if you think about it.
His night of passion with Elizabeth back in series two resulted in the birth of young Valentine, the floppy-haired elephant in the drawing room, a Ross mini-me if every there was one, with his flowing dark locks and skill on a (rocking) horse.
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And it was Elizabeth’s desperation to prove to husband George that eight-month pregnancies were the norm for her that seeded her death. Her swallowing of a London-bought potion hastened the pregnancy, did something disastrous to her arteries, and caused her to die soon after giving George his daughter, Ursula Warleggan.
That cataclysmic plot event closed the series four finale and cast a dark shadow over Cornwall. The look of shattered, furious grief etched on George’s face suggests that he will not be giving up a thirst for vengeance on Ross, whom he may well soon blame for the disaster.
In some ways too, Elizabeth’s son Geoffrey Charles’ little joke about young Valentine looking like Uncle Ross was another seed, though probably not the one Dr Enys had in mind. It convinced George of the paternity question and set things in motion.
So it was folly, yes, but looked at another way, Elizabeth died for her children. She wanted to secure Valentine a future, a place in society. And that could never have happened with George huffing about and treating the poor child like dirt as he had earlier in the episode.
Heida Reed’s character will be much missed and her death was supremely moving, ending with George and Elizabeth’s two children watching in wracked silence at the dead woman’s bed.
Elizabeth’s place in the Poldark firmament was skilfully established by scriptwriter Debbie Horsfield in the opening scene – a flashback to 1780 which saw Ross, set to enlist in the army, wooing the young lady. Elizabeth’s eventual two husbands – Francis and George – looked on enviously, not knowing what fate had in store for them both.
“It’s always been Ross, it will always be Ross,” said 1780 Francis. Ironic enough. An even darker joke followed that would only be fully understood in hindsight. 1780 Aunt Agatha’s Tarot cards foretold that Elizabeth would break hearts and bear beautiful children. “Not ours at any rate,” said Francis with a dark laugh – but we of course know that Elizabeth was destined to bear the children of all three men. Now there’s a thing for series five to get its teeth into…
Elsewhere, there was still good news for Drake and Morwenna, who were finally married – but not before the former governess was put through the wringer once again.
After agreeing to marry the love of her life, she was lured back to Trenwith by Elizabeth, only to be viciously sent packing by George. He ordered Tom Harry to see her off and to bring him a bottle of 94 Claret while he was at it. A funny touch that, but not for Morwenna. Being seen off by Tom Harry has never been a pleasant experience in Poldark and he took some savage barking dogs with him.
Where was Ross when we needed him? Fortunately Drake was on hand to chase them away.
“I thought Ee Methoddy types didn’t fight,” said Tom.
“Ee thought wrong brother,” retorted Drake, before a stick somewhat surprisingly saw Tom, his two accomplices and those horrid dogs off.
It will take more than a stick to stop George when series five (almost certainly the last) comes around next year. According to the Winston Graham books on which Debbie Horsfield’s scripts are based, the story will leap forward ten years to 1810. If that’s the case, then things will have moved on rather a lot, with much of the focus being on the various children of Ross, George and co.
If they take after their parents, we won’t be short of drama.
This article was originally published in July 2018
Poldark series 5 will air in 2019