In Depth

Poldark: Five things that make the Cornish series a hit

A bare-chested Aidan Turner is only one part of the show's successful formula

9 September

Warning: Spoilers for Poldark series 2, episode one

Poldark's long-awaited second series began on Sunday, taking viewers back to 18th century Cornwall to see what Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) and co have been up to since we saw them last.

After a 16-month absence from screens, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the first episode might break viewers in gently – but you'd be mistaken. The first episode got off to a flying start, galloping through a plot which saw Ross Poldark grieving his baby daughter, getting down and dirty in the mine, and finally being carted off to Truro jail after being stitched up by the villainous Warleggans.

With so much going on, episode one has left viewers with plenty of questions to ponder:

Should we really worry about Poldark?

Episode one was "crammed with suspense and foreboding, and beautifully done it was, too", says Viv Groskop in The Guardian. But how much suspense could there really be about Poldark's fate when this is the first of a ten-episode series? Indeed, he "seems remarkably unfazed by his imminent demise", agreed Sam Wollaston, also in The Guardian. Perhaps this is because no one would "dare to separate Poldark's magnificent head from Poldark's magnificent torso".

Will Elizabeth save Poldark?

Plot-wise, just how is Poldark going to get out of this mess? Could his first love, Elizabeth (Heida Reed), seduce George Wollaston and persuade him to rescue Poldark, as Viv Groskop suggests. "Use your womanly power!" urges Groskop. "What else is the point of your mahoosive hair?" But it's a dangerous game for Elizabeth, who has now succeeded in offending her husband Francis, as well as Poldark, Demelza and George. 

Did Francis really kill himself?

Poldark and his impending trial might have been the focus of episode one's drama, but by the end of the hour all eyes were on Francis.

Long-suffering Francis has struggled with drunkenness, gambling and feelings of inadequacy – and who can blame him, with his own wife keeping her distance and clearly still pining for Poldark. At the end of the episode, it apparently all got too much, and shocked viewers saw him shut himself away with a flintlock pistol before the episode ended with a literal bang. But did he really go through with it?

Lets hope not, says Gerard O'Donovan in the Daily Telegraph. Francis is more than just a character, "he is a brilliant dramatic device", serving as "a mirror held up to heroic Ross Poldark (who's flawed in all the right ways)". 

Is Ross and Demelza's relationship in danger?

Ross and Demelza's relationship has always been at the centre of the drama, but things have not worked out well for them. The episode set a more sombre tone for the series, with Demelza grieving for her lost child, but the couple do seem to have developed a more tender relationship. So what about the rumours of imminent infidelity and marital strife? We will have to wait and see. 

Who has Caroline set her eyes on?

The first episode of series two also introduced some new characters, including John Nettles as Ray Penvenen and Gabriella Wilde as his heiress niece Caroline – along with her Paris-Hilton-style canine companion. There was certainly a twinkle when Caroline swept into town and gave Poldark the once over. But after her encounter with the noble doctor Dwight Enys, perhaps she will be too distracted to give the beleaguered Poldark another thought.    

What will happen to the mine?

Speaking of the good doctor, actor Luke Norris, who plays Enys, has dropped a few hints about what's in store for 18th century Cornwall's favourite bromance.

"Some people have said Ross and Dwight’s friendship is very modern," he told the Radio Times. "And I think we were hoping for that."

Besides their very 21st century friendship, Norris reminded viewers that the pair are also united in an important professional collaboration. "Ross's grand project of a self-sustaining mining community requires a good doctor, particularly with diphtheria threatening lives," he said.

Which, of course, leads to another question: with Poldark facing the gallows, what will become of his pet project to restore his mining business and get the penniless locals in gainful employment? Based on Norris' comments, it doesn't sound too idyllic. Disease and poverty are going to make things "pretty bleak" in season two, he told the Radio Times, leaving his character "snowed under" with work.

However, in episode one Poldark proved that he was willing to strip down and muck in at the mine (to the delight of female viewers), so perhaps all is not lost…

 

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