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'Poldark' Season 1 Premiere Recap: Stayin' Alive

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Hi there! You might remember me from Downton Abbey recaps of yore. Since that show wrapped, I've felt a void in my spirit that can only be filled by PBS-approved British imports. So I'm going to try falling in love again; this time, with a show called Poldark that a bunch of you are supposedly crazy about. I have to be honest, I was skeptical at first. But my doubt was no match for this photo so here I am, recapping season 1, in anticipation of the imminent second season. I hope you'll join me. Let's do this...

The series starts with a shot of leaves. No dog butt, no bell tolling, no slowly falling rose petal, no feather duster flirting with a chandelier. It's only been 3 seconds, but watching Poldark already feels like dating too soon after a breakup. You just can't help comparing the new person to your ex. But I will push through because Downton and I are never ever getting back together (unless those film spin-off rumors end up being true).

Anyway, where was I? Ah, yes, leaves. A bunch of British soldiers are kicking it in the woods of Virginia in 1781. The hottest one is named Ross Poldark. He's gambling because killing people can get boring after a while. His friend wants Ross to bet his pinky ring. Ross refuses because he's mad his friend brought up the fact that he's wearing a pinky ring.

Some killjoy emerges to complain about Ross' gambling ways and his lack of excitement about the war. Ross laughs because that's what he does to nerds. Apparently, Ross is only here because he was avoiding punishment for a laundry list of bad boy activities, mainly punching people in the face.

Killjoy continues complaining... until he gets shot! The gang of Britain-haters hiding in the bushes apparently don't like nerds either. Everyone freaks out and Ross grabs a gun and yells at his friend, "Do you want to leave here or die here?!?" Um, leave, most likely? Because Ross was preoccupied with asking useless rhetorical questions, one of the attackers gets the chance to knock him out.


Flashback to some girl who's running along a cliff back home. We'll call her Pinky Ring. She giggles because this is her first relationship and she has no idea how wack long-distance relationships are.

Back in America, Ross is unconscious, surrounded by dead people.

Two years later in Cornwall (okay, we're not wasting any time here!), Ross is napping in a horse-drawn coach, while strangers talk sh*t about him very loudly. He was declared dead and yet here he is, wearing that pinky ring as ever. Better off dead, if you ask me, because his family's credit score sucks. Also, his dad is totally dead. Ross stops pretending to be asleep and is like Wait, what?! The rude gossipers are like Oops, didn't realize you could hear us! Our b! And yeah, your dad is totally dead. Kill them, Ross. You're a war hero. No one will mind.

One of the strangers asks how the war was. Ross is like:

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On a list of things not to ask people who barely survived a war, this ranks somewhere in the neighborhood of How many friends did you have to watch die?

Ross asks to be let out because wouldn't you? All the rude strangers remind him that his house is further down. And Ross reminds them that his father is apparently super dead and won't be there. The strangers think to themselves, If we stay very, very still, maybe he will forget we're here?


Ross ditches them and walks to what looks like the edge of the Earth. The sky mingles with the mist of crashing waves and it's a damn shame Instagram will take another 240 years to be invented because Ross would get soooo many likes for this vista.

Our favorite bad boy gets over his could've-been social media fame and makes his way over to his uncle's mansion. Inside, everyone is basically having a seated rave. Dead Ross and his dead daddy who? No one is the least bit bothered. Least of all, Pinky Ring, who is kicking it with a new dude, who tells her he likes her just the way she is. Nice try, buddy, but Colin Firth already used that line.

The door opens and a girl who is too much like Daisy from Downton not to be her great great grandmother or something gets excited. Her dad tells her she shouldn't even dream about gentlemen callers. She will instead pour him his wine and serve him his weird British food forevermore cause the patriarchy is strong and she won't have any rights for... well, the rest of her life.

The visitor turns out to be none other than Ross, back from the dead! Only Daisy's great great grandmother and Pinky Ring's new man, who turns out to be Ross' cousin (et tu, Brute?), get up to greet a man everyone thought they'd never see again. That's cool, everyone; stay seated. This isn't a miracle or anything.

Girlfriend-stealing cousin tells Ross that he and Pinky Ring were very worried about him. Mmhmmm, suuuure.

Puppy-in-love Ross doesn't sniff out all the weirdness and instead thinks: Pinky Ring! You're here! Yay! What a coinkidink! I'm so excited to make out with you!

Before he gets the chance, Pinky Ring's mom takes a page out of the stage-coach strangers' book of zero manners. "Do tell us how we managed to lose the war."

murder she wrote wtf gif

Ross brushes her rude prompt off 'cause, after years upon years abroad, he's gonna get some tonight! Not so fast, says everyone. Pinky Ring is marrying your cousin! Isn't that exciting?! Ross' entire FML demeanor seems to suggest: No, that is not exciting.

Ross' uncle adds to the despair 'cause why not: P.S. Your dad left you basically nothing and Cornwall is poorer than ever. Welcome home, I guess!

Ross decides these people are gross and that he wants to be alone (#introvertsgonnaintrovert). But before he goes, he proposes a toast to the happy couple that ruined his life and didn't even apologize for it. Everyone feels first-day-of-school-after-a-summer-of-puberty awkward.

britney awkward gif

Ross passes several Instagram opportunities on his way to his father's house. When he gets there, everything is in ruin. Rats and hens are running things now. Ross walks upstairs to find two snoring lumps in his dad's bed. He considers setting them on fire because it's just one of them days, but he opts for throwing a pail of cold water on them.

They're his father's good-for-nothing servants (picture any person you've ever seen on Hoarders and multiply that person by two). Ross accuses them of starting the rumor that he was dead and threatens to hit them with the side of his foot. Go off, Ross! You've earned a good freak out.

Back at the uncle's house, Backstabber Cousin, some old lady and Daisy: The Prequel talk about how the Pinky Ring wedding should probably be moved up. Did y'all see Ross' curls?? I didn't remember them being so bouncy! Yeah, you need to lock that girl down before she realizes you're a 4 to Ross' 10.

The next day, Ross goes to visit some of his buddies/tenants. Because this entire part of the country has no idea how to small talk without saying triggering things, someone asks Ross how the war was. HOW DO YOU THINK IT WAS, A-HOLE?! Another asks, What happened out there? SIGH.

Elsewhere in the region, Pinky Ring is sitting on a bench thinking I forgot just how bouncy Ross' curls are! She hears the distant sound of hoofs and gets butterflies in her stomach. OMG, here's the part where he asks me to run away with him and I say I can't but almost kiss him anyway and then lead him on for months and months and months before settling for his cousin after all!

A servant comes and announces Poldark. Pinky Ring turns and -- boom! -- it's his cousin because THEY HAVE THE SAME LAST NAME, which really drives the point home that what she's doing is really gross. There were no other men around who flaked on the war?

In town, a lawyer reminds Ross for the 324th time that he's broke.

In a manor, a former classmate and his bewigged uncle talk about manipulating Ross to their advantage. Geez, no wonder Ben Franklin and co. seceded. Everyone in England is apparently awful.

Back at Pinky Ring's house, Pinky Ring picks up her skirts and gets ready to run to wherever Ross is because Backstabber Cousin just isn't cute enough, his title be damned. Pinky Ring's mother pops out of a bush just in time to catch her and say, Actually, his title be NOT damned. Pinky Ring is like, Moooooom.

In a field, Ross gallops upon his lazy servants who look like this:


He tells Mr. and Mrs. Pigpen that they're actually going to have to help him turn things around if they don't want to die of starvation. They're like, Mooooooom.

Up gallops, Daisy: The Prequel, who is like Girl, let's dish! Ross is like, I'm kind of busy thinking of how I can climb out of poverty, but ok, sure. D.T.P. calls out how weird it was for Pinky Ring to all of a sudden pounce on Backstabber Cousin (his name is apparently Francis and I'll maybe consider using it after I stop being pissed at him). Ross thinks she's in it for the cash and proceeds to sing selections from Kanye West's "Gold Digger." Daisy informs Ross that their wedding is in two weeks, tosses him a "sorry, bro" and one of these: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Later, Ross moves heavy rocks around and uses a hammer very aggressively. His shirt stays on.

The following day, Backstabber Cousin sneaks up on Pinky Ring, who seems to be perpetually on a stroll in her backyard. He gives a sad little speech that boils down to: Hey, girl. I know I'm boring and not cute and understand if you want to call this off to be with my interesting and very cute cousin. Is there something you wish to tell me?


Go ahead, Pinky Ring! Say it! Say you hope you can still be friends and how it's not him, it's you and give him a Post-It that has I Can't, I'm Sorry, Don't Hate Me scribbled on it!

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"I wish to tell you..."

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"...that I cannot wait to be your wife."


Backstabber Cousin makes out with her hand. Nice knowing ya, Pinky Ring. Enjoy watching paint dry for the rest of your life.

Later, Backstabber Cousin gets all dolled up, puts on a top hat and gallops up to Ross, who is laboring with not only a shirt on, but a vest too. Backstabber Cousin says Ross' dad wouldn't want him working in the muck like that. Ross tries not to murder him.

But maybe he will because they end up venturing into a dilapidated mine together. Backstabber Cousin brings up how Ross should probably leave town, but not before attending his wedding. He then proceeds to go into detail about how one thing led to another with Pinky Ring, prompting Ross to yell MUST YOU RUB MY NOSE IN IT!!! so loudly that Backstabber Cousin falls into a very random, very deep puddle.

He apparently can't swim and Ross is unbothered.

mindy kaling whatever loser the office gif

After a nice, luxurious pause, Ross eventually saves him and immediately disses him for not knowing how to swim. His cousin shares that he thought Ross was going to let him drown. Ross shares that he strongly considered it.

Two weeks later, Ross stands grumpy and in all of his FML glory in the back of a church as Backstabber Cousin and Pinky Ring say "I do."

At the after party, up-to-something former classmate and his uncle are loudly talking sh*t about how the Poldarks are impoverished losers. Ross doesn't have time for it and walks away.

britney whatever stronger gif

Former classmate, whose name is George but deserves to be called Malfoy, follows Ross into a room and continues the Cornwall tradition of saying triggering things. Nice scar! How did you get it? Oh, and sorry that your dad is so dead! Oh, and LOL about you being at your ex's wedding.

Thankfully, Daisy: The Prequel interrupts and escorts Ross past a cock fight (naturally) and into a room where Pinky Ring is waiting to complain about how he never came to see her. Girl, are you serious? Apparently, she is because she goes on to make excuses for why he's currently dying inside at his cousin's wedding. And she wants him to commit to being her friend. Nooooope.

Before things get any sloppier and more brutal, her mom waltzes in and says, Ooo, I'm telling Backstabber Cousin, who promptly shows up and actually says, "May I claim my bride, Ross?" Ross is like, By all means, and hums Kanye's "Gold Digger" some more.

That night, the old lady who sometimes hangs out with Daisy: The Prequel is being really hipster and reading tarot cards. Prognosis: All is fair in love and war (i.e. sorry, Ross). Across town, Ross is getting plastered and throws his pinky ring. Be gone, wack accessory!

The next day, Ross' uncle shows up to kick him while he's down. He reminds him of the state of things:

Estate: In Debt.

Servants: Wastrels.

Mines: Derelict.

Land: Barren.

Father: Dead.

And suggests Ross move his hot bod far, far away from Pinky Ring. He'll even finance the move. You know you're boring and ugly when your dad has to pay cooler, better looking people to scram.

The next day is a market day, which means that all the horrible, dirty people of Cornwall gather in one place to sell things, buy things and convince anyone living in 2016 that there's nothing about the 18th century worth being nostalgic for. No time machine needed.

Ross sells his dead dad's pocket watch and buys a cow. The village people (not to be confused with the fun '70s gay group) want to get the party started so they do what any awful 18th century person would do: throw a cute, shy puppy into a vicious dog fight. The cute, shy puppy's owner is like OH HELL NO and throws herself into the mix. The village people assault her because again everyone in this place and time is awful.

Ross, the only decent person (other than Daisy: The Prequel and maybe the tarot-reading granny) steps in and is like Not on my watch! Uhhh, the metaphorical one, not the real one I just sold. Oh, you know what I mean! A townie decides Hey, this is a great time to make a huge mistake and gets in Ross' face. An amorphous Mortal Kombat voice yells out FINISH HIM! and Ross abides by brutally smacking the townie right in the face with his walking stick.

Later, inside a pub, where a completely different dog is sitting on a bench in front of beer like a real human drunk, Ross buys food for cute, shy puppy owner. Turns out her name is Demelza. She has six brothers and a father. They all are terrible bros and beat her every day.

Before Ross can even take that all in, Pinky Ring barges in to say she thinks Ross did the right thing. He doesn't need your approval! Go find your boring husband! Oh, but she doesn't have to bother finding him because Backstabber Cousin pops in to make sure his wife isn't having sex with his hot cousin. And because this parade of a-holes isn't robust enough, Malfoy shows up to talk some smack and then plot with his uncle in the next room. He uses the word 'impecunious' to make sure we all know he got a very admirable score on his SAT verbal.

Ross and Demelza share a horse on the way home because the HOV lane is always faster. She's singing under her breath, probably something from the new Britney album, which is really quite good. As they're about to part ways, Ross thinks of her family of abusive bros and offers her a job as a kitchen maid. She's down if cute, shy puppy can come too.

When they get home, Mr. and Mrs. Pigpen are pissed because they don't want to share their mac and cheese or whatever people ate back then. Ross tells them to chill out, while casually washing the lice out of Demelza's hair.

real housewives gross gif

Mr. Pigpen makes Demelza feel welcome by threatening to beat her up. The list of people who deserve to die on this show is getting really long. It might be easier to make a list of people who don't deserve to die.

Ross' uncle, the least subtle man alive, sends along a bunch of cash that says JUST MOVE ALREADY!! and WHY COULDN'T YOU STAY DEAD?!

Ross asks Demelza if the Pigpens are being nice. She's like We're in 18th century Cornwall, the most miserable place ever to exist, what do you think? He recommends that she lean in.

Despite Ross' No Dogs in the House rule (he's more of a cat person), Demelza sneaks cute, shy puppy inside and spoons him all night long.

The next day, Ross goes to his uncle's house to say:

get off my jock gif bethenny

Uncle isn't home, but Pinky Ring is (ugh, this again). She tries to bait him into some emotional exchange, but he's not biting. She brings up how not everyone liked how he intervened to save Demelza from the crowd. And how not everyone will like how he is now employing her. And how she wishes they could be friends. Ross responds with exactly what's on my mind: "Good God, Elizabeth." (Yeah, Pinky Ring has a name, believe it or not.)

They bicker next to a harp. Did she not mean those things she said before he left for the war? She thought he was dead! Does she not still have the hots for him? She can't say because she's married! And round and round they go, just like your friend (everyone has this friend) who can't stop texting their ex and complains about all the drama, while secretly luxuriating in it all. Enough is enough, Ross and Pinky Ring. MOVE ON.

Pinky Ring eventually asks him to move away and leave her alone. Ross screams, Fine! As he's riding off, drama addict Pinky Ring runs outside to ask if they can be friends. Make up your mind! Ross blasts Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Ever Ever Getting Back Together" from his horse's speaker system and rides away.

Ross returns home and tells Mrs. Pigpen that he's moving to London because everyone in Cornwall sucks. She's like Oh, you haven't seen nothing yet! Demelza's sucky family is here. 

Demelza's dad and two of his friends are ready to throw down. They don't care if their teeth get knocked out because they're already black with decay and falling out anyway. And thanks to the Bro Signal they sent up into the sky earlier, more mouth breathers are on their way to murder Ross. Bros hunt in packs, after all.

Intense violins play as Demelza's dad and co. head-butt and uppercut Ross all over the place for several minutes. They even stomp on his beautiful head! Not the money-maker! Outside, Mr. Pigpen and the tenants battle a mob of bros. Someone gets kicked in the nuts so hard that there will be no heirs.

Mrs. Pigpen runs to Ross' uncle's house, yelling "They be killin' Mr. Ross!!" Pinky Ring wants Backstabber Cousin to go help, but he knows he'll just get a deadly wedgie or get his head flushed so he stays put with a look of fake concern on his face. Uncle says Mrs. Pigpen is exaggerating and slams the door on her, hoping Ross dies for real this time.

Despite all the skull stomping, Ross gets a second wind and beats up Demelza's dad. Ross and the bros eventually come to a truce and Ross celebrates being alive and finally having some alone time by guzzling wine (18th century hotties! They're just like us!).

Across town, Pinky Ring is kicking back with a good book 'cause that's what people do when the love of their life is in the process of being murdered. She overhears Backstabber Cousin and Uncle talking about the plan to get Ross to move away. You are who you hang out with, Pinky Ring.

On the road, Ross meets up with the tenants and Mr. Pigpen, who are on a high after an afternoon of nut-cracking (see tweet above). They vow to always have his back. *adds these dudes to my People Who Don't Deserve to Die list*

Back at Uncle's house, Backstabber Cousin almost dies from being dissed really hard by his own father:

Backstabber Cousin: "I don't like it, father."

Uncle: "You'd like it less if you lost your wife."

Backstabber Cousin: "Assuming I can't keep her myself!"

Uncle: "Can you?"

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Ross finds Demelza roaming the moors and is in the process of bringing her home, when Pinky Ring rides up on a white horse. This leave-me-alone-no-wait-pay-attention-to-me cycle is getting very tired. Pinky Ring declares that she's changed her mind about that whole Move away and leave me alone forever! thing and now wants Ross to stay in Cornwall. Judging by the look on Demelza's face, I'm not the only one wondering: "Is she serious?!"

poldark demelza

Ross promises to stick around so they can keep doing this sexy love-hate thing for at least seven more episodes.

End scene!

After every episode, it’s only right to reward characters who’ve impressed and diss the ones that haven’t, so here goes:

PIECE OF COAL: Basically Everyone in Cornwall: From evil former classmates to Ross' uncle to Demelza's dad to everyone who showed up for Market Day, it was a team effort to secure the title for Most Deplorable this week.

HONORABLE MENTION: Cute, Shy Puppy: He's a pacifist and likes to be the little spoon. Also, he's cute and shy. What's not to love?

BRONZE: The Old Lady with the Tarot Cards: She's a pioneer of hipster hobbies so we must pay credit where credit is due.

SILVER: Daisy: The Prequel: Any ancestor of Daisy's is a friend of mine. Plus, she is chill, likes to talk smack when it's deserved, and seems to generally disdain everyone in Cornwall.

GOLD: Ross: I mean, was it even a question? He survived the war, survived a brutal beating, survived being surrounded by a-holes, with nary a hair out of place. May his skull never be stomped upon again!

Until next week! If you miss my thoughts on Poldark, follow me on Twitter @xcusemybeauty or read all the other recaps below!

More recaps:

'Poldark' Season 1 Episode 2 Recap: Bang Bang

'Poldark' Season 1 Episode 3 Recap: Oops, There Goes My Shirt


'Poldark' Season 1 Episode 4 Recap: Send My Love to Your New Lover

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