Poldark: An Unfortunate Case of Character Assassination

It happened in season 6 of Parenthood. Close your eyes if you don’t wanna know!





Parenthood fans know what I’m talking about. When our beloved and loyal and devoted Joel turns into this unrecognizable character that leaves his remorseful wife and refuses to work on their marriage. Mostly because of a kiss that, lest we forget, also happened between him and Racquel in season 1 or 2.

I was irate, because that was not my Joel! My Joel would stay and fight for his wife. He would never leave. This new, lookalike Joel was some imposter from the underworld, sent to make us Parenthood fans turn violent on our televisions.

It’s called character assassination.

This moment when we, as the viewer, feel betrayed, because the character we have fallen in love with, the character who has won our hearts, has suddenly turned into a total and horrendous jerkface.

Enter Poldark.

A show a few good friends of mine had been talking about.

Enter this weekend, wherein I needed to check out from post election insanity and find a happy place. And so, while I organized all the things and folded all the clothes, I watched all of season 1 in a day. My husband says I have an addictive personality. He’s probably right.

And I fell in love.

Spoilers ahead: don’t read if you’re not caught up on last night’s episode.

Swoon! Ross Poldark and Demelza.

Could there be a better couple in all the land of television?

I mean, seriously. The unexpected marriage. His fondness for her in the form of THAT GRIN. The one he tucks away in one corner of his mouth.

The moment that fondness turned into love.

And then baby Julia, and the more precious-than-presh scene where Ross is holding Demelza while Demelza is holding their baby and we have all the very best feels.

Then baby Julia and his wife fall ill and Ross loses his mind, he loves them so much. How can any of us forget the desperate, tortured look in his eye when he asks annoying-Elizabeth to pray that he doesn’t lose the LOVE OF HIS LIFE.

Oh, right. I guess Ross forgets.

At this point, there is nothing I love more than Ross Poldark’s love for Demelza. Together, they are my most favorite.

And then we get to season 2.

Which I watched the next day. (It’s a disease I have, y’all. A disease.)

We still have our beloved Ross, whose integrity and honor are both his strength AND weakness. How could you not love a man like that?

He goes to court, wherein every possible card is stacked against him. Yet, despite the odds, the verdict is not guilty. We all rejoice!

And then everything falls in the toilet.

The Ross we deeply admire slowly disappears. We see glimmers of the old Ross. Like when he tells Demelza about the dog star. Or when he gives her the Christmas present. But it’s kinda hard to stomach in the midst of those simmering looks he keeps giving annoying-Elizabeth.

It seems to come out of nowhere. One minute he doesn’t want anything to do with her, because Julia. Then they all make up at some harvest thing, and suddenly, he’s whispering things to her that make me want to punch him in the throat.

It escalates from there, wherein Elizabeth becomes a widow (RIP sweet Francis) and Ross becomes downright neglectful of his wife (and son … who we all forget exists because nobody ever talks about him).

Then the BIG BAD AWFUL happens, wherein he tells Demelza to get out of his way. TO GET OUT OF HIS WAY, people. I about chucked my computer out the window. I don’t know what’s worse. That moment, or the morning after, when he claimed to have no choice.

Um, Ross? I watched the U.K. version of the show. From my angle, it looked like Elizabeth was the one who didn’t have a choice.

Basically, he lost his integrity AND his intelligence, all in one fell swoop. And Demelza’s not having it.


How does a person possibly come back from that?

How do we, the viewers, get over it? I mean, what in the world happened to Ross Poldark?

The writers of Parenthood found a way to redeem Joel. But then, Joel didn’t do what Ross did. Whatever creature from the underworld that possessed Mr. Poldark was a thousand times worse than the one who got a hold of Joel.


I understand that this is  based off books, and they want to stay true to them or whatever. But at what point is it just better for the writers of the show to say, “Um, I think there’s a better way.”

I mean, do any viewers think it’s worth it? To make a character change so unimaginably? To go from the underdog hero to the guy who makes us all want to break things? I have to tell you, as an author, it seems like a poor move. It’s one thing to put your readers on the edges of their seats, to make them despair, even. But to make them viscerally hate the main character?

It doesn’t seem wise. But then, the Poldark books have been successful enough to be made into a television series. Twice. So maybe I’m missing something.

All I have to say is, I wish I would have stopped watching after episode 2 of season 2, and taken that for my happy ending. Back when Ross was still Ross and not the unrecognizable creature he was last night, when the assassination of his character was made complete.

What do you think? About Poldark. About this thing called character assassination. Does it make you stop reading/watching, or become all the more maddeningly invested?

33 thoughts on “Poldark: An Unfortunate Case of Character Assassination

  1. Hi! I’m new to your blog, Katie so I’m late to the party. I’ve watched Poldark from the very beginning. Poldark and Demelza are my favorite since Luke and Laura. (That’s a “General Hospital” reference for any unaware.)

    So, here’s the thing…I actually don’t think it’s character assassination. I think it’s in keeping with Ross’s extreme loyalty to…his precious integrity.

    Time and again we see Ross put his family at risk because he refuses to give in to Warleggan. Some may call it integrity and honor. I think it’s pride. I actually never believed he was still in love with Elizabeth. He only “flipped a switch” when he found out Elizabeth was betrothed to his archnemesis.

    This is why Winston Graham’s books still resonate today: they’re such good stories and the people are so flawed. Poldark is an incredible character. In many ways, he reminds me of King David.

    1. Hi Josee!! I have since re-watched season 2, and I totally see what you are saying! I’m inclined to agree! I think I was just SO FURIOUS watching season 2 the first time around, and so in love with his character, that I was blind to his faults in earlier episodes. Hope you’ll stick around! Always love fellow Poldark fans!

      1. I’ve watched season 1, like 4 times, I think. Season 2, twice. Poldark is one my favorite shows of all time. Ever. I could go on and on.

        My dream is to write a character as fascinating/maddening/perfectly flawed as Poldark. Have you read any of the books? I get so lost in Graham’s books. Also, Aidan Turner is a gifted actor! (And easy on the eyes, ahem.) He’s a PERFECT Ross.

  2. cassie

    I just had literally the same experience. Marathoned both seasons in the last few days- Fell in lurve with Ross Poldark. Couldn’t get the “you better pray I don’t lose the love of my life” and “Elizabeth could never become between us” out of my head.. then out of nowhere in season 2, he’s a different person. WTF season 2!?! You suck.

    It’s infuriating. I threw things at my tv I was so annoyed. Thankfully I watched the pbs version and that was bad enough for Ross to feel almost nonredeemable at this point. But literally for both episodes following the affair, he didn’t even seem remorseful. It was just so out of character. Gah! (I literally just finished it right now and am still reeling lol)

    I really don’t know how they’re going to come back from this in season 3.

    I feel better knowing other people noticed and were infuriated by this drastic character assassination, too

    1. Oh girl, everything you just described was me. I went on a totally watching binge and was just infuriated. I couldn’t believe what the writers were doing to Ross. And then how he responded after, like he was truly confused as to why Demelza was so upset. I don’t know. That might have been even worse than the actual act! I wanted him to be wrecked over what he did and realize immediately that he was a fool and he doesn’t love anybody but Demelza. Instead we get this too-short clip at the very end where he’s still sort of baffled as to why Demelza would be leaving. 😡

      Thankfully, I’ve had some distance and am no longer fuming. I’ve actually rewatched some of my favorite parts from season 1 (episode 4 😍😍😍) which has helped a little. I just don’t know how he’ll ever get back to being THAT Ross.

  3. Kaitee Hart


    I don’t watch this show, but I do know fictional worlds. Character deaths sadden me, really, they do, but it does help me push through for whatever reason.

    Best way I can compare this is with your trilogy, The Gifting.

    All the characters you killed- which really broke my heart, K, really broke my heart- were killed for a reason. That’s kind of my motto in life, that everything happens for a reason. So, each time a character died in your trilogy, it made me push farther to read it- which is insane, seeing as I was already hooked with the first word of each novel- but it pushed me farther because it made me think that I had to read it to see if whoever’s death had been for naught, or if it would help our protagonist succeed.

    So, yeah, just some thoughts of mine.

    1. Love these thoughts!! And love that you enjoyed The Gifting! I’m actually okay with deaths if they are for a purpose (like you said). What drives
      Me nutty is when a character completely changed for no explainable reason! 😡

      1. Kaitee Hart

        YES! I mean, the character deaths are for a reason… but they still make me cry…

  4. Marylin Furumasu

    I totally agree!
    I hadn’t had a chance to watch it until last night and I had to quietly yell at the TV because everyone was in bed. I kept saying, “NO, go home Ross! No stop! Don’t do it! Bad bad bad!”
    I was so happy when she decked him! Way to go!
    I could tell something was going to happen because of how Ross kept neglecting Demelza. She really is a strong character to take all the things he’s put her through.

    1. I just hate that he was neglecting her at all. It seemed to come from nowhere!

  5. Lara Prachar

    Okay, just watched episodes 9 and 10. (Addictive personality here too!) I hope Ross will realize once and for all that Demelza is a queen and he needs to show her that every day for the rest of her life!!!! I loved the old auntie telling Elizabeth “what did you expect when you made a deal with the devil?”

  6. Lara Prachar

    How did you watch the U.K. version? I’d like to see it. I’m so disappointed in how Ross has behaved the last few episodes. Poor Demelza doesn’t deserve this!

    1. She doesn’t deserve it at all! I watched it online!

  7. Carrie Turansky

    I agree, Katie, I was so upset I deleted my Poldark Pinterest board! What a terrible turn of character. I thought about not watching those last two programs, but I watched to the end. Still not satisfied. He needed to really show remorse and admit how wrong he was.

    1. I couldn’t agree more!! Too little, too late. Not enough at all.

  8. Alisa

    I definitely have an addictive nature when it comes to TV shows that I love. I love the characters most of all. That said, the most recent episode made me want to cry.

    1. Me too, girl!

  9. Amy

    Ohhh, I was SO FURIOUS when I watched that episode a few weeks ago. I’d seen a spoiler online that it happened in the book, but i desperately HOPED it wouldn’t happen in the show (though I knew it would because they stick pretty close to the books).

    And though I passionately HATE that it happened, after seeing the finale, I can sort of see why. We ALL know that Ross pretty much always held a little of a candle for Elizabeth (*gag* stupid girl got what she asked for with George). Even when things were at their best with Demelza, Elizabeth was ALWAYS there. At least now, because of the terrible awful unspeakable night, Ross really does seem to realize what a fool he was and that Elizabeth was just a fantasy and that anything with her is just empty compared to Demelza (who is our QUEEN, let’s be real).

    So, though I hate it and wish it had never ever ever ever ever had to happen, I can sort of see why is had to happen so Ross could finally get past stupid Elizabeth (she didn’t deserve Francis in the end… he was finally doing SO WELL and being SO SWEET…ugh). I think and desperately HOPE that Ross and Demelza’s relationship with be repaired and strengthened over time.

    (I’ve had way to much time to think about all of this. I watched when it aired in Britain and could not share my fury with ANYONE.)

    1. I hope so, too!! I’ve heard this line of thought, and episode 10 eludes to it, for sure. I’m hoping they pull something off and make us love him again. I’m still so mad.

      1. Amy

        Fingers crossed for next season! I was SO AFRAID he was going to join the army and go off to war without working things out with her! When he was there in uniform, I was just like, “Don’t do it. Stop. No. DON’T DO IT.” Thankfully he came to his senses.

        Oh, I hope next season is better!

  10. Pam K.

    I was thoroughly disgusted with Ross when he went to Elizabeth and how despicably he acted. Then he had the nerve to tell Demelza he had no choice! I cheered when she turned around and walloped him! It will be interesting to see how it all works out.

    1. I cheered at that part, too! I love her.

  11. Jessie Bush

    Who are we supposed to champion now? I haven’t seen season 2…but knew what was probably coming. I agree with Melissa Tagg! Ross and the writers! Maybe we’re all supposed to want to champion Demelza and that was Winston’s plan, but badly executed by the screen writers. Anyway, I read somewhere that Winston Graham’s daughter lives in Idaho now and runs a Poldark-themed B&B. Wonder what she has to say about it!

    1. I’d love to know! I’m considering reading the books to see if there’s more insight there.

  12. Sara James

    My bff has read the books so I am holding out hope it must get better. How did you watch the UK version? Once again I’m annoyed that PBS changes what we see here in the U. S. They did that with Downton Abbey. My DVDs didn’t have scenes that I saw on tv. Very frustrating.

    1. It is so frustrating! I watch the UK version online!

  13. Uh. Yeah.

    I used to love Ross. Now I’m not sure who I’m upset with most–Ross or the writers. Thing is, Ross has always had his impetuous moments. And I am okay with characters making horrible mistakes. I could’ve possibly swallowed this Big Bad a little more had it been played as a rash, crazy, what-just-happened-what-have-I-done? thing–because that feels Ross-ish to me. Instead, they spent multiple episodes building to it, making me lose more and more respect for Ross along the way, until by the time it finally happened, I was so annoyed with him all I could think was, “Finally. Just get it over with.” I’m almost more upset with the way it played out than the fact that it played out at all. (Honestly, this is my same thing with Chris and Lorelai in Gilmore Girls. Okay, fine, let Chris and Lorelai get together even though 95% of viewers know that’s not end-game for those characters…but don’t drag it out over almost an entire season!)

    In the meantime, I’m now officially obsessed with Stranger Things and Chief Hopper has filled the Ross-shaped hole in my heart.

    1. Girl! Guuuurl. Yes. All of those things. Yes!! I was irate through most of season 2. Interesting fact. PBS censored the scene. I watched the U.K. version. Basically, Elizabeth tells him to stop and he doesn’t. Could he be any worse at this point? I’ve seen episode 9 & 10. I have so many opinions.

      1. Oh really? I didn’t realize the US version was censored. Wow. That makes Ross not just stupid but AWFUL. Also, I just formally decided to do no work this evening in favor of watching episode 9 and 10. Fingers crossed that I won’t end the season hating Ross, but it’s looking grim.

      2. Josephine

        Here in the New York, I saw the version where Elizabeth initially resisted briefly and then folded like a cheap tent. I also believe that she knew he would show up once she sent him the letter announcing her plans to marry Grorge. She also kept baiting him by telling Ross she loved George knowing full well the effect it would have on him. Very manipulative woman. Ross was a jerk and a disappointment. Delmelza’s next bitch slap needs to land on Elizabeth.

  14. Katie, I’ve not watched season two yet, but THIS is precisely what I was afraid of. Given all the tweets I’ve seen about S2, I was prepared for this to happen. Oh, and I love that you call Elizabeth “annoying” because, well, she is. I was concerned in S1 that Ross would fall out of love with Demelza, but time and again he proved me wrong and left me proud of him. Like you, I am SUCH a fan of these two. Now he’s going to – *sob* – break our hearts AND more importantly, Demelza’s which makes it all worse. *sigh* Looks like Demelza gets a tiny bit of revenge (LOVE that gif), which perhaps makes us feel a *tiny* bit better. 🙂

    In this instance, I think change from the novel (which I haven’t read yet) would be welcome.

    1. Katie Ganshert

      Demelza is my FAVORITE. Verity is my second. And Prudy has totally grown on me. Lady cracks me up.


Comments are closed.