Ross is becoming so cruel, what with comments like “not every man in Cornwall is besotted with you” and “look elsewhere for a pet”. I’m hating him as much as I did in season 2. (In season 2 he was a fool and an ass, but he wasn’t saying cruel things like that.) I don’t remember Ross being that way in the books. But I know why they’re doing it…to make everyone root for Demelza having a fling
Don’t hate Ross, anon. Just don’t. He doesn’t deserve it.
comments like “not every man in Cornwall is besotted with you”
I was irritated by this first time around, but when I watched it again, I took more note of his tone of voice. He actually doesn’t say it cruelly, he says it with a measure of fondness.
What he doesn’t do, however, is match Demelza’s teasing tone. She is clearly a) slightly flustered by Hugh’s attention, and b) trying to have a teasing conversation with him along the lines of the conversation they had in bed after Ross’s return from Roscoff (about French beauties and whether he partook of them). She’s trying to draw him into that flirty, teasing banter that they’ve shared before. When he dismisses her with ‘I didn’t notice’, she’s the one to say perhaps she imagined it - and Ross doesn’t hear the way she suddenly sounds subdued, and so doesn’t respond to it. He makes a fond comment about not every man in Cornwall being besotted with her, but the implication in that is that he is besotted with her.
What upsets Demelza is that he doesn’t register her intention of flirting, and I think, also, it’s that it comes in the wake of what happened that day: he didn’t want to dance with her and he was so eager to get away from the party (which was, after all, the wedding reception for their dearest friends). Ross dislikes the attention he’s getting as ‘hero of Quimper’, but though I think Demelza knows that, she’s also very proud of him and so can’t really understand why he dislikes it (there is a difference between knowing something and understanding it). And also, she enjoys these events. One could argue that she should accept what he wants and agree not to go to them, but one could also argue that Ross could stomach them and behave better towards her on the extremely rare occasions when he agrees to them in the first place! We are literally talking a handful of occasions across eight years of marriage, at this point. I don’t think she would be asking for the moon in wanting him to at least dance with her when appropriate - though I can also understand Ross feeling that he’s getting attention he doesn’t deserve because of one risky adventure he undertook to save a friend, in the process getting another friend killed. I can see both sides here.
The problem is that they’re just not communicating well enough about it - which is frustrating to watch, both because that’s the same problem they had all through s2, and because by this point in the books they’ve both got a heck of a lot better about actually talking to each other.
On a side note to this - Ross actually does like taking her places in the books. He doesn’t like the events, looks for all excuses not to accept invitations, but he finds pleasure in Demelza’s happiness, and likes that she’s grown more confident. We got a bit of that in the episode, with Pascoe prodding Ross to take Demelza to Tehidy because she enjoys it (hi, Pascoe, Demelza’s biggest cheerleader!) but they could have added in a brief word, say in the entrance hall at Tehidy, between Ross and Demelza to the effect that he’s pleased she’s happy. Not those words precisely, but something to that effect. But that’s by the by, and not really relevant to the point, heh.
“look elsewhere for a pet”
Okay, agreed, that was a particularly harsh comment. Ross ought to have a better understanding of Demelza than that. She doesn’t want a pet, a husband content to do her bidding and acquiesce to her opinion over everything, she wants a partner, she wants her husband to remember that she is intelligent and capable and full of common sense. She doesn’t want him to do what she wants, but she does want him to at least consult her and listen to her opinions. He knows these things about her, he has already accepted and acknowledged her great sense and capabilities - for example, making it clear to everyone that she’s in charge of Wheal Grace while he went to Quimper. So many of the problems they had in s2 came from Ross not respecting Demelza’s intelligence and not consulting her about things - again, it’s not about her wanting him to do things her way, it’s about wanting him to treat her as an equal. Think about that conversation in the barn about building a cache under the library, in s2 - she demands to know how he dares ask for her permission when he’ll go ahead and do it no matter what she says. She’s not angry because he doesn’t do what she wants, she’s angry at the pretence at consultation.
So yes, a harsh comment and completely uncalled for given how well he knows her. However! I have two things to say in his defence.
The first is that Ross, when he’s angry or upset, has a sharp, cold tongue. He does that again and again. To Demelza particularly, but to others also. When he’s hurting, he lashes out and is very capable of finding a weakness and poking at it. Sometimes it’s direct, sometimes less so, but it’s a character trait that is not new. Think about 1.03, when he comes back drunk after failing Jim Carter - ‘If you don’t take it off this minute you can pack your things and go back to your father!’.
Or 1.07: ‘Your ignorance. Your arrogance. Your utter disregard for truth and consequence?’ ‘All I’ve done is make two people happy!’ ‘Oh, Demelza, do not underestimate the scale of your achievement.’
Or even the more casual, less deliberate/more provoked 2.03: ‘Just be careful his uniform doesn’t dazzle you. It has that effect on some people.’ ‘Especially a common miner’s daughter who don’t know any better?’ ‘That’s for you to demonstrate.’ (more provoked in the sense that he doesn’t actually say the words, but he certainly uses them against her).
So yes, this is not the kind of comment that particularly surprises me coming from Ross when he’s hurting and angry and backed into some corner. Unlike most of his comments, it’s not actually particularly based in an understanding of her character, which is unusual, but even so.
And that’s the second thing I would say in his defence: he is hurting. He is angry. He has just had a letter from George Warleggan to say that his great-aunt has died. The last of the Trenwith Poldarks, one of the last connections to a different life, a woman who Ross loved and cared for and respected. And, knowing George, it was couched in the plainest, most unsympathetic terms. Ross doesn’t ever deal with loss well: we know that. Think of Jim Carter, of Julia, of Carnmore Copper Company. Think of his struggle to cope with the loss of more intangible things, such as his idealised love for Elizabeth, and the family bonds at Trenwith. This is not a good day for Ross. Then Demelza comes after him and tells him that George doesn’t mention anything about funeral arrangements. That’s another weight to carry, another bruise to a bruised man, particularly since Ross must know, as we do, that George would never ever allow Ross to actually take care of funeral arrangements himself (and, on that note, George you do NOT get to do that, how on EARTH did Elizabeth not tell him what it would look like in the county, to quietly and without ceremony bury Agatha Poldark?!?! And what about Verity?!?).
And then Demelza raises the issue of the MP nomination going to George, and she argues with him about it. I won’t go into all the whys of why she argues for it, why she wants him to be an MP, because it’s not relevant to the point - which is that this is not a good time for anyone to be prodding at Ross’s open wounds. And one of those open wounds is the news of Agatha’s death, but another is George’s continued inability to just act as if Ross and all those around Ross don’t exist - which is, after all, what he and Ross had agreed to. Ross knows how George treated Agatha. He knows that George likely hastened Agatha’s death. And setting aside his feelings about not wanting to be in a position of having to bow to another man’s judgement, hearing more bad news about George is really not going to produce any other result than it does: Ross grows more angry, more hurt, and lashes out in typical fashion.
As I said, setting aside her reasons for wanting him to be an MP and his reasons for not wanting to, it’s bad timing for Demelza to bring it up then. So don’t hate Ross for it, anon. He’s just…reacting the way he always does. Trying to inflict hurt on others because he’s hurting himself.
I don’t remember Ross being that way in the books. But I know why
they’re doing it…to make everyone root for Demelza having a fling
No, in the books Ross is rarely cruel to her. He has mostly grown beyond sharpening his tongue on her, because she can’t cope with it, it destroys her, and he hates doing that to her. But also their relationship doesn’t develop this strain, at this point. The way they were in the early part of the episode? Friendly and loving and teasing, supporting each other? That’s where they are for the vast majority of The Four Swans.
And yes, unfortunately it seems likely that they’re building up to the reasons for Demelza’s infidelity. Her muttered comment of ‘perhaps I won’t have to look too far’ seems to suggest that - using his (in-character) sharp tongue as a reason for her to look elsewhere for some kindness. I don’t want to speculate too much, though. What comforts me is the fact that Hugh Armitage, so far, is absolutely book!accurate. Somehow it comes across so unmistakeably clearly on screen that he is not in love with her, he thinks he’s in love with her. He’s a Romantic, he’s idealistic, he fancies the hell out of her, but he cannot be in love with her because he does not know her. So Hugh’s flattery, his deceit (it is a kind of deceit, to be wooing the wife of a man who he calls friend, a man who saved his life), is absolutely not being watered down. I just hope that it’s not all made so horribly black and white as it seems to be. Demelza doesn’t have sex with Hugh because of Ross. Ross basically has nothing to do with it. It’s her wish to be two women, just for a day - to be Ross’s wife, loving him and happy with him, but also to be able to share her happiness with Hugh, who is young and innocent and who appeals to her physically.
Anyway. I’ve talked about all that before, and I won’t bore you with it again, because this answer has grown quite long enough :D just don’t hate Ross, anon. The only character who deserves your hate is Osborne Whitworth, who is a vile, disgusting creature.