If you’re still hurting from the end of the season premiere, don’t worry. Miss Scarlet and the Duke 2×02 gives you a captivating case to enjoy while you recover.
I know I’m still healing from Eliza and William’s preempting of a future between them. The angst part of love stories has always been my least favorite part, no matter how necessary or well-done it is. The time two people spend apart needs to mean something because the audience is always going to be thinking about them being happy together. A show needs to balance that with business as usual. For Scarlet, that means entertaining crime-solving in Victorian London.
However, this episode also does some work to develop both lead characters and advances the feminist themes this show thrives on.
It’s time to delve into the next piece of Eliza and William’s story on Miss Scarlet and the Duke 2×02.
“It is no more complex than that.”
A sketch by Charles Darwin himself has been stolen from a small natural science museum and, of course, Eliza (Kate Phillips) is on the case. The insurance company hires her. The woman who runs the museum, Mrs. Garret (Emma Campbell-Jones), believes they hired a woman to investigate because they suspect her, and think she’d be more likely to open up to another woman. On top of the fact that Garret is not guilty, Eliza balks at the idea that she was hired for any reason other than her ability.
There are unpleasant surprises to come during this investigation, but they don’t overshadow the memorable resolution. Mrs. Garrett’s mother-in-law was ill and wanted to help the struggling museum, so she orchestrated the theft for publicity. The mother-in-law is a delightful supporting character, and this episode turns out to be full of those. Like the Hungarian count with connections to the art black market. It’s a good thing to be able to say about an episode of television.
“We’re on the same side when it suits you.”
Another good thing is when an episode projects a strong theme. And for this one, it would definitely be women helping women. An elderly woman boosting her daughter-in-law’s business is not the only example here. A part of the woman’s plan involved advertising a reward for the return of the sketch, which sent the public to Eliza’s office. So, she was helping our heroine as well. Quite a badass lady, when you think about it.
There is another way women assist women in this episode, and it’s something fans of this show will never see coming. Mrs. Parker, the mother of Eliza’s friend Rupert, antagonized Eliza early in the first season. This episode begins with more conflict between them when Mrs. Parker and her friends scorn Eliza’s work. Imagine our surprise when Mrs. Parker hires her in the final scene to gather information on possible matches for her niece, Hattie. If a show like Miss Scarlet and the Duke upends your expectations like that, it can sometimes be a good thing, too.
“He wanted a pupil, not a partner.”
Our expectations concerning Eliza and William (Stuart Martin) took a hit in the last episode. But it was not a fatal one. This episode establishes that their dynamic is still in place, and they are evolving as people. William is, of course, investigating the theft of the sketch for Scotland Yard, so he and Eliza are essentially in competition on this case. But they still respect each other’s skills. We watched William grudgingly learn that respect in the first season, and it’s not going anywhere.
In fact, William encourages Eliza to use being a woman to her advantage and not think of it as a bad thing if she is hired for that reason. She even repeats that advice to herself later. This demonstrates that these two are friends first, and were so long before they became colleagues or rivals. Sounds like the right foundation for a true partnership to me.
I think we’re watching Eliza and William become the people they need to be to enter into that partnership in the future. William’s guidance to young new detective inspector Fitzroy, for example, is softening his grumpy demeanor.
Shippers can take heart that this show is taking care with the Eliza and William relationship if Miss Scarlet and the Duke 2×02 is any indication. Bring on the next episode!
Miss Scarlet and the Duke airs Sunday at 8 PM on PBS.