After two whole episodes with no scenes together, the two title characters of Miss Scarlet and the Duke finally share screen time again in 3×05. Fans will welcome this wholeheartedly. But the painful plot development from the end of the previous episode hangs over this one, making it a downbeat and solemn entry in the series.
Eliza (Kate Phillips) and William (Stuart Martin) have followed the classic formula of a will-they-or-won’t-they ship from the beginning, and the reveal that he was courting someone else HURT. Underneath the specific trappings of this story, like the Victorian-era setting, the enjoyment of watching this kind of interaction is the same (or more!) as it is with similar ships…and so is the pain when we have to watch one of them with someone else. The yearning that turns into heartbreak! Though I know some people love it, I don’t. I just look for the content that proves the ship is still endgame until the angst is resolved. While remembering to breathe through the hardest moments, of course. Now is the time that shippers like me must do that for Eliza and William.
This episode provides ample opportunity to grit our teeth through the rough stuff. Miss Scarlet and the Duke 3×05 has a melancholy tone that underlies even the moments that are supposed to be positive, both in the case solved by our detectives and in their relationship.
“It’s a sad story for everyone.”
For her latest case, Eliza has gone hunting for an heir. She locates Martin Crabtree, the only living child of a murdered nobleman, Sir Reginald Denning, whose estate is about to pass into government hands. As long as Crabtree (Will Merrick) proves who he is before the deadline, he gets the inheritance. And Eliza earns a hefty fee. The money will be enough to truly secure her future as a private detective. She even finally plans to put her own name over the door of her office instead of her father’s.
Eliza learns the hard way not to count your chickens before they hatch, however. This case gets much more complicated than she expects. The heir gets kidnapped shortly before he’s supposed to go to a solicitor’s office to claim his birthright, another heir hunter tries to insert himself into the situation, and a stabbing case William is working for Scotland Yard turns out to be connected as well. Quite a tangle!
But the truth behind this mystery is also tragic. Crabtree wasn’t the illegitimate product of some affair, he was the legal child of Denning and his wife. He was raised in an orphanage because Denning’s wife died in childbirth and he blamed his son for it, so he sent him away. What’s even more heartrending, Crabtree already knew this. A maid from his father’s household told him the truth about his birth seven years ago; but when Crabtree tried to meet his father, he rejected him. Crabtree snapped and killed him. Depressing, all the way around.
“I’m just waiting for you to stop talking.”
The circumstances are depressing for Eliza, too, because with Crabtree guilty of murder, she can’t receive her fee. Her work on this case has been for nothing. More than that, this is actually the third case of this season in which Eliza does not get paid. (Or at least, probably doesn’t.) And that feels like adding insult to injury at this point. Not only does Eliza have to go through personal heartache right now, which doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere anytime soon, but the writers have to hand her financial setbacks as well. It just seems like overkill to me. Eliza already has to struggle to prove her abilities as a private detective just because she is a woman. I don’t think relieving her of one worry is too much to ask.
Thankfully, Eliza has people in her life like Ivy (Cathy Belton) and Moses (Ansu Kabia). This episode particularly provides quality time with Moses, which is always a good thing. Eliza promises to pay him double when she gets her payday; she just needs his full name for the contract. Moses avoids this at first but eventually gives in and admits his last name is Valentine. We finally learn Moses’ last name! And he told Eliza to cheer her up. The working relationship between Eliza and Moses is a great part of this show.
“Let hearts keep their secrets.”
In the middle of all of this, Eliza does her best to deal with the fact that William is with someone else by avoiding William and throwing herself into her work. William seeks her out, though. When Eliza admits she knows about his courtship with Arabella (Sophie Robertson), they agree to try to keep their friendship unaffected. It’s the only thing Eliza can do: tell William she is happy for him. And all we shippers can do is grit our teeth and yell things at the TV when we hear William talk about Arabella or go see her. There is a point where writers give a slow-burn couple too much angst and the moment they get together ends up being less satisfying than it could be. I call it the angst threshold. I hope Rachael New and the writing team don’t cross it.
For now, the focus is still clearly on William and Eliza, in my opinion. It’s like you want to say to Arabella, “Sweetie, if he’s asking coworkers how another woman was doing while he was away, he’s not that into you. If he constantly talks about working with her, even if it’s complaining, he’s not that into you.” But Arabella seems to know it. The final scene of this episode proves that when she orchestrates it so that William shows up while Eliza is visiting her. If she feels the need to mark her territory like that, well, it’s not an indication of a secure relationship.
Miss Scarlet and the Duke 3×05 is a downbeat episode in terms of both the short and long term story details. Shippers especially will have to make an effort to engage the way they have with most past episodes.
Miss Scarlet and the Duke airs Sunday at 8 PM on PBS.
I am in my 30s and just can no longer watch or even see a minute of angsty love messes like this anymore. 🤣 I have seen countless similar situations like this on TV.
I hope Moses, Fitzroy, and Ivy are in season 4. Obviously, they were some of the best parts of this episode. I laughed when I found out his last name. I hope Fitzroy finds someone perfect for him who will appreciate him for who he is and of course loves singing with him.
I like that Eliza is in many ways relateable such as having her avoid someone she cannot have for the time being. She is like many of us in modern times who refuse to stay home and feel bad when any tough situation happens or you cannot be with the person you want to be with. Obviously she has a job and needs to survive, so staying home would be a terrible mistake and Ivy does not deserve to lose her job.