Miss Scarlet and The Duke 1×02 “The Woman in Red” Review

Source: PBS

Welcome back, readers! It’s Sunday, which means we have a new episode of Miss Scarlet & the Duke upon us. While it’s only been a week since we’ve last seen Eliza Scarlet in our time, six weeks have passed since she’s opened her agency. The episode opens with Eliza breaking into a client’s home to steal the money she is owed, only to be thwarted by the client’s young daughter. Eliza then meets with Rupert Parker in his new home (a move without his beloved mother, and apparently the credit goes to Eliza) to update him regarding the agency’s financial situation. While there, Eliza is introduced to his friend Dr. Moorhouse (Kieran Hodgson), who takes an avid interest in her work. Rupert assures her that there is no rush to make her payments. It’s quite refreshing to see individuals, particularly two men, supporting Eliza and her agency, especially since a part of the series focuses on the pushback to Eliza’s being a private detective. Eliza not only has faced opposition from strangers, she’s received it from those closest to her, including her own father. And yet, this moment of two grown men giddy with childlike curiosity about her work is a rather wholesome moment compared to the typical reception that Eliza encounters.

On her way home, Eliza finds a not-so-happy Mrs. Parker at her doorstep. Inside, Mrs. Parker discusses the lease renewal on the house. Under the belief that Eliza encouraged her son to move out, a furious Mrs. Parker gives Eliza until the end of the week to pay for the lease, otherwise she will find new tenants. Eliza’s financial struggles are further highlighted during her conversation with Ivy, who reveals Kitty has left and found a new station after not being paid for weeks. With a plan forming in her mind, Eliza asks Ivy to press her best dress and heads off to Scotland Yard.

Naturally, Eliza visits the station so she can bump into and “have tea” with William, who is down six men (due to an illness from a pie shop we certainly will not be visiting) and quite agitated from his workload. He initially claims he has no time to chat, but one knowing look from her lands them in his office moments later as he watches her prepare tea. It’s amusing how both anticipated the defeat–William is a resolute and intimidating man, but he’s unable to withstand Eliza despite the heavy load on his plate. Furthermore, despite the grumpiness and exhaustion, he is committed to his job and its proper execution, meaning that although he is overworked and understaffed, he will only exert more effort to ensure the safety of the streets of London. Abandoning his duties to speak with Eliza isn’t merely a tactic to get rid of her–she’d return sooner than he could blink–it’s because she matters more than the surrounding mayhem. They can both argue that it’s out of respect for her father, but they’ve formed their own relationship over the years. He’s said no to her before; he could’ve easily walked away, but at that moment, he chose not to.

As they talk over his staffing issues and his outpouring cases, she suggests he hires her services. William, all too aware that she’s only had a few clients, turns her down as they’re interrupted by DS Frank Jenkins, who needs Willian’s assistance on an arson case. After leaving his office, PC Honeychurch enters with an urgent message for William. Eliza instructs him to leave it on Duke’s desk. Checking its contents, Eliza immediately heads out to the scene. 

Upon her arrival, she finds a maid sobbing on the stairs, warning her not to go upstairs. Of course, Eliza being Eliza, that’s exactly what she does. She enters the room to two men lying on the floor, the nearest with a slit throat. A woman enters and screams, causing the other man to wake up, reach for the knife, and march towards the women. William barges in and subdues him immediately. His apprehension is met with protests from the screaming women to release her husband. After he is whisked off, William scolds Eliza’s actions, which results in her unwelcome input. As a result, Duke has Eliza end up in court, and she is charged with obstruction and fined 40 shillings or a month in jail. To Eliza’s surprise, the fine is paid by the screaming woman from the crime scene, Tabitha Butler (Deirdre Mullins). Afterwards in Eliza’s office, Mrs. Butler states she believes her husband, Edward, is innocent and wants Eliza to investigate the murder. She provides information about the victim, stating he is a saloon owner named Sebastian Ridley and that Edward handled his accounts.

Eliza heads out to the saloon. As she searches for clues, she runs into Moses, who informs Eliza he lost his job after she handcuffed him to the radiator. Fearing the worst, Eliza pulls out a knife while Moses pulls a gun from Ridley’s desk, eventually breaking out in a smile. Good news! Turns out, he wants to hire (and not kill) her to find a snuff box that belonged to his father. Moses states the box was in Ridley’s safe, but before he could break into it, he saw Mrs. Butler open the safe and clear out its contents into a green carpet bag. 

Eliza arrives at the Butler residence, only to find Mrs. Butler is no longer in need of her services. Mrs. Butler is also singing a different tune about her husband, stating he can go to hell and heads out to church. Paying off the maid, Eliza snoops around the crime scene, finding the carpet bag and the snuff box along with what appears to be a love letter to Sebastian Ridley from “TB”, leading Eliza to suspect that Mrs. Butler and the victim were having an affair.

Still in a disgruntled mood, William enters his office, where Eliza is awaiting him. She shares her suspicions about the affair, but William brushes her off, stating that Edward Butler has pled guilty to the murder and he’s off to identify Sebastian Ridley’s body in the morgue. Eliza is not having it, stating that the Butlers’ actions do not add up and adamant that there is something more.

At the morgue, Eliza pretends to be William’s wife to sneak in and examine the body. William and the coroner do not appear to be enthusiastic about his “wife” and her presence but Eliza is undeterred and shares her findings that Ridley’s knife wound is not consistent with Butler being the killer. She also finds a tattoo of a dark rose before the coroner attempts to eject her from the morgue. She responds with an attempted bribe, resulting in another appearance and charge at court. She’s released thanks to the interference of William speaking to Magistrate Wilkes. He drops her off in front of her office, expressing that he wants to get along, to which she agrees. He then tells her to stop pursuing the Ridley case.

William’s eagerness to sign the paperwork and get out of the morgue as soon as possible is a direct contrast to Eliza’s slow and steady examination approach. Over the course of the episode, we get bits and pieces of what William has had to deal with and endure throughout his career. It’s not that he’s incapable or incompetent or doesn’t care–this man has seen some sh-t and is jaded, attempting to get through the day and trying his best, whereas Eliza, fueled by excitement and curiosity, remains untouched by the damages of the world. William’s insistence that she backs off isn’t because he believes that she can’t be a private detective or solve cases, it’s an effort to shield her from becoming another casualty like himself.

Back in her office, Eliza is imagining her father as she sketches out the dark rose and what he used to say about tattoos. Eliza recalls seeing similar roses at Ruper’s house and Dr. Moorhouse’s lapel. She visits Rupert for more information. Rupert divulges that they are known as the Midnight Rose, and it’s a symbol for “like-minded fellows…whose tastes do not lie with women”. Rupert stresses the great risk he takes in confiding Eliza with this information. Eliza promises that his secret will never leave her lips. I must take a moment and commend Andrew Gower’s performance in this scene. His ability to demonstrate Rupert’s internal struggle and hesitation of revealing the purpose of the Midnight Rose–telling Eliza would aid her investigation, but he might also lose his friend, a friend he respects and admires–evokes a massive feeling of vulnerability. 

Further conversation with Rupert reveals Ridley held weekly nights at the saloon for Midnight Rose, and Moses was the doorman during those nights. Eliza also learns that Ridley nicknamed Edward with “Teddy” and that the two were having an affair. She returns to Ridley’s saloon, only to find Moses unconscious and two men attempting to rob the liquor. They chase Eliza into Ridley’s office; one grabs Eliza, causing the snuff box to fall out. He picks it up and sniffs it and instantly passes out. Eliza uses the gun Moses had pulled out during their first encounter and tells the other man to take his friend and leave. 

Moses comes to, and Eliza questions him about the box, which has an illegal quantity of opium. He admits the box didn’t belong to his father but to Ridley, and given his financial situation, Moses decided to steal it. Moses informs her Dr. Moorhouse supplied the opium. Eliza then questions Dr. Moorhouse, who discloses that Sebastian Ridley was dying of a stomach tumor and the opium was to help with his pain. According to Dr. Moorhouse, Sebastian wanted this information kept secret; however, when the doctor explains he went to the Butler’s residence the night Sebastian was killed and found Tabitha sobbing in the room where Ridley was killed, and she told him that she hoped Sebastian suffered to the last with his tumor and her husband would soon join. Moorhouse also spotted that she was reading bloodied letter addressed to Teddy

Following the questioning with Dr. Moorhouse, Eliza heads off to the morgue again to see William. Sharing her updates, she surmises that Ridley committed suicide and Edward Butler was innocent. Tabitha Butler found out about the affair and hid Ridley’s suicide note. Convincing William to protect his reputation, William and Eliza depart to question Tabitha Butler, only to find out that she is leaving town for America. After Eliza claims that he should be the one to apprehend Mrs. Butler, William heads to the train station while Edward is set to be executed. Eliza makes her way to the execution, where she finds Mrs. Butler, convincing her to give up the letter. 

Eliza and William are then seen questioning Edward Butler, who informs them that Sebastian Ridley did commit suicide because Edward did not want to run off together, and Edward got knocked out trying to prevent the suicide. Edward thanks Eliza for proving his innocence, but states that he’ll never be able to walk the earth as a truly free man. Meanwhile, Tabitha Butler is arrested for theft and obstruction of justice. William realizes that Eliza knew Tabitha wasn’t on the train, and tells her that it doesn’t make him look good to his superiors. There’s a tone of pride and confidence in Eliza’s voice as she responds that he can “handle anyone”, to which he replies “I cannot handle you”. And if that’s not enough to make you melt into a puddle, he follows the quip with an intense stare that indicates that he does not mind one bit. Even though Eliza’s actions seemingly undermine anything William says to her, she thinks highly of him and values his commanding presence among others. William concedes that she is the exception and as such, when it comes to her, she’ll always be treated differently.

During the end of the episode, Eliza returns home and finds Rupert in the kitchen while Mrs. Parker is waiting on her. Rupert tells Eliza his mother is here about the lease renewal and that he tried speaking to her about it. Honestly, what a damn good friend. It’s such a shame his mother isn’t as pleasant. He’s also nervous that Eliza may say something about his sexual orientation to his mother; she quickly and firmly assures him that she will not share his secret. Eliza then meets with Mrs. Parker and pays the money owed in full. She then pays Ivy and reveals she’s hired a “debt collector”. The next shot is of Moses, who visits the household that Eliza tried to break into in the beginning of the household, asking the meddlesome daughter to speak with her father.

While this week’s episode expanded on Eliza’s crime-solving abilities, it also provided an opportunity to display Elliza’s various relationships with the three men in her life: a blossoming close friendship with Rupert; the tense and emotionally volatile partnership with William, and the unexpected acquaintance with Moses. It’ll be fascinating to see the role each one plays as Eliza navigates her career. Don’t forget to join us next week to read what happens!

As always, don’t forget to let us know your favorite moments of this week’s episode down below!

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