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Miss Scarlet and The Duke 1×03 “Deeds Not Words” Review

Source: PBS

Welcome back, folks! This week we dive into episode three of Miss Scarlet & the Duke, which means we’ve made it to the halfway mark of the season. While the series’ foundation is built on solving crimes amid challenging gender norms, this week’s episode directly addresses women’s struggle for equal rights through various directions, including an extremist perspective of women’s suffrage. So, without further interruption, let’s begin the recap. 

The episode begins with Eliza in her office waiting for William, who arrives two hours late and in an inebriated state. William informs her that Scotland Yard would like to hire her services. She’s to infiltrate an “increasingly radical” women’s suffrage group, although the group has yet to commit a crime. Back at home, Eliza decides the best way to blend in the group is to go undercover as the married Mrs. Alice Morgan. Ivy arrives just as Eliza moves her mother’s wedding ring to her left hand. Eliza explains the new case to Ivy and its conflictions. Eliza supports the group’s beliefs, stating that if women would have a voice then Ivy may have had the opportunity to leave. Eliza is also convinced that Scotland Yard will have no interest in the group if they’re not committing any crimes but Ivy is not so optimistic, quipping “the police never lock up anyone who’s innocent”. 

As we’re all too aware, gender issues have dictated a role in both Eliza’s professional and personal life. So far, she has dismissed investigations or denied access to resources, and has faced personal and professional financial struggles, so it’s not too surprising that she seems aligned with the suffrage group. Ivy’s remark also explores other societal norms that remain relevant today and were certainly prevalent in Victorian times and during the series, such as when Eliza was wrongly accused of prostitution. If you were not a white man without a title, your innocence was easily overlooked and your guilt determined.

Eliza attends the meeting, made up of mostly well-off middle-aged women, and introduces her undercover self to the committee treasurer, Flora Mountford (Geraldine McAlinden). During the meeting, chairwomen Margaret Fairfax (Caitlin Drabble) passionately announces that Parliament will be meeting for an act regarding married women’s property rights and that it is “time for action” and to protest. Her speech is interrupted by the arrival of PC Honeychurch, who claims the members’ carriages are blocking the street and needs them moved. Margaret refuses, ready to be arrested for insolence until PC Honeychurch recognizes Eliza. Eliza steers Honeychurch outside, notifying him that she’s working as an undercover private detective for William, much to Honeychurch’s amusement and disbelief. A few snide remarks about her being one of “Duke’s tarts” results in a satisfying slap to his face from Eliza, leading to Eliza’s arrest (again) that is witnessed by the committee members.

Unsurprisingly, William is not pleased with this latest arrest, and the two have a round of their usual squabble. Eliza demands that PC Honeychurch needs to be reprimanded, but he’s not having it. William contends that if she wants to be a detective, she can’t ask for chivalry when it suits and demand to be treated as an equal when it does not. William further claims that their line of work requires a certain amount of self-control while Eliza resents the idea that she can’t be viewed as both a woman and a detective. 

Eliza leaves the station visibly annoyed, only to find Margaret Fairfax waiting for her. Margaret tries to convince Eliza to attend a committee meeting on Tuesday. Margaret explains the importance of the group’s cause to her, stating that despite her father’s wishes, she was able to attend university to study chemistry but not receive official qualifications since she was a woman. Margaret’s words seem to have convinced Eliza–she arrives at the meeting; however, Margaret is not in attendance and the group has no idea where she is. Honeychurch and William then barge into the room and ask for Margaret’s whereabouts. As Duke scans the room, he spots Eliza and grumpily asks why she’s there. 

We next see Eliza and William at the coroner’s office, looking over a body, where Eliza learns that witnesses saw Margaret shoot a man and run off. William has yet to identify the victim and since Eliza is the last person to have seen Margaret alive, he needs a witness statement from her. Naturally, Eliza abandons the statement and examines the body instead, surmising the victim was perhaps a pharmacist. Eliza desires to work on the case given she has met Margaret and William had hired her for the case, forcing William to reveal that he hired her because he needed a woman to attend the meeting. He also reveals that Scotland Yard didn’t hire her in an official capacity; he just wanted to help out a friend. William also shares his belief that the victim was Margaret’s lover, which Eliza deems as a lazy conclusion. As a result, William has Eliza thrown out of the morgue by Mr. Potts. 

Eliza heads to her office, where she imagines a conversation with Henry. Henry reminds her that she needs William as an ally and advises her to not lose her temper. Doing so makes women seem emotional and hysterical and incapable of rational thinking. Henry guides her to provide logic, reason, and facts in order to be heard. This nudges Eliza’s to seek out one of our favorites of her associates, Moses. 

The next day, Eliza is back at William’s office and calmly presents the information she gathered with Moses’ help. Margaret has been pawning off possessions and through the pawn brokers, Scarlet has found Margaret’s real name is Margaret Davidson-Merritt. Margaret also has a brother, Terrence, who frequents the Brownlee gentlemen’s club. After divulging this information, Eliza conveys to William that she merely wants his respect. For the most part, beneath William’s constant frowns and glares that indicate Eliza as a hindrance, William does respect and admire her analytical mind. He does not question her information and has repeatedly listened to her when she discloses new evidence or findings and does not hesitate to compliment her work. 

William sets out to the Brownlee club to speak with Terrence. William explains to Eliza that he will go alone, since questioning requires a sense of calm and Eliza’s presence at the club will cause a commotion. He promises to update her after his questioning and commends her good work. At the club, William meets with Terrence, who initially refuses to discuss his sister. After William threatens to drag him to the station, Terrence becomes more cooperative. William’s threat demonstrates a sense of the detective inspector’s aforementioned “calm” presence. Although quiet, you can see his temper flaring underneath as his low voice and convincing reasons to cooperate exudes authority and command over the situation–this is why he’s Detective Inspector William Wellington. Describing his sister as a “fanatic” and “unhinged”, Terrence reveals that Margaret spent a large amount of money funding legal action against the Brownlee club. Margaret had a history of wanting women to have membership at the club and had to be restrained by three men when she once tried getting inside.

Meanwhile, Eliza returns to her office and is cornered by Margaret at gunpoint. Margaret is aware of Eliza’s identity and that William is at Brownlee questioning her brother, stating that Eliza is misguided to think that William truly treats as an equal. Eliza attempts to reason with Margaret and asks her about the man she killed. Margaret shows Eliza a bruised arm and insinuates the man had physically abused her. Margaret makes a compelling address that wants one last chance to make a difference at the Parliament protest. She also declares she’ll turn herself in but implores Eliza not to say anything, proclaiming her arrest and hanging will “further the cause”.

Later, William updates Eliza about his conversation with Terrence. Eliza is noticeably quiet and distracted. William believes something might be off about Scarlet but she remains tight-lipped about her encounter with Margaret. Eliza also wants off the case, but William needs Eliza to help interview the women from the committee and informs her she won’t get paid until she does. The two are interrupted when Ivy arrives and tells William a messenger is there to see him. The messenger is actually Moses, who is here to see Eliza for his payment but Ivy was uncomfortable with his presence. Enter, the protective and paternalistic William Wellington. William pays Moses for his services and additional to stay away from Eliza, stating that it is “hard enough” for Eliza to be a private detective without being associated with someone like Moses. William is aware of Moses’ criminal background and wants Moses to avoid contact with her. But Moses doesn’t back down; he rightfully presumes that Eliza wouldn’t appreciate William issuing these orders on her behalf and refuses to abide. The intense scene not only brings together two of the men of Eliza’s life together–two men on the direct opposite sides of the law, in fact–it also provides a subtle nod to racism. Even though Eliza is facing struggles as a woman, Moses is navigating through Victorian England as a Black man. I hope as the series progresses, we get the chance to explore the storyline further. I enjoy every moment Ansu Kabia graces the scene. His portrayal of Moses is extremely charismatic and likeable, and he has notable chemistry with Kate Phillips, which makes their onscreen relationship incredibly endearing. And obviously, this isn’t the last of his interactions with Duke, which will sure be complicated, to say the least. 

Back at the station, Flora is interviewed by Eliza, during which Flora expresses she’d prefer the interview conducted by a real police officer. Oh, the irony of how the women’s activist degrades a woman and her profession–a delicate reminder that women don’t face prejudice from only men but other women as well. The interviews seem a dead end–nobody knows where Margaret might be. However, Eliza was able to ascertain there was a disagreement between Margaret and Flora regarding charity donations. While sharing this information with William, Eliza and he argue about Margaret’s intentions–William asserts that Margaret is acting for her own interests, not for a cause. William also reveals to Eliza about Margaret being expelled from Chancery College, and Eliza remembers that Margaret wanted to give money to its women faculty. 

Eliza and William head out to Chancery College and speak with Professor Fleming (Gerard Byrne), who reveals that Margaret was expelled for having an affair with Dr. Gill, the head of the chemistry department. Looks like William was right to assume they were lovers. (But points go to Eliza for pointing out Margaret was the only one who received consequences from the dalliance.) From his photograph, Eliza notices Dr. Gill is their unidentified victim. The two search his quarters, where William finds materials used to make a bomb. Realizing she knows where the bomb will be set off, Eliza confesses to William about her earlier contact with Margaret.

Back at the station, William orders his men to search Parliament Square. And then we see William mad. Not his usual mad–he’s furious, or at least furious enough to break a glass. He’s immensely upset at Eliza, stating she has let him down. Eliza attempts to justify her actions, stating that Margaret’s words were like she had seen into Eliza’s heart, and therefore led Eliza to trust her. He then asks if he has not proven himself worthy of her trust and doesn’t understand why Eliza trusted a liar over him. He maintains that although he struggles with being worn down with the job, he still knows the difference between right and wrong. For William, Eliza’s deliberate withholding of information was a sense of betrayal, not only in their personal relationship but to their professional relationship. Earlier, William had made a point to include Eliza on the progress with the brother’s interview, even though he didn’t have to.

Accordingly, it was expected that Eliza would share every aspect of her investigation and progress. On a personal level, she put her faith on a total stranger wanted for murder rather than a man she’s known since childhood and one who has repeatedly shown up for her. Her lack of trust in him makes him question his worth and brings down his self-esteem and re-evaluate his position in her life. However, Eliza does seem regretful and realizes the gravity of her mistake. She admits Margaret manipulated her because of gullibility but registers that Margaret expected Eliza to tell William about their encounter. Margaret’s ability to discern that Eliza would eventually tell William illustrates that William is someone Eliza ultimately trusts and holds in high esteem.

The next scene cuts to Margaret posing as a maid for the gentlemen’s club. She plants the bomb at the club, but is thwarted by William and his officers. At the station, Margaret admits she killed Dr. Gill after he got cold feet and that he never attacked her. She also chastises Eliza, stating Eliza only acts for herself and that she will never be considered equals with William. William comforts Eliza by saying Margaret doesn’t really know her and that Margaret has a distorted view of reality. 

We are also finally introduced to Nick Dunning’s portrayal of Superintendent Stirling as William informs him about the case a bit later. Stirling is impressed with William, especially since he felt William’s work ethic had previously been on the decline. Stirling also hints that eyeing William as the new Chief Inspector for the Irish Division. Stirling also asks if there is anyone in particular who should be commended for their efforts, but the shot cuts before we see William’s answer. Meanwhile, at home, it seems Margaret’s words still linger with Eliza, as she decides to help Ivy learn how to read and write. 

We immensely enjoyed this week’s episode as the series saw the focus shift to social issues and women’s rights from different parts of the spectrum. We also got to see the working relationship between Eliza and William develop further. Join us next week to see how the series continues to address social injustices and expand the working relationship between Scotland Yard and private investigator Eliza Scarlet. See you next Sunday!

If you’ve seen the episode, we’d love to hear your thoughts and favorite moments in the comments below!

Alice Sarkisyan View All

Born and raised in Los Angeles. Fluent in sarcasm and film references.

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