Miss Scarlet and The Duke 1×05 “Cell 99” Review

Miss Scarlet and The Duke 1×05 “Cell 99” Spoilers Ahead

Episode still from Miss Scarlet and The Duke 1x05
Source: PBS

Salutations, readers! It’s Sunday, which means we’re reviewing a new episode of Miss Scarlet and The Duke 1×05! And my, oh my, let me just say straight off the bat that this is my favorite episode. I’d like to think that during these episodic reviews I’ve shown reasonable restraint; typically I write what happens and add a splash of commentary here and there. I’m going to toss aside that restraint just for a minute to say this episode belongs to Kate Phillips and Stuart Martin, without a shadow of a doubt. The episode strays from the series’ usual structure, and a large portion of the episode revolves around Eliza and William stuck together and minimal interaction with other characters. Their chemistry was utterly captivating and fueled their top-notch performances in this unforgettable episode. And for you Eliza and William shippers, this episode will definitely bring you happiness. (It truly is everything. Relish with the amount of time the two are together because we’ve definitely been spoiled, thanks to Rachael New and co.) Now let’s plunge in and explore the magic!

Miss Scarlet and The Duke 1×05 begins with William providing a detailed report to Superintendent Stirling about recent crimes. While William has spent days compiling the report, Stirling couldn’t care less and just wants a brief summary. He informs William he’s having drinks with all the division heads at the Brownlee club. Since Stirling is a selfish turd that only cares about his own interests, he orders William to also join them for drinks, along with his report. The Duke clearly doesn’t want to go, but the self-serving superior dangles another unlikely promotion over William’s head. William reluctantly agrees and heads out the door, but not before Stirling reminds him the event is “formal wear.” 

“I do so love a gentleman in formal wear.” Oh, how I never expected I’d agree with Frank about anything. But when it comes to that ride, I’m fully on board and am never hopping off. Allow me to explain: it’s all due to a spectacularly shot sequence of William stripping and dressing into formal wear. The entire sequence goes back and forth in cuts–we see William undress and dress in the view of his office mirror or through the mirror’s perspective. (If you tell me you were able to watch this only once, I’m branding you as a liar. Sorry, those are the rules.) A few thoughts here: 1) a shirtless Wellington–gratuitous, of course, but clearly Stuart Martin’s been putting the work at the gym, and I commend him for it. 2) I know we’re in a different time period, but it’d be nice if we had an excuse to dress up more when we leave the house. Stuart Martin looks absolutely dashing in his formal attire (which is not a surprise, because the costumes in this series are fantastic!) And finally, a big kudos to director Declan O’Dywer. In just a little over 45 seconds, we experience a full range of all-too familiar and very relatable moments in William’s quest to get dressed–the slow exhale when you look at the time and realize you have to start getting ready, indulging in a minor activity to stall the process, finally dressing yourself, and then checking yourself out and realizing you look good and feeling confident. But before William can properly bask in his confidence, Frank enters his office with a distraught Ivy, who declares Eliza has gone missing. 

Ivy explains that she had spent the night taking care of her mother. When she arrived home, Eliza hadn’t slept in her bed and hadn’t been around her office. Ivy informs William she last saw Eliza yesterday as she was heading out to a meeting with Rupert Parker. William promptly visits Rupert, who is entertaining Herr and Tilly Hildegard. Rupert states Eliza was “agitated” and a “nervous ball of energy” when she arrived. She informed Rupert that she had made a discovery but could not elaborate further or stay for their meeting. Herr Hildegard helped her find a cab to her next destination as she was leaving. We then see William speaking with Mr. Potts. As expected, Mr. Potts launches on his usual tirade about Eliza before eventually informing William that Eliza was pestering him with questions about smallpox. Throughout his series of questioning, William frequently takes out his pocket watch and checks the time, an internal struggle to maintain calm plainly etched on his face.

William heads out to Eliza’s office for more clues. He steps on the broken glass from the photo frame and carries the photograph to Eliza’s desk and sits down, where we see William imagine a conversation with Henry. William makes a promise to Henry that he will find Eliza and begins searching the desk. He finds the notebook that was hidden in the wall and discovers a note ripped out from one of the pages, “Woolwich Prison, Cell 99.” 

Although brief, the conversation between William and Henry was a warmhearted moment that allowed viewers a glimpse of their relationship. Before this interaction, we’d only heard of how close William and Henry were. While the conversation is imaginary, you can see that William has great respect for Henry and what he has to say. Their relationship is more father and son–Henry was someone William could confide in, and Henry’s counsel helped steer William in the direction he was looking for. When William looks down at the photograph, he realizes that he can’t lose Eliza like he’s lost Henry. His conversation with Henry allowed William to resolutely decide that he is going to search for Eliza, despite his obligations.

William heads for the prison, which is evidently abandoned. With a glance at his pocket watch, William ventures inside and immediately begins looking around and calling out to Eliza. He eventually finds Eliza stuck in cell 98. This is also the moment when the episode begins to shine. From this moment forward, we are gifted with the best these two can offer as multiple layers of their relationship unravel. Remain seated, folks, and enjoy the ride because you’ll be going in so many directions that you’ll be squealing at every turn. 

Duke is seemingly relieved, amused, and slightly annoyed that Eliza is just stuck in the cell. Eliza explains she was trying to locate cell 99 and went inside cell 98 to search for more clues when the door slammed shut. We are blessed with the typical Eliza-William exchange of information paired with a sprinkle of passive-aggressive jabs toward one another. My favorite is William’s response to Eliza asking how he found her–“You leave a trail of chaos wherever you go, Eliza” (honestly, he’s not wrong). As William tries to pick the lock, Eliza shares that she thinks her father was working on a case related to the prison as it’s mentioned several times in Henry’s casebook. William is unsure given how Henry had been drinking and “erratic” towards the final months of his life.

After William has no success with the lock, Eliza tries her luck while William remarks on the “filth and grime” of the prison. After Eliza questions the reason for his attire, William reveals that he has to be at Brownlee in three minutes and confides to Eliza that he doesn’t fit in with Stirling’s crowd. She offers him words of encouragement, reminding him that he succeeded based on merit. It’s one of those rare moments when one of them offers a compliment, which William acknowledges, stating “Stop being so nice. It’s confusing.” The moment is short-lived (surprise, surprise), however, when Eliza learns William hasn’t told Stirling anything about them working together, this leads to an argument about nature taking “its course,” meaning William expects Eliza would be married and he (and not Eliza’s husband) would be working for the rest of his life. Basically, William subconsciously sees himself as Eliza’s husband; there is certainly no way he’s going to idly sit by to have some other guy married to her, and that’s that. 

To no one’s shock, this discussion leads to an argument, causing both of them to scream out from frustration and William to storm off. (There are other ways to let out that frustration, I’m just saying.) While he cools down, William discovers a room full of keys hanging on a wall. As he examines them, “a man with a knife” enters and a scuffle begins between the two while Eliza, unable to hear what’s going on, calls out for William. William subdues the man temporarily before returning to Eliza, who has managed to get the cell door open. Although William wants to leave immediately, Eliza notices his bloody arm and begins tending to it immediately. Eliza quickly reverts to a more gentle mode as she examines his wound and insists on helping him. She is concerned about William but also is fully aware that she needs him at her side. As she begins on a makeshift bandage, William checks his pocket watch, which has been damaged from the fight. Eliza asks if it was expensive, but William doesn’t know, revealing it was a gift. Eliza begins to cheekily guess it’s from various types of women, but in a touching moment, he divulges it was a gift from her father after William had been made a detective. 

After William is patched up, the two head out, but William drops his gun as he pulls it out to the floor below. As they head down the staircase, Eliza notices the gate they had entered from has been locked. The pair reach the bottom floor, but are met with gunshots fired by the stranger. They manage to escape to a room while the man seemingly passes out. They agree to listen to each other’s plans but disagree on the execution–Eliza wants to approach the man from opposite directions and have one person distract while the other disarms. William just wants to punch him in the face. Turns out, a combination of both of their plans produces the desired result. William approaches him while Eliza distracts him by throwing the pocket watch at him, allowing William to punch him in the face. Yay, teamwork! If only these two could realize their potential as a power couple…

Eliza recognizes the man the Dr. Edwards who brought Henry home when he died. William searches his pockets and finds the keys to cell 99. Trapped on the bottom floor and the nearest gate door locked, Eliza tries to find the right key for them to escape. She and William also discuss the notion that her father must’ve been investigating a substantial case, and he was likely murdered. William promises that he will make them pay for Henry’s murder. Dr. Edwards comes and warns them that he sent word of their arrival and “Garm” (Roland Czaczyk), a tall human/creature thing that apparently is super aggressive, has arrived to kill them both. As Garm approaches, William courageously gets into a fighting stance but Eliza manages to find the right key and unlock the door and the couple makes their escape.

Here we have a delightful moment of William declaring that he would have “stood [his] ground” and fought Garm if Eliza hadn’t been there and if his hand hadn’t been broken. Eliza remarks that she doesn’t think any less of William and that he’s “one of the bravest” men she knows. But it’s his jealous response “ONE OF?!” that sends me cackling. Remember my marriage comment? It’s only solidified with this reaction; it’s like he’s shocked that she knows other men, and on top of that, she also considers them brave men, a title he thought exclusively belongs to him. Bless his heart and his wounded pride. 

As they look for an exit, Eliza and William discuss the prison’s closure due to a smallpox outbreak. As they search, they stumble into a room with fumigation gas masks. William discerns that the abandoned building is a smart location for a hideout, which only makes Eliza more determined to join William when he brings reinforcements to find Cell 99 and figure out what’s going on. In hopes of distracting her and for safety, he asks Eliza if it’s safe for them to be at the prison. Eliza replies that it’s safe, unless you’re a rat, and comments animal cruelty, which results in William letting it slip tells Henry had to shoot the family dog when it didn’t die instantly. Naturally, this led to our favorite Eliza-and-William recurring argument: the chaste kiss when he was trying to comfort her when they were younger. Listen kids, if you are constantly bringing it up while all the while saying it meant nothing, it absolutely meant something. 

They find the exit  and continue arguing. As they head towards the exit, a man’s voice cries out for help. Following the voice, they find a door marked ‘Cell 99’. They unlock the door and find the place filled with counterfeit bills of exchange. The man, who introduces himself as Nathaniel Caine (Rory Mullen), says he’s been locked up for three months and forced to make the forgeries. Nathaniel is then cut off as they hear gunshots in the distance. The three flee to the exit, but Nathaniel, fearing prison time, attempts to make a run for it. William chases after him, but Nathaniel is quickly shot by someone dressed in a gas mask and trench coat. The shooter then aims the gun at William, who warns the shooter he’s a detective with Scotland Yard. Eliza runs out with William’s empty gun and convinces the person shooter to lower his gun and leave. William reluctantly leaves to get help while Eliza stays with Nathaniel and applies pressure on his wound. Nathaniel begins slipping consciousness, but manages to tell Eliza that Henry had a kind face just like her before passing out.

We then see Eliza and police reinforcements go through the evidence in the cell. William joins her and informs Eliza that there is no sign of the gunman and that his men are searching the other wings in the prison. William also offers an update on Nathaniel, whois on his way to the hospital and that the bullet missed any major arteries. William then reminds Eliza the severity of the crime and its operation–given that forgeries are estimated to be in the tens of thousands pounds, and Henry’s murderers made sure to make his death look natural and to bring him home, William is seriously concerned for Eliza’s safety. Even though he reassures her that he will keep her updated and seek her counsel, William wants Eliza under police protection at all times. Eliza doesn’t look happy about it, and we’ve seen her passionately argue for much less, but she doesn’t try hard here. Perhaps she finally understands all of William’s previous concerns for her safety and the dangers of a private investigator and that William will not budge a millimeter when it comes to her welfare.

As their exchange ends, Frank arrives with news and leads them to the bodies of Dr. Edwards and Garm, who were shot and killed, which William suspects as punishment for not killing Eliza and himself. Back at Stirling’s office, William apologizes for his absence at Brownlee and reports the ongoings of the case. William reveals the forgeries found at the site are estimated to be worth around 68,000 pounds. William also mentions Henry’s death is connected to the case, and Stirling scoffs off as a drunk, and William corrects Stirling by reminding him that Henry was a former detective inspector. William also states that he’s ordered protection for Eliza, but Stirling comments has been running around London making a fool of herself before questioning if she really needs protection.

Not only is William emphatic that she requires protection, he also tells Stirling that Eliza was the reason they discovered the operation in the first place. William further adds that she has helped him on several occasions for many cases. The old William would’ve swallowed his tongue and kept his mouth shut in the hopes of a promotion. The new William knows that Stirling is never going to give him a promotion, so William no longer gives a sh-t about the societal narrative and sticks up for what is right, especially when it involves a member of the Scarlet family. We’re loving the character development.

Meanwhile, Eliza is in her kitchen, going through the case and talking to Henry. She promises she’ll find those responsible for her father’s death, and they’ll hang. Henry fears for Eliza’s safety and encourages her to let William and his men do their jobs, stating that she has nothing to prove. Back at William’s office, Frank updates William on Caine, who will live. William says they’ll talk to Caine in the morning, and Frank provides one more final update: Caine was delirious on the way to the hospital, but doctors said  he kept saying “he is coming for me,” referring to a “Jamaican who goes by the name of Moses.”

Seconds later, we see Moses paying a visit to Eliza after slipping past her protection detail. Eliza hands Moses a folder and says she wants to know everything he learns about Nathaniel Caine. In the final shot, we see Caine at the hospital, who is smothered to death by a pillow by an unknown person. 

“Cell 99” succeeds in providing a diverting episode thanks to the focus between Eliza and William and its brevity. With these two, you never know what you’re going to get–they go up and down more times than a roller coaster. However, as the mystery progresses, you do see a shift in their dynamic. In terms of professional cases, they nearly always seem to be at odds, but those differences seem to diminish as the case becomes more personal. As they unravel more about Cell 99 and Henry’s involvement, the two demonstrate that they can seamlessly work together and be more productive when they’re not at each other’s throats. They are also more alike than they think. Whether they consider themselves as such or not, these two are partners. They’re certainly partners when it comes to their careers, but we’ll have to keep on watching to see if that partnership extends to a personal level. 

Did you love Miss Scarlet and The Duke 1×05 as much as I did? Let us know in the comments below.


  1. Oh my gosh! You brilliantly captured captured this episode. I can’t wait to see what you write for next week’s episode with all it’s wonderful surprises 🙂

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