The tension between William and Eliza in the first episode of Miss Scarlet and The Duke Season 2 is a thing of beauty. From their interaction in the jail cell to the quiet moment in his office, and finally, the longing behind the doors. And though the road to something more, something permanent, is going to be a long journey, the angst at this moment makes it worth every minute.
As two completely different people, their relationship will always be a see-saw back and forth. They will bicker, break bread, and eventually cross barriers toward physical intimacy. The pieces are all there in the first episode as we watch their hands briefly linger in a moment sizzling with scorching chemistry. It’s a scene that tells us that though Eliza denies their relationship goes beyond friendship, their magnetized bodies have other things in mind. The pull is too strong. She has to reach back when he does, one touch, nothing further, but the longing is too achingly palpable. It’s in their expressions, and it’s in their physicality.
Though the intimacy is new to the audience, it’s familiar to them. You know their hands have brushed more than a few times. There have been quiet moments like this before during their dinners, brief maybe, but deeply intimate nevertheless.
However, we’re still one episode into Season 2, and there are a ways to go. There are risks at play with Eliza wanting more work and what that means for William’s position. There’s a meatier partnership they need to establish before they become a couple. And where that leads them is profoundly heartbreaking longing behind closed doors.
We aren’t new to the romance genre; we’ve seen many couples pacing while inches away from the one person they want to be next to. But we haven’t seen anything quite as palpable as William and Eliza’s back and forth.
Kate Phillips and Stuart Martin are speaking a thousand words in silence, desires coursing through their veins as they clock in the newly unveiled distance between them. The two of them want to be together despite the feelings they can’t put into words. They want to be near each other even when Eliza drives William off the rails. And as they pace on opposite ends, realizing that the decision to cancel dinners isn’t something either of them wants, you can catch the words swimming rapidly through their heads.
There’s plenty to be said about how this scene frames William and Eliza as partners. They’re emotionally on the same wavelength, even with a physical distance between them. They think this decision is best for them when in actuality, the tethers that bind them are more vigorous.
William’s longing is even more haunting as he crosses the distance right back to the door, standing there for a brief moment, questioning every bit of what he’s going through before making the difficult decision to leave out the front door. He’s the one who should risk it all, and for a beat, he’s about to. He’s about to open one door and throw everything else out the other, only he doesn’t, and not because she isn’t worth it, but because it’s a risk worth taking that’s utterly terrifying in every way.
And fear, at times, can be a force that’s much too powerful—demanding. William and Eliza are both afraid of where the feelings can take him, how they’ll grow, and where their friendship will remain if something goes wrong. Yet, at this moment, his expression tells us that none of it matters because being around Eliza brings him more contentment than anything else.
Take The National’s “Somebody Desperate” and put it over this scene, then watch as it destroys every sensible part of you. The song was written for William Wellington at this very moment, pacing behind the door, wanting nothing more than to be back in Eliza’s presence. He’s besotted, frazzled, and desperate beyond comprehension, but he himself cannot fathom it all; as the lyrics note, he can’t breathe or speak—he doesn’t know what he’s feeling.
Someone in love.
And despite everything, it’s the detail that he doesn’t want to lose her in any way. Sure, they’ll work together—they’ll continue to operate in each other’s orbits, but William and Eliza outside Scotland Yard offices are something else. They’re better and unrestrained—they give into the emotions bursting through them, reaching for the other’s hand whenever they’d like. That’s something he undoubtedly doesn’t want to lose—something he wants to hold on tightly to. And as we watch him pace back and forth, we see that desperation come to life right before us. We watch it burst and envelop him. And then we watch him conceal it, walk away internally battered and a little more broken than before.
William and Eliza’s tension in Miss Scarlet and The Duke 2×01 “Pandora’s Box” makes for an achingly vulnerable scene where the two are cracked wide open and forced to propel it all aside. If there was ever doubt that they harbored intense, sincere feelings for one another, this moment debunks it brilliantly.
What are your thoughts on William and Eliza’s scene in the season premiere?