Miss Scarlet and The Duke 3×02 “Arabella’s” Spoilers Ahead
Gather around, Miss Scarlet and The Duke fans, because we’ve got a new episode, and there is much to discuss. Don’t even bother getting comfortable because I am sure Eliza and William’s fans have some thoughts. (So do we.) This week’s episode, Miss Scarlet and The Duke Season 3, Episode 2, “Arabella’s,” gives us a glimpse back to Eliza Scarlet’s past as she encounters an old acquaintance during a case. It’s personal for the private detective in this episode, and we see Eliza inspecting her feelings as much as she does for clues. This will be different from our typical reviews for the series since we get a chance to dive a little more into Eliza Scarlet.
After last week’s “The Vanishing,” Eliza and William go undercover as a married couple dining at a restaurant called Arabella’s. The two are on the lookout after William explains that multiple diners reported a string of thefts with the restaurant as the common link. Undercover as a married couple—now that’s a trope that usually gets romance fans tickled. Unfortunately, their ruse as a married couple only gives us William calling Eliza “my wife” and “If we were genuinely married…” Not long after, Eliza spots her former classmate, the widowed Arabella Acaster (Sophie Robertson). Arabella owns the restaurant and seems like a charm, but Eliza is not so convinced, describing her former classmate to William as “the most dreadful bully.”
However, it seems like Arabella can do no wrong—she is all propriety and politeness to Eliza, ensuring she gets home safely after Eliza is robbed of her mother’s broach just outside the restaurant; complementing Ivy on her baking; feeding the needy, and seemingly genuine in her efforts to reconnect with Eliza.
To add insult to injury, those closest to Eliza seem unphased by the hurt she expresses from her childhood with Arabella. Throughout the series, we’ve seen Eliza grapple with dangerous situations, break social barriers, and establish her career with the relatively few resources at her hand. She has accomplished in her field, but even so, she continues to face various forms of resistance and approval from those around her, especially Ivy and William. Eliza is not like the standard women of her era, and she knows it. For the most part, she doesn’t seem to mind it—until Arabella shows up.
Arabella is beautiful and graceful, yes, but she also appears to be an independent, successful businesswoman. Everyone seems to be praising and admiring Arabella for pursuing running the restaurant on her own after her husband’s death. And on top of that, her achievements are based on skills that Eliza lacks—chiefly in homemaking, such as cooking and baking. Now, here is Eliza, eschewing those expectations and on the pathway to making a name for herself in what is considered a male field. Doing so makes Eliza stand out. She may not have a husband or fit in with the other women, but she has her career. Meanwhile, here is her childhood rival, who also doesn’t have a husband and is focused on her career, but she seems to be doing it better and is recognized for it.
It’s no surprise that Eliza’s insecurity debuts. She is typically in control and unshakeable when investigating a case. Not only does William tell her not to be involved because her presence is a conflict of interest, but Eliza also seems to have a hard time not seeking out reasons that could indicate Arabella’s guilt. And, of course, there’s the sense of threat because of William.
Once again, in Season 3, there is another hint that Eliza’s sole focus on her career is creating a wedge between a possible romantic relationship between Eliza and William. William wants a family; for him, a family contains the traditional structure—the man works and provides a living while the wife stays at home, raising the children and running the household. And so far, I think it’s pretty clear that that’s not where Eliza’s sights are set. Will they eventually come to a compromising place? Undoubtedly, but it’s certainly not happening in Miss Scarlet and The Duke 3×02 “Arabella’s.”
Despite this, Eliza still tries to bake a cake and present it to William. It must bring an enormous sense of pride for Eliza. Baking is not in her wheelhouse, but she put in her best effort, and the person she wanted to share it with immediately was William. To William, the cake seems to represent hope in a future family with Eliza, but she quickly dismisses the notion. And, of course, right at that second, Arabella waltzes in with platters of desserts to feed the men at the police station as a thank you. On paper, Arabella seems to be everything William wants in a wife, and it appears that the pair have caught a mutual interest in each other. We then see Eliza slowly backing away with her cake as William dives into Arabella’s desserts. (Don’t worry, Eliza, she’ll never replace you, no matter how delicious her food is.)
It’s an interesting shift for Eliza, for sure. We not only see her confidence waver just in terms of who she is but now in her relationship with the most important person in her life. With all they’ve gone through, through the ups and downs, William’s attention has always been on her, whether for her physical safety or emotional well-being. And for now, that connection is beginning to falter ever so slightly.
Whatever happens, it was nice to have an introspective episode like Miss Scarlet and The Duke 3×02, revolving around Eliza, as we haven’t had the opportunity to explore it since Season 1. (Shout to the callback from between Eliza and Ivy—it was a sweet moment.)
Now streaming on PBS: What are your thoughts on Miss Scarlet and The Duke 3×02 “Arabella’s?” Let us know in the comments below.