The 'Miss Scarlet and the Duke' Season 2 Finale Puts Eliza's Life On the Line

Kate Phillips and Stuart Martin in "Miss Scarlet & the Duke' Season 2

Kate Phillips and Stuart Martin in "Miss Scarlet & the Duke' Season 2

(Photo: Courtesy of Courtesy of Element 8 Entertainment and MASTERPIECE)

Before anyone gets too excited about the fact that the name of the Miss Scarlet and the Duke Season 2 finale is "The Proposal," I regret to inform you all that while there are multiple proposals of various kinds throughout the episode of both a business and a personal variety, none of them is the one we all (read: me) want. Granted, I don't know whether anybody really would have been okay with a big heartfelt romantic declaration from either side of our central couple to close out this hour, if only because this season has had surprisingly little interest in Eliza and Wiliam's relationship, as such.

(This has been the case since the "we're better off as friends" conversation from the premiere, the aftershocks that indirectly lingered over the bulk of the season even when the show hasn't wanted to look too closely at what it means.) 

Even though this finale deals not only with the prospect of The Duke leaving London for good and a murder plot targeting Eliza's life directly, not a whole lot changes between the pair by the end of the hour; there's a moment when we almost get something that might be an emotional confession of some sort. (Eliza was crying, y'all!) But the show neatly dodges the question of whatever she was going to say when she honestly thought William was leaving. Even our good old-fashioned lingering hand touch gets interrupted by Ivy.

Is it disappointing? I mean...sort of? The finale is jam-packed with both characters and subplots, and I'm not sure that even if they had tried to deal with the ~relationship stuff~ in its closing moments, it would have been truly satisfying. And it is frustrating that it generally feels like this season couldn't figure out what to do with Eliza and William.

Kate Phillips and Jessie Cave in "Miss Scarlet & the Duke' Season 2

Kate Phillips and Jessie Cave in "Miss Scarlet & the Duke' Season 2

(Photo: Courtesy of Element 8 Entertainment and MASTERPIECE)

The overarching mystery of this episode involves Eliza finally agreeing to take a case from her sort of rival, Patrick Nash, as a dry run to see whether she wants to work with him more permanently. According to him, she could not only easily make more money doing so, but it would help cover for the fact that she's losing William. He provides a direct line to not only the resources of Scotland Yard but the rare case as well. 

But when someone tries to kill Nash — shooting him three times in a public street — Eliza will be charged with sussing out who wants him dead, even though I'm not sure any of us would have cared that much if our mysterious would-be murderer had succeeded. (Just saying!) Of course, it's almost immediately revealed that the gunman was trying to kill Eliza and just happened to be the literal worst shot on Earth since he hit an entirely different person who was not her three times.

The "twist" that Eliza's would-be killer is Joseph Simms, the villain at the heart of her very first case, is an excellent call back to the series premiere (For those who don't remember, he's the guy who married a woman for her substantial dowry and then had her committed to an asylum to claim her inheritance after she tried to run away from him. Lovely chap!) But what's unfortunate about this plot is that while it urges several other people (William, Moses, Ivy) to consider what a genuine threat to Eliza's life might mean, she...doesn't behave any differently?

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Miss Scarlet and the Duke

Kate Phillips (Peaky Blinders) stars in a six-part mystery.
Miss Scarlet & The Duke: show-poster2x3

Perhaps I was looking for any reason for her to reflect more directly on the things missing from her life and the things she's accomplished. There are hints throughout this episode that that's what the show's trying to do. There's Mrs. Parker's long speech about filling your life with things that will only leave you feeling lonely when your life is less full and/or active, as well as Hattie's sudden engagement to a kind enough boy who doesn't speak any English but seems content enough to listen to her.

It feels like "The Proposal" is building to the sort of revelation you see in romantic comedies; two people haphazardly chasing one another through an airport or a train station because they've realized they can't live without each other right after agreeing that parting is for the best. We sort of get that: Eliza races to Scotland Yard to find William's office; he arrives at Hattie's engagement party to find her gone before they finally find one another outside her office. Yet there's no real catharsis that follows.

There are no overt romantic confessions (even if we all have our guesses about what Eliza would tell William). The episode ends with everybody trundling inside to drunkenly play charades. Honestly, it's adorable, but it doesn't feel like it puts any bow on what this season was trying to say, either. It just basically resets the board to the status quo for Season 3.

Stuart Martin and Evan McCabe in "Miss Scarlet & the Duke' Season 2

Stuart Martin and Evan McCabe in "Miss Scarlet & the Duke' Season 2

(Photo: Courtesy of Courtesy of Element 8 Entertainment and MASTERPIECE)

I was already relieved that we'd be getting Season 3 of Miss Scarlet so close to the conclusion of this second outing (it premieres on Masterpiece beginning January 8, 2023, though you'll be able to watch it even earlier than that if you're a PBS Passport member). But now having finished Season 2, that feeling rings doubly true. This batch of episodes feels incomplete, like it's the first half of something larger. I'm hoping against hope that Season 3 will turn out to be the balance this set was missing. (Whether that was intentional or not.) 

Don't get me wrong, Season 2 was fine, and I'll never turn down the opportunity to watch Kate Phillips work her magic in this role. But after a first season that felt positively revolutionary in many ways, this outing plays it a little too safe. It kept Eliza and William siloed in separate stories for long periods of time and introduced secondary characters like Nash and Fitzroy while not focusing enough on the new faces like Hattie who would have at least kept the series' feminist voice in the forefront.

Here's hoping Season 3 gets back to what the show does best.

Lacy Baugher

Lacy's love of British TV is embarrassingly extensive, but primarily centers around evangelizing all things Doctor Who, and watching as many period dramas as possible.

Digital media type by day, she also has a fairly useless degree in British medieval literature, and dearly loves to talk about dream poetry, liminality, and the medieval religious vision. (Sadly, that opportunity presents itself very infrequently.) York apologist, Ninth Doctor enthusiast, and unabashed Ravenclaw. Say hi on Threads or Blue Sky at @LacyMB. 

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