Given that Eliza Scarlet has been arrested so many times on Miss Scarlet & the Duke that you could make a reasonably extensive montage comprised solely of her various trips to prison and judge's benches, perhaps the biggest surprise about the events of Season 2 episode "A Pauper's Grave" is the fact that she hasn't been directly accused of a significant crime before.
That changes this week, as Eliza is accused of burglary and theft after several files and maps of local cemeteries were stolen from the local mortuary office (and several graves were robbed immediately afterward). Of course, she's innocent — Eliza is many things, but she is not a thief — but she did break into Mr. Potts's office (with a key she stole) to read the files he regularly refuses to share with her about the cases she's working, and left her mother's ring behind.
It's enough for Scotland Yard, where the Duke's new boss (under pressure from London's Chief Coroner) is finally ready to throw Miss Scarlet in jail for a good long stay. But we wouldn't have much of a show if that happened, would we? Eliza slips out of the police station and disappears, leaving William holding the proverbial bag of proving her innocence.
(We're just not going to talk about his new lady friend Betsy — or, I guess, an ex-lady friend now? — okay?)
With Eliza forced to flee and remain in hiding for most of the episode, "A Pauper's Grave" is an hour powered almost entirely by the series' supporting characters. As a result, the show gets the chance to explore some fascinating pairings and character dynamics we haven't had a chance to see much of before.
Granted, most of us were hoping that the events of the Season 1 finale would mean that Moses would become a more active regular member of Eliza and William's crime-solving team. However, this is the first episode since then that he's played a significant role in gathering information for Eliza and working with William as her on-again-off-again partner. And it is, to be clear, a reminder that he should get to do this a lot more often.
Ansu Kabia's prickly chemistry with Stuart Martin is fantastic, and both play their begrudging tolerance of one another for Eliza's sake perfectly. Moses isn't wrong either in his argument for working together. There are places where an obvious cop like William cannot go, and the services he can provide are valuable, even if he occasionally spends his downtime on the other side of the law. After watching him coach Ivy about lying to the police, I need more of the two working together immediately.
Miss Scarlet and the Duke
Speaking of the Scarlet family housekeeper, Cathy Belton also gets a much-deserved chance to shine this week, as Ivy commits some mild identity theft in the hopes of gaining information from the local coroner that might help clear Eliza's name. Her commitment to her role as the head coroner's wife (and the truly terrible posh accent that comes with it) is admirable. Still, the best part of Belton's performance is that she never lets you forget that Ivy feels really bad about what she's doing and is uncomfortable with being asked to lie to others so blatantly.
Plus, I felt sorry for that terrible Mr. Potts for what is likely the first time ever, and now I kind of want him and Ivy to be a thing, romantically speaking. Well done, everyone.
For her part, Eliza spends half the episode with Moses's prostitute friend Clementine, who has four siblings who share her name and at least one who shares her profession. Another immediate candidate for permanent membership into Eliza Scarlet's misfit crime solvers club, Clementine plays a crucial role in finding the information that proves Eliza's innocence and shows she can more than hold her own as an investigator when it comes to prying information out of drunken police officers in bars. We stan.
Unfortunately, "A Pauper's Grave" telegraphs the biggest twists of its central mystery reasonably early on. Chief Coroner Thackeray is such an offputting jerk and so determined to pin the mortuary robberies on Eliza despite the flimsiness of his evidence against her that it's evident from the first he's got ulterior, if not outright shady, motives. As for "Bloody Mary," her rambling series of lies about her supposed life as a vicar's wife has a ridiculous level of unnecessary detail that tends to mark falsehoods. The reveal that she was the person who committed the robberies wasn't a huge shock.
The reveal of Thackeray's previous life as a smuggler named Alfie Frampton, who worked with Mary, does offer an uncomfortable reminder that equality in this era often isn't any more possible for female criminals than it is for female detectives. Alfie let Mary go to prison for the diamond theft he spearheaded; he then used the proceeds from selling them to fake his death and change his life. He went to medical school and eventually became a doctor, a coroner, and a respected, wealthy figure. She got 25 years in jail. Hardly seems fair, does it?