'Miss Scarlet & the Duke's Season 3 Finale Is a 'Jewel' of an Hour
After a third season that was fairly uneven over the course of its run, Miss Scarlet & the Duke sticks the landing in its Season 3 finale, offering up an episode that's fun to watch, genuinely suspenseful, and full of the sort of great character moments that have been largely absent in recent installments. Plus, it certainly doesn't hurt that this episode finally puts its focus squarely back on Eliza and William's relationship, offering us multiple moments where it's clear how much they mean to one another (even if neither of them can seem to manage to come anywhere close to verbalizing those feelings out loud).
Most importantly, "The Jewel of the North's" central mystery actually manages to bring all of our major characters together in its primary plot. (Well, almost. Sorry, Ivy!!) The result gives Eliza, William, Nash, and Moses a believable reason to work together, playing to each of their strengths as characters and even allowing us to get to know each of them a little better. (It's even the first episode where Nash comes across as genuinely likable.)
Having a common enemy makes the episode's disparate plots feel like part of a larger cohesive whole. In this case, there are actually two: the Mail Bomber sending packages to their various places of employment and the awful nepotism hire from the Season 3 premiere, Arthur St. John Hudson, who now runs the Irish division investigating the crimes. They help tie together everything from the gang's investigation into a railway theft to Moses' mysterious past in Jamaica. Even William's relationship with Arabella comes into play, damaged by his constant inability to chose her over his work (or to stop talking about Eliza).
The absence of Stuart Martin for a full third of its episodes really did this season no favors. There was a reasonable behind-the-scenes explanation for this; however, it means William has the least clear arc in Season 3. His relationship with Arabella happened off screen, and so it seemed to come out of nowhere, based on little more than superficial attraction and her appearing to be agreeably domestic in a way Eliza is not.*
*There is a version of this story where William realizes he's drawn to her independent and entrepreneurial spirit in the same way he is to Eliza's and perhaps he finally comes to realize that his ideas about what traditional relationships and marriage should look like are outdated and I'm sad that isn't what we got.
But "The Jewel in the North" does its best to make up for Season 3's lack of the Duke, pitting William professionally against the man promoted above him because their boss served with Hudson's father. That puts him directly back in Eliza's orbit in a way we haven't seen since the season's second episode. The two admit they've missed seeing one another, even if Eliza is woefully reluctant to admit Arabella is a big part of the reason why, while William is gloriously clueless his current girlfriend might not like the idea of him going out for cozy intimate dinners with another woman.
But when the two pose as a newly engaged couple to investigate a jewelry store where one of their robbery suspects might work, the series hits a home run. It's honestly a revelation, full of sly barbs and genuine emotion which hasn't been evident in such a long time. Everything about this sequence feels genuinely romantic, and if (when) these two crazy kids DO get engaged, if it doesn't play out exactly like this, I'm going to send someone a stern letter.
Miss Scarlet and the Duke
If that wasn't enough William and Eliza content for you, this episode also features them having a legitimate near-death experience. Season 2's finale featured a subplot involving Eliza in potential mortal peril, but "The Jewel of the North" ups the ante by putting both in deadly danger, sticking them in a room with a live explosive device and requiring them to defuse it together. Or, more accurately, it features a scene where William tries to get Eliza to leave him to die, and she refuses to go, followed by her coming this close to killing both of them by cutting all the wires in the bomb at once.
The entire experience is at least clarifying about the state of their feelings for one another in a way that little else this season has managed. (Though I cannot believe we didn't get them to at least *hug* after that.) However, despite almost dying alongside her, William remains dumb enough to believe he can date one woman while openly obsessing over another. Arabella, who is honestly awesome in a way that I hope this show continues to feature, openly calls him out on it, dumping him because he's clearly in love with someone who is not her. (She even actually uses the l-word about his feelings for Eliza, which has got to be a first for this show.)
In true Miss Scarlet fashion, William and Arabella's inevitable breakup didn't follow any of the cliches viewers might have expected. We stan a woman who puts herself first. And even if some of her comments about Eliza's boundless ambition feel cruel, well... they also aren't entirely wrong either. Is this a sign Season 4 may actually delve into some of these issues? We can only hope.
Figuring out the next step in William and Eliza's relationship is not the only narrative shift Season 4 of Miss Scarlet will have to navigate. Nash is off to France to open a new branch of his agency and makes another pitch to get Eliza to work for him. However, this time, he proposes putting her in charge of his entire London office, giving her the increased staff and funds she's been longing for all season. He'll put her name on the door, and she won't answer to anyone but herself when choosing cases. Nash finally realized her refusals have been about playing second fiddle to anyone or serving as a cute female token for his business.
It's a neat solution to Eliza's problems, and Nash makes a convincing argument a woman running an agency of that size would be an essential step forward for female equality. But what does Eliza abandoning her own business mean for her as a character, particularly since it's so connected to her late father? (After all, his name is technically still on the door!) Here's hoping that Miss Scarlet does a bit of poking at what it means for our heroine to reshape what her dream looks like and that there's nothing wrong with that if it allows her to keep doing the work she loves.
And speaking of love, of course, there is still the Eliza and William of it all. Will someone tell him to his face that he's in love with Eliza and force William to actually... process that revelation next season? Will Eliza realize she dodged a bullet after his Arabella break up?
A girl can dream, right? See you all in Season 4.