In a season where William finally told Eliza he loved her, you might expect the Miss Scarlet & The Duke finale to address that major shift, or at least mention it in passing, or explore Eliza's behavior from the season's penultimate installment, where she was a total pill to everyone who dared to mention William had left for unexplained reasons. What one wouldn't expect — or have wanted — is a final hour where the plot revolves around a secondary supporting character suddenly accused of murder and which only mentions William in connection with the state of Fitzroy's job.
Unfortunately, that is what we get with "The Fugitive," where Nash becomes the prime suspect in a murder case after the kidnapping and torture of a guy he blames for his brother's death. The finale also spends a great deal of time on the professional rivalry between Detectives Phelps and Detective Fitzroy because the show has decided it's more important to pay more attention to young Fitzroy's career aspirations than its titular heroine's heart. I love Fitzroy, but I now know more about why he doesn't particularly want to be a lead detective than I do Eliza's reaction to William saying the L-word. I deeply resent that.
The worst part is that this hour would have been a decent mid-season episode. However, it does not work as a finale to everything we've watched this season. (Largely because it refuses to acknowledge most of the season's most significant moments.) I'm glad Eliza's writing to William, but didn't we — and this story — deserve more than this?
The decision to leave Stuart Martin out of the season's last two episodes could have worked in the show's favor had it taken advantage of his absence to tell us anything new about Eliza and her state of mind. Granted, it felt like maybe last week's installment was heading in that direction, with Eliza's general awfulness toward anyone in her orbit who said William's name. But after a single conversation with Ivy (which, by the way, resolved nothing), she's fine again, and we aren't any closer to knowing where her head's at than we were before.
For all that her name's in the show's title, Miss Scarlet & The Duke sometimes doesn't give its heroine the interiority she deserves. At this point in the season, we should have a better handle on how she feels, if not about William in a broader romantic sense, at least about his recent actions. Why was she so upset about William leaving that she wouldn't answer any of his letters initially? How does she feel about his leap to confess his feelings out loud? Does she love him back? Or, more accurately, does she love him enough to take all the risks that having those feelings mean?
If anything, most of us (read: me) were probably hoping that William's absence would mean that both Eliza as a character and the story more broadly would have the space to explore those issues. Instead, there's just the occasional comment, such as the one noting he's found a place to live in New York. (I guess it's great that he's not homeless? What are we even doing here?)
Season 4 ends with Eliza returning to work for herself. Frustratingly, the show doesn't have her reflect on the experience of answering someone else professionally or maybe let her discover leading a team of detectives who disagree with her is more trouble than it is worth. Instead, her boss is just charged with kidnapping and obstruction of justice and is thrown in jail. See you in a season or two, Nash.
For a show that loves to hype Eliza's agency, Miss Scarlet sure does love avoiding her having to make a real choice about almost anything. William is the driving force behind the changes in their relationship this season; Eliza barely even reacts to them. Despite the difficulties in working for Nash, she never takes action to change her circumstances. She winds up with her name above the door of her father's old office, but it's failing upwards. She stumbled backward into the opportunity rather than fought for it.
Despite dropping hints last week that Nash and Eliza were incompatible as work colleagues, there wasn't what one might call "professional introspection" on Eliza's part over what she wants her career to look like; the re-establishment of her agency feels like an accident. So what was the point of this Nash and Sons experiment, other than providing us with a different set of characters for a few episodes? Right now, it doesn't seem like much.
With Miss Scarlet not yet renewed for a fifth season, one can only hope that the folks behind the scenes have a reason for the confidence they display with this finale. The Duke is still in America, and things are almost entirely unresolved between Eliza and William. The show has devoted surprisingly little time to the groundbreaking emotional shift between its two leads. Why would the show take the risk of an ending where its central relationship isn't even on the same continent if another season isn't assured?
Assuming that it's renewed, where Miss Scarlet & The Duke goes from this point forward is anyone's guess. It's unlikely many fans thought we'd get a love confession and a kiss this season. With so little attention paid to the immediate aftermath of significant events, it's hard to know what to expect. Will Season 5 pick up with William suddenly returning from America? Will we ever see Eliza do anything that even vaguely resembles sorting out her feelings? If she's incapable of giving William the answer he needs, will they stop speaking? Is he going to quit Scotland Yard for her? Does he still have a job to return to at this point? Could they end up working together?
Sadly, this finale gives us very little to go on regarding the show's future. After taking such a firm step into romance territory, after Season 4's final two episodes, it's hard to feel confident that anyone's even really thought about what the next iteration of this story will look like. It certainly doesn't feel like William's confession is the kind of story that can be taken back or undone, but I wish I weren't at least a little bit worried that the show might find a way to try.