'Miss Scarlet and the Duke' Recap: Season 2 Episode 4

Daniel Hautzinger
Patrick Nash in Miss Scarlet and the Duke
Patrick Nash has come to see Eliza as a rival undercutting his business and so wants to hire her by any means necessary. Photo: Element 8 Entertainment and MASTERPIECE

Miss Scarlet and the Duke airs Sundays at 7:00 pm and is available to stream. Recap the previous and following episodes.
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Apparently, blackmail is the way to make it in Victorian England. Dr. Flint manufactures a cure-all “elixir,” and has received a letter advising that a bottle has been poisoned. When tested, the bottle did contain a toxin from a plant called the “angel of inferno.” The letter demands money, or another bottle will be poisoned. The deadline in the letter has already passed by the time Flint brings it to Eliza.

Flint is rude, patronizing, and insists that she sign a confidentiality agreement before taking on his case, but he also offers a fat roll of cash up front. She agrees.

It turns out Flint came to Eliza so late because he has been shopping his case to other detectives; she was the cheapest. Eliza learns this after following a man who has been watching her to Nash and Sons, the firm of detective Patrick Nash—who has no sons, as Eliza likes to point out. Nash has been compiling a file on Eliza. At first, he found her amusing, but has since come to see her as a rival—and he wants her to work for him.

Eliza knows Nash uses blackmail to solve cases, and he tries the same tactic on her when she refuses his job offer. He can’t have her undercutting his prices, so he’ll give Flint his services for free to put her out of business. They’ll just have to compete to see who can solve the case first.

Scotland Yard is also home to some shady practices. When the police commissioner pays a visit and discovers his son Fitzroy on administrative duty—Fitzroy’s request, granted by William—he demands that Fitzroy go back to detective work, and make inspector by the end of the year. Superintendent Munro orders William to transfer Fitzroy to another detective, even though he knows Fitzroy isn’t up for the work yet. He’s trying to protect both his and William’s careers.

The next time William sees Fitzroy, his face has been bruised by his father. When William hears Fitzroy’s new commander yelling at him before a raid on a dangerous gang, William pulls Fitzroy to help him with a case, saving him. When Munro finds out that William again disobeyed him, he warns William that he is a dangerous enemy.

Eliza continues to encounter blackmail-like bargaining as she investigates. At the Royal Botanical Society, which grows the tropical angel of inferno in a members-only section, she poses as a prospective member. The curator, Humphries, is willing to let Eliza skip the line to join the society if she’ll have dinner with him. But she just wants access to the membership list, and nearly gets it through some clever acting, until she is interrupted by the arrival of the “police”: Nash. Humphries gives Nash the list to survey, and Eliza has to leave.

Ivy used to swear by Flint’s elixir, and remembers that it used to be called “Flint and Doyle’s.” Eliza sets off to speak to Flint’s assistant, Doyle. When she arrives at his office, she finds Flint being examined by a Dr. Stanhope—Flint is in poor health. He and Stanhope leave, and Doyle explains that Flint met his father in India while looking for restorative herbs. His father moved to England, changed his name to Doyle, and became Flint’s partner, but Flint removed Doyle’s name from the product when he died.

Suspecting that Doyle harbors some resentment towards Flint, Eliza follows him—to an event at the Royal Botanical Society. But a woman runs into her, plants a purse in her pocket, and then gets her arrested for stealing—all as Nash looks on, smiling.

Eliza was supposed to bring details of the case to William by the end of the day—he insisted as a matter of public security after she complained about the case. When she doesn’t, he visits her home and invites himself in to wait, obliviously crashing Ivy’s dinner with her new friend, the mortuary clerk Potts. Eliza disapproves of this “dalliance” but has been trying to leverage it to make Potts help her in cases, by promising to put in a good word about him to Ivy. Potts is therefore placed in an uncomfortable position as William complains about Eliza and Ivy defends her. Potts tries his best to swallow his distaste and agree with Ivy.

Eliza is bailed out not by William but the journalist Basil Sinclaire. Anytime he runs stories about the “lady detective,” his newspaper sells well, so he wants to write about her latest case. And if she doesn’t agree, he’ll simply make Nash the hero instead—blackmail again.

Eliza returns to the Botanical Society and asks Humphries about the previous day’s event. He explains that it was a book sale to raise funds for a charity called the Woolidge Trust that provides medicine to the poor. The book has a chapter on the angel of inferno and its special poisonous and luminous properties, but Nash bought the last copy, so Eliza has to find one at a bookstore.

William insists that Eliza share her case file with him, and when she tells him she was trying to impress him with her work before sharing it, he agrees to let her work the case with him. Fitzroy does research and explains that Flint recently outbid the Woolidge Trust on land it had been promised for a hospital for the poor in order to build another factory. Doyle attended a Woolidge Trust fundraiser, had access to the angel of inferno via the Botanical Society, and had reason to resent Flint: he must be the blackmailer.

Alas, William and Eliza arrive at his office to find him poisoned but still alive. Flint has received another blackmail letter, but he refuses to open it now that Doyle has been hurt: Doyle is the closest thing he has to a son. Dr. Stanhope, who is attending Doyle, tells Eliza he thinks Flint should simply pay the blackmail.

Eliza calls Basil to her office. She has solved the case: Humphries is the blackmailer. His typewriter matches a malformed “x” in both blackmail letters. When Eliza arrives to arrest Humphries, however, Nash is already there—with Basil. Nash is a big advertiser in Basil’s newspaper, and he enlisted the journalist to help him beat Eliza.

But Eliza knew of the double-cross, as she tells Flint after Nash leaves with Humphries, so she made Basil think Humphries was the suspect. In fact, all typewriters of that make have such a malfunction. The culprit is instead Stanhope, who knew the exact blackmail amount even though the second letter had not yet been opened. He’s the chairman of the Woolidge Trust and on the board of the Botanical Society. The blackmail money was to go back to the Trust to help it recover after losing the hospital land.

It will get the land anyway: relieved that Doyle is recovering, Flint makes him an equal partner in the business and agrees to his request that they donate the land back to the Trust—in Doyle’s father’s name.

Eliza gloats to Nash that Basil’s story identifying Humphries as the culprit will run and sully Nash’s reputation, plus possibly initiate a lawsuit from Humphries. But Nash still wants Eliza to work for him, and will use any means to achieve his goal. Perhaps there’s something about Moses he can use to blackmail Eliza.