'Miss Scarlet and the Duke' Recap: Season 3 Episode 1

Daniel Hautzinger
Miss Scarlet questioning a magician's assistant
Eliza investigates the disappearance of a magician during his act. Photo: Element 8 Entertainment and Masterpiece/Sergej Radovic

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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Eliza continues to expand her circle of associates—and get them into trouble. She is arrested for pretending to be publicly intoxicated, Ivy committed ID fraud on her behalf, Clementine was caught pickpocketing while working for Eliza, the antiquities trader Solomon was involved, and Mr. Potts…just happened to be at her house when the police arrived. He does not forgive her.

Moses escaped arrest, as he wasn’t part of Eliza’s hijinks. He’s off winning money by boxing, until William breaks up the illegal gambling ring. Instead of charging Moses, William asks for information. Moses has plenty, but not from his own sources—Basil Sinclaire has run a detailed story on the case, causing William’s witnesses to clam up and his suspect to disappear.

Furious, William bans his officers from their typical practice of leaking to the press in exchange for a little extra cash or a drink. Needless to say, they are not happy. The young, inexperienced Fitzroy sees the grizzled, antagonistic Phelps speaking to someone at the bar and accidentally rats Phelps out to William by mentioning the incident without realizing that Phelps was talking to a reporter despite William’s prohibition. Phelps repays the favor by beating Fitzroy up. When William sees Fitzroy’s bruised face, he decides to prevent this from happening again and pays Moses to teach Fitzroy to fight.

William may have extra cash to spare for such things, but Eliza certainly does not. She wants to expand her business, but no bank will loan to her—they all scoff at the idea of a female detective. So she approaches Basil to take out an ad in his paper, but he has a different idea: he will hire her for a job, and report on her every move to his audience, who he thinks will enjoy the story of a female detective. She agrees to the arrangement.

Basil assigns her to investigate the disappearance of a magician. During his typical vanishing act, Alfonso the Great never reappeared. An illustrator from Basil’s paper witnessed it all.

The owner of the theater where Alfonso performed is eager for the publicity, and offers the titillating suggestion that a rumored phantom in the theater is responsible. Another possible suspect is the theater’s other magician, Slaven, who seems to resent Alfonso’s popularity. Slaven’s daughter and assistant, Milena, says Alfonso was full of fun, suggesting his disappearance is probably just a publicity stunt.

But then a body is found in the Thames. It’s Alfonso.

William restricts access to the theater, preventing even Eliza from entering—she’s working for Basil, and William doesn’t trust the newspaperman.

Eliza takes another tack and follows Alfonso’s assistant, Miss Ling, to a bar, where she spots the married theater owner canoodling with Ling. Eliza has learned from Basil via his illustrator that Alfonso didn’t use a wand the evening he disappeared, despite being pictured in posters with a silver one. Ling says that Alfonso was soon going to retire, on his 50th anniversary in the business, and had told her he was selling the wand.

Both William and Eliza end up at the entertainment shop where Alfonso was to sell his wand, and learn that the magician didn’t show up at the appointed time to sell it, despite always being punctual. The proprietor also explains that Alfonso was a member of a magician family; each person got their own special wand. Alfonso even had his shoes raised when he replaced his father so that they would be the same height and maintain an unbroken line of entertainers.

That raised shoe holds a clue, Eliza finds when Moses picks Potts’ pocket to let her into the morgue to examine Alfonso’s body and possessions. In the heel of Alfonso’s boot is a key; it opens a hidden safe in his dressing room in the theater. Inside is his silver wand.

Eliza now believes Alfonso isn’t the one who went onstage and disappeared. (He always wore a mask during his act.) She tells Basil that she must inform William of her hunch, but he suggests delaying so that she can remain the lead character in his newspaper story. Eliza avoids telling William, and it’s clear that he’s also concealing something from her.

But Eliza’s strategy backfires. Returning to the theater, she finds Milena upset at her: Basil has published a story leaking and falsifying details of the case in order to make it more exciting. Eliza confronts Basil over twisting her words to malign Alfonso. He advises her not to make powerful enemies such as himself, but she severs their arrangement. He promises to ruin her.

She apologizes to William and tells him about finding Alfonso’s wand. William also suspected Alfonso wasn’t onstage the night he died, having found another wand on his body. Hidden inside the wand is a photo of Alfonso’s father. Eliza checks the wand she discovered and finds a photo of Alfonso with two of the boxes he used for his vanishing act. She recognizes a skull in the photo, placing its location at the entertainment shop.

The proprietor admits that Alfonso commissioned a replica vanishing box from him, one that could hide him completely, even from his own assistant. Milena designed it; Alfonso was delighted with her work, and had the photo of him taken to put in a new wand that he meant to give to her.

Milena admits that Alfonso taught her magic, unlike her own father, who believed women should only be assistants. As Alfonso’s retirement approached, he began drinking more as he faced the prospect of a new life after so many years in the business. When he didn’t arrive on time for his last show, Milena suspected he had committed suicide and went on in his place, so that he could have the send-off he had envisioned.

She then switched out his old vanishing box with the replica she had designed so that no one would know how “he” had disappeared. She painted over the old box and turned it into a storage chest for her father. William decides not to charge her for any crime.

When Basil’s article about the case comes out, Eliza braces herself—but she’s not mentioned. William lifted his ban on his men talking to the press in exchange for Basil to not smear Eliza’s name.

Eliza, having canceled her monthly dinner date with William—again—finally reschedules it, and promises to pay.