A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Miss Scarlet and the Duke is a mystery series starring a female Victorian-era detective during an era when a women's "place" was said to be in the home. Though the series revolves around criminal cases, some of which are violent to the point of murder, violence is rather minimal. We see a few dead bodies but they look to be peacefully sleeping or gore/blood is otherwise not present. For instance, we see a dead body with a slit throat in a small black and white photo. Some cases don't even involve violence but instead deception and mistaken identity. Main character Eliza Scarlet sometimes uses her sexuality to escape moments in peril, like when she implies she'll have sex with a man to get information. She is often in mortal danger, such as a scene in which she's trapped yet threatens to burn the place down by pouring turpentine on a candle. Eliza's rival police Inspector William Wellington is her love interest; expect flirting, romance, kissing. Cursing is infrequent ("damn") but vulgar words for women and sex workers are used, including "whore," "tart," "whoremonger." Characters drink at dinners and get-togethers; some characters are said to have drinking problems that damage their relationships and reputation. Eliza Scarlet is a proto-feminist and a strong, confident character whose courage and integrity is rewarded with work she enjoys and is good at, despite the people in her life and society in general telling her she shouldn't be a detective at all.
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What's the story?
MISS SCARLET AND THE DUKE is set in England in the late 19th century, where Eliza Scarlet (Peaky Blinders' Kate Phillips) longs to be a police detective in an era when women were expected to be wives and mothers, end of list. But when a combination of fate and ambition launches her fledgling career as a private detective, Scarlet finds ways to use her gender to bend society's rules to her will. Watching her with frustration (and more than a little awe) is Police Chief Inspector William Wellington (Stuart Martin), Eliza's childhood friend, who despairs of the danger she's getting into by investigating cases of murder and mayhem.
Is it any good?
Kate Phillips makes an charming brimming-with-confidence Miss Scarlet and the vintage feminist setup is fun, but this drama is less colorful and more predictable than one would hope. Victorian-era London looks like it's composed entirely of three hues -- black, gray, and dirty dark blue -- and though viewers will relish period touches like horses clip-clopping down the streets and men shaving with straight razors, it just looks grim. A mystery seems like just the thing to liven things up, but since the show's cases generally seem to feature an obvious villain that Scarlet must unmask with a combination of fearlessness and intelligence, dramatic tension is light.
And so Miss Scarlet and the Duke winds up primarily getting what verve it has from the interplay between Scarlet and her childhood friend, Chief Inspector William Wellington. The moments in which Scarlet as a feisty proto-feminist subverts the extremely patriarchal maneuverings of Wellington -- who's forever infuriated by her shenanigans -- are the best in the series. The two have obvious chemistry and are enjoyable as perpetually dueling rivals. The scenes in which Scarlet's grit runs headlong into Victorian sensibilities are also fun, like when her cook and maid are simply aghast that Scarlet wants to go out sleuthing late in the afternoon. "What will people think of a woman who goes out alone after dark?" they ask. "Let them think what they like," Scarlet shrugs. In such scenes, this series is a delight. It does drag a wee bit in between bright spots, but viewers who like a gentle period mystery could do worse.
Talk to your kids about ...
TV shows about crime either focus on the violence of the acts or take care to make the violence less upsetting. Which approach does Miss Scarlet and the Duke take? How does it make death and danger seem less upsetting and immediate?
Each week, the characters on Miss Scarlet and the Duke solve a different criminal case. Can you name any other shows with this "case of the week" structure? Why do you think people enjoy this style of show?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love mysteries
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