A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
This show rewards courage and integrity, with the answers to mysteries appearing to those who keep their promises and care enough to keep working for solutions. Also enforces the idea that you get better results by working with others than by working alone.
Positive Role Models
Eliza is a strong, independent women in an era where she's instructed not to be. Characters say things like "If a lady must walk [outside], she should be in the company of a gentleman to protect her," which Scarlet disregards airily. William is a more typical Victorian-era man, sensitive about his masculinity/ego with views about what women should and shouldn't do, though he bears a grudging respect for Eliza's fearlessness and perseverance. Ivy is a maternal figure and good friend to Eliza, guiding her when Eliza overreaches. Investigators Moses and Nash have questionable methods, including lying and stealing, but they're charming and clever, and eventually become loyal to Eliza. A few police officers are corrupt; colleagues, including William, turn a blind eye to their pocket-lining.
Created by female writer Rachael New. Revolves around "lady detective" Eliza, who's brave, resourceful, has a loving relationship with her housekeeper, Ivy (Cathy Belton), who's in her 50s and has her own romance and story arc. Episodes touch on issues of gender discrimination, women's suffrage, the erasure of women's contributions to history, etc. Characters of color have supporting and minor roles and often fall into stereotype: Black characters appear dangerous or sketchy, almost always lying, stealing, grifting -- though this rakish behavior is portrayed with affection, as the characters are usually Eliza's associates (e.g., Moses, a Jamaican Black man with a facial scar, begins with stereotypical portrayals but is redeemed and becomes one of Eliza's staunchest colleagues). The only woman of color in a recurring role is Clementine (Laura Rollins, who's British Bajan), a confident sex worker portrayed as flighty; she lies and spends all her money on drinking. Episodic characters of color include a British-born Indian doctor's assistant (Pal Aron, British Indian) and magician's assistant Milena (Emily Redpath, British Mauritian-Jamaican). But others, like Miss Ling (Alice Hewkin, Chinese British), who's sleeping with her White boss, and a briefly shown Chinese man with a queue working at an opium den, are stereotypical. In first season, a gay White man is portrayed sympathetically and has his own goings-on, but he doesn't return in Season 2. Visible disabilities generally fall into clichés: Men with a blind eye and/or facial scars or differences are "scary" criminals. A minor villain who's very tall was put in a "traveling freak show" as a child and described as "that thing," "creature," and a "monster" by various characters, including main leads. A sympathetic character is shot in the leg and begins to use a cane in several episodes -- he's portrayed well.
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Violence & Scariness
This series revolves around crime, which is sometimes violent, including murder. But violence is soft-pedaled -- if dead bodies are shown, they generally appear to be peacefully sleeping, albeit with close-ups on fatal wounds with dried blood (slit throat, knife sticking out of body, etc.). Main character grieves for a parent's death, especially early in the series. Characters fight with fists, knives, guns, and get stabbed/shot. Discussions of a death by suicide. Creepy scenes include mentions of ghosts and hauntings, a séance, eerie dolls, etc. Men catcall a woman, whistling and jeering "come here and sit in my lap, darling." Characters are frequently in dangerous situations, such as entering rougher parts of London and getting followed by criminals, being sent homemade bombs (which include tense moments but never detonate), etc.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Main characters flirt, go on dates, reference a kiss they shared as teens, kiss cheeks, etc. A couple wake up in bed together, implying sex the night before. A scene takes place at a brothel: revelry and women wearing corsets that show cleavage. Sex workers have minor roles. Mentions of venereal diseases, including syphilis. A main character is accused of "womanizing" and has rouge on his collar. Male characters are occasionally shirtless, in states of undress or at a boxing gym. A character describes a woman as having a "ripe arse." Another talks about his wife leaving him.
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Infrequent language includes "damn," "hell," "arse," "shite," "tart," "whore," and "buggered." "F-g" used with the British meaning of "cigarette."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters frequently drink, including main characters who drink on the job and, on rare occasions, get drunk. There aren't consequences, and it's portrayed as "normal" behavior. Several scenes take place at a local pub where police officers drink on duty. A main character's parent is described as "not having been sober in months" before his death. Characters occasionally smoke cigarettes, cigars, and pipes. A character visits an opium den, appears high, and later collapses. The main character uses laudanum to incapacitate a villain.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Miss Scarlet and the Duke is a mystery series about Eliza Scarlet (Kate Phillips), a private detective in Victorian London, when a woman's "place" was said to be in the home. Though the series revolves around criminal cases, many of which include murder, violence is fairly minimal. A few dead bodies are shown, but they look to be peacefully sleeping, albeit with fatal wounds (a slit throat, knife sticking out with dried blood, etc.). Characters fight using fists, knives, and guns, and some get stabbed or shot. While there's very little blood, scenes of peril are frequent as characters enter rougher areas of London and are chased by criminals, sent homemade bombs, etc. Characters flirt, go on dates, and kiss on the cheek. They also wake up in bed together, implying sex the night before. There's talk of "womanizing," and minor characters are sex workers at a brothel or on the street. Infrequent language includes "damn," "hell," "arse," and "shite." Frequent drinking (often while working) leads to occasionally drunk adults. Cigarettes and cigars also appear on-screen, as does an opium den in one episode. As Eliza finds more allies in later seasons, the value of teamwork is increasingly celebrated. She herself is a proto-feminist and a strong, confident character whose courage and integrity is rewarded with work she enjoys and is good at. The series explores issues of gender discrimination against White women, and there's a positive gay White character for one season. But the show's portrayals of Black and Asian characters often fall into stereotypes.
Is It Any Good?
Phillips makes a charming, brimming-with-confidence Miss Scarlet, and the vintage feminist setup is fun, but this drama is less colorful and more predictable than you might hope. Victorian 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, Miss Scarlet and the Duke simply 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 whom Eliza 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 Eliza and supporting characters like Wellington. The moments in which Eliza evades the strict boundaries that William -- who's forever infuriated by her shenanigans -- puts her in are among the best in the series. Later characters Moses and Nash give Eliza an even larger sandbox to play in, as the more forward-thinking investigators support her in ethically sound, if not always perfectly legal, ways. The scenes in which Eliza and her companions' grit runs headlong into Victorian sensibilities are fun, like when Eliza's cook and maid are aghast that their unmarried employer would want 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 can drag a bit in between bright spots, but viewers who like a gentle period mystery could do much worse.
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