We start the episode with in inevitability: The duel between James Delaney and his sister's husband Thorne. "A polite exchange of bullets", as the adjudicator describes it. Even this though is further plotting, Delaney's opponent being deprived of a bullet by an East India Company operative. Once more, beset by Empire's great and gruesome minds, he prevails. As ever, all-knowing, endlessly wealthy and uncannily lucky. Must be all that contemplative time, perched Crow-like about his property.
But it does leave Thorne free to terrorise Zilpha even further, undaunted by his humiliation at dawn. Beatings and exorcisms abound, making her desire for vengeance, her bid for freedom, more than deserved. But it doesn't divert from the problem with women that this show has.
Meanwhile the chemist Cholmondeley gains a young apprentice, a boy who may well be Delaney's son; his and Zilpha's. An explosive situation, beyond the gunpowder they're manufacturing. But it does give opportunity for Tom Hollander to deliver some of the most gloriously over-the-top dialogue. And that in a show that sets new standards for stupendously over-the-top drama, delivered grumblingly straight.
It's beginning to look like the supernatural promise of this show is petering out. That it's all posturing in shadows, dreams and so-called visions and spies mysteriously knowing too much. Ever there are mysterious sources, whether The Company, Crown, Delaney or the Americans. Even within the various camps there are sub-plots and machinations. The stakes for all these seem to be smaller than the desire to plot and scheme, for its own sake. There are now only three episodes to go, and surely its time to end the teasing. It's time for James Delaney to experience some kind of actual threat. It's time for the women in this show to not be mere minions or victims. And perhaps its time to stop expanding the cast and maybe cull a few faces from the circus. It's time to come out of the shadows.