Yay, Victoria! First, as ever, some housekeeping: Because Americans can’t ever air a British costume drama without doing wacky things to the scheduling, this week’s premiere is actually the two episodes bundled together. I understand why they paired these instead of running them separately: the first episode was very strong, but the second was a bit “GUESS WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN oh wait no it’s totally not going to happen,” and it ends basically right where it began, with the young Queen rather too dependent on her dashing Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, and surrounded by those who wish to control her, including her Cartoon Villain of an Uncle, Lord Cumberland, who keeps saying things like, “WELL her grandfather was crazy and SHE PROBABLY IS, TOO, YES? RIGHT? In need of a regent? Like…say…her Uncle? RIGHT?” Second: As we did for The Crown, Heather and I will be splitting recapping duties here, so please look forward to her Victorian Song Stylings next week. Third: On the question of spoilers, history is not a spoiler, so don’t worry too much about it, but if the show takes shocking and thrilling liberties (like, I don’t know, giving Prince Albert a truly scandalous tattoo or whatever), please let us Americans discover it for ourselves.
And on with the show. My uppermost thoughts:
(1) Between this and The Crown, I feel like I am learning a lot about the relationship between the Prime Minister and the crown. Like 18% more than I am really interested in knowing, although I cannot deny that Rufus Sewell is a very dashing PM and I would probably also fall under his thrall. (Lord Melbourne was married to Lady Caroline Lamb, who ran off with Lord Byron, speaking of falling under people’s thralls, and who then came up with the descriptor “mad, bad, and dangerous to know.” Fun fact: After Byron and Lady Caroline broke it off, he publicly insulted her at a ball they were both attending and she reacting by breaking a wine glass and using the shards to slit her wrists AT THE BALL. She was fine, but those two sound exhausting.)
(2) Every villain in this piece, of which there are many, behaves as it the directive were to act as much like The Thénardiers in Les Miserables as possible. I halfway expected “Master of the House” to begin tinkling in the background during some of the scenes of Victoria’s uncle, Lord Cumberland, discussing with her mother and her mother’s maybe-lover John Conroy (who, it seems, was totally terrible) the hows and wherebys of assuming a regency, which never comes to pass. (Uncle Cumberland, by the way, was also legit villainous, as the ever-reliable Wikipedia tells me that “there were persistent allegations (reportedly spread by his political foes) that he had murdered his valet and had fathered a son by his sister, Princess Sophia.” I mean, who hasn’t wanted to murder his valet? And as far as his wife goes, SHE was suspected of poisoning her second husband when he wouldn’t divorce her, so they seem like a well-matched pair.
(3) Related: I hope you don’t have an issue with rats, as they — both literal and extremely metaphorical — run rampant throughout these episodes. In the words of the Questionably Ethical Palace Employee Mr Penge, “they’re spreading through the palace like a miasma of corruption.” In case it was too subtle to just use them as a visual metaphor?
(4) Unlike the downstairs residents of Downton Abbey, the employees of first Kensington Palace and later Buckingham Palace appear primarily to be skilled in the art of stealing the Victorian-era equivalent of a shit-ton of office supplies and selling them for profit. They also include a former sex worker who so far does appear to perhaps have a heart of gold, a perhaps loveable errand boy who I assume will die, and a chef with a very dramatic French accent.
(5) This show is in love with Jenna Coleman’s face. And her face is VERY lovely, indeed, and very well-lit, but I feel like we could have taken down the Loving Lingering Long Close-Ups by about 15% and done very well indeed.
Let’s take a closer look — there are many gowns, many tiaras, and MANY fantastic rooms — and discuss! To the recap!