Why am I always watching so many shows about men whinging that having a powerful wife is no fun for them and they need something of their own? I mean, I get it: This is a natural point of conflict in a marriage when one spouse is considerably more important (on the global scale) than the other is, and it’s even more naturally so in a period piece that requires a husband to take a step behind his wife. I sure this was a conflict for Victoria and Albert for reals, just as I’m sure it was for QE2 and Prince Philip. But I’m not sure how well it really plays for the demographic that really watches this sort of programming, and — while this is not Victoria’s fault — this episode certainly feels as if we are revisiting stuff we already learned on The Crown. Additionally, I don’t know if PBS had to trim this episode more than they usually do (Masterpiece often very slightly edits the episode they air to be slightly shorter than whatever originally aired on British TV; in one notable instance, they edited out an entire scene with Poor Edith in Downton), but this particular hour felt choppy as hell, and was rife with continuity issues — at one point, Victoria changed out of one outfit when walking between rooms, and then back into her original gown for the next scene.
This is particularly odd in that not all that much happened in this episode, when it’s all boiled down to its essence:
1. Victoria gives her high-ranking uncle’s wife a discretionary title so that Albert can have the right to escort her into dinner and she doesn’t have to be escorted by said uncle. (Trivia: Daisy Goodwin, who wrote the book on which this series is based, and has written the teleplays, played the Duchess of Inverness. That title died when she did, but — fun fact! — Prince Andrew is currently the Earl of Inverness.)
2. Ernest falls for one of Victoria’s ladies in waiting and then flees back to Germany to nurse his broken heart (surely this is a plotline that they could have really invested in, and drawn out a bit longer?)
3. Albert gives a well-received speech at the World Anti-Slavery Convention (I think; there were several major abolitionist meetings in London in 1840, and he was the president of the Society for the Extinction of Slavery, but the World Anti-Slavery Convention seems to have had a huge meeting in London at the same time that Albert gave this speech and I think he was doing so as president of said society for that convention? If I am wrong, please let me know!) and finally feels that he has something to contribute as a person. From what I understand, Real Albert worked hard for the cause of abolition, modernized the royal finances, opposed child labor, and was generally a stand-up dude.
4. And Victoria doesn’t want to have any babies yet but she also doesn’t want to stop banging Albert, so, shrug! In actuality, Victoria got pregnant two weeks into their marriage. Another issue with this episode is that it’s VERY hard to track the passage of time. The World Anti-Slavery Convention was June 12-23rd, 1840. Someone tried to assassinate Victoria and Albert on June 10th, 1840. Victoria had eight assassination attempts, so they might skip one, but Albert’s cool head during this one did great stuff for his PR with the British public, so I would be surprised if this show didn’t cover that. Maybe they’re….moving it to later? I don’t know. I think they’re playing somewhat fast and loose with history, and trying to cover that up by being purposefully vague about when we are, but I find it distracting not to know how much time has passed.
5. Oh, right, downstairs! I almost forgot about them! It turns out Chef Whatsit isn’t gross but is actually in love with Ladies Maid Whosit and blah blah blah helps her cousin with something something cholera something.
Let’s discuss outfits. There was, at the very least, a dog in a necklace.