In which it is put forth that the best way to tell whether or not you want to sleep with someone is by first playing a duet with him, and then waltzing. Actually, that’s probably pretty good life advice.
Yes, this is the episode that introduces Albert — love of Victoria’s life, he for whom she dramatically moped for like sixty straight years after he kicked the bucket — and he completely fulfills the trope of the Sad Principled Hero With Floppy Hair and an Accent. It is a trope that works for a reason. He is very appealing, even if I do want him to get his bangs out of his face sixty-eight percent of the time. He loves art! He’s sad about his dead mom! He cares about the poor! He is a beautiful waltzer! He likes trees! He saves a dog! He literally rips open his white shirt with a knife twice to make a point (once to save a dog, once to place one of Victoria’s flowers closer to his heart). He is prone to standing sadly by a window and noting that he thinks stamps are a great invention. He has a snarky manwhore brother who knows only too well which of them is the better man. The whole thing is basically a romance novel, and as such, I found it very effective. All I really want from these things, after all, is to be able to yell, “MAKE OUT ALREADY” at the TV screen, and, reader, I did.
So, anyway: Victoria and Albert go through the whole song-and-dance of hating each other (she thinks he’s uptight; he thinks she’s too frivolous) before realizing that they’re obviously madly in love, and he eventually accepts her marriage proposal, in a plot line that allows me to once again note that it is BONKERS that — according to books and movies, at least — back in Ye Olden Days, people started proposing after like three weeks. There are many men I would have happily married after three weeks and then wanted to stab in the face after a year. This is further proof that I probably would have been miserable in Ye Olden Days. For his part, Lord M seems sort of wistful about this and a little bit jealous, which is a very human response that in a lesser actor’s hands probably have read a bit obnoxiously. Rufus Sewell plays it beautifully.
In other plot lines: Eliza Whatshername the ladies maid is giving money to her sister (??) who something something something baby out of wedlock something something something who cares. (Why are these shows so bad at making compelling Downstairs Stories? Downton was great at it for a while, but even they eventually slid into She’s Stealing Shit But It’s Not Her Fault/Whoops Bates Is In Jail AGAIN.) I will note that, while it’s a HUGE CLICHE, I did enjoy the moment wherein the morally questionable Downstairs Head Footman (or whatever) Penge launched into fluent German after Albert and Ernest’s sweet German valet and Baroness Lehzen had spent the entire episode shit-talking him in front of his face because they assumed he couldn’t understand them. That is such a predictable moment, but that doesn’t make it less amusing.
In additional notes: (a) Alex Jennings is so funny as Victoria’s Uncle Leopold. Between this and The Crown, he’s having a good year. (b) I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a show that used so many candles.
Much to discuss! To the recap!