The third episode of Jenna Coleman’s new period drama Victoria deals with matters of the heart. It’s a tale of love and loss in Victorian times. But does it win us over and continue the quality of the series openers?
Effectively, the episode boils down to a 19th Century version of Blind Date. It has been decided that Queen Victoria must marry and a number of suitors are competing for her heart (and who can blame them, with Jenna in the leading role!). They try and fail to win the monarch’s affections – she only has eyes for one man, it seems. But destiny has other ideas…
Of course, anyone who’s ever read a history book knows who Victoria is going to end up with. But that doesn’t stop you from believing that the series might dare to deviate from the past. The “Vicbourne” relationship was the surprise hit from the first two episodes, and it’s as if Daisy Goodwin knew it would be. For much of the third episode, the idea of them getting together is teased. Victoria even confesses her feelings for Lord Melbourne in a moving scene at Brocket Hall, and it feels like history is changing before your very eyes. Alas, perhaps against his own desires, Lord M turns her down in a moment that shatters Victoria’s world. You could almost hear the collective heartbreak across the nation.
The way Albert is handled in this episode though is nothing short of genius. He’s mentioned right from the off and brought up time and time again. Everyone else thinks Victoria should marry him, but she has other ideas. His presence hangs over the episode like an inevitability – a fixed point in time if you will. We all know he’s coming and when he finally arrives right at the very end, we know that history is catching up with Victoria. Both the show and the character will never quite be the same again…
“I believe when you give your heart, it will be without hesitation…”
Elsewhere, Britain begins to deal with the rise of the Chartists revolution amongst the working classes. This ties in with a brand new subplot for Eve Myles’ Mrs. Jenkins, introducing more fiction to go along with the fact. As such, the entire “upstairs downstairs” divide in the script is more prevalent here than it was before. Everything that goes on up above with Victoria is grounded in truth, whereas down below in the servants quarters, anything is possible. The two threads even intertwine in a scene where the young queen stands up against capital punishment. “I want my reign to be a merciful one” she proclaims, saving the Chartists from a gruesome death. Even more, reason to like Victoria, as if any were needed.
That’s not all though. Conroy and his cronies are still as slippery as ever, hoping that Victoria marries a man who can control her. Luckily, Victoria catches him out and reveals his true colours to her Mama. In the end, Conroy slinks away for little more than a title and a pay-off. It’s definitely satisfying to see Victoria standing no nonsense from such a slimy character, and long may her reign be as strong as it has been.
“No man would give you up… unless it was his duty…”
The production values are just as sumptuous here as they were in the first two episodes. The location shooting is marvellous and there’s some fantastic establishing shots that wonderfully capture the Victorian era’s distinctive look. The direction and lighting are also especially good in this episode, notably in the scene of Victoria and her uncle Leopold in the darkened carriage. The imagery of the candle being lit and blown out perfectly parallels with the discussion of the British crown being under threat.
Costumes are another highlight, with the wardrobe department seemingly outdoing themselves on this occasion. Jenna has plenty of eye-catching outfits to wear throughout the episode, most memorably in fancy dress as Queen Elizabeth I.
It’s clear that this is a series where a lot of effort has been put in, and coupled with Daisy Goodwin’s poetic scripting and seamless dialogue, it’s a winner from every angle. Three episodes in and Victoria is yet to put a foot wrong. This week’s entry definitely captivated more than Episode 2, and perhaps even rivals the grandeur of the series premiere as the best episode so far. It’s fascinating that a story so rooted in reality can capture the imaginations of the audience so brilliantly. To the point where they’re actively willing the course of history to bend to the series’ will. That’s good storytelling if ever we saw it!
You’ve definitely won our hearts over, Victoria. The question is: will Albert be able to do the same next week?
Victoria continues on Sunday 11th September at 9pm on ITV.
The series premieres on Masterpiece on PBS from 15th January 2017.