The third series of Victoria continues, with Jenna Coleman’s Queen under fire from the Chartist movement. But is everything truly as it seems?
Blimey! We thought last week’s episode threw us straight into the action, but somehow this week managed to out-do it. Episode 2 picks up right where Episode 1 left off, with the Chartists angrily protesting at the palace gates. A brick through the window has not only scared the royals into fleeing from London, it’s also shocked Victoria into labour. Inside and outside the palace, tensions are high as the Queen gives birth to her sixth(!) child. First-born son Bertie worries he’ll be forced to become king if Victoria doesn’t make it. But, as we already know from history, she does. As the Chartists are dispelled and the baby arrives, the episode considerably slows to a more gentle, easy pace.
What follows is a more character-driven, more reflective, and infinitely more Victoria-centric story than we saw last week. That’s not to say there isn’t high stakes action going on in the background. The Chartists are still dead-set on making their point – by any means necessary. Lord Palmerston and the Prime Minister (and even Prince Albert) advise the Queen to mobilise troops and stop them in their tracks, before they manage to cause any real damage. However, Victoria believes that her subjects are still inherently good and refuses to agree. That is, at least, until a whole load of rifles are uncovered at the Chartist headquarters. Reluctantly, Victoria gives in and signs the order, for the sake of her family’s safety. And it’s this conflict which ultimately drives the episode, with the Queen struggling to come to terms with how her public perceive her.
“A revolution without teeth cannot bite”
Jenna Coleman may have spent most of last week’s episode sitting down with a baby bump, but she more than makes up for it this time with a particularly powerful performance. Clearly, she is torn apart inside, her heart and her head telling her to do two very different things. Breaking down, Victoria admits that she wants her people to love her – otherwise what is the point? But, as the rest of the palace residents keep reminding her: “your safety is more important than your popularity”. Jenna also gets a memorable little moment with young Bertie, who is himself trying to deal with his fear of one day becoming king. Daisy Goodwin gifts Victoria a beautiful speech about destiny (“a little flame inside you… nothing can put it out”) which Jenna plays to perfection. The two of them are bound to the will of history, for better or for worse.
Elsewhere, Laurence Fox continues to impress (and disgust) as the slippery Lord Palmerston. When Duchess Sophie’s carriage comes under attack by Chartists, he conveniently swoops in to the rescue. The Duchess clearly responds to his confident charm, and when compared to her hideous hate-filled husband, it’s easy to see where this narrative strand is going. Thankfully, there is a more positive relationship to root for as well. After two seasons of will-they-won’t-they romance, Skerrett and Francatelli finally tie the knot. The only snag: they’ve done it in secret, and as soon as the Queen finds out, Skerrett will be forced to resign from the palace. How long until someone lets the cat out of the bag…?
“Life is more important than a crown”
What begins as a dire and sombre story actually ends on a somewhat uplifting note. As the episode reaches its climax, Victoria leaves London for the Isle of Wight. Along the way, there is a sequence of dramatic direction and effective editing, cutting between the soldiers lined up along the streets and Victoria’s discomfort inside her carriage. Suddenly, the penny drops. She stops the advance and insists the Chartists be allowed to reach parliament. After all, rifles (especially in large numbers) do not come cheap – so how could these simple working folk have actually afforded it? Someone’s stitched them up, trying to make them look bad for their own political gain. No prizes for guessing who that was (*cough* Palmerston *cough*)! In a moment of triumph, the Chartists finally march their million-strong petition across the bridge – without incident.
While Episode 2 lacked the action of last week, it more than made up for it with emotion. The quality of the writing and the acting (to say nothing of the costume and set design!) remains superlative. The old characters are as lovable as ever, and the new characters already feel like they’ve been there since the beginning. Victoria continues to go from strength to strength, with Series 3 shaping up to be another great run. Teasingly, the episode leaves us in completely uncharted territory: on the shores of the Isle of Wight. With six episodes remaining, there are still plenty of exciting chapters yet to be told. We for one will be tuning in all the way.