The sea is not the only thing standing between Queen Victoria and her duties, as the third series of ITV’s hit period drama continues.

It’s fair to say that Victoria Series 3 has been quite a rollercoaster so far. We’ve had high-tension stakes in Episode 1 and emotional drama in Episode 2. So it’s almost a relief to see that, as Episode 3 begins, it’s all fun and games on the Isle of Wight. The royal party are relaxing on the beach and enjoying their new surroundings as choral music sweeps through the air. But don’t let first impressions fool you. This episode of Victoria is a deceptively dramatic beast, one that rears its ugly head the further into its murky depths you wade. Everything may be bright and cheery on the surface, but clouds are brewing over Osborne House. Can our characters survive the storm…?

While our main cast soak up the sun, Lord Palmerston is stirring up trouble back in London. Following the Queen’s escape at the end of Episode 2, he accuses her of being a coward and dismisses her as “a pigeon”. With her gone, he seeks to take the country’s foreign affairs into his own hands, which royally (pun fully intended) upsets Victoria when she  hears of it. Furious at his insubordination, Victoria summons him and the Prime Minister to Osborne House. In the meantime, she attempts to do a spot of swimming in the sea – but she struggles, and Skerrett is forced to drag her to the shore. Palmerston arrives just in time to see the Queen, sodden and embarrassed on the edge of the beach. It’s a brilliantly awkward moment, and you can’t help but share Victoria’s pain as she wishes the ground would open up beneath her.

“I think we have established that the Queen of England is not a fish”

Luckily, it’s not long until the tables are turned. In a stunning performance from Jenna Coleman, Victoria lays down the law with Palmerston – who has no choice but to back down. But there’s a reason he submits to her so easily. He, like Albert, realises that the Queen craves one thing above all else: the adulation of her subjects. Throughout the course of his stay in Osborne House, Palmerston subtly twists Victoria around his little finger. After all: “it’s no bad thing to keep the people on your side”. Laurence Fox plays Palmerston almost too well – he’s superbly slippery and completely contemptible. We really do love to hate him, and he’s hands down the most charismatic baddie we’ve seen in Victoria so far.

That villainous charm extends to the series’ ongoing sub-plots as well. Surprise, surprise, he tries to make his move on the Duchess – who, admittedly, is a little more willing to go along with it than we expected. However, a cleverly plotted twist of fate lands him at the mercy of Feodora instead, who is up to some sneaky tricks of her own. His secret out in the open, Palmerston has little choice but to turn the Duchess down, leaving her incredibly distraught. In her moment of need, she turns to Joseph instead – who spends most of the episode running naked across the sand rather than doing his actual duties. It doesn’t take a genius to predict that Palmerston and the Duchess will cross paths again, meaning it’s only a matter of time until this ticking time bomb of a love triangle blows up.

“What sort of trick do you play on me?”

Ultimately though, this episode is about the ever-growing divide between Victoria and Albert. From early on, they are at odds over where they need to be and how to raise their children. Palmerston’s meddling only makes matters worse, as Victoria realises more and more that she yearns to be back at the palace. Geography already stands in the way of her impending royal duties, but now her husband does as well. Inevitably, the friction between them culminates in a fraught and awkward dinner, in which Victoria throws a glass of water right into Albert’s face. In the end, Victoria insists on returning to London, and Albert begrudgingly goes back too. But they spend the night apart, and even when Victoria tries knocking on his door to say sorry, he refuses to let her in…

Of course, there are a few more things that lead Victoria to her outburst. Significantly, Feodora seizes the opportunity to play the Queen off against her husband, working some twisted trickery just as Palmerston had before. It’s not yet clear what Feodora’s real intentions are – apart from a desire to stay within the palace – but she’s obviously up to no good. The revelation that Skerrett and Francatelli are married, and are both resigning from their posts to start their life together, also goes down like a ton of bricks with the young Queen. So, even though she may be sat back on her throne, Victoria’s world is changing all around her. History suggests that there are rocky times ahead. That may be bad for the Victorians, but it’s good for us as viewers. The scene is set for the five episodes remaining – and we’re sure that sparks will fly.

Victoria Series 3 continues next Sunday on ITV at 9pm.

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