Relationships are torn apart, in more ways than one, as we reach the emotionally devastating mid-point of Victoria Series 3.
We’re already at the halfway mark in the third season of ITV’s hit drama, and it’s certainly a moment that will go down in Victoria history. Much like Episode 3, this week starts off in deceptively light-hearted fashion. Victoria and Albert are still caught in the fallout of their argument from the Isle of Wight. Both are now back in Buckingham Palace, but they refuse to speak to each other face to face. Instead, the Queen and her Prince correspond solely via servants and handwritten notes, in a clever and comical opening exchange. Underscored by gleefully silly music, it’s a hoot watching them bicker back and forth as their dispute descends to ridiculous levels.
Against Victoria’s wishes, Albert leaves the palace to go to Cambridge University, where he has been offered the role of Chancellor. However, Albert’s forward-thinking and scientific ideals are at odds with the more traditional, theologically-driven academics. It’s interesting to see the age-old argument of science versus religion played out on screen. Despite the backlash, Albert eventually wins the vote – by a landslide – but realises it would be wrong to accept the position. While he has previously lambasted Victoria’s craving for adulation, he sees now that it is a necessity. The scholars here don’t want him, victory or no victory. There is a lot to be said about winning over the public.
“Tell His Royal Highness that our correspondence is at an end”
Victoria and Albert’s argument ultimately pales in comparison though to the greater threat of this episode. An outbreak of cholera is wreaking havoc in Soho, claiming hundreds of lives in rapid succession. Due to the epidemic, Victoria is put into quarantine and told to stay in the palace. However, she insists she has a duty to care for her people. She turns to Lord Palmerston to (sneakily) arrange a hospital visit. The episode pulls no punches in showing the impact of the disease, most notably when Victoria arrives at the hospital to see a room full of dying children. It’s a grim, horrifying sight that visibly shakes the young Queen – with good reason.
Unfortunately, no one can really work out what causes the cholera to spread. Doctors initially believe it is transmitted via the air. However, a chance meeting between Victoria and Florence Nightingale suggests that this must be impossible – otherwise she’d already be dead. Instead, the discovery is left to Dr. John Snow (no, not that one… although his appearance coincides almost *too* perfectly with the premiere of Game of Thrones Season 8). We see, through a series of investigations and clever deductions, that the cholera transmits via the water, not the air. It’s a groundbreaking discovery, one that saves thousands of lives – but, alas, the news doesn’t arrive in time for everyone…
“It is not a matter of want, it is a matter of duty”
While everything else is going on, newly-weds Skerrett and Francatelli have been busy setting up their new business together. Everything’s looking rosy – Skerrett even announces she is expecting a baby! However, to help ease her through the pregnancy, Skerrett starts drinking a tonic from an apothecary… situated in Soho. The tainted water has found its way into the mixture, and quickly into Skerrett’s system as well. The cheer of “to good health!” as the married couple take a celebratory drink is painfully ironic. In a sweeping flash, Skerrett falls drastically ill, soon ailing on her deathbed. She receives one last visit from Victoria before she passes – but it is still too little, too late.
Some will argue that Skerrett’s death comes all too sudden, and it’s too quick a death for such a long-lasting and beloved character. On the other hand, it just goes to show the severity of the disease – and that no one is safe from it. The end of this episode completely belongs to Nell Hudson and Ferdinand Kingsley as they say their final farewells, and regret that they should have married sooner. “It wasn’t long, but it meant everything”. It’s a gut punch that’ll hit you right in the feels. The last we see of them, Francatelli breaks down in tears on the bedside, with Skerrett’s body laid out by his side. It’s heartbreaking to have to bid goodbye to a character that’s been around since the very beginning, but at least Skerrett’s death wasn’t for nothing. For better or worse, it takes this sad, mournful moment to put Victoria and Albert’s own problems into perspective. By the episode’s close, the two have put aside their differences, and find themselves back together once more. The question is: will they be able to keep it that way…?