As the dust settles on last week’s dramatic episode, Victoria sets sail for Ireland to calm the conflicts. But will the Queen’s presence be welcome…?
It’s no exaggeration to say that Victoria Series 3 has, so far, been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. After heart-racing action, arguments aplenty, and the loss of a beloved character, we reckon it’s about time we stopped for a breather. Luckily, that’s what we get as the series slows down for the beginning of its second half. There is a tease of yet more tension at the start, when another attempt is made on Victoria’s life. But, at least in comparison to everything that’s come before it, this week’s episode was a much calmer affair – for better and for worse.
Still reeling from Skerrett’s death, Victoria is shaken further by the foiled assassination. It’s revealed that the gunman hailed from Ireland, where the hunger for food may be appeased (see last season’s Irish famine episode), but their hunger for independence is not. Desperate to end this wretched business once and for all, Victoria declares she is going to Ireland to make peace. This is against the better wishes of her peers, who fear she may not receive a warm welcome in such a hostile environment. However, as we’ve come to learn this series: what Victoria wants, Victoria gets. The Queen and Prince Albert set sail for the Emerald Isle, deciding to take the Duke and Duchess in tow. The children stay at the palace under the watchful eye of Feodora and Bertie’s new (seemingly-too-good-to-be-true) tutor. What could possibly go wrong?
“There is only so much satisfaction to be had by the keeping of bees”
In an attempt to ensure Victoria’s safety, she stays at a residence of Lord Palmerston. Specifically, the place where he “squirrels away” his wife. During their stay, Albert becomes increasingly suspicious of Palmerston’s antics. At last, it seems that Palmerston will finally receive comeuppance for his adulterous behaviour. But in a surprisingly clever (if little anti-climactic) rug-pull, it turns out Lady Palmerston is already well aware of her husband’s “collection” of other women. She reveals the truth to Victoria, as well as the fact that she has also indulged in other men. The young Queen is positively perplexed by their relationship – and, dare we say it, a little curious. The Palmerstons’ marriage may be a sham, but at least it is a happy one. Which is more than can be said for Victoria and Albert’s.
The Palmerston-related twists keep coming, as the Duchess finally gets it off with another fella (right under the nose of her awful husband). Out for a stroll, she stumbles upon Joseph, who’s conveniently just been enjoying one of his naked swims by the beach. Fair play to the writers, they know what we’re expecting and they do not mess around. Very little time is wasted before the unlikely lovers are locked in their inevitable embrace. Joseph is absolutely in it for the love, but does the Duchess feel the same? Or, as Palmerston observes, is she just scratching an itch that her husband cannot hope to provide? The Duke gets wind of his wife’s affair and immediately suspects Palmerston. Amazingly, he’s got the wrong man on this occasion. But at least it leads to the single greatest line of Victoria so far: “Have you been rogering my wife?!”.
“A cycle of sad partings and joyful reunitings”
In fact, this is probably the most subplot-heavy episode of the season so far. Victoria, while still getting plenty of screen time, has comparatively little to do this week. It’s a necessary lull in the season’s tempo, but a little disappointing all the same. Nevertheless, an underlying threat does build as she fears for her safety: “Dublin will be a day of reckoning”. However, it all ends up being for nothing. There is no big confrontation. Rather, there is a peaceful, touching union between the Church of England and the Catholics, where Victoria gives a rousing speech and releases an Irish dove. It’s an iconic, important sequence that Jenna Coleman (as ever) pulls off with spectacular talent. Undoubtedly, it’s the highlight in an otherwise quiet episode.
Yet, surprisingly, that’s not where this chapter ends. The final quarter feels strangely separate to the first 45 minutes: more of a coda, rather than a crescendo to the episode’s climax. It’s an odd choice of pacing, but still, it’s not without its moments. Back in England, Bertie’s tutor is outed for his violent methods, leaving him at the mercy of yet another brilliant Jenna Coleman performance. This leads Albert to believe he is failing his children, all but admitting he doesn’t want any more for fear of failing them as well. In a twisted turn of fate, Victoria drops the bombshell that she is pregnant for the seventh time. What should be an eruption of joy is instead eerily muted. Worried for their future, Victoria asks: “Albert, shall we survive this?”. We’ll just have to keep on watching to find out…