Tensions mount as the drama escalates to explosive levels in Victoria. Can the Queen keep her life together, or are the cracks finally beginning to show…?

There seems to be a bit of a pattern emerging with most episodes of Victoria Series 3, and this week’s instalment was no exception. It starts, as earlier weeks have done, with a false representation of what is to come. Following Victoria and Albert’s continued arguments in the previous episode, it is a surprise to see them laughing and smiling together in the opening scene. It is a much lighter, happier start, with Victoria and Albert sketching each other at their baby’s birth. However, this isn’t the present moment, and that isn’t baby number seven. Rather, it’s just a flashback to five pregnancies earlier – as it stands, the Queen’s marriage still teeters on a cliff-edge.

The flashback does prove to be significant though, as the sketches suspiciously make their way into the newspapers. Someone has sold Victoria’s etchings to the press, throwing her image into disrepute. The Queen fears it makes her look “unsuitable” to wear the crown, and Albert agrees that “monarchy needs to be shrouded in mystery”. (Or, as Mr Penge succinctly puts it: “what this country needs is a sovereign, not Mrs Bun the baker’s wife!”). The whole development throws an entertaining wrench into Victoria’s desire to be loved by her people. But who was the culprit? At first they suspect the printers, but the real villain of the piece may actually be closer to home than they think…

“My dignity does not have a price”

To the surprise of no one, it turns out that Feodora is the person who leaked the sketches, and is trying to embarrass the Queen at every turn. At last, after six weeks of shifty behaviour, Victoria’s half-sister finally gets unmasked. Jenna Coleman puts in a fiery performance and sparks fly as she confronts Feodora head-on. Rather predictably, Feordora resents the fact that she could never wear the crown herself, and wants to wreak revenge on Victoria instead. Uncle Leopold asks: what could she possibly do to hurt the Queen of England? Her plans to humiliate Victoria may fail, but her greatest triumph is already in motion. Feodora has Albert twisted round her little finger, and the royals’ relationship descends ever further into chaos.

It’s here that viewers may find this episode, and perhaps this series, a little controversial and repetitive. Feodora’s actions in Victoria are entirely fictitious, not grounded in any actual historical basis at all. So while it certainly injects some tension and drama into the stories, some suspension of disbelief remains required as well. Your tolerance for it will all depend how closely you want Victoria to stick to the established truth. There’s also no denying the fact that Victoria and Albert have been arguing a lot this season. Admittedly, it hits new heights this time, with Victoria violently slapping her husband round the face and smashing a priceless vase. But it’s difficult to shake the feeling of ‘been here, done that’ after a few weeks of it on the trot. And there’s still two episodes left to go!

“You are the exception, Victoria, in so many ways”

Let’s focus on what this chapter does differently though: because when it’s good, it’s really good. The highlight of the piece is the Queen’s Georgian Ball, with everyone dressed up in face powder and white wigs. Massive applause to the costume department this week – it’s truly an iconic scene filled with equally iconic looks. And it only gets even more iconic once the characters start dancing around as well! With the women on one side and the men on the other, Victoria and Albert lead the party in a right royal dance-off. It’s expertly staged and convincingly performed, instantly making it the standout moment of the series. Jenna Coleman even took the time to point out its similarity to the ‘Thriller’ music video on her Instagram feed!

Elsewhere, this week’s episode ticked all the other boxes that you would expect. The Duchess and Joseph continue their affair behind closed doors, while Bertie’s disobedience and intelligence comes into question once again. If there’s one character who’s received some welcome development, it’s (quite shockingly!) Lord Palmerston. He’s gone from being an absolutely odious creep, to now displaying definite morals and likeability. Maybe you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover after all! In the meantime, we’ll be waiting for Victoria Series 3 to pull some even bigger surprises as it enters its final weeks. This episode closes as you’d probably expect by this point: Victoria and Albert at each other’s throats, their marriage ever dwindling. But will it be the same old story next time…?

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

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