The curtain falls on another season of Victoria, and it’s make or break time for the Queen and Prince Albert. Have the royals saved their best for last…?
It’s been a series of great change for Victoria, and yet over the last few weeks especially, everything seems to have stayed the same. The opening episodes were a thrilling delight, establishing new characters and arcs for the remaining weeks ahead. Since then, despite fantastic performances and some truly top-class drama, the underlying “story” of Victoria Series 3 has barely changed at all. The conflicts in the palace have focused almost exclusively on the feuds between Queen, Prince Albert, and Feodora. Meanwhile, this year’s ‘will they won’t they?’ forbidden romance between Joseph and the Duchess has barely made it off the starting blocks. In short, it’s been a slow burn of a season. But did this grand-scale finale reward our patience in the end?
The action follows on from last week’s standout episode (perhaps a little too closely), with the Great Exhibition finally due to open. Once again, the royals are worrying about the public opinion. Albert has worked himself to a frazzle to organise the exhibition, barely getting any sleep. Victoria shows her concern, and they share a tender scene stood on the balcony overlooking the Crystal Palace at night. Albert fears all his efforts will be for nought, and that his creation will become little more than a ‘white elephant’. The sense of impending doom is palpable, and everyone is warning Victoria away from the event. “Let it be the Prince’s project, not the crown’s”, Palmerston advises. However, being the stubborn, irrational, and fiercely loyal woman that she is, Victoria decides to stand beside her husband. They’re doing this together, or not at all.
“I fear I have built a monument to my own folly”
In the meantime, Victoria discovers that the Duchess has been locked up by the Duke on the grounds of insanity. Not buying it for a second, the Queen orders him to let his wife attend the exhibition. “In my experience, men only call women mad when they’re doing something inconvenient”. At last, the Duchess manages to slip away and hatches a plan to run away with Joseph to New York. But, as desperate as she is to flee her husband, she hesitates. Deep down, does her love for Joseph outweigh her love for her son? The outcome is left ambiguous and open. We see the Duchess pause, we see Joseph waiting anxiously at the station for her to join him. But it doesn’t go much further than that. We’re guessing this sub-plot’s being left dangling for Series 4, but even so, it’s a little underwhelming. Some sense of closure would have been nice after all this time.
Thankfully, there is at least some ending when it comes to Lord Palmerston’s character arc. Laurence Fox’s Foreign Secretary truly has been the surprise hit of the season. In this episode, he finally takes one step too many out of line, and the Prime Minister is forced to oust him for his actions. Had this happened way back in Episode 1 and 2, we’d have pumped our fists in joy, just as the PM does when he shares the news. But, rather unexpectedly, we’ve come to love the slippery rogue over the course of the last 8 weeks. It’s genuinely quite sad to see him forced to step down from his post. Even Victoria has clearly warmed to him, now calling him “Lord Pam” – somewhat evocative of her old flame, Lord M. But it seems you can’t keep a good character down for long. Like the phoenix, Lord Palmerston will rise again. And this time, his eyes are on a bigger prize…
“I do not want you tainted by my failure”
Appropriately enough though, the best ending is saved for Victoria and Albert themselves. We finally get to see the Great Exhibition in all its glory – and it certainly lives up to its grand billing. This is a big-scale set piece for the series finale, with a scale of splendour unlike anything we’ve seen before. From fanciful costumes, to incredible scenery, to a rousing rendition of “God Save the Queen”, every department is firing on all cylinders. It feels like there is magic in the air – and that’s when Victoria is always at its best. It’s also just nice to see Victoria and Albert reconciled again, at last. In a very similar arc to last week, they stand their ground and emerge triumphant. The Great Exhibition is a roaring success, and all of Albert’s work wins over the people. It is not Victoria they are cheering for by the end: it is him. In the Queen’s own words, it is a “splendid resolution”.
So, what did we think of Victoria Series 3 as a whole? In terms of average quality, it was certainly on par with the previous two seasons. No one quite makes a period drama like Mammoth Screen, and Jenna Coleman is still very much their definitive monarch. But it’d also be fair to say this season’s highs were not as lofty as Series 1 or 2. This year, Victoria was consistently very good – it just didn’t dare quite as often to be great. That said, this finale did hold back one massive surprise for the (possibly literal?!) dying moments. After a false alarm from Bertie earlier in the episode, Albert collapses to the floor, unconscious at Victoria’s feet. It’s the first time a Victoria series has ended on a cliffhanger, and it definitely caught us by surprise. History tells us this isn’t the end for him just yet – but the clock to his demise is surely now counting down. Will we be saying our inevitable goodbye to Prince Albert in Series 4? We can’t wait for the show to return and find out. Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait quite so long this time…!