Victoria, a show that’s previously been known for its fancy costumes and swoony romances, appears to be trying to take things to the next level in Season 3, and prove it can be a Serious Drama. It launches its third season with a dark, uneasy first installment that focuses on the threat of revolution creeping through Europe and mob violence escalating at home.
Even the setting itself is noticeably darker, as if Victoria can convey how dangerous the times were by simply having fewer light sources in a room.
On the plus side, it’s nice to watch the show finally wrestle with an issue doesn’t easily resolve itself in an hour, even if it does try and play both sides of the thing a bit too coyly. Sure, only the bad Chartists wanted to bring down the monarchy! The good ones loved the queen and only wanted a say in their elected officials! That may have all been even mostly true, but it seems unlikely that the line between these two factions was so bright and clear.
Victoria, for her part, insists that the British are not a revolutionary people. She also desperately wants to believe that her subjects love her and wish her well, a charming flaw that the show should really tease out more than it does. Of course, this is a queen who would have been raised from an extremely young age not only to expect the crown and understand its duty, but believe that she has been chosen by God for a position her people still want to see her in. This seems to be part of the reason she has such problems understanding the revolutions spreading across the continent – it’s as though she thinks the populace still understands their proper place in the order of things.
Albert, on the other hand, is a bit more of a pragmatist. He understands that the politics of Europe can and very well may reach across the channel. “Ideas can swim,” he intones ominously during the episode’s opening moments, as shots of a French monarch fleeing his people are interspersed with dramatic British pomp and luxury. Dun dun dun!! To his credit, Albert does seem to understand that these revolutions are not necessarily driven by people’s thoughts on the divine right of kings, but the fact that they are hungry, poor, and living in cramped and awful conditions. (He’s even reading Karl Marx!)
Palmerston is probably a name that even folks only passingly familiar with Victorian history recognize, as he’s going to become Prime Minister himself eventually. He’s also a huge jerk, which is hilarious in a way that has nothing at all to do with history, since he’s being played by Inspector Lewis star Laurence Fox in a role that goes completely against type for him. Unsurprisingly, Victoria loathes him and his womanizing, belligerent, self-aggrandizing ways, which means that this season is going to be a lot of fun to watch as these two face off.
The Foreign Secretary won’t be the only personality clashing with the queen in Season 3. The arrival of her heretofore unmentioned half-sister Feodora – ostensibly fleeing unrest in Germany – puts Victoria back on her heels. The two women clearly aren't that fond of one another, though they express it in that traditionally female way of saying nice, caring things to each other that are actually thinly veiled insults and judgments. Victoria isn’t at all coy about hinting that Feodora has some kind of hidden agenda regarding her sister, but like all good soap operas, doesn’t actually tell us what that is. Place your bets, folks.
Elsewhere in Buckingham Palace, Victoria’s eldest children – young Vicky and Bertie, who will grow up to be King Edward VII – are now old enough to be small people themselves. Vicky, unsurprisingly, is a Queen Victoria in miniature – bossy, opinionated and extremely sure of herself. Oh, if only primogeniture weren’t still a thing, what a queen she likely would have made. Bertie, on the other hand, already seems kind of problematic, whining about everything and throwing public tantrums. Sure, you say, he’s just a little boy and that’s natural. I say that he’s the heir apparent, and none of the girls – including Victoria herself – would ever have been allowed to behave this way.
Skerrett and Francatelli are still together, for those of you who care about such things, but despite the indeterminate amount of time that has passed since their supposedly secret engagement, they still aren’t married. Francatelli’s pushing for this – and embracing chartist thinking along the way – but Skerett is…strangely reluctant. And not because she doesn’t care for him – she just doesn’t want to give up her job. She believes she’s a real help to the queen and, as such, somehow a help to the country as well. It’s an interesting way to insert a problem between the two. Is Skerrett simply trying to prove to herself that her connection to the queen is more an employer-employee bond? Does she want to keep her independence and not simply become someone’s wife? (On some level, it makes sense that working for a female monarch might help her develop new opinions about women’s roles in the wider world.) Or is she just setting herself up for heartache when we all realize that while Victoria clearly thinks she’s nice and more than competent and doing hair, they aren’t anything like actual friends?
What did you think of the Victoria Season 3 premiere? Let’s discuss it all – and try and predict where the season is headed – in the comments.