VICTORIA opens exactly where we left off, with Albert taking over Victoria’s piano at a party. It turns out that Albert is quite a fan of the arts, including music and paintings and has been looking forward to seeing the British royal collection, of which Victoria is quite ignorant. It’s a theme throughout the episode, whatever Albert is interested in, Victoria isn’t. But she does manage to come around. As Victoria continues to depend on her beloved Lord M for advice, Victoria and Albert continue to battle as he is annoyed by her interests, and lack thereof, in the things that he finds important. His uncle continues to give him advice, which he finds impossible to use as it seems to be well-ingrained in his nature to be serious and rather cranky at all times.
Meanwhile below stairs, there is all kinds of unimportant-to-the-plot drama brewing. Skerrett has a visit from someone she seems to know from her former employer, some type of house of ill-repute. It’s unclear why her visitor is so desperate for money, but it’s even more unclear why Skerrett feels obligated to help her. Even when we see later that the other woman is a mother and is trying to care for her baby, it’s uncertain why Skerrett would be responsible for the family’s finances. More may be revealed, but its really hard to care about what is going on downstairs when upstairs there’s a royal romance. A touch of fun that does occur downstairs, however, involving a battle of the butlers. The German princes have brought their own manservant and he continuously complains in German about how the British household does things, from their lack of colorful leather cleaners, to their apparent laziness, and the British breakfast that doesn’t suit his lordship. So it’s pretty fun to watch the prig the get his comeuppance when it turns out that one of the British bunch understands and speaks perfect German and is able to tell him off. But it’s not really important, just a rare moment of levity.
Speaking of levity, Victoria manages to find some in everything, including the new invention of stamps. She giggles at the thought of herself appearing on every letter in the country, something that Albert finds quite brilliant. Given that her days are probably very humdrum, it does seem nice that she can laugh at various situations, but for this one, I’m kind of on Albert’s side. Even though he’s serious to the point of annoying and takes everything in, the creation and invention of stamps seems pretty impressive and creative. It highlights Victoria in a rather bad light, which seems unfair. But then Albert is constantly picking on Victoria’s lack of interest in the poor, in art, and even in practicing her music. It’s easy to see that they are a perfect pair that will balance each other, but overall, Victoria doesn’t come off especially well in the episode. Although the show is constantly driving home that she is a working ruler in progress, with Albert there, she seems unfit to rule and very capricious.
Even Victoria is giving into Albert’s words of wisdom, like practicing her piano so she’s a better player, or taking an interest in the woods of Windsor rather than gardens, even engaging in an art lesson. Considering that she is very determined to rule herself, it’s hard to tell as when she’s not listening to Albert, she’s still listening to Lord M. The gentlemen are thus rather jealous of Victoria’s attention for the other, but Lord M admits he won’t be around forever, which seems to set Albert’s mind at ease.
The royal cousins do have a lovely frolic in the forest, which is quite romantic until Dash, the Queen’s beloved dog, who has a very large role in the episode, gets injured. Albert bandages him up but then gets in a bad mood again. His uncle is constantly giving him advice about Victoria, even as his very handsome brother continues to find ways to set him up to get close to the Queen. Of course, it’s not until he’s decided to leave the country that Victoria decides she wants to marry him. Earlier in the episode, we learn that because she’s a queen, she has to do the proposing. It’s kind of a nice role reversal, even if it is still all very political. Victoria seems uncharacteristically nervous, even as she has all the candles lit and puts the flowers in her hair that Albert so enjoys. It’s sweet and romantic because as she stumbles over the words, Albert finally does a wee bit of flirting himself, asking for a kiss and very seriously saying that he is marrying for love not convenience and she agrees that the marriage will be very inconvenient. It seems like a perfect match because Albert’s serious “clockwork prince” will help bring Victoria down to earth and the business of ruling, but it still seems unlikely that she’ll have much effect on him. I can’t wait to see if he ever manages to crack a smile like she hopes.
And although I had the impression that the match was a political one, it seems it may be better for the German side than the British. The Germans are all about getting their dowry settled before the nuptials but the British people look to be none too happy to have a German in their family. So much subdued drama on the way!
Season 1, Episode 3 (S01E03)
Victoria airs Sundays at 9PM on PBS
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Carly Zinderman | Contributor