'Victoria' Season 1: 'Brocket Hall' Recap

Victoria's very fateful piano recital (Photo: Courtesy of ITV Plc)

Victoria On MASTERPIECE on PBS *SPECIAL TWO-HOUR PREMIERE* SUNDAY, JANUARY 15, 2017 AT 9PM ET Continues Sundays, January 22 – February 19, 2017 at 9pm ET Season Finale on Sunday, March 5 at 9pm ET Episode Two – "Brocket Hall" Sunday, January 22 at 9pm ET Facing rioters and suitors, Victoria grows into her royal role. As she ponders marriage, her friendship with Lord Melbourne grows more complex. Shown: Jenna Coleman as Victoria (C) ITV Plc

©Justin_Slee 2016

Previously on Victoria: Alexandrina Victoria becomes Queen of England at the age of eighteen. As the young monarch struggles to find her feet, we meet her manipulative family (terrible), Lord Melbourne (dreamy), her Prime Minister, and a (pointless) cast of servants who live downstairs. Victoria and “Lord M” immediately become inseparable, forming a close friendship and developing something of a (historically inaccurate) crush on each other, which causes some scandalous gossip.  The young queen also ends up involved in several embarrassing public incidents, including refusing to form a government unless her particular choice can lead it, and accusing one of her mother’s ladies in waiting of an affair. By the end of the day, though, Victoria has established herself, grown up a little bit, and reinstalled Lord M as Prime Minister.

Where do we go from here? Let’s find out this week. 

Victoria’s Uncle Leopold Comes to Visit. Victoria’s uncle, King Leopold of Belgium, comes to visit.  But this is more than just a family thing – he thinks it’s time for Victoria to marry and he’s there to push his the suit of his nephew Albert. Victoria’s mom and her troll friend Conroy are both supportive of this plan for different reasons (her daughter’s happiness, his own power). Not to be outdone, Victoria’s other uncle, the Duke of Cumberland, thinks his nephew, Prince George of Cambridge, would be a better pick for her husband. No one seems to care much what Victoria thinks about all this, and she’s not particularly inclined to get married at all at present.

Why? Well, she’s still pretty into her Prime Minister. She and Melbourne continue to dance around the obvious topic of their feelings for one another, despite several flirtatious moments. Instead, they discuss Queen Elizabeth, the famous virgin queen who never married at all. Elizabeth, apparently, managed to be happy with no husband and just some select dear companions. Such as Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, her friend, confidant and suitor.  The two never married, of course, but their affection was widely known in spite of that fact. 

The Rise of the Chartists. Protests break out in support of the “People’s Charter”, which meant to give all men over 21 a vote and do away with property qualifications to serve as an MP, among other things. These “Chartists” led an uprising in Newport, which ended in 22 people being killed, and many were arrested. All three main leaders of this uprising were sentenced to death. Even one of Victoria’s royal engagements – a dedication of a statue of her father – is disrupted by the appearance of protesters. Leopold takes advantage of the situation to press his suit on behalf of Albert once more – this time to Lord M. He says that Melbourne could convince Victoria that a marriage was in her best interest, and it would help “settle” her reign. Lord M looks skeptical about it (and, frankly, pretty jealous, too). 

I mean, COME ON. (Photo: ITV)
I mean, COME ON. (Photo: ITV)

This Historically Inaccurate Couple is Breaking My Personally Accurate Heart. The romantic situation between Victoria and Lord Melbourne becomes more and more complicated, as the way the two feel about each other becomes more and more obvious. (During a trip to the opera, the two are longingly staring at each other so obviously that terrible Conroy notices from a completely different box on the other side of the room!) 

Anyway, Lord Melbourne decides that the best thing he can do is run away to his house, Brocket Hall, where he can brood in peace. Unfortunately for him, Victoria doesn’t give him much time to regroup before borrowing Lady Emma’s carriage and heading there for an “incognito” secret visit. While there, Victoria confesses her feelings for Melbourne, explaining that while she once thought he was the father figure she always wanted, she has realized that her feelings go well beyond that now. He is, she says, the only companion she wants. And of course, Lord M does that stoic Englishman thing where he chooses duty over his own happiness, and gently lets Victoria down, pretending that he can’t be with her because he’s still devoted to his dead wife. (You know, the one who had an affair with Lord Byron and plunged him into scandal and ruined his life for a while. That one.) Melbourne says all the right things about how Victoria can’t possibly give her heart to him because she has to marry for the good of the country, blah blah blah. But since he’s clinging to her hands and standing thisclose to her the entire time, it’s probably not all entirely true. At any rate, she turns away from him and they both have matching devastated expressions. It’s so sad!  

And fact that this moment is most likely completely made up doesn’t detract from its emotional impact at all. Sure, we know that Victoria eventually marries Albert – because, that’s the sort of history you probably can’t rewrite in a show like this – but that doesn’t make her relationship with Melbourne any less real in this context. This is the same kind of tortured romance that works so well in almost every other period drama. And I am an emotional wreck about it. 

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do, Especially When You Don’t Want To. Victoria mopes about the Melbourne situation. And all she wants to do is find a quiet place to cry and be upset about it. But it doesn’t look like any of her family members will let her, they’re constantly popping up again to extoll the virtues of Albert and/or remind Victoria about why it’s so important that she get married. She’s despondent, but presses forward wit the preparations for the costume ball she’s planned to honor her Uncle Leopold.

Interestingly however, Melbourne also manages to send Victoria a gift, orchids from his greenhouse at Brocket Hall. Lady Emma reveals that Lord M would have had to reopen his greenhouse especially to grow these for her, as it had been closed since Caroline died. Victoria sniffs and says that he definitely wouldn’t do anything for her, that all he cares about is the memory of his dead wife. Lady Emma just smiles, and sagely reminds her that that’s probably just want he wants her to think, because he puts duty above everything else.

(Say it with me now: Awwwww!)

The costumes kill me here. (Photo: ITV)

An Emotionally Devastating Costume Ball. Victoria decides to dress as Queen Elizabeth for her costume ball, because she’s really been into embracing the previous queen as a role model. She’s still rather hilariously petulant about the fact that Melbourne just won’t admit his feelings to her. But she says yes when he asks her to dance, and things thaw between them a little as they twirl around the room. Victoria mentions that she wasn’t sure if they’d dance together or not that night, and Melbourne just looks at her, and then says it would’ve been unkind for Elizabeth to refuse her Leicester like that, identifying both his costume and his feelings for her in one rather swoony go.  (Don’t mind me, I’m just suddenly VERY EMOTIONAL again.)

The two discuss Queen Elizabeth further for a bit, and how Dudley was obviously her devoted companion, but that they never married. Melbourne looks wistful as he explains. “He and the queen both understood that they were not in a position to marry…whatever their inclination.” They dance for a minute longer, before Lord M bows and steps away. This scene is kind of a amazing – a heart wrenching acknowledgement of the future that they both want, as well as the pain that they’re both in because they can’t have it. (But somehow, it’s better that they did acknowledge it. It feels like Melbourne at least gave Victoria the gift of knowing she’s not suffering about it alone.) 

One Good Thing Happens This Episode. While dancing with her mom’s vile man friend Sir John Conroy during the costume ball, Victoria learns once again just how personally greedy he is. He tells her that she needs a husband to “keep her in check” (barf), but also admits that he prefers Albert because he wants a position as his advisor at court. Conroy is nothing if not a completely self-serving loser.  

Victoria, tired of his general presence and the fact that her mother is completely in his thrall, decides to do what she can to get rid of him. So she offers him an Irish title, land and a thousand pounds a year to leave her court and her mother behind.  Of course he takes it , He tells the Duchess that he has no choice but to go, because his talents are being wasted at Victoria’s court. Later, Victoria and her mother bond over the respective broken hearts, and Victoria cries out her Melbourne-related fear that she’ll never be happy again. 

Does anyone care about these servant-based stories? (Photo: Courtesy of ITV Plc)
Does anyone care about these servant-based stories? (Photo: Courtesy of ITV Plc)

This Week’s Downstairs Storyline. There are a couple of storylines going on amongst the servants this week, but since they are still fairly boring and nondescript characters, it’s hard to care too much.  One of them involves the revelation that the queen’s dresser, Mrs. Jenkins, has a nephew who was part of the Chartist uprising. As a result, he’s scheduled to be executed, and not in a nice way, either. The drawn and quartered kind of way. 

Luckily, Skerrett gets the opportunity to explain the situation to the queen while she’s doing her hair. She says that Jenkins is struggling with the brutality being shown towards the protestors and their leaders, and that many others in the country feel the same. Victoria is moved by this appeal, as well as the story of the grisly fates that await those that have been sentenced to die. After discussing the situation with Lord M, Victoria decides to commute all their sentences, and have the guilty parties shipped off to Australia for the rest of their lives instead of executing them. She explains to Melbourne that she wants her reign to be seen as a merciful one. (Mrs. Jenkins for her part, is grateful and touched.)

And Here’s Albert. After all this drama, Victoria seems more resolute than ever that she will not marry at all, and will reign alone as Queen Elizabeth once did. Melbourne looks skeptical of this plan. He says that he doesn’t think she’d be happy alone, even with companions all around her, and she deserves someone to love her. He can’t be her PM forever, he warns. Further, Melbourne also says she must choose someone who pleases her, not someone who pleases her family or anyone else. They do that thing where they stare meaningfully at each other for a long minute without saying anything, before they both agree that they’ve been happy together, in the way things are. Though there is an obvious undercurrent of sadness to this conversation, the affection between the two is palpable, and I’m becoming genuinely upset that this show isn’t going to just up and become the Victorian-era fanfiction I want where the two of them run off together.

Of course, right after this, Victoria’s giving a piano recital and Albert shows up just in time to turn the page for her on the beat. Dun dun…. What will he be like? We’ll have to find out next week.

What do you think of this episode of Victoria? Are you having as many emotions over the queen and her Prime Minister as I am? Hit the comments and let’s chat. 

Lacy Baugher

Lacy's love of British TV is embarrassingly extensive, but primarily centers around evangelizing all things Doctor Who, and watching as many period dramas as possible.

Digital media type by day, she also has a fairly useless degree in British medieval literature, and dearly loves to talk about dream poetry, liminality and the medieval religious vision. (Sadly, that opportunity presents itself very infrequently.) York apologist, Ninth Doctor enthusiast and unabashed Ravenclaw. Say hi on Twitter at @LacyMB