'Victoria' Season 1: 'An Ordinary Woman' Recap

Victoria and Albert's wedding is lovely. (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 Four – "An Ordinary Woman" Sunday, February 5 at 9pm ET Courtship at court leads to second thoughts and other complications. Will Victoria and Albert take the fateful step into matrimony? And will the queen promise “to obey” her foreign prince? Shown from left to right: Tom Hughes as Prince Albert and Jenna Coleman as Victoria (C) ITV Plc

Previously, on Victoria: Prince Albert arrives in England and virtually overnight everyone Victoria knows is pushing the two of them to get married. Except for Lord Melbourne, obviously, who is busy being sad because he is basically doomed to love the queen from afar.  After a lot of that kind of flirting where two people are repeatedly rude to each other to indicate their interest and that’s declared romantic, Victoria proposes to Albert. Lord M decides its time to hang it up as a politician. And the queen’s hairdresser Skerett has a stolen identity and some kind of secret life going on.

This week, we’re barreling toward Victoria and Albert’s wedding. Since we know these crazy kids are going to get there in the end, what can we expect along the way? 

So You’re Engaged; Now What? After last week’s candlelit proposal, Victoria and Albert must face the light of day as an actual engaged couple. This mostly seems to involve stolen kisses together whenever possible and a near constant struggle to not be too inappropriate together before they can manage to say their “I dos”.  The sexual tension here is getting kind of out of control. Which, again, speaks to the fact that Tom Hughes and Jenna Coleman have fantastic chemistry together. And this is great – and something that you can’t fake. It’s either there or its not and if you’re casting two people to play one of the most famous love stories of all time, it better look like they like each other. Which, luckily, they do. So, yes, there’s a lot of sexual tension between Victoria and Albert. Unfortunately, there’s still not a lot of focus on their relationship beyond that, and I’m still not entirely sure what they see in each other, but. Oh well. Here we are.

When Victoria and Albert aren’t having secret makeout sessions or hiding behind trees together, the happy couple has to tell everyone that they’re engaged. Everyone’s happy for them, particularly Victoria’s mother and uncle, who are also kind of snottily smug that their attempt at familial matchmaking went so well. Victoria tries to break the news gently to Lord Melbourne, who looks rather stricken and can’t quite meet her eyes afterward. But, before either of them can say anything else on the subject, Leopold appears to gloat, and the moment is gone. Oh, Lord M. You poor lamb. Can someone just get him a puppy or something? 

A Time for Politics and Pettiness. Anyway. Now that Albert and Victoria are getting married, there are a lot of apparently stupid practical considerations that need to be handled.  Albert desperately wants a title in his own right – so he’s something more than just the queen’s husband – and also a yearly allowance that doesn’t leave him dependent on the generosity of his wife. Apparently Uncle Leopold got 50,000 pounds a year when he married Princess Charlotte, and he thinks that his nephew should settle for nothing less.

Victoria, for her part, is fuming that she has to ask permission from Parliament for all of these things, including permission to marry Albert in the first place. The Tories aren’t particularly keen to given Albert any power, frequently expressing both dislike that he is German and concern that he might be secretly Catholic. Apparently for all that people really wanted Victoria to get married, a lot of them aren’t super excited that she’s marrying someone who isn’t an Englishman.

Victoria Learns Some Uncomfortable Truths.  Albert has to make a quick trip home back to Coburg before the wedding can take place. He and Victoria are despondent at the prospect of being apart and both go on at some length about how much they will miss each other.

Almost as soon as Albert is gone, basically everyone in Victoria’s life starts mentioning that he’ll probably cheat on her as soon as they’re married. The queen is quite taken aback, particularly when she’s informed about how common it is for men to take mistresses, and how many men in her own life current have or have had them, including her Uncle Leopold and her own father. She learns that Leopold is still getting paid the original allowance from his marriage to Charlotte, and using it to pay for the house and upkeep of an actress who’s been his mistress for years.  And, to make matters worse, Leopold’s mistress upkeep fund is the reason that there’s no money for an allowance for Albert. Awkward.

Lord M gets stuck in multiple awkward conversations about whether he thinks Albert is likely to take a mistress himself after they get married. This is clearly awful for him on multiple levels, but he powers through admirably and advises Victoria to be honest with Albert about her fears. (Of course they also throw in a scene where Lord M watches Victoria and Albert spat and make up in the garden from a window, looking sad and alone, because this show loves to twist the knife in my heart. Team Melbourne forever, y’all.)  And to his credit, when Victoria finally asks whether the reason he wants money of his own is so he can pay a mistress himself, Albert declares that he’s not interested in that sort of that at all. Victoria is the only woman he wants, or will ever want, he says. And she he just had the world’s most awkward trip to a brothel, thanks to Ernest, it’s easy to actually believe what he says here. Well done, Albert.

Victoria actually started the whole white wedding dress trend.  (Photo: Courtesy of ITV Plc)
Victoria actually started the whole white wedding dress trend.  (Photo: Courtesy of ITV Plc)

Wedding Bells Are Ringing. Victoria and Albert tie the knot in an elaborate ceremony that’s pretty much just gorgeous to look at. Melbourne precedes the bride down the aisle carrying the rather massive sword of state and looking for all the world like he wouldn’t mind stabbing Albert with it. (And I’m deeply hoping that there’s already an alternate universe fanfiction out there somewhere where this happens. I’m not ashamed.) Victoria makes a predictably lovely bride, and Jenna Coleman is really apparently one of those British actresses made to wear period costumes. Despite the snotty Tory commentary in the peanut gallery about whether or not Albert is secretly a Catholic, the ceremony goes off without a hitch. Victoria and Albert look happy, in that way that they have that signals they’re super attracted to one another, and everything is well.

Victoria decided to keep the “obey” part of her wedding vows intact as some sort of signal to Albert that she’s entering their marriage as an ordinary woman, not a queen.  Apparently this is enough to paper over the fact that he didn’t get the allowance he wanted, though no one should be surprised when that issue inevitably comes up again. However, it did provide the hilarious moment in which Albert mentions to King Leopold that he probably wouldn’t have to rely on his wife’s generosity so much if Leopold would just give up his actress girlfriend.  Or, you know, “charity work” as Leopold apparently calls it. Snort.  

This Week in the Downstairs Plot.  The servants of Victoria continue to exist, and mostly likely the majority of viewers continue to not care about them. Despite the hints of Ms. Skerrett’s secret life last week, we learn very little about that story this week. (Beyond the fact that Skerrett once lived in a nunnery, apparently?) In fact, almost nothing of any significance happens among Team Downstairs this week.

Highlights: Penge, the head steward at Buckingham Palace whose name I literally had to discover via multiple Google searches, has some kind of long-ago romantic history with a female servant from Albert’s household whose name I never bothered to learn. Elsewhere, Francatelli, the palace chef, makes an enormous and beautiful wedding cake for Victoria, and spends the rest of the episode pretty much stalking Ms. Skerrett. He decides to display his romantic interest in her by constantly saying creepy things about how she needs to make a better life for herself than working in the palace. It’s…not a great look for him. And watching Dash play fetch would probably be better than any of these storylines. 

At least poor Lord Melbourne still looks amazing. (Photo: Courtesy of ITV Plc)
At least poor Lord Melbourne still looks amazing. (Photo: Courtesy of ITV Plc)

Poor Lord M One More Time. After the wedding reception, the queen requests a private moment with Lord M, so that she can revisit that conversation between them at Brocket Hall a couple of episodes back. She says that she remembers that he told her once that when she gave her heart to someone, it would be without reservation. She says he was almost right, and that she will never forget what was between them. They look at each other for a second in a way that makes me want to stab myself, and then Melbourne kisses her cheek. They say goodbye to each other in a way that seems as though one of them is about to go off to the gallows, and Melbourne sadly watches her run off to her future at the other end of the hall. It’s quite heartbreaking and also stupidly romantic, and I basically hate everything.

Since this scene feels, for the most part, like a death, I can only imagine that we’re not likely to see the dishy Rufus Sewell too much in future episodes of Victoria, which seems a shame both from a character and a storytelling perspective. On the one hand, watching Lord M stare mournfully at Victoria from various points around the palace is sort of torturous. But on the other, Melbourne is one of the few consistent characters that has been on Victoria’s side 1000%, no question. And he’s also one of the only people who actually ever asks her what she thinks about a given situation, without trying to tell her how to feel about it at the same time. Perhaps we’re meant to see this as a further sign that Victoria’s grown up and into her throne, but if you ask me, you always need someone that’s just on your side for you. His character is likely to be missed in many ways.

And Happily Ever After, For Now. Victoria and Albert head off on their honeymoon, which is going to be pretty brief since the queen can only spare two days from state business. The happy couple falls into bed together immediately, and romantic music swells in the background as the credits roll. This is actually a pretty historically accurate moment from what I can tell, since according to her diaries Victoria and Albert enjoyed each other’s company that way quite a bit. I even read that in their bedroom in the palace, Albert managed to put in some kind of mechanism that locked the door that could be operated from the bed itself, so that the servants didn’t walk in at an inopportune moment.

Now that Victoria and Albert are together and wedded and bedded, perhaps Victoria will bother to really do the work of turning his character into someone interesting. Thanks to this episode’s weird obsession with mistresses, the only thing we really learned about him was that he apparently does not intend to have one. Which, given the fact that literally every other man on the show does or did at one point certainly sets him apart as both a generally decent person and singularly devoted to Victoria. It does not, however, make him a fully rounded character, or even one that is interesting to watch.  And since the show has leaned so heavily on the obvious chemistry and attraction between these two characters to get them to the altar, one has to wonder how their relationship will be handled and/or presented now they’ve got there.

To be fair, Albert on the whole seemed generally less irritating this week than last. Or, at the very least, he spent much less time telling Victoria that everything she was doing was wrong and dumb. But does that mean that he’s becoming a better character? Maybe? But the jury’s kind of still out.

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