‘Victoria’ Season 3 Finale: “The White Elephant” Recap

Victoria and Albert at the Great Exhibition (Photo: Courtesy of Justin Slee/ITV Plc for MASTERPIECE)

Previously on Victoria: After two thirds of a season at odds, Victoria and Albert finally make things up between them, complete with a dramatic chase through the rain and a sort of awkward realization that they are, well, the people they are. All of this, of course, happens just in time for Albert to dream up the idea of the Great Exhibition, a huge event meant to highlight the best in invention and industry from countries the world over. He engages a gardener/architect to design him a massive glass structure, which will come to be known as the Crystal Palace, to house all these wonders in the middle of Hyde Park. In his element hyping the wonder of modern invention, Albert’s the most likeable he’s been in weeks, and it’s nice. Elsewhere, the Duke of Monmouth has poor Duchess Sophie dragged off to an insane asylum (maybe?) after he deduces that she’s stepping out on him with the help. Read our full recap of “A Public Inconvenience” here.

Now that we’ve officially arrived at the Season 3 finale of Victoria, a lot of plots suddenly need to resolve themselves, so it becomes clearer than ever why the season’s penultimate episode had to deal with the Vicbert rift on its own. Their main storyline this week concerns the Great Exhibition and whether or not Albert will pull it all off. (Spoiler alert: He does.) The Exhibition itself is the sort of season finale extravaganza we expect from shows like this, with plenty of glorious costumes, huge crowds and massive setpieces. 

Victoria is now her husband’s ultimate cheerleader, reminding him to sleep at regular intervals and using herself and her royal status to help sell season tickets to the event. This is, I suppose, sweet, but not super interesting – though Victoria’s multiple affirmations about her belief in Albert’s vision and ability are well done, and likely a balm to those who needed some Vicbert cuteness after weeks of fighting. Albert finally manages to be a great dad, realizes that Feodora is a total grifter after weeks of ignorance, and admits Victoria was right about all of it. It’s basically what we’ve been waiting all season to see! It would have been rather nice to see some of this before the last fifteen minutes of Season 3, but we can't have everything.

Albert and his true love, science The Palmerstons are forever goals  (Photo: Courtesy of Justin Slee/ITV Plc for MASTERPIECE)
Albert and his true love, science The Palmerstons are forever goals  (Photo: Courtesy of Justin Slee/ITV Plc for MASTERPIECE)

In more dramatic storylines, Sophie finds herself a prisoner in her own home, thanks to her dirtbag husband who has employed a Victorian Nurse Ratchet, door locks and letters to the queen full of lies about his wife's mental state to help keep her there. Sophie is miserable,  as she is pretty much two steps from being a Jane Eyre character already. Luckily for her, neither the queen nor her new dresser Abigail seem to believe Monmouth’s story, and agree to “make inquiries” about Sophie's state.

Turner, who as we all remember is something of a scrapper, bribes a maid to give her the truth about Sophie’s imprisonment, which is that she’s been confined to her room on grounds of insanity. Victoria orders Monmouth brought before her, Joseph has a breakdown and threatens to wring the Duke’s neck, it’s all very extra. One imagines we’re supposed to be very invested in all the high drama of this, but it’s honestly difficult to care that much, given that neither Sophie nor Joseph have much approaching actual personalities, and the Duke of Monmouth is drawn as such a moustache-twirling monster that his machinations aren’t even fun to watch.

Sure, Victoria laying down the feminist hammer and ordering him to release his wife from captivity is rather awesome. (And that line about men only calling women mad when they’re doing something men deem inconvenient is a classic.) But it’s one of the more obvious moments when you can feel Victoria’s modern sensibilities snuffing out the actual historical fact of the time. I’m sure there were many women like Sophie, whose lives were overrun and ruined by terrible men, and who didn’t have a queen in their corner to fight for them. The bittersweet ending to her tale – that Sophie ultimately seems to choose a life she hates but that has her son in it over running away with Joseph – is probably the only way this could have ended.

The Palmerstons are forever goals  (Photo: Courtesy of Justin Slee/ITV Plc for MASTERPIECE)
The Palmerstons are forever goals  (Photo: Courtesy of Justin Slee/ITV Plc for MASTERPIECE)

Elsewhere, Lord Palmerston finds himself in some trouble when he openly supports Louis Napoleon, the newly declared Emperor of France. Once again he decides to make some statements on behalf of England without consulting Victoria, Albert, or the Prime Minister before doing so and everyone’s pretty mad at him, including the House of Commons and the bulk of the English people. Russell, of course, is overjoyed at the prospect of finally getting rid of Palmerston and helps organize a vote of censure against him. It goes poorly, obviously, and poor Lord Pam gets booed, called a traitor by the public that once loved him so much, and is eventually forced to resign. He seems confident that his choice was the right one, though, and accepts the (momentary) end of his political career with something like grace.

The most important part of this storyline, however, is obviously that Emily Palmerston returns to the show, arriving in London in time to support her dumb husband during his public crisis and just be generally perfect. She and Lord Pam remain amazing together – whether glaring at his enemies in perfect unison, trading carefully devastating verbal barbs with Feodora or just generally being adorable while hanging all over one another, they’re clearly the perfect team.

(Ugh, I love them so much. Sorry not sorry, y’all.)

Lady Palmerston’s declaration that she’s going to make sure her husband becomes Prime Minister is now officially the thing I’m most excited to see in Season 4. Fight me. I mean, we all know Lord Pam will become Prime Minister eventually, though technically that’s not meant to happen for another four years or so. He does become Home Secretary about a year after the events of this episode though, so bring on the Palmerston family political machine, I say. Anything that keeps these two around. They’re too much fun. 

The ending of this episode does offer some confusing hints about where Victoria may go next season. Provided it’s renewed, which I’m certainly assuming it will be. You don’t end things on a cliffhanger like that unless you feel confident that you’ll get to finish the story. Albert’s multiple medical scares hint at the death we all know is coming, but this is 1851, and the prince technically lives for another decade past this point. Palmerston will become Prime Minister, but not until 1855. (He’ll be Victoria’s PM for the second time when Albert passes, actually.) Will the show leap further into the future? Will it try to slow down the inevitable march to Albert’s death? Go for something in between?

What did you think of this season finale? Let’s discuss this episode – and our hopes for Season 4 – in the comments. 

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 Threads or Blue Sky at @LacyMB. 

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