Episode Recaps

'Les Miserables' Episode 3 Recap: Castle on a Cloud

Valjean and Cosette (Photo: Courtesy of Laurence Cendrowicz / Lookout Point)

Previously on Les Miserables: Fantine exhibits terrible judgment by leaving her young daughter in the care of the Thenardiers, the trashiest and most selfish couple on Earth, while attempting to earn a living for them both. She ends up working for Valjean, who has somehow reinvented himself as some kind of successful businessman and politician in the six years since we last saw them, but she ultimately loses her job, her hair, and her front teeth, before becoming a sex worker, catching consumption and being forced to physically fight dudes in the street before winding up dying in a hospital. Elsewhere, Javert pops back up to tell the new Monseiur le Mayor that a man claiming to be former convict Jean Val Jean is arrested for robbing a child in a different town. Everything is terrible, basically, because that’s really the sort of story this is. Need more details? Our recap of Episode 2 is here.

The third episode of Les Miserables goes a long way toward humanizing the previously offputting and largely feral Jean Valjean. That it does this through the insertion of a small, charming child into his life is a trope and a half, but since it also means Dominic West gets to both talk to dolls and smile occasionally, it’s easy enough to deal with.

'Les Miserables' Episode 2 Recap: I Dreamed A Dream

Fantine and young Cosette (Photo: Courtesy of Robert Viglasky / Lookout Point)

Previously on Les Miserables: A new gritty version of Victor Hugo’s classic tale kicked off – by taking its time. The series first episode introduces us to Jean Valjean,  prisoner given 19 years hard time for stealing bread, and a starry-eyed young Parisian named Fantine, who wants more from life than the world her lower class status has promised her. Freed from prison, Valjean struggles to find work, as Fantine falls in love with Felix, a posh young man slumming it for the few years before the necessities of his social standing kick in. A kind priest buys Valjean’s salvation by gifting him candlesticks and silverware to start a new life, while Fantine is left abandoned, unmarried and with a young daughter to raise. Need more details? Our Episode 1 recap is here.

The thing about Les Miserables the musical is, despite the fact that it’s full of death and sadness, it’s been restructured as a story about hope. It’s full of songs about love, and hope, and the power of resistance to reshape the world into something better than we found it. Do you hear the people sing? and all that. That’s the version of this story that most of us know. Yes, Fantine dies. As does Enjolras. So do most of the boys at the barricades. But that’s okay, because everyone’s brought back together in the end, to sing a song of triumph. Their deaths meant something, stood for something greater than themselves, mattered. The sweeping tricolore promises freedom, hope and a new world for all, at the end.

The novel, Les Miserables, is not entirely like that, and this episode underscores that fact in spades. 

'Les Miserables' Episode 1 Recap: At the End of the Day

Valjean and Javert face off for the first of many times (Photo: Courtesy of Robert Viglasky / Lookout Point)

When news of a new Les Miserables adaptation broke last year, it’s doubtful that any of us immediately cheered. There are so many versions of this story out there, including an award-winning 2012 feature film with an all-star cast. We probably all assumed that if Hugo’s work still has anything interesting left to say, we’ve pretty much seen it already.

Well, Masterpiece is here to prove us all wrong about that. This sumptuous new BBC take on Les Mis feels like something entirely different from its very first episode, fueled by an unexpectedly gritty realism and an honest eye toward the real world these characters inhabit. 

‘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 again, 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.) 

‘Victoria’, Season 3: “A Public Inconvenience" Recap

Victoria and Albert, finally back on track. (Photo: Courtesy of Justin Slee/ITV Plc for MASTERPIECE)

Previously on Victoria: King Leopold comes to visit, which doesn’t do much to dissolve the tension flying around Victoria’s court. In fact, it probably makes it worse, given that he doesn’t recognize Feodora, his own niece, and is a witness to the increasing problems between his son/nephew and the queen, who continue to argue about everything from their son’s head shape to public opinion about some leaked family drawings to Feodora’s motivations. (Which, to the surprise of no one, turned out to be fairly selfish and petty.) Read our full recap of "A Coburg Quartet" here

Since Season 3 is rapidly hurtling toward its conclusion, it makes sense that Victoria (finally) has to spend some time mending the rift between Victoria and Albert that it’s pretty much devoted all season to creating. That it does so rather deftly is true, complete with one of the couple’s standard over the top romantic scenes involving a chase through the rain. And in most ways, the resolution of the tension between them comes as a relief, because let’s be honest, this show isn’t nearly as much fun when the two are in constant conflict in this way.

‘Victoria’ Season 3: “A Coburg Quartet” Recap

Uncle Leopold's in town! (Photo: Courtesy of Justin Slee/ITV Plc for MASTERPIECE)

Previously on Victoria: The queen takes the court on a trip to Ireland, in an attempt to make up for what is apparently decades of royal neglect of the Emerald Isle. The visit is a public if not a personal success, because although Victoria makes a sincere effort to start fresh with the Irish people, Albert insinuates his wife just wants another crowd of people to cheer for her. But we do get to meet Lord Palmerston’s frankly amazing spouse, Emily Lamb, who not only seems to adore her husband, but to have somehow carved out a marriage and a life that works for them both. (Even if it does include acknowledged infidelity.) Read our full recap of "A Show of Unity" this way

Victoria is a soapy costume drama and, as such, it doesn’t often get the respect it deserves. Sure, there are occasionally ridiculous storylines – Duchess Sophie’s literally bodice-ripping affair with a hunky footman isn’t exactly what you might call prestige drama, for example. But Season 3 has made a genuine effort to tell complicated stories with emotional heft in a way that few period dramas attempt. Last week’s installment saw the show exploring various ideas of marriage and what it means for a romantic relationship to be successful one. “A Coburg Quartet” takes that theme one step further, expanding outward to wrestle with the larger umbrella of family, and what it means to love someone.

‘Victoria’ Season 3: “A Show of Unity” Recap

Victoria, in her element. (Photo: Courtesy of Justin Slee/ITV Plc for MASTERPIECE)

Previously on Victoria: Tension lingers between the queen and her husband, as Albert insists that his wife’s obsessive need for love and adoration from her subjects is borderline psychotic, while Victoria argues that he just doesn’t understand what it means to be a monarch. A cholera outbreak strikes London, resulting in the death of many people – including Nancy Skerrett Francatelli, who goes from finding out she’s pregnant on the eve of her husband’s restaurant opening to dead in the space of an act break. Yikes. (Need more details? Our full recap of "Foreign Bodies" is here.)

After the tragedy of last week’s installment, Victoria pulls up stakes and sends everyone off to Ireland following an assassination attempt that convinces the queen she must work to mend the frayed relationship between the crown and its Irish subjects. Much like Season 2’s “Entente Cordiale”, a new location makes for the best episode of the season – but not because this installment is a particularly lighthearted romp. No, instead, “A Show of Unity” uses the introduction of Lord Palmerston’s – quite frankly, amazing – wife, Emily, to present three competing, fascinating pictures of marriage.

'Victoria' Season 3: "Foreign Bodies" Recap

The queen and young Bertie in a sweet moment (Photo: Courtesy of Justin Slee/ITV Plc for MASTERPIECE)

Previously on Victoria: Victoria and Albert are vacationing at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, because London supposedly isn’t safe thanks to all the political upheaval going on. Victoria frets about being so far away from her government, but Albert is having the time of his life, bullying his eldest son Bertie through overbearing educational practices and occasionally bossing his wife around. Surprisingly, Victoria and Lord Palmerston – after much sniping and scrapping – finally come to something of a tentative détente, while the Foreign Secretary and the queen’s sister Feodora both discover some secrets about one another. (If you need more details, our recap of "Et in Arcadia" is here.)

In its third season on-air, it’s nice to say that Victoria is still capable of surprising you. Rather than settle for a paint-by-numbers recitation of history, the show is more than willing to lean into the often ridiculous nature of royal life, make things up for the sake of narrative drama or kill off one of your faves that it can’t quite figure out what to do with. It does all three of these things here, and “Foreign Bodies” is an episode that works on multiple levels as a result.

'Victoria' Season 3: “Et in Arcadia” Recap

Vacation is definitely not Victoria's favorite mood. (Photo: Courtesy of Justin Slee/ITV Plc for MASTERPIECE)

Previously on Victoria: The Chartist movement continues to pick up steam, as the threat of armed conflict grows. Victoria eventually backs down from having her military fire on her own citizens and the protestors present their People’s Charter unimpeded. The queen’s quite upset over the prospect that her people might not love her as much as she assumed they once did and, following the birth of her sixth child (Louise), she and the royal family flee London even though much of the public escalation with the Chartists turns out to have been engineered by her own Foreign Secretary. Elsewhere, Skerrett and Francatelli secretly marry, even though Nancy appears to harbor severe misgivings about leaving the queen’s service. (Need more details? Our recap of "London Bridge is Falling Down" is here.) 

After two episodes of darkness, Victoria gets back to its soapy roots with an episode stuffed full of romantic intrigue, political squabbling, bad parenting and blackmail, all set against the beautiful scenery of the Isle of Wight. This is what we precisely the sort of thing we tune into this show for, at the end of the day. And “Et in Arcadia” is certainly the most entertaining episode of the season thus far, even if half of it is almost certainly made up from whole cloth. 

‘Victoria’ Season 3: “London Bridge is Falling Down” Recap

Francatelli and Skerrett finally get their big day. (Photo: Courtesy of Aimee Spinks/ITV Plc for MASTERPIECE)

Previously on Victoria: As revolution sweeps through Europe, everyone is increasingly concerned that such dangerous ideas could cross the Channel and make problems for Victoria. Though the queen insists her subjects are not a revolutionary people, the growing Chartist movement indicates otherwise – and an angry mob even makes it to the very gates of Buckingham Palace. Elsewhere, a bunch of new faces abound for the new season, including a nondescript new Prime Minister (Lord John Russell), a belligerent and manipulative new Foreign Secretary (Lord Palmerston), a new Mistress of the Robes (Sophie, Duchess of Monmouth) and a heretofore unmentioned German half-sister to the queen (Feodora). Need more? Our recap of "Uneasy Lies the Head That Wears The Crown" can help. 

Victoria continues its Season 3 flirtation with darker subject matter as the Chartist rebellion grows more dangerous in London. Despite Victoria’s insistence that the movement means her no harm, no one else seems to agree with her, and the tumultuous times even bring previous Prime Minister Lord Wellington back into the public fray.

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