The Queen (Jenna Coleman) returns to her duties sooner than expected after the birth of her first child, Victoria. She suspects her husband Prince Albert (Tom Hughes) and prime minister Sir Robert Peel (Nigel Linsday) are lying to her. After the birth of her second child, she suffers from post-natal depression. Season two also shows the strains of marriage in addition to other relationships, like that of siblings like Prince Albert and Prince Ernest (David Oakes). Politics and societal problems are never far away in period dramas, as this season we’re witness to the woes of the working class via the pragmatics of the gentry (or lack of) and the famine in Northern Ireland.
Those of you who have managed to stay with Game of Thrones will know Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) and her impeccable comedic timing; it’s a rival to Maggie Smith’s Violet Crawley in Downton Abbey. Rigg as the Duchess of Buccleuch is one of the best parts of this show. With one look or a word, she steals entire scenes. She’s the stuff of period drama perfection. Every period drama has a Queen (or King) of the Quip. Though, “King of the Quip” doesn’t have the same ring to it. In Downton, it was the Dowager Countess Grantham / Lady Mary. In The Crown, it’s Princess Margaret. In Poldark, it’s arguably Demelza. In Victoria, it’s certainly Rigg’s Duchess of Buccleuch.
Victoria is slowly becoming the revered queen. However, her sex is considered a disadvantage. Even as The Queen, gender roles still rear their head, implying that she should do her duties when social convention thinks she’s ready. And whilst Albert and the Peel keep news of military troubles in Afghanistan to themselves out of fear of causing her distress, this stops her from doing her duties as the monarch. The season premiere spends much time with Victoria feeling frustrated, like when she is literally “churched” on why she she can’t show her face in public. Yet, it’s a fantastic scene that shows an ordeal with a disdain in which I’m sure many audience members related to.
My favourite episodes of the season included A Soldier’s Daughter, Warp and Weft, Faith, Hope & Charity and the Christmas special Comfort and Joy (perhaps named after the hymn Tidings of Comfort and Joy?). Warp and Weft is when well-meaning actions can have a bad turn around when everyone (the UK population) doesn’t have all the facts. In The Queen’s Husband (in season one) we are witness to a side of the British Empire (Slave Trade) similarly to how we’re seeing Northern Ireland in Warp and Weft and conversations about Afghanistan in A Soldier’s Daughter. And that’s before we’re introduced to Victoria’s adopted, African princess (quite progressive to be honest).
With Poldark having moved to earlier on in the year, it’s good that these shows don’t have to fight each other for ratings. Though, this show continues the trope of following the norm of killing off LGBT characters when they don’t know what to do with them and that will not do. Aside from that, this is the period drama genre at its peak and season three can’t arrive quickly enough.