This week on Victoria, it’s all about the boy. With Rufus Sewell’s Lord Melbourne out of the picture, it’s up to Tom Hughes to be the leading man as Albert. He’s worked his way into Victoria’s heart, but can he find his own place in the palace?
The title of this episode, “The Queen’s Husband”, pretty much sums up what you can expect. Despite her name being the series’ title, Victoria isn’t the primary focus this week. Instead, it shifts firmly onto Albert and gives him a chance to earn his place. Ever since their marriage, the Prince has been struggling to find his usefulness. He’s not seen as equal to his wife and it seems his only purpose is to produce an heir. He struggles to fit in with the English ways, struggling to pronounce words like “Leicester”. Alas, this country where “dogs wear jewellery, pianos are out of tune, and all they talk about is the weather” might just not be for him.
What ensues over the hour-long episode, then, is Albert’s search for a cause. With the limelight shining on him, Tom Hughes gives an impressive performance and cements himself in the role. From scenes of frustration to a triumphant anti-slavery speech at the climax, he plays Albert with aplomb. Without Lord Melbourne on the scene, the competition for leading man is off and Albert steals the show. This can only be a good thing, as there’s plenty more of him to see in Victoria’s life – and of course, the now upcoming Series 2.
“I have seen the cartoons where I am drawn as a sausage!”
With Victoria taking a bit of a back seat, other sub-plots also get a bit more attention too. The “downstairs” characters have been overshadowed over the last couple of weeks, but not so here. Miss Skerrett is still sneaking around after dark, trying to deliver some goods to her cousin and child in a cholera-ridden area. At first she fails, but with the help of Mr Francatelli she manages to get them through the barricades. Francatelli has been played with an air of mystery so far, seemingly having some suspicious motives. But, perhaps, it seems he’s just in love – all he asks for in return is to know Miss Skerrett’s real name: Nancy.
Elsewhere, love is also in the air for Albert’s brother Ernest. David Oakes transforms from womaniser to idoliser this week as he falls for the Duchess of Sutherland. He draws her a portrait, he pays her many a compliment, and he even helps with her archery skills. The only problem, of course, is that she’s a married woman. What seems like harmless flirting to her is actually quite harmful to him, as he knows his heart will be broken. Against his own desires, he goes back to Coburg before he gets himself hurt. His departure is a tender and touching scene, again showing the strong brotherly love between Ernest and Albert.
“Our little Queen has become rather good at getting what she wants…”
What about Victoria herself though? She’s got her own issues to contend with – namely, not getting pregnant. The passion from last week continues, with even more kissing and bedroom scenes peppered throughout the episode. Victoria isn’t quite ready for motherhood though and seeks out advice on contraception. Get this: apparently, if you jump up and down ten times, you can stop yourself from getting pregnant. Emphasis on apparently though, because modern science has told us that doesn’t work and even Albert is quick to correct her. The only true solution to the problem is abstinence – an idea the Queen doesn’t seem too keen on…
While there’s no doubt that Jenna Coleman still convinces in the title role, this episode is definitely a celebration of her supporting cast. Albert finds his cause and the other characters finally get some welcome development. Series writer Daisy Goodwin even gets in on the act in a cameo role as Lady Cecilia Buggins. It serves as a reminder that, as fantastic as she is, Victoria isn’t all about… well, Victoria. Even without the Queen at the forefront, the show delivers another accomplished chapter as we move towards the final two episodes of the series. To all involved: hear, hear! Long may you reign as the cast and crew of such a consistently brilliant production.