In a fun and freeing penultimate episode, Victoria and Albert find themselves lost yet liberated in the middle of an enchanted Scottish forest…
There’s something to be said for a show that can continually transform itself week upon week. Compared to the bleak and hard-hitting story about the Irish potato famine, this chapter of Victoria’s life is an absolute jolly. For some shows, this would be serious tonal whiplash – but Victoria manages it so seamlessly, so effortlessly, and (dare we say it) so flawlessly. Clearly, the cast and crew thought we needed a good cheering up, and they’ve done that to a tee. Considering this is also the fourth episode in a row set outside of England, the formula still manages to feel fresh. Each time the Queen has left the palace this series, it’s been for very different reasons and with very different outcomes. While not as profound as last week’s standout tale, this may well be Victoria’s finest adventure so far.
Following yet another assassination attempt on the Queen’s life, Victoria is placed under heavy guard. Soldiers follow her everywhere and she’s forced to carry round an armoured parasol made for her by Albert. Soon enough it all becomes very suffocating – so she decides to head up to Scotland for a much-needed break. Distinct from Victoria’s other ventures this series, Scotland sports a bluey-green hue (matching the tartan) and more bagpipe music than you can shake your sporran at. (Although maybe we shouldn’t be too impressed, as the episode was filmed in the actual Blair Atholl where Victoria stayed!). It takes a while for them to settle in, but before long they find much to love about the Highlands. In fact, as later becomes the case, they’re hesitant to ever leave at all.
“Our home has become like a fortress”
Interestingly, this Episode 7 shares a lot in common with Series 1’s penultimate story. Both were penned by someone other than Daisy Goodwin, and both offer a very light and liberating feel. Victoria and Albert galloping through the forest on horseback is extremely reminiscent of the thrilling steam train ride. The sensation of fun as they ride away is palpable – you can almost feel the joy radiating off the screen. Of course, it all goes a bit haywire when they get lost in the misty hills. The Scottish are distraught at letting the Queen out of their sight, and who could blame them? Victoria and Albert struggle on alone, the scene of them crossing a river being especially tense. Eventually they stop off for the night in a little cottage owned by a poor Scottish couple. Surprisingly, it’s here that they find not only shelter – but also themselves.
Forget the episode’s real title, The King Over the Water. It may as well be called “The Queen and the Commoner” because this is where the story really shines. Not recognising who they are, the Scottish couple treat Victoria and Albert like completely ordinary passers-by. Possibly for the first time ever, Albert stokes the fire and Victoria does the dishes. It’s a world away from her life in England, but Victoria finds herself enjoying this sense of freedom. During the night she confides in Albert that, maybe, just maybe, she doesn’t want to be found after all. It’s not long until she is though, and her time as a pretend pauper is over all too soon. It’s back to Buckingham and back to business. Dressed in her regal robes, it’s clear that her heart is elsewhere.
“Will you do the cooking? I have some sewing to do”
Victoria and Albert’s fairy tale is not the only Highland fling in this episode, though. Finally, finally, after weeks of unsubtle teasing – Drummond and Alfred share a kiss. Set by the side of a sunny lake, the show revels in the much anticipated moment. There’s even a rainbow lens flare as it happens, how apt is that! Much like Victoria’s happiness though, their love looks to fizzle out upon the return to London. Meanwhile, Mrs Skerrett finds herself a Scottish sweetheart – but clearly, she still has feelings for Mr Francatelli too. Will we see a reunion for those two before the series bows out? At least Ernest and Harriet come to an understanding this week. They start off argumentative and volatile, but he talks her round, and she willingly takes his hand by the fireside. The question remains though: dare they go any further than that…?
Not unlike last week, we end on a scene underscored by lyrical music. This time though, it’s not tragic, but triumphant. In a character-defining sequence, Victoria sheds her royal garb one piece at a time, freeing herself and closing her door behind her. Inside, she and Albert recreate the fun of their Scottish adventure. It’s impossible not to walk away from this episode with a smile, and it’s refreshing to see yet another captivating side to the young monarch. Whether it be as queen, mother, wife, or ordinary woman, Jenna Coleman completely owns the role. Please, someone give her some awards already…!
With only one episode of Series 2 left to go, we’ve been reminded just how strong and how special Victoria truly is. Alas, it’s already time to prepare ourselves for the finale – we’re not ready for the curtain call just yet…!