For those who have no idea what this show is about, I advise you to read my previous recaps. If you’re too busy or impatient for all of that, here’s the much-abbreviated gist:
A teen named Alexandrina ascends to the throne when her uncle, King William IV, dies. She immediately makes some changes: de-ethnicizing her name to Victoria because foreigners are icky, and beginning to walk down stairs without holding onto her governess (*GASP*).
The Brits don’t take to her right away; gossip about her being super duper short and her tongue being too big for her mouth circulates. Victoria doesn’t help matters by forcing an invasive gynecological exam on a woman she believes to be a ginormous whore. Turns out the woman was a virgin whose distended belly had nothing to do with pregnancy and everything to do with a huge cancerous tumor. Humiliated, the woman dies soon thereafter. Victoria gives a My bad! shrug and proceeds to forget all about it.
In addition to bullying virgins with cancer, Victoria spends her time channeling her daddy issues into a flirtation with her Prime Minister, Lord M, who was 40 years older than her in real life. It doesn’t work out because he never got over his wife ditching him for Lord Byron (yes, the famed poet!).
So Victoria looks elsewhere for a baby daddy, and not too far because she settles on her first cousin, Albert, who is the human embodiment of a nap-deprived toddler having a Veruca Salt-level tantrum. The duo bicker from the start: on the subjects of stamps, gardens vs. forests, old Masters vs. modern art, whether beets are poor people food, etc. Instead of finding a partner who doesn’t brattily pick a fight over every little thing, Victoria thinks, Eh, this is good enough for a lifetime, I suppose, marries him, and has his baby, who surprisingly arrives without some kind of incest-inspired deformity.
Oh, and in a forced “downstairs” storyline meant to conjure the success of Downton Abbey, a baby-faced maid almost ran off with a hot Italian chef, but didn’t because she’s a dummy.
Okay, got all that? Great. Let’s do this…
Things aren’t going well for the Brits, who are embroiled in what is either called the First Anglo-Afghan War (why must there always be a sequel?) or the “Disaster in Afghanistan,” depending on your perspective. The troops quietly say goodbye to their fingers and toes before frostbite snatches them, and prepare themselves to probably be ambushed and die for the vaguest of causes.
But you know who has it worse, judging by her annoyed huffing and puffing? Queen Victoria, whose #squad is insisting on wrapping her up in blankets and pushing her around in a fancy three-wheeled cushioned chair. I could dedicate the next several sentences to how this upsetting juxtaposition of class divides speaks to modern American society, but instead I’m going to say:
OMG, DASH THE DOG IS BACK!
HOW I’VE MISSED HIM!
LOOK AT HIS FACE!
Now that I got that out of my system, back to the issues at hand. The Hot Italian Chef has left Buckingham Palace to go start a food truck or whatever, so there’s a new chef downstairs. I was fully prepared to call this new character Hot New Chef, but he’s… well… not, so he will henceforth be called Not Hot Mutton Chop Chef.
Back upstairs, Victoria refuses to be carted around anymore. She wants to go outside and almost get assassinated again like last season!
Not so fast, missy! Apparently, the custom is that, after giving birth, the new mother must be “churched” (i.e. purified by a priest) before being reintroduced into society because men are scared of the power of female bodies and must make women feel dirty and less than at every turn so they don’t get bright ideas of having equal rights or running for President or something crazy like that.
Victoria (sort of ) takes a stand against misogyny: “I am not a woman. I am a Queen.” But Albert reveals himself to be Team #ImNotWithHer, so Victoria goes to the church to be purified and have her “sin” cast out because whatever hubby says, goes.
To celebrate her sinlessness, Victoria rides around on a horse and then tries to make another baby with Albert on an uncomfortable chair. But her sexy plan is thwarted by a servant, who brings in their newborn. I’m guessing Victoria forgot to put the sock on the door handle. What an amateur.
Albert runs to the baby and obsesses over its blue eyes. Victoria snaps at him: “All babies have blue eyes, Albert!” The Aryan Nation is strong with this one.
Downstairs, Not Hot Mutton Chop Chef pulls a knife on a maid. This was before HR departments were invented, so, after the briefest of reprimands, Not Hot Mutton Chop Chef is allowed to continue handling knives around defenseless young women. What could possibly go wrong?
Upstairs, Victoria is ready to get back to work, but Albert doesn’t want to give back control. A standoff ensues.
The next day, Victoria and Albert inspect an army regiment. Albert shares his belief that the fancy plumes on the helmets aren’t useful during actual war. Victoria’s response: But they’re so cute! During this facepalm-worthy exchange, a bunch of Brits in Afghanistan scream “OH, COME ON!” before freezing to death.
Later, Victoria announces that she has officially given in to Prime Minister Peele’s request that she replace her ladies with women from his conservative party. She has dumped her bestie for someone called the Duchess of Buccleuch (that’s apparently a real word). When Peele finds out Victoria picked her of all people, his face takes on the appearance of an elongated EWWWW, so this should be good.
During her final exchange with Dumped Bestie, Victoria skips any I’m-going-to-miss-you-so-much-Let’s-keep-in-touch mooshiness and instead opts for this unusual parting topic: Hey, did you also despise your baby at first?
Later that day, the Duchess of Buccleuch (does this pairing of letters upset anyone else?) arrives. She’s old, she’s crabby, and she’s played by the same actress who played Olenna Tyrell in Game of Thrones (reincarnation is real!). Like I said: this should be good.
Before bed, Victoria finds out that Albert has been making a bunch of decisions behind her back and withholding key information about the mess in Afghanistan so as not to overburden her small lady brain. She is not amused.
Instead of saying sorry for grossly overstepping his bounds, Albert whines that only the Prime Minister appreciates him; Peele even was “most complimentary” about his sketches of new plume-less helmets for the soldiers. Victoria takes one look at them and says, “I don’t give a fig about your helmets” before storming out. Albert demands to know where she thinks she’s going. Victoria K.O.s him with this: “To the nursery! Isn’t that where you think I belong?”
The following day, Victoria is hanging out with the Duchess of Buccleuch and learning a bit about her likes and dislikes:
- Unmarried women reading novels.
- Foreigners touching British babies.
- Black people in general.
- The good old days.
- Um, yeah, that’s about it.
Governess Dictator interrupts their joyless hang by asking Victoria if she wants to see her baby. Victoria’s vibe is Not really, but since you all are watching, I guess. 15 seconds later, the baby farts and cries and Victoria asks for her to be taken away at once. This little princess is going to have A LOT to talk about in therapy.
As if things weren’t uncomfortable enough within the royal marriage, a bunch of relatives of both Victoria and Albert (because, remember, they’re FIRST COUSINS) decide to visit Buckingham Palace.
Victoria’s father-in-law/uncle (ew) doesn’t waste any time declaring it “a pity” that the new baby is a girl, and that he expects a grandson by Christmas. Um, hello to you too.
Uncle Leopold is as tactless as his brother, announcing that he’s excited to help Albert with all the royal responsibilities. Victoria quickly shuts him down by saying he can for sure help Albert on whatever little plumbing commission she’s created to keep him busy while she’s, you know, actually running sh-t.
And Albert’s brother, Ernst, looks around and is like, Hey, Victoria, where’d your bestie go? I never got the chance to give her syphilis!
At dinner that night, everyone hates the soup. Victoria’s mom even finds an entire chicken head in her bowl! It is decreed that Hot Italian Chef will be reinstated ASAP. So I can stop putting together this whitehouse.gov petition then? Cool!
Before bed, mostly because of Afghanistan, but also partly because that soup was genuinely very bad, Victoria is in a rage. Albert continues to insist that keeping important information from her makes sense ’cause women shouldn’t worry their little heads about war. With my full approval, Victoria throws a brush directly at Albert’s face. Brava, your majesty, brava!
The following day, Ernst listens to Albert whine about the brush-throwing incident, and breaks it down for his bro: Um, maybe don’t undermine her at every turn? And perhaps ease up on usurping her duties and trying to control every single thing she does?
A lightbulb goes off over Albert’s head. Ohhh, you mean respect her? I never thought of that!
In Poor People News, Babyface Maid has received a promotion to be Head Downstairs Boss Lady and is tasked with getting Hot Italian Chef to come back. Despite recently stomping all over his heart, she trots on over to his new workplace, as if that’s not a supremely inappropriate thing to do. He looks at her like this:
Hot Italian Chef tells her he wouldn’t return to the palace for even five times as much as his current salary. Getting your heart broken sucks, I agree, but dude, get them coins! There are other babyfaced fishes in the sea! You’ll figure it out!
Babyface Maid admits that it was wrong to ice him out for no good reason last year, and shares that she did eventually stop being a jerk long enough to go looking for him, only to find that it was too late. Hot Italian Chef agrees that, yes, it’s definitely too little too late, and everything he’s so strongly feeling in this moment is transmuted into a hit single by JoJo over a century later.
Back at the palace, Uncle Leopold is already talking about the marriage he wants to arrange for the 12 week old princess.
Only Victoria speaks up about how gross it is to talk about marrying off an infant. Albert’s dad is like, Ugh, why is she still talking? Go make us a son, woman! Victoria again has to pull out the verbal Mortal Kombat moves: “What my country needs is a Queen, not a broodmare!” You tell them, sis!
Later that week, at a post-baptism rave, Victoria receives more bad news from Afghanistan: Out of the 4000 troops, only one survived the ambush and escaped across the border. Everyone reacts differently:
Robert Peele: It’s the previous administration’s fault! Thanks, Obama!
Albert: Maybe if they were wearing my cool helmets, this wouldn’t have happened!
Uncle Leopold: What do we want? A male heir! When do we want it? NOW!
Victoria: I know! Let’s throw a Britain Is The Best party!
That night, Albert is royally pissed. A party at such a time? Also, he has a feeling that Victoria is sending sexy letters to Lord M. Even after being shown Lord M’s last letter, which is all about orchids (albeit one of the more vaginal-looking flowers out there), Albert nevertheless commits to throwing a tantrum (because it’s not an episode of this show without one). “Oh, Victoria! You are not stupid, and yet right now it appears you are not astute enough to realize you are behaving as if you are!” For some reason, Victoria does not throw all the brushes at his face.
The following day, the public assembles for Victoria’s party, which turns out to be a yacht party! She gives a speech that goes something like this:
Hiiii! Okay, so, this boat is mine, like everything else in this country. It’s called the Trafalgar in honor of that time we destroyed the French and Spanish navies. Wasn’t that so dope? Anyway, sure, we just lost a bunch of men in Afghanistan, but, as the venerable DJ Khaled says, all we do is win, win, win, no matter what. So here’s to ignoring the state of things and believing we’re still the best in the world and that every other country is full of a bunch of savages! ……… Please clap.
Across town, Hot Italian Chef has taken my advice and returned to the Buckingham Palace kitchen to snatch them coins! Babyface Maid is excited and thinks all is forgiven. But the previous JoJo jam stands.
That evening, Victoria tells Albert she wants their baby to marry for love, like she did, and not for dynastic reasons. Um, sorry to interrupt, your highness, but you do recall that you married your first cousin for dynastic reasons, right? Thinking he was hot doesn’t change that.
In yet another downstairs storyline no one asked for, some little kid is secretly living in the servants’ areas, sniffing the Queen’s undergarments, knocking over hats, and stealing cheese and wine. A new maid thinks it’s the work of a ghost.
Back upstairs, Albert’s dad is annoyed that his allowance isn’t bigger and that all the women at the palace are too ugly or too old to sleep with. It’s hard out here for a straight white dude monarch. Our thoughts and prayers go out to him during this difficult time.
Oh, would you look at the time? It’s Dash o’clock!
Can you even with those eyes? I feel renewed, don’t you?
Moving right along… Some people collect baseball cards. Albert collects random hobbies. Trains! Helmets! And now calculators! He randomly starts geeking out with Ada Lovelace, thought to be the world’s first computer programmer (also the daughter of Lord Byron — that guy sure does get around!). Meanwhile, Victoria is back home, stumped at her desk over a term in one of her government papers — a geometric something or other. But she doesn’t want to ask Albert for help ’cause she just got him to stop being a condescending sexist jerk.
Albert comes home super jazzed about the future of computers. Just think of the possibilities! Someday, we’ll all be able to get into weird relationships with strangers on AOL!
Victoria doesn’t know anything about this stuff, so all she can think to say is: Let’s throw a house party for the nerds! She quickly drafts a guest list and includes Lord M. Uh oh, Albert’s man baby ego is not going to like this! Tantrum in 3, 2, 1…
Downstairs, Babyface Maid is still trying to make things better with Hot Italian Chef. He did come back, after all. Maybe he’s on his way to forgiving her? Not so much. Turns out the Queen got him fired from his other gig in order to force him back to the Palace against his will.
While getting ready for the party, Victoria realizes she can’t fit into her corset like she used to. Oh, brother, not another pregnancy! We *just* got done with that storyline!
*checks the birth years of Queen Victoria’s children on Wikipedia*
The night of the party, Victoria is shocked to find out Ada Lovelace is a super hot babe. She tries to chaperone Albert’s conversation with her, but can’t keep up. On the topic of pi, all she can offer is: “What kind of pie needs to be divided into 125 pieces?” Albert and Ada laugh, No, silly, not the kind of pie you eat! The mathematical constant! Victoria stands there like:
Embarrassed, Victoria ditches them for Lord M, who makes her feel smart and pretty again, as all men who’ve been friend-zoned are wont to do.
The next day, Victoria has morning sickness.
Victoria is as annoyed about the pregnancy as I am, so she picks a fight with Albert about Ada and math:
Albert gets defensive: “Lady Lovelace is a highly intelligent woman doing the most remarkable work!”
Which causes Victoria to also get defensive: “And what am I then? An ignoramus who has to have things summarized by her husband?”
They trade barbs back and forth for a while.
Albert eventually storms out to have dinner with Ada (and 20 other mathematicians), against Victoria’s wishes. So she sends a servant to tell him to return at once, to which he responds Make me! And to think these two are considered mature enough to rule over a whole empire.
By the time he gets home, Victoria has already locked her bedroom doors and is busy spooning a loyal creature who knows less about math than she does.
The next morning, she heads to Lord M’s house and makes sure everyone knows where she’s going. But nothing sexy happens because this isn’t Poldark (I miss those fornicators!).
I interrupt the regularly scheduled program to bring you this important message: GAY SUBPLOT ALERT!!!! Peele’s assistant, easily the hottest dude this season, helps that guy who was holding Dash earlier light his cigarette in a sensual way. More of this! Less of everything else!
Back to the main plot (if we must): Lord M takes a break from casually allowing leeches to suck out his blood (WTF) to write a letter to Victoria, encouraging her to stop dropping by unannounced (#introvert) and to also stop seeing other powerful women as competition (#feminist).
So Victoria goes to see Ada and finds out Ada is too busy raising three children and inventing stuff to steal anyone’s husband. Victoria and Ada both agree that being a woman in the 19th century blows.
That afternoon, Victoria apologizes to Albert for being jealous of Ada for no reason. Okay, Albert, now it’s your turn to apologize for being jealous of Lord M for no reason for the past year.
Oh, turns out he’s not sorry.
Victoria opens up about how she fears motherhood could threaten her agency. Albert says he understands. Victoria pretends to believe him, and they live happily ever after (until next week, when they will surely continue to endlessly bicker about every little thing).
After every episode, it’s only right to reward characters who’ve impressed and diss the ones that haven’t, so here goes:
PIECE OF COAL: Albert’s Dad & Uncle Leopold & Not Hot Mutton Chop Chef. Go home, Roger!
HONORABLE MENTION: Victoria’s Dumped Bestie. Congratulations on narrowly avoiding syphilis!
BRONZE: Dash. He’s a show-off and I love him for it. But you already knew that.
SILVER: Ada Lovelace. Major thanks for paving the way for the internet! Without her contributions, we might never have evolved to lie in bed all day watching The Great British Bake Off on Netflix.
GOLD: The Maybe Gays. This will probably end like Downton Abbey‘s gay storyline (i.e. not well), but for now I’m going to delude myself into believing the writers will let these two fall in love without tragedy or drug addiction or prison or one of them smelling the other’s denim shirt after he’s dead.
Until next week! If you miss my thoughts on Victoria or pop culture in general, follow me on Twitter @xcusemybeauty, listen to my podcast The Cooler, or read all my other Victoria / Poldark / Downton Abbey recaps!