Victoria, Season 2 (2017)

Reviewer: Charity Bishop

The world has taken more of an interest in Queen Victoria since British writer Daisy Goodwin has “humanized” her in ITV’s series about the young queen’s marital and political struggles as she comes to power. Season two saw many more massive deviations from history and a less cheerful face, as Victoria and Albert dealt with a slew of emotional upheavals, with the result that the eight episodes are often more depressing than uplifting.

After the birth of her first child, Queen Victoria (Jenna Coleman) struggles with post-partum depression and finds she has little enthusiasm for life, as well as bitterness toward the many duties Albert (Tom Hughes) has taken over for her in her confinement. As her relatives descend on the palace for the christening, a disaster unfolds as Britain loses its grip on an unstable region in the middle east, and the Prime Minister (Nigel Lindsay) fears greater troubles lie ahead. Troubled and in need of advice from Lord Melbourne (Rufus Sewell), Victoria invites him out of seclusion unaware of his frail health. She is about as “amused” to once again find herself “with child,” as the Londoners are when she responds to a merchant crisis with a masque ball.

Gone are the days of luxurious character development for this series, where we had time to watch stories unfold and characters run their course; this is a madcap rush through the births of Victoria’s first three children, which means we skip two of her pregnancies and rush through the political upheavals at the time. I can’t really say it completely bothered me, because each episode manages to be entertaining, but it felt strange after the luxurious pacing of the first season. And, this increased momentum means that a great many depressing things are stacked on top of one another (spoilers ahead) – depression, multiple deaths, the potato famine that devastated Ireland, and an assassination. The only “cheerful” episode takes place in Scotland, where Victoria and Albert (adorably) get lost and “play peasant” for a night in a tiny Scottish cottage.

Where the first season made up some stuff for the sake of storytelling, this one makes up a lot of stuff; primary among its offenses are the insinuation that Albert is illegitimate (based on unsubstantiated ‘rumors’ at the time), the inclusion of a lady in waiting who is much, much older than her historical counterpart (so a Game of Thrones’ Lady Tyrell repeat performance can be phoned in by a bored Diana Rigg), and a made-up homosexual relationship between two courtiers, one of whom historically had a wife and dozen children by this time (but here is baby-faced and anxious about his impending marriage). And in the grand old tradition of culturally insensitive television “queer baiting,” naturally the gay couple doesn’t make it past the final episode. Timelines are switched around, characters are killed off (or allowed to live) sooner than the reality, and it’s gone from “mostly fiction” to “all fiction,” which isn’t bad but also cements rumors as truth in people’s minds. There’s also an understandable outcry at the potato famine episode painting Victoria as more compassionate than she actually was; I don’t mind this, because she needs to be likable to the audience, but The Crown does a much better job at making its queen personable and flawed.

The costumes are wonderful, as is the acting; and there’s some truly splendid moments – and a few that reduced me to tears. Albert comes more into his own and starts handling more of the household duties, the power struggle with Victoria’s over-bearing companion is finally resolved, and there’s an adorable new puppy around the palace. I just wish the entire season had been a bit better.

Sexual Content:
A married couple often kisses and falls out of frame; others hear them giggling behind closed doors. A physician diagnoses and treats a case of syphilis in a serial philanderer; he tells a man he should be careful not to 'infect innocent persons.' A woman suspects her husband is having an emotional affair. In one episode, men strip naked and skinny dip (brief backside nudity). Two men flirt with one another and share prolonged eye contact all season; in one episode, they passionately kiss one another.
 
Language:
Occasional mild profanities (damn, hell, bloody, etc) and uses of "God."
 
Violence:
An assassination attempt where someone is shot and bleeds out on the pavement.

Other:
Massive historical licenses taken, including changed sexual orientations and charges of infidelity.