Season 2 of Victoria confirms Jenna Coleman’s masterful ability to rule the screen
In many dramas, the second season is where the lead actors hit their stride and Jenna Coleman on PBS‘ Victoria is no exception to this rule. She knows Queen Victoria inside and out and brings out the subtleties in the script. In every scene she is in, the viewer can’t help but look into Coleman’s eyes to see what emotions are underneath the surface. Her journey throughout eight episodes and a Christmas special are filled with personal and political obstacles fans can’t help but relate to.
Coleman shows Queen Victoria’s emotional and physical development through her posture, her careful composure and an even tone of voice. In season 1, she was much younger and didn’t have the self-awareness or life experience to strategize how to handle more difficult political dilemmas. This season, motherhood along with more complex politics shape Victoria into a more mature woman compared to the start of the series. Coleman through the season moves through each scene with a confidence not seen in some of the earlier Season 1 scenes. She doesn’t show anxiety in speaking to the more experienced politicians. Coleman only tenses up if the dialogue or calls for expressing disgust or fear.
Coleman uses her historical knowledge to illustrate Queen Victoria’s story from a female perspective
Queen Victoria did not see herself as a feminist but Coleman brings out the hidden feminism in Daisy Goodwin’s scripts. At the core of Victoria’s struggles, this season is her three periods of postpartum depression. Coleman convinces us of her emotional disconnection through blank stares at Prince Albert’s cradle. As the children grow, Coleman shows Victoria’s growing affection for her children. In “The Luxury of Conscience”, Coleman places Vicky on her lap, strokes her hair, and reads her a story in a teacher-like tone. For a woman as formal as Victoria, this is her way of showing affection. Our society still places a stigma on discussing postpartum depression along with mental health in general, and Coleman successfully links the past and the present for the audience.
“Come with me, Sir Robert. Come on! Look at this child, Sir Robert. Look at Alice. Can you imagine what it must be like to be a mother in Dr. Traill’s parish, who knows that she has no milk to give? And the crying will grow weaker and weaker and weaker until one day it stops. Charity begins at home, Sir Robert, it begins here in the nursery and as a mother. I will not let my people starve.” – Victoria
Despite the struggles to bond with her children, she becomes more empathetic as a leader because of what she has gone through. This shift hits a peak in “Faith, Hope, and Charity”. Coleman’s higher pitched and slightly aggressive delivery of the monologue that destroys Sir Robert Peel’s wishy-washy response to the Irish Potato Famine is one of the best moments of the season. Coleman uses the same forceful tone of voice when she is in a spat with Albert. In an age where women were expected to be passively charitable, Victoria shoves the truth in Peel’s face and we all lived for it.
Coleman’s interactions with the supporting cast help the audience better understand the world of Queen Victoria
Rituals and separation between the social classes were key to maintaining order in the palace and in the government. Coleman has perfected a flat tone when issuing orders to her courtiers and servants. She turns to the person, looks them in the eye, and has an upright posture. If someone is being insubordinate, Coleman will add a snarky tone to Victoria’s response to ensure that person will follow orders When the Duchess of Buccleuch in “Entente Cordiale” complains about France being a “godless country”, Coleman slows down her voice, stares directly, and raises pitch slightly to command the Duchess to bring her Bible. Coleman also uses formal tone for speaking to Sir Robert Peel and other government officials, but Coleman tends to tense up her body to show Victoria facing mansplaining or a contrasting opinion. Her sharp-tongued reply to Drummond’s very first sentence to the Queen in “A Soldier’s Daughter” made it clear Victoria was not one to be trifled with.
“Well, Mr Drummond, I am not a woman. I am a queen.” – Victoria
If Victoria does not like what someone is saying, Coleman makes it very clear. In “Faith, Hope, and Charity”, she chastises the man who wrote the government memorandum about the “lazy drunken Irish”. Coleman sighs heavily, then rolls her eyes and turns to Sir Robert Peel. Without saying a word, the audience knows Victoria is angry.
When it comes to the characters she has a greater degree of familiarity with, Coleman will adapt her body language to show viewers Victoria is letting her guard down. Coleman speaks to Lehzen in a commanding tone but she often follows it up with a nod or a mention about the good ‘ole days at Kensington to communicate familiarity. Coleman adapts a similar open stance and a less formal tone when also speaking to Lord Melbourne. Victoria considers him a close friend, and so Coleman sometimes replicates the body language in the Albert scenes. She stands closer to Melbourne and lowers her voice. Victoria is friendly to Ernest but often has to keep her guard up in scenes with him because she can’t stand Uncle Leopold. All of these actions, both bold and subtle, keep Coleman and Victoria’s emotions as the main focus of the season.
Fans adore Victoria and Albert’s enduring romance, and Jenna Coleman puts in the effort to make it believable
The love story of Victoria and Albert is one of the key reasons why Victoria fans can’t get enough of the show. As is written in her diaries, Queen Victoria was wild about Albert, and Coleman brings out this fact throughout the season. No matter what personal and political challenges Victoria faces, she places her complete trust in Albert. Conveying this essential part of Victoria’s personality is just as critical in the politic-heavy scenes. Coleman shifts her body language in any scene with Tom Hughes to show Victoria opens herself up to Albert in a way she will not to any other character. Her eyes are open a bit wider, she moves closer to him, and her tone of voice often softens to a whisper. If Victoria notices other people are looking at her, Coleman switches immediately back to the formal and distant tone of voice used for communicating with the lower orders. These small details make all the difference in cementing Victoria and Albert’s romance. Her chemistry with Hughes is electric –don’t be surprised if you start fanning yourself (especially in “Entente Cordiale” and “The King Over The Water” where the royal couple clearly gets frisky in places where others can see or hear them.)
Many fans regard Victoria and Albert as a fairytale romance. Coleman illustrates every great romance also has points of conflict. Victoria’s practicality clashes with Albert’s idealism but they both know they’re on the same side. Coleman’s argumentative scenes with Hughes are riveting to watch. Especially in “A Soldier’s Daughter” when Victoria threw something at Albert in anger. Her raised voice and her tensing up cemented Victoria’s dialogue of displeasure. Some might say that was a bit extreme, but Coleman shows Victoria always had flashes of temper. In “The Luxury of Conscience”, Victoria and Albert argue about the temperature in the nursery. Coleman rolls her eyes at Albert as if he were an annoying politician. Then she looks to Lehzen, followed by a pitch raise as she ca Albert a “nanny goat”. Small disputes leading to verbal arguments are events all married couples can relate to. This realistic streak injects a believability into the more romantic moments of the show, allowing the audience to connect with these two characters.
Final Verdict: Jenna Coleman as Victoria is the lynchpin that holds the entire narrative of Victoria’s second season in place.
Jenna Coleman brings out the human emotions behind Queen Victoria’s political decisions in the 1840’s. Although she was enduring postpartum depression, Victoria still manages to steer England from the defeat in Kabul to preventing social revolution. We love Victoria for standing her ground against men trying to tear her down. We also love her when she admits that she is not perfect.
Coleman’s’ interactions, both positive and negative, with the supporting cast brings history to life. Victoria’s entire life was guided by ceremony and Coleman uses those moments to enhance the dialogue and the blocking. Finding fault in her performance is almost impossible because Coleman is completely convincing in every scene. She shows us through body language, inflection, and movement how Victoria views each character and scene.
Season 3 is sure to bring Victoria new challenges and we are excited to see how Coleman will express Victoria’s emotions.