Jenna Coleman and Tom Hughes have really hit their stride with chemistry.
The new cast members matched the quality performances from the established cast.
Queen Victoria is FIERCE!
Cinematography, staging and directing cement the romantic and historic escapism.
The strong focus on character development disarms the arguments critics made against Season 1.
Diana Rigg is a master at playing the old battle ax.
Historical figures and events successfully blended with interpersonal drama.
Plots feature relatable parallels to modern social and political issues.
Death of Lord Melbourne doesn’t make fans bail from story.
PBS formatting and censorship makes for shaky transitions between some episodes.
Irish Potato Famine and Afghanistan plots come dangerously close to whitewashing
Queen Victoria’s more offensive actions towards the poor and racial/ ethnic minorities.
Drummond and Lord Alfred plots raises questions of negative LGBT portrayals in the media.
From military defeat to economic reform, season 2 of Victoria handles a wide range of issues
The second season of Victoria on PBS proves there is a lot of substance underneath the big-budget costume drama exterior. Although showrunner Daisy Goodwin adds new locations and new characters, the heart of the season remains the love story of Queen Victoria (Jenna Coleman) and Prince Albert (Tom Hughes). Throughout the 8 episodes and Christmas special, we see Victoria and Albert had the same relatable problems as any married couple. The chemistry between Jenna Coleman and Tom Hughes is considerably more electric than last season, and it shows in both the love and argument scenes. If each episode was solely a fairy tale, the audience would get easily bored. Parenthood is a real challenge for both of them, and the deep dive into Victoria’s episodes of postpartum depression and her struggles with self-confidence is one of the best running themes of Season 2. Albert faces his own crisis of identity, which shakes the audience’s perception of him as being a stick in the mud.
During this season, Queen Victoria handles political, economic, and military crises this season with more empathy and problem-solving skills. The shift away from Victoria’s teenage years allows viewers to find relatability in the process of advancing to maturity or to life changes after marriage. She also improves her ability to swat away mansplaining and other attempts to derail her power. Just as Victoria lost Lord Melbourne (Rufus Sewell) in death and let go of Baroness Lehzen (Daniela Holtz), people go through a reevaluation of relationships or priorities at similar points in their life. This season often relies on coloring in history with fictional elements with the goal of crafting compelling television. Albert’s discussion with a female mathematician leading to Victoria fearing infidelity is a good example of this trend working successfully. A husband getting too close to a female coworker or friend is a real situation many wives can identify with. On the other hand, showing Victoria pressuring the MPs to help feed the starving Irish farmers was a stumbling block. Many fans pointed out the show was guilty of whitewashing the Famine crisis. Overall, the added fictional elements enhance the delivery of historical details or allow the audience to explore the emotions of each character.
Related | Victoria Season 2 Four Episode Challenge
A strong ensemble cast not only gives viewers a complete picture of early 1840’s England but also makes viewers laugh or cry depending on the plot. These supporting characters work hand in hand with the Victoria and Albert storyline to keep viewers wanting more from the story. Sir Robert Peel (Nigel Lindsay) keeps Victoria informed on the government until he is forced to resign. His secretary Edward Drummond (Leo Suter) bravely gave up his life to save Peel. While Drummond’s death was indeed a reminder of how dangerously close England was too political violence erupting at the time, it also raised questions about perpetuating negative LGBTQ stereotypes because of his relationship with Lord Alfred (Jordan Waller). Within the royal household, the Duchess of Buccleuch (Diana Rigg) dishes out plenty of servings of caustic advice. Although Riggs’ character develops at a much slower pace compared to the rest of the new characters, the one-liners and shade are excellent comic relief throughout the season. Her efforts to help her niece Wilhelmina Coke (Bebe Cave) also show the Duchess has a heart underneath the tough exterior.
A period drama isn’t complete without family conflict. Uncle Leopold (Alex Jennings) bribes his way into Victoria’s good graces. Brother-in-law Ernest (David Oakes) on the other hand gets along really well with Victoria and Albert but he is hiding a secret about his health. Below stairs, the Queen’s dresser Mrs. Skerrett (Nell Hudson) puts her murky past to rest and places her heart in the hands of palace chef Mr. Francatelli (Ferdinand Kingsley). Ms.Cleary (Tilly Steele) becomes the voice for sympathy for the victims of the Irish Potato Famine. Her development after that plotline falls by the wayside, which is a slight disappointment. All of these characters are essential for interactions with Victoria and Albert and between each other for filling out the events of the era.
Tom Hughes breathes new life into the stiff Prince Albert
Behind many, a powerful woman is a strong husband. Prince Albert throughout Season 2 often alternates being Queen Victoria’s lover and sparring partner. The one constant fans appreciate is his acknowledgment that protecting her right to rule is his number one duty. Hughes is extremely convincing in both the overt and subtle forms of affection with Coleman. Season 2 avoids the mistake other dramas make by having only one half of a relationship develop. At first, the plot makes the audience believe the main struggle for Albert this season would be only about doing more around the palace than fixing the sewers and taunts about being a German sausage. The revelation of Uncle Leopold being his true father and not the Duke of Coburg (Andrew Bicknell) in “The Sins of the Father” shakes Albert to the core. He loses his rational self, feeling as if the world will end because his children are now bastards. This plotline shakes up the assumptions people have made about Albert in a way the Season 1 story failed to. Albert’s identity crisis is just as compelling as Victoria’s struggles with motherhood.
“I think there’s a bravery in being honest, that we should all be honest. And I think he needed to find the strength to be bravely vulnerable.” – Tom Hughes
Tom Hughes makes expressing Prince Albert’s tears and his anger towards Uncle Leopold seem effortless. The complex range of emotions after the death of a parent as an adult is a difficult thing to portray on screen, but this experience is one many in the audience can relate to. This situation also makes Albert’s intense desire for Victoria makes more sense. It is no accident that Albert tells Victoria that he may very well be a bastard while they are in bed together. He doesn’t want to be like his father, brother, and uncle who enjoy their affairs more than their spouses. Many viewers can empathize with the struggle of overcoming their family situation to improve their lives for their children. The season finale “Comfort and Joy” is also built on the basis of Albert coming to terms with another element of his father’s legacy. He didn’t know the happiest Christmas in his childhood was also the night his parents separated. All of the decorations meant nothing because their parents were living a lie. By the end of the episode, he realizes that Victoria’s love is the greatest source of comfort, the Christmas spirit, and joy. Tom Hughes cements the idea in the reasons
The script emphasizes the parallels to modern issues to increase relatability for the audience
Daisy Goodwin’s season 2 script shows the audience that, although society has made considerable technological and social advances in the 170 years since 1848, there are also many issues that haven’t changed. There is a section of the period drama fandom that often criticizes series for derailing stories with mentions of modern politics. Because Queen Victoria was a political leader, this argument falls flat. Victoria does not shy away from interrupting escapist fiction with jolts of political reality. Even though rights for women gets a fleeting mention in “The Green-Eyed Monster”, it is clear throughout the season that Victoria is navigating a world where many believe she has no right to be fully in charge because of her gender.
The arguments for the repeal of the Corn Laws highlighted anger at those who kept all of their wealth for themselves and didn’t care about the poor sound familiar in arguments about greedy corporate America. Season 2 did an excellent job of putting a human face on an issue that is hard to quantify on screen without long speeches. The script neatly tied the Spitalfields silk tariffs and the misallocation of grain in Ireland to the Corn Laws in order to give viewers a clear presentation of both sides of the issue. Slavery, colonialism and racism are brought to the forefront with Victoria’s adoption of Sarah (Zaris-Angel Hator) as her goddaughter in “Comfort and Joy”. Sarah’s role not only forces the characters to reconsider popular myths about people from Africa, it also challenges the audience’s point of view as well. The next time someone says people of color were not involved in this period of British history, a Victoria fan can say that’s not true. So many historians and period drama productions on Queen Victoria ignored the issue. Overall, viewers who are not usually inclined to watch period dramas can be won over to sticking with Victoria because the plot highlighting the roots of ideas that still exist today.
“I think it’s such an interesting time because it’s a moment in British history where so much is happening. Things are changing so fast, and women’s lives are changing so fast. Women can’t vote; until 1858, they are the legal property of their husbands, which is incredible. I mean, the 19th century is still very much around in Britain. The recent Brexit vote, I think you can relate that straight back to what was going on in Victorian England. ” – Daisy Goodwin
Victoria Season 2 also highlights social issues using historical research. Dr. Traill (Martin Compston) mocks the most pious people he comes in contact with for failing to act like Christ and assist the starving Irish potato farmers in “Faith, Hope, and Charity”. This was also a brilliant shout out to Goodwin’s family history as Dr. Traill was her great (three times) grandfather. Victoria’s discussion at the end of “Entente Cordiale” with Albert about her feelings of impostor syndrome due to postpartum depression is one of few important moments for modern mental health awareness. Women who haven’t had children can still relate to every time Queen Victoria has to swat away a mansplaining attempt. The relationship between Drummond and Lord Alfred showed that homosexuality and bisexuality were not unknown to Victorians. Although modern medicine has progressed significantly in the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, Ernest’s experience is still similar to those who have been diagnosed HIV+. All of these threads throughout the season allow viewers to reflect on today’s issues without completely losing out on the departure from modern times.
Queen Victoria’s world is brought out to full scale in the cinematography
Queen Victoria travels to France and Scotland on holiday and on official business. Parts of the story take place in Afghanistan, Ireland, and the Congo. The cinematography of Victoria is critical in the recreation of actual historical events. The outdoor scenes throughout the season were captured in a way to maximize natural light and the world before modern technology. The audience wants escapism from modern life, and the outdoor sets and staging are critical in ensuring this sentiment comes across. In “The King Over The Water”, the visuals not only evoke the romantic escape from the assassination attempts in London, they also have to train the audience to picture Scotland slightly differently than they are used to. The script and cinematography are based on a real experience from Queen Victoria’s diaries where she has to ask crofter directions because she and Albert got lost while wandering. As the camera pans on rushing waterfalls, the ponies getting spooked by the mist and the rocky trails, the viewer sees Scotland’s untamed beauty the way Victoria observed it. This helps the audience make a closer connection to the characters in that environment and to fall in love with the locations as well.
“The view all round was splendid & so beautifully lit up. From the top it was quite like a panorama. We could see the Falls of Bruar, the Pass of Killiecrankie, Ben y Gloe, & the whole range of hills behind, in the direction of Taymouth. The house itself & the houses in the village looked like toys, from the height at which we were. It was very wonderful.” – From the diary of Queen Victoria
Inside the palace walls, the cinematography may not be as awe-inspiring as the shots of King Louis Philippe’s chateau garden. However, dinners by candlelight, the dark hallways of the servants’ quarters and the formality of the throne room bring out the nuances from the actors and the script. One interesting shift in set design and cinematography are the scenes of Vicky’s fever bed. The ordinarily airy space of the nursery was a wash in brown tones and blue paint on the walls. Viewers who didn’t know history feel the suspense even more over her health because the nursery scenes are in darker lighting. Although “Comfort and Joy” rely heavily on CGI for some of the visuals, the audience still is immersed in the Christmas spirit. All of the emotions throughout Season 2 would fall flat if there were no visuals to assist the audience in communicating the mood of each scene.
Historical costuming and fashion addicts have plenty to envy in the Queen’s wardrobe
So much of the life of any royal character is in their dress, and Queen Victoria is no exception. Rosalind Ebbutt’s costume designs throughout Season 2 showcase the most distinctive elements in 1840’s style. Overall, the fashionistas in the audience can see Ebbutt and her team successfully evoke the nuances of the era in fashion. Nothing can take people with an eye to style out of a story faster than seeing clear style errors. The clothing of the royal court has to evoke a sense of formality and separation from the lower classes. Clothing designs are also a vehicle for character expression. Historians have preserved quite a few of Queen Victoria’s actual gowns, and her personal style favored practicality and simplicity.
Ebbutt’s color and embellishments effectively communicate Victoria’s status as the most important woman in England. In general, 1840’s dresses featured a waistline with a V-shaped corset, dropped shoulders, and wide skirts supported by several layers of petticoats. The other female characters have variations on this basic design based on their wealth and the expression of their personalities. Throughout the season, Ebbutt successfully recreates both daytime, formal, and riding ensembles based on museum pieces and fashion plates. Fans, in particular, adore Victoria’s purple traveling dress from “Entente Cordiale” and her teal riding habit from “The King Over The Water”. The Medieval-inspired outfits from the Spitalfields silk ball in “Warp and Weft” also deserve a shout out because switching styles and techniques is a difficult feat in costume shops. A Queen changed at least twice a day, and the costumes for each scene highlight the rituals which guided life at court.
“Which dress would you like to travel in, ma’am? The purple silk or the white organza?” – Mrs. Skerrett
The armored parasol from “The King Over the Water” was a real item Prince Albert invented because he is both a romantic and a practical thinker. If you notice throughout Season 2, many of the elite men are starting to mimic Albert’s haircuts. This small element of realism not only establishes the history of the time but is another visual reminder of the importance of Albert’s role in court life. During the 1840’s Albert set the trend for tight tailoring of trousers, frock coats, and cutaway jackets. Many men wore single and double-breasted waistcoats with cravats and wide bow ties. Ernest’s clothes are slightly looser fit and often more formal than Albert. This switch shows Ernest as being more German in his appearance as well as his aristocratic position.
Dressing extras both male and female in period-appropriate attire is a challenge that Ebbutt also pulls off. Many period drama fans are costume addicts and will notice small and large details that add to their enjoyment while watching. For fans who don’t know a lot of costuming, these elements have the effect of adding to the overall feeling that Queen Victoria’s world is radically different than today. If critics find elements of the Season 2 costumes inaccurate, it is a safe bet that only the most advanced historical costume experts using a fine tooth comb can find them.
Final Verdict: Season 2 of Victoria takes the romance and historical exploration of one of England’s most famous royals to the next level
Victoria season 2 successfully shows how Queen Victoria transitions from her teenage years to motherhood and a capable leader in her own right. The visuals, costuming and directing keeps the audience engaged with the main characters, supporting cast, and guest stars. Although the world of Queen Victoria expands considerably compared to Season 1, the high standard established by the earlier episodes is maintained and even improved on. Victoria’s emotional journey is also pivotal in keeping the audience connected to the series. Although she faces challenges at every turn, she tackles them. The script develops this theme using two key turning points in the plot that allows for Victoria to develop greater emotional maturity. At the end of Season 1, Victoria had some character development, but she didn’t have the self-awareness to always see the consequences of her decisions.
Lord Melbourne’s death at the end of “Warp and Weft” allowed her to see Albert was not the cheating type and worthy of emotional and political trust. Mourning for too long the death of a favorite character midseason often has the tendency to kill the momentum of character development. Victoria Season 2 avoids this by framing Lord Melbourne’s passing as a rite of passage and an opportunity to form a stronger marital bond. Baroness Lehzen leaving the palace at the end of “The Luxury of Conscience” was a sign of Victoria letting go of the old grudges she had against the Kensington System. There are elements of the Victoria and Albert romance that have a fairy tale quality, but the blending of character development and real-world marital conflict gives Victoria and Albert more substance beyond the fantasy. The best stories are based on the truth, and the romance is more truthful because Victoria doesn’t hold back from showing Albert dodging Victoria’s fits of anger. Although this married couple faces internal and external challenges, the romance doesn’t stifle the political or social storylines in Season 2. Daisy Goodwin’s script listing kisses would just be a piece of paper without the excellent chemistry between Jenna Coleman and Tom Hughes.
For those viewers and critics who may not have completely enjoyed Season 1, this season successfully deflates the arguments made against the entire series. Hardcore history fans who questioned the romantic overtones of the Lord Melbourne storyline will be pleased he is only a friend and no longer a source of potential conflict. Fans who could not connect with the mood swings and occasional irrationality of teenage Victoria will have more empathy for a woman who has been changed by motherhood and greater life experience. Will these critics change their tune and give the show another chance?
Biographical dramas often come with the challenge of reconciling differences in the way certain topics are viewed today in the past. A drama focused on a singular figure has to walk the fine line between telling the truth too bluntly and whitewashing history. Today, we are aware the same advisors who called the Afghan soldiers “savages” without a challenge during “A Soldier’s Daughter”is perpetuating racism. “Faith, Hope, and Charity” held back from criticizing royal inaction during the Irish Potato Famine crisis. The waters are a little murkier when it comes to the tragic ending for Drummond and Lord Alfred moving on with Wilhelmina. The argument can be made the story isn’t as positive of a representation of LGBTQ relationships as some may believe.
PBS aired the first 4 episodes as two doubleheaders and then single episodes for the remainder of the season. The transitions between each hour were not as smooth in this set of episodes. The censorship of the waterfall scene in “Entente Cordiale” was another instance of interference that affected the entire storyline. PBS’ changes to the running order actually improved the ending of the season. “Comfort and Joy” simultaneously left most of the plot lines on a happier note but also set up at a few possibilities for the start of Season 3. In particular, Ernest’s reveal of the truth at times stole the spotlight from the main plot of Albert making sure Christmas at the palace was a success. As far as social issues, “Comfort and Joy” handled the issues of slavery and colonialism much better than “A Soldier’s Daughter”. The true story of Sarah is rarely a part of other Queen Victoria biopics. The characters who were kind did a much better job in countering the characters who expressed racist sentiment. This was a great step forward in period drama diversity.
Fans have a lot to look forward to next season. There are so many questions about the 1850’s in politics, fashion, and the fate of the supporting cast. Victoria and Albert’s family will continue to grow, and we expect more new characters from history and from the mind of Daisy Goodwin for us to enjoy.
Oh wait, there are a few things not mentioned earlier
- I made Queen Victoria’s Season 1 blue gown and now I need to make at least 3 dresses from Season 2!
- Although I pretend to be over Lord Melbourne, Dash and Drumond dying, I’m not. I’m still very much personally victimized. I shed some tears writing this.
- I can’t watch other Queen Victoria films now because Jenna Coleman and Tom Hughes are just that good!
- Although this review dug pretty deep into the presentation of social issues on Victoria, I don’t believe the intent was to offend but to show viewers the way Queen Victoria would have seen things.
- Sarah (Zaris-Angel Hator) is a precious cinnamon roll and it would be awesome to get a Sarah spinoff movie or TV show!
- I ship Vicbert, Skeretelli, and Drumfred. I stopped short of outright shipping Vicburne, preferring the mentor/student dynamic better. I’m not quite sold on Lord Alfred/Wilhelmina
- Crying because the Season 3 hiatus is going to be at least a year if not longer!
- Speaking of season 3: I am begging you, Daisy Goodwin, please don’t kill anyone off next season. Unless it’s Uncle Leopold because no one likes him anyway!
Victoria Season 2 continues to blend fiction and history to make a binge-worthy period drama Coming soon will be our article on who we thought stole the show this season. While we wait for Victoria Season 3, we are looking forward to watching other upcoming PBS productions–namely Little Women and Poldark Season 4!
Victoria Season 2: Final Verdict [PBS]