Victoria Season 1 Episode 3 Recap: Mr. Darcy, Is That You?

Photo: Courtesy of PBS.
Slow motion running, adamant protestations, spontaneous shirt tearing — wow, was this Victoria episode a feast for romantics. Though last week I complained that I couldn't block out the historical fact of Albert, this week, it somehow worked in his favor. Every scene between those two had me giddy with anticipation, the way you get when rewatching your favorite romantic comedy or rereading Jane Austen. You know they'll end up together, but getting there is such fun.

The delight has everything to do with Jenna Coleman and Tom Hughes' sizzling chemistry. It was there from the moment Victoria stopped playing the piano and looked up to notice her cousin.

"Mama, they are not race horses," she protests, when her mother calls Ernst and Albert "fine specimens." Maybe not horses, but fine pieces of meat? Meat she doesn't hesitate to put in its place at dinner — when she's done, she puts aside her cutlery, a signal to the servants to pick up the plates, even though the others are still eating. She is not going to make this easy on you, Al.

Albert certainly deserves such subtle jabs. He steps in all judgmental about how little his cousin knows about her insane art collection, or how she enjoys playing cards. He makes snide comments about her not practicing her piano enough. Victoria calls him a prig for it; I'd use stronger language for being so condescending to the queen of England. (Also, it's not her fault her mother and Conroy gave her such a shitty education in the hope they could trample all over her later.)

Maybe it's the refreshing challenge of their verbal exchanges, or maybe it's pure physical attraction, but both Albert and Victoria's objections give way rather quickly (in TV time, anyway). Their actions belie their words almost immediately. First, there's that competitive passion with which they perform the Schubert duet together. Then there's their slow-motion waltz.

"It's hard sometimes to find the rhythm; not with you," Albert says, giving off all kinds of Dirty Dancing vibes. Poor old Melbourne has to stand by and watch her hand his flowers to Albert, who goes emo at the smell of gardenias and rips open his shirt to place it by his heart. Who's a "clockwork prince" now, Lord M?

There's still some conflict of course. Just like she did with Lord M, Victoria isn't afraid to show a guy she's into him — going to Windsor on a Wednesday, just because Albert said he likes forests, getting a crash course in art history just to make conversation with him. But her efforts seem for naught when Prince Scolds-A-Lot makes a snide comment about Melbourne and Victoria needing to take a few hints about the poor from Charles Dickens.
Photo: Courtesy of PBS.
Pictured: Tom Hughes as Prince Albert.
He does have some good points, however. Victoria is more concerned with making bon mot about how newly invented postage stamps require her people to lick her face than she is with how the poor live in the country she supposedly runs. Of course, as a man, he can roam the streets independently to witness children begging on the streets. Which would she prefer, flattery or truth? That's a tough one for anyone to answer.

Then, at last, we got the most Jane Austen-y of scenes in the woods. Stick-in-the-mud Albert is all flush from a fast horseback ride and the feeling of Waldeinsamkeit, or being at one with nature. (Side question: If she grew up speaking German with her mother, shouldn't she know what that word means?) What I really need to know is the German word for the way Tom Hughes hair gets deliciously floppy when he's excited. Victoria, too, lets her hair down, and with that goes the last of Albert's reserve.

"I like to see you unbound," he says. Really. You might say that's a bit over the top. You also might say I watched this scene four times for the sake of recapping. Because that almost-kiss! And how he swoops in and tears his shirt (again!) to make a splint for little Dash's broken leg! However concerned she is for her pup, V can't help catching an eyeful of his biceps.

Then, sad trombone, they had to go and talk about Melbourne. It's like he's the Wickham to their Darcy and Lizzie Bennet.

Except not, because Melbourne ultimately does his small part to save the day by making it known to Albert that he's going to retire soon, characterizing his relationship with the queen as more professional than personal. Victoria, too, has realized she'll need to let her pet prime minister go.

While I'm inclined to agree with the baroness that Albert doesn't respect the queen enough, Victoria seems to be putting herself in a position to make him do so. The way she sets the scene to woo him with flowers and candles before proposing to him signals that this isn't just tradition she's following — she's marrying him by choice, and from here on, she plans to maintain her position of power. (Unfortunately, having nine children will kind of ruin that plan eventually.)

Speaking of women who hold their own, Skerrett is awesome this episode. She's got some pretty strong morals, resisting the temptation to steal something the queen probably would never miss, and instead giving up her lace collar for the sake of her sister and niece. Yep, Mr. Francatelli, the queen can have her consort, but this career girl will do just fine without a man in her life.

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