Victoria Season 2 Recap: “Warp and Weft”/”The Sins Of The Father”
Victoria parties while the world ends, and then realizes she’s really kind of terrible at this job.
When Downton Abbey wanted to squeeze in Christmas specials at the end of their series run, and there were simply too many regular season episodes to do so comfortably before the annual pledge drive weeks, the usual way that it was handled was to smash together the first two episodes and then the last two episodes of the season. That way the show got a two-hour premiere, a two-hour finale, plus a Christmas special tacked on at the end. With Victoria having now been blessed with a Christmas episode of its own, after so handily beating Poldark in the ratings in Season 1, I sort of assumed PBS would be following the same format.
Imagine then my surprise to discover that that’s not how this season was going to work. Instead, the series is smashing together the first four episodes into two two-hour specials and then will run the rest of the table with single installments until we get to Christmas at the end of February.
Albert: You are giving me permission to upgrade the palace?
Victoria: Well if it will stop you from ruining my breakfast, then yes.
Once again, not complaining, as the unevenness of these episodes means that the doubling them up can help the strong parts carry the weaker. But what happens when we land two weaker episodes into one mishmash?
It’s not completely Victoria‘s fault, to be fair. The show is much better when grounding its plots in history that happened, and sticking to more of a “just the facts” drama, than they do in the soap opera. This is not the deepest or most progressive series. So when they attempt to tackle something real, like say, postpartum depression, the results are going to be, well, a puddle dive.
But first, let’s have Victoria party while the poor suffer, shall we? Because that always goes over well. To be fair, in this instance they are being more historically accurate than one might like. The one percent are far less aware of the poverty that surrounds them, and from at least one point of view, Victoria’s idea of showing herself wearing Spitalfields silks is the correct one. People want to wear what the celebrities wear. And in the 1840s, there really weren’t many celebrities in the UK bigger than the queen.
Victoria’s obliviousness isn’t limited to the poor sadly. She’s oblivious to the goings on of the palace, happy to have Albert learn that the leavings of the royal family is used by the servants to turn profits outside the walls. (A thing we all already learned last year.) She’s also completely oblivious to Melbourne’s failing health, and his attempts at removing himself from her purview ahead of the inevitable. perhaps worse, she’s also unaware of her dog’s failing health as well.
Victoria: I believe you have a cold duchess. I give you permission to withdraw.
Despite the ridiculousness of the ball plot, it was pretty lush. Like the major life moments of weddings, baptisms, etc, this sort of high-end costume scene is what the show does best. It gave Ernest and Harriet another reason to fawn over each other before Ernest gets married off for good. And the continuing not-quite gay subplot between Peel’s assistant Drummond and Lord Alfred is fascinating. Though I seriously doubt that Victoria saw anything of the sort out the window.
As for the second episode, this is one that is centered around the idea of being a fraud. As we already know, Mrs. Skerritt is one. She’s not even the person who was hired and Eliza isn’t even her real name. Meanwhile, Victoria, perhaps from the events of the last hour, but more due to the emotional unrest of postpartum depression, goes into a spiral of having what we refer to today as “imposter syndrome” for running the country. And then we have Albert, who goes home to bury his father…only to learn that was never his father at all. His life is a lie, and the reason uncle Leopold has been so keen on breaking up Albert and Victoria is due to the truth: they are far more closely related than people realize.
The good parts of this episode are centered all around Ernest and Albert. The two of them are fabulous together, as brothers who have taken care of each other since they were small, as well as Albert’s grief at losing his father, after their last fight, Albert’s complete freak out over discovery of his heritage is the other highlight of the two hours. Leopold’s amazing selfishness at dropping that bomb now in the middle of Albert’s grief is one thing. His confrontation with Leopold, which gives Hughes some of the best stuff to work with he’s had all series. (Also, please don’t let Ernest marry that terrible Princess creature Leopold is trying to force on him. Please.)
The rest of it though… I know that postpartum isn’t a thing in this time period. When Rigg’s character (who continues to be annoyingly underused) basically says “fresh air, buck up, new puppy, let’s go,” it’s supposed to be somewhat historically accurate. It’s probably what Victoria would have been told. But the setup, including sending her to a grief-stricken hospital, is a bit much. And the scene where the older woman bonds with the Queen for the first time would have been better served as showing the Duchess being real with Victoria “Oh, they’ll tell you fresh air, and a puppy will solve everything, but as someone who’s *been there* let me tell you your male doctors are bunk and here’s the reality of depression after pregnancy.” But not to be.
Ernest: You can be pleased Albert. he died doing what he loved.
And then there’s Skerritt, who has her “Don Draper” unmasking moment, due to the story of Boy Jones getting out. Victoria fires her because of course, she does. That’s reality. Frankly, I care so little about the downstairs storylines (except where they connect to upstairs, like Albert giving Brodie a diary, or Penge pretending a rise in wages was something he proposed, instead of Albert putting two and two together), that I just threw up my hands. It didn’t help that earlier we’d seen Real Eliza being all “Do You Hear the People Sing” over the ball either, and now she’s selling out Nancy, and her only source of income? It’s just bullshit, and irritating, and I wish we’d skip it.
But we can’t actually fire one of the only characters downstairs has ever put in the energy to care about, and the one every male in the vicinity falls in love with. So when Albert returns, in a moment of utter unbelievability, he rehires her, fraud to fraud. At least Victoria can comfort herself that she’s the real deal, even if she is surrounded by imposters.