“VICTORIA: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON”
Blu-ray, DVD; 2017-18; PG; streaming via Amazon Video and iTunes
Best extra: Nine mini-features
VICTORIA wasn’t quite the pillar of morality she’s known for. The times may have been straitlaced, but behind closed doors it was a different matter – especially for Queen Victoria (Jenna Coleman) and her beloved Albert (Tom Hughes).
Set a month after the close of its brilliant opening series, PBS Masterpiece follows with a winning second season as Victoria gives birth to her first child. She didn’t care much for babies; they looked like “frogs” to her. But she and Albert enjoyed a passionate love life, which she described as “fun” as noted in the companion book “Victoria & Albert: A Royal Love Affair” by creator/writer Daisy Goodwin and Sara Sheridan.
Season Two explores Victoria’s postpartum depression experienced after the birth of her second child. Pregnancy then meant near-absolute confinement, as she reluctantly ceded official responsibilities to Albert and others. She didn’t expect to become pregnant again so quickly, and delivery at that time was almost primitive without access to any painkiller.
In one of nine short featurettes, Goodwin talks about “Researching Victoria” at the London Library, scanning newspapers and books published at the time as well as studying the Queen’s journal. A sequence in the Christmas special, where Victoria rescues Albert from drowning when he falls through an icy lake might seem contrived, but it was true. Goodwin found it in a newspaper article. So was “The Boy Jones” (Tommy Rodger), who appears in Episode Two, “The Green-Eyed Monster.” A celebrity stalker, Jones was obsessed with the Queen, sneaking into the palace, stealing her undergarments, wine and other items. This went on for years no matter how often he was caught, punished and eventually deported according to Goodwin’s book.
As the title implies, Victoria could be jealous. Albert was a cooler character, apt to walk away from an argument; she slammed doors and threw items. Servants learned to look the other way. Still, the two made up as frequently and passionately as they clashed. Both had experienced unhappy childhoods and were determined to enjoy a happier personal and family life. The theme runs throughout the series, and is reinforced in Episode Nine, “The Christmas Special,” when Albert tries desperately to recreate the happy holiday he believes he had, while Victoria is reminded of her isolation as a child and a missing friend.
Second Season also covers the Irish Potato Famine in which one million people died and two million immigrated to America; the arrival of the young African princess, who became Sarah Forbes Bonetta; and trips to France and Scotland.
The Blu-ray transfer (1.78:1 aspect ratio) and 5.1 audio on the three disc, nine episode presentation are even better than the excellent Season One Blu-ray. PBS obviously built on their series’ success. The latest Blu-ray dramatically improves on broadcast; seen on 4K it is picture perfect. There are more new sets, and a near-overload of costumes and props. Victorian life is reproduced from the palace to the slums. Color is well-saturated, again with an emphasis on jewel tones. Depth and detail have also improved. Look for the blue nursery, with white curtains, furniture and accessories described in “The Graphics” by graphic designer Florence Tasker. She talks about how the nursery wallpaper was fabricated, and how drawings and handwriting were replicated through tracing and hand-doubling.
An amazing costume ball designed to support England’s Spitalfields silk industry recreates apparel shown in a painting by Edwin Landseer, and discussed by Rosalind Ebbutt in “The Costumes.”
Dialogue arrives clearly front and center, balanced with immersive, ambient environmental sound. The choral theme by Martin Phipps is joined by incidental period music including Chopin. Pianos are soundless at filming, while actors “act” at playing; music is brought in later. “There’s a lot of piano music on ‘Victoria,’” music associate Tom Kelly Kelly says in “The Silent Piano,” with actor David Oakes (Prince Ernst). “It was the main source of entertainment in that time. We work with the actors to make it look as convincing as possible.”
Actors Jordan Waller and Leo Suter discuss the gay characters they play in “Paget and Drummond.” “The interesting thing about gay history is that it’s undocumented, but the idea that it didn’t happen is ludicrous,” Waller says. Diana Rigg as the Duchess of Buccleuch takes a dramatic turn in their story.
In “An Icon for Women Today,” Goodwin discuses Victoria’s recent surge in popularity. “I meet so many young women who love Victoria,” she says. “I think the reason is … she’s the boss. She’s the one who proposes; she’s the one who calls the shots always ... She just does what she thinks is right.”
“She’s the first queen to have children ever [while ruling Great Britain], which is remarkable,” Coleman says. “To manage nine children, a husband and being queen as the day job.”
“Victoria” Season Two is anything but dry. It shows the adventure and passion of one of the first powerful women to merge the roles of wife, mother and successful monarch. The cast and production values are great; the story is always fascinating – and true!
- Kay Reynolds