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Is Victoria Aiming For Greatness?

Maybe Albert's just being nice.

In the last scene of the last episode of this first season of Victoria, the Queen of England snuggles the baby girl she's successfully pushed out of her nether regions. She has won! Which is to say, neither she nor the baby has died during childbirth, as she and everybody else feared. Victoria's alive, and she has both a healthy baby and a firm grasp on the throne, with no need for a regent to reign until the kid comes of age. The Prince Consort says they should call the baby Victoria, "after a great queen."

"Who are you talking about?" she says. He replies: "Wait. Who are YOU talking about?"

That last part isn't true. BUT OH, THAT IT WERE.

We've learned a lot about the young Victoria in these eight episodes. She loves her dopey dog and her finicky German husband; she's good at playing Parliament to get them to leave her alone; she has a weird relationship with her weird mother; she'd have preferred not to have kids so soon. One thing we haven't learned? What kind of queen she is.

First of all, she's basically been on the throne for a hot second: three years down, sixty more to go. In that time, she's been coronated, found a husband, and grown a human person in her body. If she's been doing other stuff in her spare time, great -- but we don't know about it. Onscreen, she has no policies. She has no interactions with commoners. She almost never leaves her various palaces except to travel between them. We have to assume history is, like, happening out there in Fictional England, but not on her watch. Official jewelry aside, she might as well not be a queen at all, for all the ruling we see her doing.

Actually, in this episode, Victoria does meet a couple of commoners, if by "meet" you mean "encounter long enough to be creeped out and/or shot at." In two different instances, she's riding in her open-air carriage and is first approached by a man who wants to "free her from her golden cage" and bring her to his definitely-less-nice house, and second by a man who just wants her dead.

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(In reality, she was shot at once and the shooter got away; assuming he would try again later, she followed the same route a few days later[!]. The weird part is, it worked! The shooter did return and was apprehended before he could take a second shot.) But even this series of harrowing run-ins plays out almost completely inside the palace walls, in the context of Victoria's pregnancy and fears of the Duke of Cumberland swooping in. What motivated these guys? What is it about Victoria that made them get up off the couch? Was it something she said? Something she did? We have no idea. Maybe she is a great queen -- I hear we have documentation that could confirm this -- but nobody's really brought it up so far.

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That's why this kind of last-ditch attempt to reframe the season indicates to me that the show isn't what it wants to be -- or, more likely, that it is what it wants to be but is halfheartedly trying to position itself as something else. This is a show that's REAL interested whether Victoria and Albert are having lots of sex (they are), and whether Victoria knows how to prevent pregnancy (she doesn't). It cares about Victoria's mom and Albert's horny brother and gloaty uncle. And it's pretty successful in all those things!

But it isn't a show that cares a lot about policy of any kind, and from the beginning, the people Victoria reigns over have been blurry at best. That's not inherently a bad thing -- many, many people would rather watch a mostly light, lightly soapy show about the Queen's love life than Victoria: Wolf Hall. But if it wants to make grand statements about Victoria as a leader of any kind, it's going to have to show its work next season.

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