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TV review: 'Victoria' season 2 fails to live up to the first season

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TV review: 'Victoria' season 2 fails to live up to the first season

Jenna Coleman stars as Victoria and Tom Hughes as Albert in the Masterpiece series "Victoria." Season two starts Sunday, Jan. 14, on PBS.


There was more natural drama in season one of "Victoria," the British drama series written by novelist Daisy Goodwin that airs its second season on PBS Jan. 14.

In season one, Queen Victoria ascended to the throne and fought for her right to rule as an 18-year-old young woman; met, fell in love with and married Prince Albert and gave birth to her first child. It's the same content encapsulated in the 2009 movie "Young Victoria," starring Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend.

And that's likely the difference between season one and two. The story of a princess, practically locked away in a castle, ascending to become queen and finding herself a prince instead of the other way around is more gripping onscreen than the next stage of Victoria's life.

Thus, it seems Goodwin defaulted to inventing a good portion of the drama for season two. She emphasizes the birth of the Prince of Wales, future King Edward VII, and perhaps over-emphasizes the queen's postpartum depression, that, while relevant in modern society, is only conjectural at best when it comes to historical facts.

Goodwin also, apparently for the sake of modern audiences, adds in a homosexual relationship between two of the queen's attendants. Considering how it ends, this relationship appears to be completely invented, although it did give more ongoing tension to the season than other plot details. Another invented side story, one regarding Prince Albert's parentage, feels over-the-top and kind of tacky.

This second season continues the servant-drama subplots, possibly trying to take a page from "Downton Abbey's" upstairs-downstairs format. But, just as with "Downton Abbey," this kind of drama can only be stretched out so far before it starts to feel tired and contrived.

Speaking of comparisons, it's hard not to compare "Victoria's" soap-opera drama with the higher quality writing found in Netflix's "The Crown."

The main theme of the second season of "Victoria" seems to be Victoria and Albert's relationship as they try to balance traditional marriage and gender roles of the time with Victoria's status as queen. Perhaps if the show had delved into this with more depth and nuance (such as the more poignant way it was handled in "The Crown"), it would have improved the season a little more. As it was, their marital tension felt minimized to episodic drama that was wrapped up every hour, only to come up again in a new form later in the series.

Of course, Queen Elizabeth's story is more modern, but it would be interesting to see someone take on Victoria's story in a manner similar as "The Crown" does for Queen Elizabeth II.

All that being said, the costumes continue to be gorgeous, the music striking and the acting is pretty decent too. It remains an enjoyable period drama — but just don't go in expecting anything more than that.
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