Victoria tries to mix the happiness and the solemnity of the previous two episodes in “The Luxury of Conscience,” and it mostly succeeds.
How do you make a season finale? When it aired in the U.K., this actually wrapped up season 2 of Victoria with a holiday episode then airing in December. It’s now February here in America. Technically, the season isn’t over here, but there’s a distinct feeling of an ending in “The Luxury of Conscience.”
At the beginning of the episode, Albert struggles for control over something. After all, Leopold shows up without warning Victoria, and then she overrules her husband when it comes to opening the windows in the nursery. Nor can Albert control what happens in Parliament. (Granted, nor can Victoria.) He has to go to the Strangers’ Gallery — and the opposition uses him to laugh at Peel.
His frustration shows itself first at a punch at the wall, and second in a fight with Victoria that’s about Lehzen and his visit to Parliament. The only threat he can make is to leave Victoria entirely. However, neither of them have control over a sick Vicky’s life. It brings the couple back together.
Politically, meanwhile, the Corn Laws come back for Robert Peel’s storyline, and “Luxury of Conscience” rather clearly refers to him on the surface level. After all, as he says early in the episode, there are parts of his party that don’t support getting rid of the tariffs on important grains. Politics require a certain dose of pragmatism.
The episode pointedly juxtaposes Peel giving the bill to Parliament with Victoria and Albert waiting to find out if Vicky will die. They cannot do anything more than wait and hope. Peel gets the repeal passed, and Vicky lives.
The title of the episode also refers to Drummond and Paget. The two share champagne (and almost oysters!) and have discussions about whether or not Drummond should get married. Politics rear their ugly head yet again. Paget quietly points out that Drummond needs a wife if he wants to advance. However, before they can repair their relationship, while Paget patiently waits at the same restaurant, Drummond dies taking a bullet meant for Peel.
Ultimately, the word for “The Luxury of Conscience” is bittersweet. About the only unreservedly happy thing in this episode is Nancy and Francatelli, who have a little date (with strawberry tarts) and even exchange some kisses. Even Leopold bringing in a miniature pony has a strange feel to it, since this episode doesn’t finish the conflict between him and Albert.
Everything else comes at a cost. In Parliament, Peel decides to retire. Victoria finally sends Lehzen home, who has been with her since childhood. Neither of the women are dry-eyed as they embrace or as Lehzen mentions she’s merely always wanted Victoria’s happiness. Nor are the eyes dry as Paget and Peel serve as pallbearers for Drummond and then bury him.
- Although Albert predicts that Peel will be Prime Minister when the new Parliament building opens, that’s not going to happen.
- “It can be very difficult to hold two people in your heart at once, ma’am,” says Harriet, summing things up neatly.
- “This is my Calvary, Drummond. I hope I can bear it with grace,” Peel says, and politically, he’s not kidding.
- Alas, the longing looks of Paget and Drummond have come to an end.
- Penge wishes Lehzen luck in German and even gives her a parting gift of some Madeira. One almost wonders if he’ll miss fighting with her.
Next week, we’ll look at the holiday episode, which is the new season finale here in America.