'Victoria' Season 1 Premiere Recap: Bow Down

Hi there! You might remember me from Downton Abbey or Poldark recaps of yore. Since those shows wrapped, I've felt a void in my spirit that can only be filled by PBS-approved British imports. So I'm going to try falling in love again; this time, with a show called Victoria. I hope you'll join me. Let's do this!

Pastel clouds greet a pleasant sunrise in the English countryside... but there's no time to appreciate that right now because there's a bunch of text on the screen! It's 1837, the year that daguerreotypes and Oliver Twist became a thing. William IV is the king and apparently in some trouble. His niece Alexandrina is his heir.

Okay, before we get any further, here are a few interesting things I found out about this William dude, after researching him for the past hour:

  • He joined the Royal Navy at 13. While stationed in North America, George Washington tried to kidnap him!
  • Because William IV was so far down the line of succession (he was the third son of King George III), he decided Ah, screw it!, shacked up with an actress with a bad reputation and had ten "illegitimate" kids. Get it, Willie!
  • After the deaths of his father, both his older brothers, and his niece, he became an unexpected King at the ripe age of 64. Under his reign, slavery was abolished in nearly all of the British Empire and child labor was restricted. Huzzah for common decency!
  • In his final months, William gave a blistering speech at a banquet about how much he hoped he wouldn't croak before his niece was of age, so that her no-good, sneaky mother wouldn't get her hands on the powers of the crown. Queen Victoria -- then Alexandrina -- burst into tears from shock. But she still thought fondly of him because he was kind of right.

So that sets us up for what we're about to see. Back to the show!

A messenger arrives at Kensington Palace wearing a black armband. Our homeboy William IV is dead. Well, that was quick!

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We hardly knew ye!

I'm more upset about his passing than anyone at this mansion is. Some dude named Sir John is basically like, Ugh, finally! Alexandrina is so jazzed that she walks down a set of stairs WITHOUT HOLDING ONTO HER GOVERNESS.

After pretending to be bummed out about her dead uncle in front of the Archbishop for three seconds, she dances around the palace with her cute dog before heading to her room to blast the "Bow down, b-tches!" part of that Beyoncé song.

Upstairs, Sir John and her mother are already trying to take control, starting with the Queen's name. They both agree Alexandrina is way too ethnic and that her middle name Victoria is super lame. Elizabeth will do. Or Ann.

Alexandrina interrupts: Um, guys? Sorry to interrupt your little planning sesh, but I just saw the Archbishop alone and I intend to handle my own business forever and ever without your help. Cool? Oh, and I went down a staircase without assistance earlier.

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Sir John and co. are horrified by the idea of a grown woman having opinions and making her own decisions:

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In town, randoms are gossiping about how they've heard Alexandrina's tongue is too big for her mouth. Burn books were so quaint back then.

Back at the palace, the governess tries to hold a lesson with Alexandrina, who replies with a Meh, I know enough. The governess is bummed that she is now obsolete and must return to her native Germany, but she is quickly promoted to household dictator. The governess gleefully runs to the downstairs kitchen to be rude to all the servants for no reason.

Later in the day, Lord Melbourne, the Prime Minister, arrives to kick it with Alexandrina. Sir John intercepts him and gives a speech about how Alexandrina is a homeschooled weirdo and needs him to be in charge of her affairs. Lord Melbourne pulls one of these:

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After some small talk about dolls and ugly, pumpkin-headed suitors, Lord Melbourne brings up Sir John's attempts at seizing control. Alexandrina delivers a quick and strong NOPE! Melbourne then slyly tries to pull a fast one: TOTALLY, but reading stuff can be quite hard. Your itty-bitty lady brain wouldn't like it. Let me do it! Alexandrina responds by throwing a Betty Friedan book at his face and burning a bra.

Okay, okay, she didn't exactly react like that, but she did firmly say no.

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The next day, a bunch of Lords assemble to kiss the new Queen's hand. But before all the germ-spreading can commence, Alexandrina must give a speech. Her jealous uncle -- who, like the jealous uncle in The Lion King, has a huge scar on his face -- interrupts to say she isn't talking loud enough. So she turns the volume and the content way up: Because you all are sexist and ageist as hell, you don't think I'm going to do well. Watch me.

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Alexandrina goes to the balcony and proclaims herself Queen Victoria, a name change without which Prince may have never been referred to as an unpronounceable symbol. It's a major moment, yet all I can focus on is the actress' horrible colored contacts. They make her look possessed!

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Anyway, some time later, Governess Dictator hires a wide-eyed servant girl. The senior servants are royally pissed over not being consulted:

Upstairs, Victoria is hanging out with her only friends: her dolls and a portrait of her dead dad (#HomeschoolLife). Sir John bursts in, makes fun of her for still playing with dolls, and shuffles around important documents, in an attempt to convince Victoria that she didn't already fire him. When that doesn't work, he takes a more aggressive approach, by getting in Victoria's face and spitting: "What can a girl like you -- unformed -- possibly do to serve her country?"

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Calling her "unformed" is one thing, but insulting her best doll friends? Oh, hell nah. Victoria sets him straight by yelling: "IF I REQUIRE ADVICE, I WILL ASK FOR IT! Sir John, you have our permission to withdraw." That's polite royal talk for "GTFO and TTYN, loser."

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Victoria's mom's eye twitches, as Sir John limps backwards out of the room like a beaten puppy. Feminist Teen Queens: 1; Men Who Think Rocking Mutton Chops Makes Them Hot: 0.

Downstairs, Babyface Maid tries to mend some fancy gloves. Her boss tells her not to bother; the Queen never wears a pair more than once. Okay, Victoria seems chill and all, but I can see why head-chopping revolutions happen. The servants have their own way of sticking it to The Man though; they secretly sell the Queen's gloves, shoes, and other accessories, and pocket the money. Power to the ballsy, poor people! Get them coins!

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Outside, Victoria whines. Sir John is, like, sooo annoying! And mom's other friend, Flora, walked into my room without knocking! If this were a century or two earlier, Victoria would simply have them both killed, but it's the 19th century, so she decides to just move to a bigger mansion -- the recently-completed Buckingham Palace -- where she can keep them sequestered in whichever wing gets the least natural light. All is fair in love and real estate.

And now, it's time for a montage of everyone we've met so far running around the new digs, freaking out over all the chandeliers, and chanting, "Started from the bottom, now we're here!"

Babyface Maid spots Victoria for the first time and is so dumbfounded that she blurts out this dumb statement: "She is small, but she ain't no midget."

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Moments later, the Prime Minister eases Victoria's worries that no one takes her seriously because of her height by declaring: "Anyone who dares comment on your stature should be sent straight to the Tower!" (Sayonara, Babyface!) Victoria rewards him for waging a war against heightists -- and for being sort of sexy, if you squint a little -- by giving him a cute nickname -- Lord M -- and allowing him to be her Private Secretary.

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Elsewhere, Victoria's mom is really bummed that she and her friends have been put in the North Wing, far away from Victoria's room in the South Wing (#FirstWorldProblems). Sir John takes the opportunity to play a few more B-sides from his Victoria-is-a-stupid-shrimpy-loser broken record, only to be interrupted by the Queen herself. Sir John pounces and tries to make Victoria pick her maids-of-honor on the spot. Victoria gives him the silent treatment and a look that says:

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Not taking the hint, Flora pulls out a list of potential girls and ensures that none of them are tall whores. Victoria doubles down on her request for everyone to get off her jock:

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Later that day, Victoria tells Babyface Maid she wants to change things up with an au courant hairstyle. Babyface Maid doesn't know what au courant means, despite telling all the servants earlier that she has studied French. So she's a liar and hates short people. Got it. They end up going with braids that go under and around the ears, which soon became the 19th century version of The Rachel™.

A few days later, Flora continues to pester Victoria. Apparently, Victoria accidentally turned her back on some troops.

Victoria: "No one mentioned this to me."

Flora: "I assure you, they noticed, but no one likes to correct their monarch, ma'am."

Victoria: "Except for you, evidently."

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Elsewhere in the palace, Governess Dictator is yelling at a servant for wasting too much money on beeswax candles. She doesn't know the help is selling them off, along with all the Queen's other once-used belongings, but something tells me she will soon and the reckoning will be glorious.

Days later, Victoria and Lord M are trotting around on horses and chatting about how everyone thinks they're bumping uglies. Victoria asks if the reason he's single is because he's still clinically depressed about his wife running away with Lord Byron and then dying (yes, that Lord Byron!). Lord M is like, Um, yeah. Thanks for bringing that up.

The next day is the Royal Coronation Ball. Everyone who's anyone is in attendance... except for Lord M, who is crying in the dark at his house, while smelling a lock of hair. Yikes.

Before heading into the ballroom, Sir John, who's still allowed to live in the palace for some reason, reminds Victoria to not get too wasted or do anything slutty. Victoria is like:

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It wouldn't be a ball without a few scandals:

Scandal #1: The servants swapped out all the beeswax candles for cheap tallow candles, which are dripping wax all over the guests.

Scandal #2: Alexander II, the son of the Russian Emperor, gets a bit too handsy with Victoria, while dancing.

The latter is broken up, thanks to Lord M (who dried his tears and showed up, after all). Victoria deals with being groped by chugging lots of champagne and basically confessing her love for Lord M: "You dance so well. I wish I could dance with you every night."

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A little later, Governess Dictator pulls Victoria aside to Wikileak Scandal #3: Flora appears to be pregnant! And the baby is probably Sir John's!

Victoria goes and yells at Sir John, who then calls her a drunk. Victoria's measured reply:

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After some sloppy 19th century twerking, Flora interrupts Victoria on the dance floor to relay a message. The music stops just in time for everyone to hear Victoria yell, "Mama sent you to tell me what to do??" Lord M quickly escorts Victoria out and makes her go to bed before she pukes on everyone.

The following day, Victoria somehow doesn't have a raging hangover. She informs her mom about Flora's scandalous pregnancy.

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Meanwhile, Flora and Sir John commiserate over not being invited to the Coronation ceremony and hating Victoria's guts.

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While Victoria is being coronated, she has ordered that Flora undergo a medical examination to prove to everyone that she's a pregnant floozy. This plan backfires when the doctors conclude Flora is virgo intacta and actually has a huge tumor growing inside of her.

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Victoria's evil uncle Scar sees an opportunity. He leaks the scandalous story of the Queen forcing a humiliating examination upon an innocent dying woman and calls for the powers of the crown to be turned over to him.

Flora takes a turn for the worst and Victoria is pressured to hang out at her deathbed. This proves to be quite awkward and goes a little something like this:

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Victoria: Ummm, hiiiii. Being sick totally sucks. Want me to send you some peaches? They'll fix you right up!

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Victoria: Anyway, that whole exam thing was my bad. We cool?

Flora: You're going to hell. Now leave me alone so I can die.

Victoria:

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The following day, Governess Dictator finds out about the glove-selling ring. She correctly accuses the lead maid, Mrs. Jenkins, but Babyface Maid confesses because Jesus would have also taken the blame for a random misdemeanor or something. Governess Dictator tells Victoria, who responds:

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Later that day, Victoria's mom bursts in crying. Flora is dead. And she believes Victoria "drove her to her grave." Victoria somehow manages to make it all about her: Sorry about your dead friend and all, but Sir John always makes fun of my height and you never defend me! Leave me alone!!!

The next day, Lord M finds Victoria sitting at a piano, having a full-blown anxiety attack about how everyone thinks she killed a virgin. He confesses that he often wishes he was dead because his young son died some years ago, but that he pretends to be okay with this whole being alive thing, and she should too.

The next time Victoria is in front of the public, they yell about her being a virgin murderer, but she takes Lord M's advice and cooly pretends to be OK with being alive.

Some time passes. Uncle Scar continues to travel around, talking smack about his niece and encouraging rumors that something inappropriate is going on between her and Lord M. He selflessly offers to take control of things, if needed.

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Victoria finds out slavery is still a thing in the Caribbean. She's like, Oh, I'll just fix that then. Lord M is like, Ha ha ha. We can't just be decent human beings, silly. We have to let a bunch of white privileged men debate the economic losses associated with letting other human beings have basic rights first.

Sir John bursts in and demands that Victoria give her mother the title of Queen Mother. Victoria is like:

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Downstairs, Governess Dictator orders men to install gas lighting. Try selling candles now, riff-raff! The workers open up a wall and AN AVALANCHE OF RATS FALLS OUT. THEY SCURRY ALL OVER THE KITCHEN. AHHHHH!

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Back upstairs, the results of the slavery vote are in. By six votes, the Parliament decided enslaving people is bad!

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But Lord M has to step down and stop talking to Victoria because his party has been weakened.

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A wailing Victoria goes outside in the rain and uses her closed umbrella to attack hedges.why

Eventually, she calms down and interviews a potential replacement for the Prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington. He turns the position down because he's old and has been there, done that.

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Downstairs, the lead maid turns on the brand new gas line and takes her sweet time finding a flame. Her hand is consumed by a fireball. Babyface Maid runs to fetch some butter for the burn, but gets distracted by a hot chef, who says, "You can have butter, if you like, but I can give you something better."

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He tells her to close her eyes so he can show her "a surprise."

And then shows her his...

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...freezer.

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Back upstairs, Victoria is mad about a new coin that makes her look like she has a double chin. Her problems are so relatable.

Another possible candidate for the Prime Minister position by the name of Robert Peel shows up. He says the coin looks just like her. Uh oh! He then mansplains how the British government works. Double uh oh! Then he demands that she replace her ladies with women from his political party. Triple uh oh! Victoria isn't having any  of it:

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Across town, Uncle Scar is doing lines of 19th century coke, when Sir John comes in. They plot to convince everyone that Victoria is insane like her grandfather and unfit to rule.

Meanwhile, Victoria keeps trying to convince Lord M to get over himself and agree to stay Prime Minister. Lord M screams the lyrics to Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Ever Ever Getting Back Together."

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That night, Victoria can't sleep and decides to sit in front of a portrait of her insane grandfather. Her mother comes to hang out in a chic toilet paper headpiece.

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Victoria's mom assures her that she won't let anyone take away her power. One way to respond is for Victoria to be chill for once and just hug her mom and say "Thanks." Instead, she gives her mom a hard time for hanging out with Sir John and never protecting her in the past. Yeesh. At least she didn't bring up her I'm short and super sad about it hang-up again.

The next day is Victoria's birthday. The hot chef presents his impressive multi-tiered cake, topped with a likeness of the Queen and her cute dog. Some kids sing "God Save the Queen" and Victoria talks through it. Sir John tries to give Victoria a present and she pretends he's not there. Everyone almost dies of awkwardness.

Victoria opens a gift from Lord M. Will it be a love letter? A lock of his hair? A nude photo?

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It's a telescope.

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Next up: her mother's gift.

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It's a copy of King Lear.

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With a very rude passage underlined: "How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child!"

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Before Victoria can even react, RATS ARE ALL OVER HER CAKE! Victoria understandably loses her sh-t.

Cut to Uncle Scar's cocaine den. He's sniffing and spinning the story with Sir John's help. She was in hysterics! Maybe she hallucinated the rats! Muahaha!

The next day, Victoria tries to unveil her royal painting by pulling a tarp off of it. She can't manage it because she has poor upper body strength and/or is not used to doing very basic things like pulling. Lord M swoops in to help and casually says, Oh, hey, I'll be your Prime Minister again. Sorry about yelling Taylor Swift breakup lyrics in your face for the past couple of weeks. Is he serious? All that running around for nothing? If it wasn't for his wife running off and his kid dying, I might hold a grudge, but I'll just move on.

In a dark alley, some random tries to get Babyface Maid to sell herself and won't take no for an answer. Thankfully, the hot cook swoops in. Turns out he's been stalking her, but in the cute way. He reveals that he recognizes her from some former house of ill repute, but he doesn't care. He just wants to date. Aww (I think)!

Back at the palace, Lord M and Victoria gaze longingly across a room at each other. Some dude tells Lord M that this googly-eyed business won't last for long, as Victoria will soon wed. But Lord M knows that marriage doesn't mean anything. Just ask Lord Byron.

End scene!

After every episode, it’s only right to reward characters who’ve impressed and diss the ones that haven’t, so here goes:

PIECE OF COAL: Sir John. The uncle has a scar over his eye, which means he has no choice but to be evil. What's this guy's excuse?

HONORABLE MENTION: William IV. I would totally watch a show about him and his 10 "illegitimate" children.

BRONZE: Hot Chef. That cake was impressive. And so is his face.

SILVER: Flora. If anyone has earned the right to say "That was way harsh, Tai," it's this virgin who can't drive. 

GOLD: Victoria. Duh.

Until next week! If you miss me, read some of my other work or follow me on Twitter @xcusemybeauty!

More recaps:

'Victoria' Season 3 Finale Recap: Matchmaker, Matchmaker

'Victoria' Season 3 Episode 7 Recap: California Love

'Victoria' Season 3 Episode 6 Recap: Love on the Brain

'Victoria' Season 3 Episode 5 Recap: On The Road Again

'Victoria' Season 3 Episode 4 Recap: I'll Be Missing You

'Victoria' Season 3 Episode 3 Recap: La Isla Bonita

'Victoria' Season 3 Episode 2 Recap: The Guns of Brixton

'Victoria' Season 3 Premiere Recap: God Save The Queen

'Victoria' Season 2 Finale Recap: It's a Hard-Knock Life

'Victoria' Season 2 Episode 6 Recap: Somewhere Over The Rainbow

'Victoria' Season 2 Episode 5 Recap: Lost and Found

'Victoria' Season 2 Episode 4 Recap: People Are People

'Victoria' Season 2 Episode 3 Recap: Daddy Issues

'Victoria' Season 2 Episode 2 Recap: Puppy Love

'Victoria' Season 2 Premiere Recap: Baby It's Cold Outside

'Victoria' Season 1 Finale Recap: Bye Bye Baby Blues

'Victoria' Season 1, Episode 6 Recap: C'mon Ride the Train

‘Victoria’ Season 1, Episode 5 Recap: I’ll Make Love to You

‘Victoria’ Season 1, Episode 4 Recap: Wedding Bell Blues

‘Victoria’ Season 1, Episode 3 Recap: You’re So Vain

‘Victoria’ Season 1, Episode 2 Recap: All The Single Ladies

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‘Victoria’ Season 1 Premiere Recap: Bow Down

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