Oui. As I watched the first two eps of Versailles in the early hours of 28th March and cursed my 13yo self for not paying attention in French class, I suddenly realised I could still write the review because a) I kind of know the story and a few words of French, and b) the actors are so expressive, it is easy for me to interpret mood. And clearly, waiting until mid April for my DVDs is just NOT ON.
So here we go. Some scenes may be out of order, and I can only give my best guess as to what they are saying (this is a tragedy because I live for the dialogue in this show!) and some names I do not know. Also SPOILERY MCSPOILFACE. E-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. Now I’ve warned you…. *correction: I have amended some things in red.
We open with Louis in his nightdress in the snow. He is being driven by voices and it sounds like Henriette. He enters a freezing lake in the gardens and we see Bontemps following with guards in the dark. He enters the lake after his King, wraps his coat around him and says lots of soothing French words. It is clear Louis is distraught and still grieving Henriette’s death on some level.
Next scene… Marchal is storming through some woods, as we see Rohan hiding with a pistol, looking a bit rough and quite a lot attractive. Marshal is with guards and we hear one yell “the Dauphin!” Marchal charges into the shack… Omg there he is. Four years later, is it? That’s what we were told by the series people. The dauphin looks it, too. So yay! Rescue! Marchal says “I am Fabien Marchal” and I am torn because sexy French voice but also not Tygh Runyan’s which is delishus, droll and totally makes Marchal who he is. You can see my dilemma.
Now we cut to
Louis William of Orange who is asking about Rohan and also where everyone is, and this is a good method of orienting the viewer from season one and bringing them up to speed. We see flashes of scenes – Philippe in bed with sleeping naked boys, Rohan in jail. Everyone at Versailles being controlled by etiquette and a pregnant Montespan as the favourite. Louis is reunited with his son the dauphin, and he looks emotional but not overly so but I am sure there was more to that scene than I remember. I think this was the moment I decided to start making notes. Stupid scant notes. We learn the chevalier de Lorraine is in exile (why and where, I do not know) :cries:
We are now with Montespan in a carriage…. aaaaaand that’s all I have on that, so obvs not that exciting? *they are off to Paris, to a play by a rather talented Thomas Beaumont (Mark Rendall). They talk of Louis acquiring a historian, to chronical his life.
Back in Versailles, with Louis’ council, and we see Louvois and Colbert (yay!) My notes say here ‘blood poison’ and I think this is the scene where
they are all eating then one of the ministers suddenly vomits blood all over the documents. *his name is de Reynard and he was Minister for Justice.
Now to a play in some makeshift opera because the actual Opera at Versailles did not commence construction until Louis XV’s time. I am not sure which play they are watching…. I am assuming Molière. He is looking well and young for a man who should be 48 years old in 1670 and was already ill. But forget that because OMG chairs with arms for Montespan NONONOooo! *head asplodes* Marchal strides in, whispers ‘poison’ in Louis’ ear and Louis delicately spits out the macaron and swiftly leaves. *Not Molière, but the new Thomas Beaumont dude.
Another scene as Louis storms back to Versailles and rants about William of Orange. Much talk of poisoning of wells, taking his son, his sleep, his peace and his minister. He goes to Rohan and demands if the Dutch paid him when he fought for France. Rohan says pretty much everyone hates Louis. And there is the mention of an eclipse and when Rohan’s fate will be decided *historical note: there was actually an eclipse in 1670.
There is now a scene with Montespan and Louis and a full frontal shot of Montespan in glorious pregnancy. Hats off to the make up team. *He tells her not to eat the food, that there is poison about, and summons Bontemps to organising checking of the food. There is discussion about who will be Philippe’s next bride… nooooo! (but also, yes 🙂 )
Woo! Finally we see Claudine and Marchal, and they are having a chat. Most likely about poison… I hear the word ‘aphrodisiac’ and I wonder if Claudine is trolling Marchal for his stupidity in S1. I hope so.
Next scene – a discussion between Colbert, Marchal and Louvois. Much French, not clear what it’s about. Most likely war stuff. *they talk about the dead minister and who would benefit from his death. We learn that he acquired a lot of Cassel’s lands and his wife is much younger than him. Obvs, this means she is totally a suspect.
Marchal then interviews a woman, and she could either be a) a suspect or b) a potential to fill the role of Lauren, Marchal’s departed assistant/personal stalker from S1. *the woman is Madame de Reynard (Crystal Shepherd-Cross), the wife of the poisoned minister. Marchal already has Sophie to fill Lauren’s role, remember? UGH. Oui. I remember.
The Queen has a major issue about something and I would bet money it’s about Montespan. I guess your husband shagging his pregnant mistress would put anyone in a bad mood. Louis sounds like he’s flattering/placating her… and then Montespan walks in and God, Louis is a bit of a shit, with his queen and his pregnant mistress in the same room. And Montespan delivers her (French) lines so elegantly, it is clear she is borderline rude, confident in her position as maîtresse–en–titre. Servants suddenly walk in with a lovely table, adorned with portraits, and they all discuss them, Bontemps included. It wasn’t clear to me that this was anything more than an interior decorating crisis until much later. The portraits were of eligible women and they were all discussing Philippe’s bride-to-be. While Philippe, bless him, is at home, happily (kind of) shagging and doing debauched things. Ugh. But that’s the way it was – if you were a prince of France, the king could decide who you married. It wasn’t about love: it was about power and gaining wealth and alliances. Bontemps sounds diplomatic, as he always does.
Now there is a new council meeting, and a new dude with curly hair and no moustache… I think he could possibly be called Gaston? *Yes. Yes, he is, played by Harry Hadden-Paton.
Meanwhile, Marchal is on the search for something and does a Louis-walk in to the duc de Cassel’s tiny broom cupboard. Oh, look. He has a rat in a cage. I would love to know what they are saying… clearly, is it not Cassel saying “behold, look at my magnificent rat.” *you know, it kinda was.
We are back to the table and the portraits and there is some argument, with Louis picking out one (which I am assuming is Liselotte) then striding out in anger. Ahhhh. Liselotte. Or Elisabeth Charlotte von der Pfalz, Princesse Palatine. Philippe’s real-life second wife. We will get to her later. Or you can read about her here. *Louis is such a manipulator, letting both the Queen and Montespan think they have convinced him which woman Philippe is to marry, when all along, he wanted Liselotte.
the new dude again (I am gonna call him Gaston until I know better) YES, GASTON and he is at the gaming tables. There is Cassel, we see Sophie drifting about and talking to women (remember she is now Marchal’s spy).
Sophie and Marchal have a discussion and I like to think it goes something like: Marchal “you look very nice. Come and admire Cassel’s rat.” But I could be mistaken.
Now we see Philippe at the empty opera with his mignons, and he slams his walking stick on the floor, summoning
Molière Thomas. Another man appears and says stuff Philippe does not want to hear, because Philippe flies into a rage, throwing and breaking the armchair because it is obvs he is as disturbed about the incorrect protocol as I am, with lesser nobles parking their derrières on a chair with ARMS. *rage face* Sames, Philippe. Sames. *Philippe wanted Thomas to join his troupe, but the man said Le Roi had commanded him to Versailles. I like my chair rage theory better, tbh.
Oh, now we see
another new dude FFS. THOMAS. You are so bad with names! enter the golden gates of Versailles which is funny, because servants were not allowed in the front, but hey. It is clear he has a story to tell and he is quite cute and has a nice looking moustache so I shall call him Mo until I know his real name.*T-H-O-M-A-S. He is ushered in to see Louis.
There is a science dude now, talking about science things in a darkened room with mirrors all around and at first I thought it was Cassini, but I doubt it because he starts flicking some mirrors, aligning then with a beam of sunlight and everything is not so innocent. Bontemps surreptitiously shuffles behind Louvois, out of the path. A piece of driftwood is burned to a crisp from the mirrors’ reflections. Everyone looks impressed. Then Montespan sails in, straight over to Louis, looking all regal and smug and she appears to be quite the bossy boots, asking/demanding Bontemps to order her some more soap.And from her attitude, it is clear she feels she has a certain amount of power and influence. wtf, lady. Everyone knows you don’t treat the servants like that because it will only end badly. But anyways, she wants Louis to attend a fortune teller. Some of the men share a look…. then Louis tells Bontemps to “give her what she wants.”
We see a small antechambre now, adorned with familiar portraits, and a hooded, cloaked woman who I am informed is Madame Agathe (Suzanne Clément). Montespan enters the room and goes over to Agathe and it is clear they are friendly acquaintances, with Agathe probably going “oh, Athenäis, you have done so well for yourself” but then there is pregnant belly rubs and Montespan appears to be a bit aggro. Louis appears and it looks like Agathe is a fortune teller. Louis sits in an armchair and Montespan gets a stool (finally!) and there is mucho ominous music playing as cards are turned. We hear the word “impossible” and damn, I have never wanted to hear a fortune so much since the time I was sixteen and Madame Zelda told me she could ‘see’ me on a stage and talking to a massive crowd of people. What does it all mean? What is Agathe saying? What do the cards foretell? Something very, very bad because Louis becomes mucho shitty and storms to the door. Agathe, stupid woman who has no idea how to address a king, shouts ominous things and Louis grabs her face, shoving her backwards, then strides off. Bontemps awaits…. what does this meeeeeean???
We are back with Marchal, in his office, at his desk and it is lovely seeing the man work. He takes out what appears to be a locket and dips a bit of rat noms in it, then drops it into the cage. It appears he is unimpressed with Cassel’s magnificent rat.
The woman Madame de Reynard walks in and I am still thinking this could be Lauren Version II *NO! but whatever they discuss she doesn’t believe him and reaches for a pinch of the locket poison but before she can eat it, Marchal knocks the powder away and is all, “behold. Cassel’s magnificent rat. now dead.” Poor rat. Cassel didn’t deserve the creature.
Oooh, now we are in a glorious bathing room, with a Roman-style sunken bath, all lovely tiles and foliage around. Montespan is wallowing, Louis walks in and there is some chit chat but wha-hey there is undressing and smexy times.
Another scene with Marchal and Sophie, much talking and Sophie looking lovely. Can Marchal not see that? An aphrodisiac is mentioned again and damn, everyone just seems to be trolling poor Marchal for that one stupid lapse in judgement four years ago.
Montespan and Louis are now wallowing in the bath together and we hear the mention of Philippe and Versailles.
Montespan then goes to see Philippe at Saint Cloud (ahhhh! The role of Saint Cloud will be played by the very talented Vaux le Vicomte). They exchange words and Philippe is condescending, flippant and sarcastic. So, normal then. Pretty sure Philippe asks where everyone is, and Montespan says “Versailles”. What is Montespan negotiating now? Sweetening the marriage deal for him? Will the Chevalier be returned to him? Okay, so I was told later that Montespan offered Philippe a deal – marriage, return to Versailles and you can have your chevalier back. One guess as to what he chose. *Louis commanded all of Philippe’s friends to Versailles. What a bitch. Can he not pay for some friends of his own without taking Philippe’s?
Now we are back at Versailles, in the salons, where gambling and gossip is happening. We see both the new dudes, Gaston and
the Mo guy. Thomas. Louis is announced. Cassel performs this truly horrific smirk, like he’s just been told he must eat a shit sandwich and pretend to like it. Louis touches Gaston on the shoulder – a telling sign, indicating his favour – then leaves.
Now we see Marchal in the multi-mirror room. A man kneels on the floor, *this is Rohan and I cannot believe I didn’t recognise him. But in my defence he is bloody and bound, some kind of metal contraption on his head which forces his eyes open. Oh.
This is bad.
Marchal does his monologue and I cries because French accent is dubbed over the smexy Marchal drawl. The camera goes to Louis who appears to be on the other side of the door, *Nup, he is inside the room, observing everything his face a mask. Marchal turns the huge mirror. Louis’ expression is still blank. The sun starts to burn out the man’s eyes. Louis does not flinch at the sound of the terrible screaming.
Now we are with Montespan and Agathe again. Did…. did Montespan spit on the floor by her feet? Then Agathe speaks and whatever it is, it seems to put the fear of God up Montespan. She looks worried. Agathe does a familiar “oh, my poor dear, I am here to help you” thing and offers Montespan a vial.
This is not good. But I expected that.
Another Council meeting. Louis enters and we see the new dude Gaston, very clearly assuming he will be offered some kind of favour or position…. the word ‘Justice’ is mentioned so I am thinking Justice Minister. Which goes to (drumroll)………………….. Cassel.
Yep. Fucking Cassel. And Gaston is MEGA PISSED OFF and I am totally with him on that.
Now we cut to the courtyard with Marchal,
the man with the Burnt Out Eyes Rohan and Cassel, wearing a natty white collar that kind of suits him in an evil, puritanical “stop doing everything enjoyable, it’s a SIN!” kind of way. This scene is intercut with a group shot, with Louvois, Colbert, the Queen, Louis XIV et al, wearing cool John Lennon sunglasses with long handles, like opera specs, staring at what I assume is either the sun or an eclipse (there was one recorded in 1670). Marchal lifts his sword and, on Cassel’s nod, beheads Burnie Eyes. Rohan.
Cut back to Louis, who slowly smiles.
Aaaaaand end of episode 1.
So, I have questions. Why does Cassel now have an important role in Louis’ ministry? Easy – to keep him close. Give him a task, so he won’t have time to plot against the king. And frankly, if you had Marchal looking over your shoulder every day, you would want to stay out of trouble, wouldn’t you? *I also have another theory on this and it could be twofold: 1. To deliberately piss off Gaston – because when Louis calls for a blessing from Bossuet, everyone bows their head, then he glances over to Gaston and smiles to himself at the man’s furious countenance. And 2 – as a mind trip for Rohan, a last small dig at his enemy, because Cassel (as Justice Minister) is present at Rohan’s beheading, he even speaks to him. A final poke at the open wound before Rohan meets his maker. Also, as a subtle warning to Cassel, a “look, but for the grace of God” thing.
Why is the Chevalier banished? Historically, he was already in Italy at this time, after being released from d’If AFTER being arrested in Monsieur’s apartments for gossiping about ‘state secrets’ i.e. Henriette’s Dover jaunt to organise the treaty with England.
Oddly, I didn’t mind watching the show this way, without the dialogue to guide each scene. It made me pay attention to the gestures and facial expressions much more, plus I was more aware of the mood music. Still, I missed all those lovely Philippe lines and I cannot wait to get my DVDs so I can hear it properly!