Enter Louis (with a cut on his forehead – “from a hunting accident” we learn later. Very curious but we never actually find out how/why this happened). He is absolutely livid with the news that his friends, the Parthenays have been brutally murdered on his roads. “If a child of France is not safe on royal lands, what chance is there for anyone else?” Indeed. “An attack on my roads is an attack on me.”
Next we see a man carrying a sack through the dead bodies of men and horses, clearly the aftermath of a battle. Monsieur stops him: “where are you going? The siege is broken.” The man explains he had promised their mother he would bring his brother home. He is in the sack.
Okay, so it is not clear which actual war Philippe is fighting in, even though there are Spaniards and Louis has mentioned prior that he is fighting for the lands he was promised when he married the Queen, the daughter of King Philip IV of Spain. So this is likely the War of Devolution, even though historical Philippe’s major battle glory comes much later in history, against the Dutch (and after which Louis was so pissed with everyone going on about how awesome and fabulous and what a brilliant warrior his brother was, he forbid Philippe to ever fight again, cutting short what could have been an excellent military career).
Louis has his physician Masson tend to him, and Bontemps reads of the news that a battle has been won, and Philippe has distinguished himself, brought glory on France. “Enough!” Louis demands. Obviously major displeased with his younger brother not only getting what he wants but also succeeding far beyond expectations.
Louis then goes to visit his dead friends and he asks why Francoise, the mother, has bled more than her husband. A brief education on the way wounds work ensues, with Masson stumbling over the whys and hows, until Claudine, his daughter, steps in to explain it better. Of course, she’s doing this to answer the king, but I know where this is going – her father will see it as an undermining of his authority and knowledge. Louis then realises Charlotte, the girl, is missing.
Enter Fabien Marchal. We see his mind at work out on the road, calculating the angle of shots, working out where the girl could have fallen. He finally finds her – too late – and OMG such an excellent scene where we are shown the compassion behind this outwardly brutal man. He holds the girl as she dies in his arms, saying she “saw angels.”
Cut to a drunk Montcourt and his leather sash, decorated with a row of silver angels (ah-ha! A clue that comes back to bite him in a later episode). Cassel is furious, saying he has killed a noble family. Montcourt says the girl survived but that Cassel wanted chaos – who would follow the Parthenays now that blood has been spilled? Soon Louis will tie up the project and move back to Paris and things will be good again. Okay, then.
Louis is furiously sketching a plan for the gardens of Versailles, with Colbert in the background helpfully telling Bontemps: “he only sketches when he is upset.” He gives up, stomps off and asks who else delays on their journey to bring their noble papers to Versailles. Fourteen families in all await assurance of their safety…. it seems Cassel’s evil plan has succeeded in scaring people away. Marchal enters and from just a look, Louis knows the girl is dead, and is absolutely livid, saying Marchal has failed him and his continued presence at court requires nothing less than his absolution. Marchal says he believes a noble is responsible, that the musket firing the shot was someone atop a horse. “Bring them to me,” demands Louis.
And now we have Sophie passing notes to the charming builder, and de Clermont is furious, saying her daughter has no comprehension of what is at stake. Sophie is becoming suspicious and says she believes her mother isn’t telling her everything. You and me both, Sophie.
Back to Bontemps and Marchal. It is clear that Bontemps holds a huge dislike for Marchal’s methods, maybe even a dislike for the man himself, and they discuss the lack of safety on the road, what with the soldiers off fighting the war.
Back to Marchal talking to Claudine where he says there’s only three people who know the girl is dead – him, her and the killer. And he believes the killer will make a mistake that will allow Marchal to catch him.
A brief flirtation between Madame de Montespan and Louis, and Louis walks away in better humour. Then a bit of verbal sparring between Montespan and de Clermont, with Montespan saying if she does fall from her cousin the Chevalier’s favour, Sophie will no doubt support her: “beauty unlocks many doors.” To which de Clermont replies: “you of all people should know that first hand, Madame. And beauty without wit is merely vanity.” We learn more about the ruthlessness of the court and its people thanks to de Clermont: “when you pass through the doors of this court you are not entering a room, you are entering a market place. Transactions mean contacts. Contacts mean credit. Credit means power. And power means everything.” A brilliant show of the court’s underbelly from a clearly ambitious woman who is desperate to stay in favour and climb the social ladder. Sophie says “but we have our papers.” ……not yet, you don’t.
Cut to Louis and Rohan reminiscing about the recently deceased Francoise Parthenay, with Rohan eyeing Montespan from the window and Louis saying: “Her, you do not touch.” Louis then offers Rohan a position….. Rohan thinks it is as head of the stables but no. He is to go to war and shadow Philippe, to see that no harm comes to him. Rohan’s disappointment and frustration is so very clear, it’s hard not to believe Louis can’t see it too. Or maybe he does. And there is something in Rohan’s eye and that expression that I do not like….
Ahhhhh! The Chevalier de Lorraine interrupts Henriette at her toilette: “You know, misery suits you. You wear it so very well.” And what is he up to? Oh, he has found a necklace in one of her ladies’ rooms, and by his implication, it was stolen from her mistress. Of course, it is a frame job.
And so, the pious Louise de la Vallière begs Louis to release her to a convent, before Louis tires of her. Louis refuses: “God wishes us to be together.” He cannot let anyone or anything go. Rather like a spoilt child at times.
We are in a salon now and the Chevalier tells de Clermont that he has created a position for Sophie as a lady to Henriette. De Clermont is less than impressed but the Chevalier is irritated: “My decision is made. I am the head of this household, in case you’ve somehow forgotten, cousin.” He then takes Sophie to dance: “a dance is a form of conversation… with rules, restrictions… just like that dress you’re wearing.” Then he asks if she is ‘intact’ and a rather risque exchange happens, all the while eying a rather sweet-looking cellist. (Noooooo! Don’t!)
Then we go back to Louis, this time dressing as Henriette lounges naked on the bed. A little reminiscing about their time as children, then she has a bit of a complain about the Chevalier, to which Louis replies, irritated: “Is it not enough that I protect you that I now must protect your ladies?” She bitches about the ‘theft’ the Chevalier made up, says she was jealous of the dead Francoise (riiiiight. Great time to bring that up!) and Louis declares “I am going to war. Where it is safe. And you are coming with me.” He leaves, quite a bit shitty with the whole exchange.
The Chevalier meets the pretty cellist in the gardens (NOOOO!) but the poor thing gets his throat cut – the cellist, not the Chevalier. A masked man threatens the Chevalier: “from this moment on, I will tell you what to do. Deny us, and you will die. Apply yourself and your lover will be king.” (yeah, I do not like this scene AT ALL, because it clashes so badly with my historical knowledge of Lorraine…. in reality he would certainly not panic or frantically declare “please, please, I’m rich!” to a would-be mugger. BUT…. this is story Chevalier and they are setting him up to follow a certain path that I can see coming. They are certainly making him more vulnerable than he appeared to be in the first two eps.)
A few quick scenes follow: de Clermont in her room, and she has lots of parchment and a quill, apparently “writing letters.” Oooooh, no she’s not. Louis and Montespan in the salons flirting, a skilful exchange of words with a subtle sexual subtext. Louise de la Vallière paying a visit to the Queen, where the latter is privy to Louise’s self hate and flagellation. Cassel with Montcourt, telling him there is cargo to be intercepted on their way to Versailles.
And now a secret meeting with Louis and a rep from the house of Habsbourg, agreeing to sign a treaty to end the war, with the territory to be divided on the death of the Spanish king. Interesting… Oh dear, Louis’ wound starts to bleed and he tells Bontemps to fetch the girl doctor.
Claudine is an interesting character: a woman way ahead of her time, who studies in secret, dissecting body parts and working out how the body works, illnesses and treatments. Very dangerous indeed because in 17th century France, just the hint of this kind of thing would have you branded as a witch. It’s fortunate Louis is quite the forward thinker, and seeks her opinion on treatments. We can see her father is getting rather angry at this, and I suspect most of it is due to the way it undermines his (supposed) expertise, which is still very much in the dark ages.
Cut to Philippe, with Rohan following, declaring they are far inside the line, that they are in great danger. That he promised his brother he would ensure his safety. Philippe is not impressed.
Back at the pool house with Henriette swimming, and she goes inside clearly expecting Louis but encountering Montespan instead. “I have a scheme that will bring delicious revenge on the Chevalier. Might you consider it?” asks Montespan. Henriette demurs: “I already know what it is you want and I cannot help you get it.” Is this because she knows Montespan wants Louis? Or she doesn’t want to hurt Philippe? Most definitely the former.
Marchal finally tells Louis about the dead girl. Louis is furious: “why did you hide this from me?” Marchal: “because you have armed me, Sire. Not just with weapons, but with choices.” He has a brilliant understanding of the way a mind works and we see a bit more of his and Louis’ dynamic in this little exchange. Fabulous.
Ugh. More killing on the roads with Montcourt and his band of thugs. Louis is frustrated in his helplessness and finally goes on the attack, demanding soldiers protect his roads. “Their king is going to war.”
Claudine returns home and her father prepares food – the roles so obviously reversed here. Her father demands to know where she’s been. She cannot say. Masson believes Louis is trying to ruin his reputation. He does not like the court and their ways. “The King has his favourites and one day he tires of them. And we don’t see them anymore.” At this stage I do feel sorry for Masson, as he is so clearly feeling undermined by his own daughter, plus he is quite concerned for her wellbeing. But he eventually ends up being an asshat and after that, I don’t feel sorry for him one bit.
De Clermont is about in the corridors, and ‘casually’ meets Marchal on the way to her rooms, asks him to walk her back. They talk about the Parthenays and she suggests a walk in the gardens on another day. She’s up to something, most def.
Louis calls for a priest and confesses he has sent his own brother to war, and they discuss appropriate penance. You can see he struggles. And yet, off they go the next day – Louis and Henriette – to war. She gets a bit touchy-feely and he is distant. She is not happy. Clearly his conscience is niggling him.
Now we are at the front, where we have the best scene of the episode. Philippe is discussing battle and Louis arrives to declare: “The war is over!” Philippe is confused then angry: “we have battled hard for this moment – many men have died to retain it.” Louis demands a private audience. He seriously does not understand – or if he does, he simply doesn’t care: “I’m here to bring you home.” Philippe: “And I came here to fight.” Philippe is suspicious, and with good reason. He thinks it’s a massive PR exercise, to show how glorious Le Roi is: “all hail King Louis, who went to war and won the peace.” Yep, Philippe, sames. Louis admits their spies have discovered a Spanish plot: mercenaries hired to seek Philippe out on the field and capture him: “to use you to get to me.” But Philippe soooo has his brother’s measure: “This is about the porridge.” Apparently as children, they got into a fight, Louis first flicking porridge, Philippe flicking back, Louis tipping the bowl over Philippe’s head. So Philippe retaliates by pissing on him. Pretty soon they were rolling around on the floor, pissing on each other. Louis says, a little amused: “well you started it,” and Philippe replies, deadly serious: “You flicked the porridge. But guess who got the blame.”
It was SO awesome they included this little boyhood tale because with a slight tweak or two, it actually did happen (but with soup, not porridge, and there was pissing on a bed, not each other….) Philippe finally says: “you pissed on your brother. But I pissed on the King!” Clearly angry, Louis says: “This will be your last battle. It will not be your last act.” And Philippe…. ahhhh, such excellent dialogue, spitting out a declaration that “On the field, there are no kings, no nobles, no peasants. Every man is an equal fighting to survive another day. Tomorrow I will have more in common with the enemy than my own brother.” Louis warns that the Spanish mean to seek him out, and Philippe replies jauntily, “Well, then. I’d better wear something fun. Or they might not know who I am.” And with that he gives Henriette a hard kiss – clearly a dig at Louis and staking his claim as her rightful husband – and removes the colourful feathers from her headdress.
Again, such interesting dialogue between the two brothers, excellently written and showing deep rivalry, frustrations and setbacks. Rather than one massive info dump, the writers have given us a slow drip-drip of backstory intricately woven, which tells us this is not just an argument between king and prince, but rather a deep, snarly, multifaceted bundle of humungous conflict and emotion and angst and all that good stuff, revealed over time and in every verbal clash.
The final scene sees Philippe atop his warhorse and with the feathers in his uniform, stoic as he faces down the enemy lines, the calm before the storm. Then he draws his sword, gives the signal, cannons fire and the charge is on.
So is the end of Episode Four.