For reviews of previous eps, you can read them here: One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six and Seven. And yes, they are major spoiler-y plus I also talk about the characters and plot and dialogue from a writer’s point of view.
We left the last episode with the Chevalier in jail as a traitor for conspiring to overthrow Louis and apparently due to be executed. Philippe is one hot mess. Marchal has been poisoned. Only Louis seems rather pleased with himself. Oh, and de Clermont because she’s still alive and no one suspects she’s the President of the We Hate Louis Club (except for the Chevalier and he’s in jail and we know how that will end…) Only three episodes to go, so how are they going to end Season One? We need a cliffhanger…. And I assumed the Chevalier in jail was it. But noooo.
Just a little bit of history about the Chevalier’s jailing here. There was major sniping back and forth between Team Monsieur and Team Henriette. Henriette confided a lot in the bishop Cosnac and she and he were thick as thieves and wanted to break the Chevalier’s hold on Philippe, who at this time ran Philippe’s household. Philippe was already shitted off with the bishop, because the man had failed to secure a governorship of Languedoc for Philippe, plus Cosnac had saved Henriette’s reputation when scandalous pamphlets had surfaced attacking her reputation. The Chevalier pretty much knew then that Cosnac was a threat, so conveniently some slanderous letters surfaced, and the Chevalier had no trouble convincing Philippe that Cosnac was out to destroy their relationship. So off Cosnac was sent, to the wilderness of Valence, retired to his diocese. Of course, Henriette bitched to her brother Charles II about it, and with the Treaty of Dover relying heavily on Henriette and Charles’ compliance and good graces, Louis eventually had the Chevalier arrested and thrown into jail. And then- okay, I digress. Let’s get on with the episode and I’ll fill you in as we go.
We open with Louis going to Philippe, inviting him to ride. “You do know there will be others,” Louis says, as if he has not had the love of his brother’s life put to certain death. Can you see the irony in Louis, with mothers practically throwing their daughters at him, who has women pretty much on tap, telling Philippe, the faithful one (who is judged by the moralists of the time to be weak, easily led and worse, a sodomite) he’ll basically ‘get over it’? “Not like him,” Philippe replies. A look passes over Louis’ face… he feels the need to soften the blow, I think: “The Chevalier is a traitor. I had no choice.” And off they go, into the forest for a ride… a race. “You could’ve won,” Louis declares. “The King would have lost,” Philippe replies. “We can’t have that now, can we?” Such an angry thing, he is. And I don’t blame him. “My advice would be to take the matter less to heart.” Just. What. Riiiiiiight. Philippe: “you’ve put my dearest friend behind bars. How else would you have me take it?” Louis: “Your dearest friend, the Chevalier, was plotting against the crown. How would you have me take that?” Philippe: “he was trapped. You know as well as I do he is gullible and easily influenced. He meant no harm.” Louis: “I took the decision as your King, not as your brother.” Philippe: “are you, brother? Sometimes I wonder.”
I had to smile here: historical Chevalier was anything but gullible and easily influenced. He was very much a major player in the plots and intrigues in the goings-on at Monsieur’s court. Definitely the agitator between the Prince and his wife. But again, this is story Chevalier and he has been set up as a different figure. I just found this opposite character (like a Bizarro Chevalier) amusing.
So now we are back in the palace and it appears that Henriette is having a miscarriage, and Claudine (dressed as a man) is being ushered in to attend. Philippe appears and is told the news… Louis is already there and walks out with Bontemps, tells his valet he is expecting a visitor from England, and he must be admitted without announcement. Then Louis asks where Marchal is, says he wants him to interrogate the Chevalier (we all know what that means 🙁 ) Bontemps does not know Marchal’s whereabouts.
We are in the Chevalier’s cell and he’s looking not so good, barefoot and dirty and cold. The masked man walks in and basically says the king would not dare kill his brother’s lover, he will be spared… but not without a little torture. Then he says if the Chevalier reveals any details of their group, he will cut him open.
Back to Louis with his council, Louvois says all the prisoners have been moved to the Bastille and they await Marchal to question them. Louis wonders if they are all acting alone or if there’s someone behind them, pulling the strings. Rohan says he doesn’t think he should worry too much about the nobles; they are a lazy and cowardly bunch. Louis: “are you not a noble, Rohan?” Rohan: “My point exactly.” This amuses Louis. Then Louvois interrupts to say the only way to deal with a traitor is to execute them. “what are they saying in the salons?” asks Louis. “They are frightened.” Louis: “Good. I want them to be frightened.” Rohan is of the opinion that the traitors should be released, that their gratitude will translate into obedience and fidelity. Perhaps…. but Louis wants them to stay in jail for a little while longer. To learn their lesson. When Rohan takes his leave, the look on Louis’ face is…. frankly, a little cold. Somewhat suspicious. I think he’s suspecting something is up.
Cut to Marchal in bed, in the throws of agony as the poison does its work. De Clermont turns up and tends to him, Marchal demands water. When she returns, he’s gone. He knows.
Back with Henriette as she finally wakes and asks Sophie: “has the king visited me? Please, tell him I wish to see him.” And the camera pans back to reveal Philippe by her bedside. HER HUSBAND. When her first waking thought is Philippe’s brother, her lover. What. A. Bitch. Philippe says calmly: “His Majesty is attending to matters of State but I’m sure his thoughts are only with you.” And Henriette, being the manipulative cow she is, says: “I didn’t see you there. Will you come and sit with me?” Philippe: “I’m pleased to see you haven’t forgotten your priorities. Good day.” And leaves. Yessss. Henriette asks Sophie if she lost the child, then says perhaps it’s for the best.
Now we see a Sir William (the English visitor) in an antechamber, perusing the plans for Versailles. Louis enters, they are seated and Louis states he has a proposition for the nobleman’s King, and reminds him it is Secret King’s business. Of course, says Sir William. Louis looks him right in the eye: “I want to invade Holland.”
Here we go, then! War, once more… bit risky considering England is currently Holland’s ally. “How,” Louis asks, “can I persuade England to join me in such a venture?” This is a fascinating little insight into the religious beliefs of the time. Charles II publicly claims he’s a Protestant, but in his heart, he is Catholic. So Louis proposes England fight with France, and in return he will reconcile the English crown with Rome (Catholic City #1). The meeting re: this issue will be held at Dover Castle. Interesting power play here, with Louis telling King Charles to meet him – on English soil – and yet Louis hasn’t decided if it’s important enough to attend himself.
We’re back to Marchal struggling down the peasant streets, so obviously sick. He manages to find Claudine’s house (yay!) and she tends to him, saying it looks like arsenic. I find their two characters extremely interesting – on the one hand we have Claudine the healer administering to the sick, making people better, easing their suffering. And then Marchal, who by his very nature of work, snuffs out life after making people suffer very much. Two opposite ends of the spectrum. Such a fascinating dynamic. She makes an antidote while he says that no one must know of his presence.
Back to Louis with Louvois and Colbert, discussing what will soon be known in history as the Treaty of Dover. His two advisors bicker a little about who should be sent to bargain with Charles, and Louis says Henriette will go. Louvois and Colbert vehemently disagree. But Louis will not be dissuaded. And as his sister, she knows all of Charles’ weaknesses, and she has his ear. A little of the politics is revealed here – William of Orange (the bad guy) has just been given a place in the Dutch government. Louis believes he will be King in two years. “If we do not negotiate with England, he will.” He tells Colbert to have The Gazette print a cover story, which, as the camera pans back, catches the interest of one of the King’s guards. A spy.
Now we are back with de Clermont in the palace, asking if anyone has seen Monsieur Marchal. Not wanting to let him get away, obvs. Montespan spots her and they chat about seeing de Clermont with Marchal. The way this little tête-à-tête goes makes me think Montespan knows quite a bit more than she’s letting on. Incredibly sly and clever, that woman.
Next scene – the Chevalier looking terrible in jail (my poor baby!) and in walks Louis. The Chevalier grovels and Louis silences him: “Give me one reason I should spare your life.” The Chevalier answers: “I cannot, Sire. I have betrayed the trust you placed in me. I have let myself be led astray.” He grovels some more, begging for the King’s forgiveness, but Louis wants a name. The Chevalier cannot give it – the masked man. Louis: “do you really think you are helping my brother by plotting against me?” And the Chevalier declares: “I acted without thought and through fear alone.” Louis: “honestly, I have killed rabbits with more courage than you. My brother deserves better.”
Again, I took another moment to pause. Historical Chevalier was hardly lacking in courage. He fought in wars, won battles, challenged the enemy to one-on-one combat (and won). Okay, okay. This is Story Chevalier. I knoooooow. And as Story Chevalier, this is totally in keeping with his story arc. Let us move on.
We are now with the Duc de Cassel, lurking about in what appears to be some cellars, meeting Montcourt, de Clermont and her little gang. The masked man tells them Louis is sending Henriette to England to meet with her brother Charles II and says “whatever the reason, she will not survive the journey.” De Clermont wants to kill Louis (wow, okay) but Cassel is all ‘oh, come on now’ but she is pissed – apparently he destroyed her entire family, plus thousands of Huguenots. The masked man finally reins her in, and says they will throw Louis out of power first, that their friend William of Orange will give them men and money. They all disperse, but Montcourt is up to something…. he returns to the room to see the masked man (who is revealed to be a henchman of Cassel’s) talking to another in a hood. I recognise that voice! We see a shot of the Hood Man’s hand – nice elegant hands with a distinctive ring… and Montcourt hears where this plan to kill Henriette will happen.
We’re back in the palace, with Henriette and her ladies, plus Philippe and Bontemps. Philippe wants to know why the king wants to see his wife, Bontemps cannot say. “I am her husband, I have a right to know,” Philippe says. Bontemps begs to differ: “You have a right to ask, not to know.” Bontemps, you sassy thing! Philippe says he will do the talking… but no. The king will talk with Henriette alone. Philippe is pissed off. Why does everyone keep doing that to him? UGH.
Louis tells Henriette what he wants her to do – Philippe eavesdrops and walks in. You can see the hesitation on his face, still so unsure, the poor thing. Then he storms over and demands to know what Louis wants of his wife. “I am sending her away to negotiate a treaty,” says Louis. At least he doesn’t lie. Yet Louis won’t tell Philippe where Henriette is going, exactly. “is this all true?” Philippe asks Henriette, then says: “how can you let him do this to you?” Henriette, looking a little pissed off, replies: “do what?” Philippe: “Use you. That’s what he is doing, though you are blind to it.” Louis interjects: “Is that really what irks you? Or is it the fact she’s been given a role you might have coveted?” Oh, Louis. Such a low blow. Philippe strikes back tightly with: “What ‘irks’ me, is that you would take away all that is…” (glances to Henriette) “-or should be mine.” YES. THIS. EXACTLY. However, Louis has one last move: “Your friend The Chevalier has just been released from prison. I believe you will find him in your rooms.”
SILENCE as Philippe realises what’s happened…. happy that the Chevalier has been returned, yet still so very pissed off with Louis… and now, the realisation of what his brother has done – given him back the Chevalier as a consolation for Henriette. As Philippe turns and walks away, Louis adds calmly: “if he betrays me again, he will be hanged in public. I am counting on you to ensure he does not.” With a slightly mocking bow, Philippe silently strides off, slamming the door behind him. Louis turns to Henriette, wanting to know if she is strong enough. Then he says: “I am sorry for your loss… our loss.” The look on Henriette’s face says it all – he is acknowledging that he believes the baby was indeed his.
Philippe strides into his apartments where the Chevalier is staring at his reflection in a mirror, surveying the damage prison has wrought. He sees Philippe in the reflection, stands and opens his arms, says “my darling!” But Philippe will have none of that, puts up a hand to stay him. The look on the Chevalier’s face – look at it! …. 🙁 “I thought my return would give you pleasure.” Philippe: “Only disappointment. You have betrayed your King. And me.” The Chevalier, a little irritated: “You going to give me a chance to explain myself or not?” Philippe: “No.”
The Chevalier replies tightly: “Very well. In that case I shall go find myself something to eat. Preferably devoid of maggots.” As he walks out we see Philippe, the poor thing, closing his eyes and battling with strong emotions. “No. Stay.” he commands, then turns. The Chevalier slowly walks back as Philippe adds curtly: “but do not touch me.” The Chevalier looks quite crestfallen at this…”If you do it again, the king will have you hanged.” The Chevalier: “Rest assured I will not. I have learned my lesson. And the thought of being hanged… in public….” He looks rather disgusted by that. Philippe offers a thin smile: “I will not let that happen.” The Chevalier, looking much more relieved: “I thank you, my love.” Philippe leans in, whispers tightly: “I would kill you myself.” Then strides away.
Such a pleasure seeing these two on screen, especially Alex Vlahos. He displays a wonderful range of emotion and frustration, it is quite a delight to see.
Next scene, the next day… the King’s Messenger (Jesse Remond Lacroix) arrives at the palace, enters a salon with a message for Monsieur Marchal, and waits where Montespan, de Clermont and Cassel are playing cards with some others. Bontemps arrives, takes the message (still no Marchal) and everyone is suddenly all ears, overhearing that the messenger has traveled from Pau (which is where de Clermont and Sophie have said they’re from). Bontemps eyes de Clermont – we know what that means! – and Montespan slyly questions her, which the older woman brushes off and makes light of. This is quite an amusing exchange, with Montespan on a fishing expedition, and de Clermont trying to play the innocent, all the while words that mean something entirely different are exchanged.
And now, we finally see Marchal, with Claudine (still in her man’s clothes :)) attending to him, and he asks her about love potions, how two people could take the same potion and yet only one suffer the effects. Claudine says: “Either that person succeeded in vomiting the poison before it took effect, or they took an antidote prior to the taking of it.” Marchal asks she fetch Bontemps.
We are now strolling with Henriette and Louis in the gardens, where Louis asks if she knows why he is sending her to England. To test her? No, there is no need for that. “I want you to go because it is your wish. Not to please me.” Is there a difference? she asks…. then “did I do something wrong? We used to be so close. And now….” Louis asks: “Are we not close now?” “Henriette: “I don’t know. Are we?” She is annoyed and also probably worried because she can obvs see she has dropped in his favour. I think she is genuinely regretful they are not the same as they once were. But then, a baby everyone suspects is your husband’s brother’s tends to change everyone involved. Then Louis divulges this fascinating little monologue: “We are close to those who we trust. When you are with your brother your every move and gesture must indicate self control. Walking. Entering a room. Sitting down upon a chair. You must betray no emotion. Silence is more important than speech and whenever you do speak you must hold his gaze. Look away and you have surrendered. Play on his weaknesses. Flatter him. Charm him. Be strong when you need to and give in to his demands when there is nothing at stake. On this mission you are not his sister, nor wife to my brother. You are France. You are me.”
This. This is SUCH a brilliant way to get across the essence of all that Louis does and is. He is basically educating her in who the king is, and by doing that, also telling the audience, too. So simple and yet so very powerful.
And now we come to my favourite scene of the episode…. because it made me blubber (“ugly tears”, I believe were the words I tweeted at Evan and Alex) and then, ultimately cheer. Philippe and the Chevalier are sitting silent in separate chairs in Philippe’s rooms, in front of a fire. The Chevalier says quietly: “Do you remember the first night we spent together?” Philippe, staring at the fire, says quietly: “Yes.” The Chevalier: “do you remember what I said to you when we woke in the morning?” Philippe, glancing over at him, admits: “No.” The Chevalier says softly, staring into the fire: “Henceforth, every day that I do not touch you… taste you… feel you… will be a day of death and mourning….. I meant it then, and I mean it now. I have made a mistake.” (Lord, I am weeping as I write this now… STILL) Philippe glances to him as the Chevalier remains staring right ahead and batting with tears: “I have offended the king. And I have offended you. But my love remains as strong as the day we met.” By this stage, Philippe is just watching him, eyes red as he continues. “And Philippe, the truth is, if you don’t love me……(tiny lip tremble) no one loves me.”
And that’s when we see a close up of Philippe slowly, tenderly, taking the Chevalier’s hand in his and just holding it.
BOOM. I AM DONE.
No words from Philippe. No more recriminations, nothing to mar the perfect silence of moment. Just one simple action, holding hands, as the Chevalier cries and says “I am so sorry.”
A PERFECT SCENE AND I JUST CAN’T EVEN…
Excuse me while I take a moment.
Right. A new day and we are with Montcourt as he walks through main gates of Versailles and up to the entrance (doubtful this would be allowed in real life, as only the best of the best were allowed through the front, servants had their own entrance, but cinematically, it is very powerful), then through the palace as shocked courtiers watch him and whisper as he goes. Louvois rushes over: “The king will have you strung up if he learns of your presence!” And Montcourt plays his cards: “Not when I give him a piece of information that has fallen into my hands.” AHHH! A double crosser! “Why would you give him this information?” queries Louvois. “In exchange for my return to Versailles.” Dunno about you, but one who switches sides so easily cannot be trusted at all. Next scene, with Louis eating, Montcourt waiting in anticipation to be addressed. Montcourt tells him he heard of a plot in a tavern, that a man would kill Henriette on the way to England. “Where is he to be found?” asks Louis. “he is a member of his Majesty’s police force,” Montcourt answers. OH. Right. Another delicious twist. Arrest him? No. They must catch him red handed. Louis realises now they have a traitor in their midst. Montcourt leaves, Bontemps suggests postponing the trip, but Louis does not want to lose the chance to discover the identity of his enemies. He entrusts Bontemps with Marchal’s duties, pauses for a moment…. then in a sudden moment of rage, sweeps the plates from the table.
Claudine finally finds Bontemps, who goes to see Marchal. Bontemps says the assistant has gone, his absence has been noted and his majesty less than pleased. Marchal tells Bontemps to tell the king he has gone to Paris, Bontemps tells him about the message from Pau, that the real Madame de Clermont died in a fire ten years ago. Marchal, being the clever thing he is, knew she was a liar – “her documents of proof were dated thirty years before the paper on which they were written was made. The weave was modern… older paper has more fibre. The ink bleeds differently.” How does he know this? His father was a printer. Another piece of his puzzle falls into place. Can’t wait for more.
Back in Philippe’s rooms and Henriette is getting ready to leave. Philippe wants to know why she doesn’t just refuse to go. “Because he asked me to,” she replies with a light smile. God, is she so oblivious to the tension she causes between the two brothers? I suspect not. She is doing this on purpose. “he didn’t ask you – he ordered you,” Philippe says. “You won’t win him back. You know that, don’t you?” She pauses, replies, “That is not my intention.” And they both fall into silence, until Philippe hesitates, then almost nervously leans in and briefly kisses her, wishing her a comfortable journey. She smiles and leaves.
Next scene as they are approach the carriage, and de Clermont pulls Sophie aside and says if there is any trouble, to place her own safety above that of her Highness’ and to enjoy her time in England. Sophie is confused… They were going to Vichy for Madame’s health, aren’t they?
Meanwhile, Montespan wakes to find Louis at her windows, staring out as Henriette leaves. They have a little exchange and a moment and it’s a nice way to show the growing intimacy between her and the king.
Back to the action and the Masked Man (unmasked now), taking up position and lying in wait for Henriette’s carriage with crossbow. Much dramatic music and tension for those who are unsure of the outcome… and of course, a musket is placed at his head, with Bontemps and the King’s Guards to the rescue.
Claudine removes Marchal’s bandages and I’m not sure but maybe they have a moment? Maybe it’s just wishful thinking on my part. Scriptwriters, if you’re reading… this would be an interesting thread for these characters 🙂
Bontemps leads Montcourt into Louis’ rooms, where he is wine tasting with his courtiers. Louis then makes a big production of accepting the man back into his circle, with what is obviously a speech prepared for this occasion. “A shining example to everyone…. proof that fidelity has its rewards.” It was quite clear to me from the very first such performance that Louis always has his words carefully prepared, like a top notch actor who is ‘on’ for his audience. And perform he does, bestowing smiles and compliments on an obviously needy Montcourt. Montcourt is practically giddy with delight, and Cassel demands to know how he acquired the king’s forgiveness. “I begged him for it.” Oooookay. Clever Montcourt.
We are now in the dungeons, with Bontemps questioning the Unmasked Man. But the bad dude knows Bontemps is far too much of a gentleman; he will not talk. And then Marchal walks in and the man’s expression changes dramatically. Yessss.
A scene a bit later on in the day, with Marchal going to see Louis. And Louis’ ‘where the fuck have you been?’ expression, combined with his restrained fury and sarcastic “I hope you had a pleasant time in Paris.”… 😀 Marchal then tells Louis the truth and needs some time to gain proof of his poisoner.
Cut to a bath scene in front of a fire with Philippe (yes 🙂 ) Louis walks in. “She may not come back,” Philippe says. “Of course she will,” replies Louis. “You only say that, because to think otherwise would be an admission of failure.” Such an angry ball of rage he is. All the time. He must be as exhausted as he looks. “Do you have any idea what sort of place you are creating?” Philippe continues, almost conversationally. “your palace of dreams is becoming a haven of plotting, treachery, depravity, infidelity aaaand… immorality.” *pauses* “Did I miss anything?” Louis is not impressed. “You are angry with me for sending your wife to England.” (Philippe scoffs) “She now has a purpose in life. You do not. I’m here to give you one.” Philippe: “A job?” ….The look on his face, that little pout HAHAHA. “It’s not following you around and saying ‘yes’ all the time is it, perchance?” I DIE. Then… “sorry,” Philippe adds sarcastically. “That was infantile of me. What is it you have in mind?”
Etiquette. Yes, Philippe, Etiquette. Louis wants “the nobles brought to heel. They plot against me. And they behave as if this were their home. They do not know how to address members of the royal family or each other. How to eat at dinner. How to be at Versailles. From now on I want everyone to know their place and status. I want every minute of every day to be structured. From now on, everyone must abide from the same set of rules.” “Including the king?” Philippe asks skeptically. Louis: “Especially the king. And who better to control the king than his own brother?”
Historical note: this is awesome. Historical Philippe was known for his love of pomp and ceremony, he delighted in costumes and production and the theatrics of an event, and even though this little snippet of history may not have occurred right here, at this moment, it did actually happen. Louis did indeed demand a set of etiquette rules drawn up for everyone to follow. From the moment he woke up, to the time he went to bed, his entire day and that of his court was structured. The way people curtsied, the way you strolled the gardens… there was even a correct way to knock on a door, with one finger or two, depending on the status of the door’s inhabitant.
Speaking of knocking…. de Clermont receives a visitor. Marchal. And here we see a scene of wonderful subtext, both she and he being overtly polite, she saying she’d been looking for him for two days, he saying he thought he’d been poisoned but it was a false alarm. She asking if he wants to come in, he graciously declining, asking for the breeches he left…. And yet when she retrieves them, she hides a knife, he a pistol behind his back. The mood music is fabulous here, dark and full of tension. I am expecting one of them to make a move because there is a long pause, a stand off… but no. He walks away, she closes the door. She must know that he knows.
Last scene now, with Louis and Rohan outside in the gardens, chatting. Rohan asks: “What is your greatest fear?” Louis replies: “to be alone.” Rohan says with a laugh: “You will never be alone.” Louis smiles: “spoken by a true friend.” They toast, then Rohan puts his hand on Louis’ shoulder….. and reveals the elegant hands and the distinctive ring to us all.
O. M. G.
I knew that man was up to no good. I recognised his voice earlier.
There we have the end of Episode Eight. Merci beaucoup!