So, here we are, mes amis. The final season of Versailles. I had much antipathy coming into my reviews, because I have heard things that frankly, had me in a bad mood before I even began. And so, a warning. There is MUCH I dislike about this season, and so, much ranting will ensue. I do not do this lightly. It pains me sometimes, because I really REALLY wanted to adore everything about this series. But it is seriously flawed, in many ways. and it frustrates me because much of those things could have been fixed with little effort. So I warn you, most of the story in S3 is fiction, and to address every single detail out of step with history would mean spending copious more hours on the reviews. Do not want.
I am not saying you guys should not enjoy watching. I am not saying your deep and strong adoration of the characters and actors and all their hard work and love they have put into the show is not valid. We are people who experience things in the world in a thousand different ways. Everyone has opinions. This is mine.
And so here goes my critique, in all its multicoloured rage – for you.
I am still confused as to when in history we are. Apparently S2 was supposed to start 4 years after S1 ended. Henriette died in June 1670, so S2 then would be in 1674 (and this is all shades of wrong, because historical Philippe marries again in 1670 yet in S2 we see this played out in real time). Time passes unclearly in S2 – Easter arrives, of that I am sure. Montespan gives birth but in reality, the woman had two of Louis’ children already. I am just gonna assume S2 is spread out over a year…? It did end with Philippe going off to fight in the Franco Dutch War, and that actually began in 1672 and S3 starts at the end of the war…. which was 1678. But it is clearly NOT 1678 because Philippe’s son was born in June 1673 and that would make him five. Nope. #ETERNALLYCONFUSED So I am gonna stick with 1673 until further notice.
So first scene, we see a hooded man on a horse, galloping through the trees, then heading into a town and a gloomy-looking building (which is supposed to be the Bastille entrance?) while a Bontemps voice over says: ” We can never comprehend this world. We can only learn that there are dangers, and there are secrets. Some secrets bring with them release. Redemption. But others are best buried deep in the earth. Never to be found. The lord said I have sent before you life and death. The choice is our own. Do we make a bargain with God? Or do we trade with the Devil? ” The hooded man enters a prison cell, with another man seated at a table. The seated man slowly turns as the hooded man reveals himself as Bontemps. And the seated man is wearing a mask. An iron mask. DUH DUH *cue dramatic music and the intro*
We now know that this season will be all about this man in the iron mask and I am already tired, thinking of all the conflicting and inaccurate historical bits I need to tell y’all about. Because there will be LOTS. *exhausted sigh*
An arial shot of Versailles – look at it!! – and we are at the gates (Louis’ coat is A. WORK. OF. ART. ahhhh!) where an armed guard stands, and the nobles observe the returning French troops, along with a victorious Philippe. *historical note: This is the Franco-Dutch War, the war in which Philippe was showered with glory and honour and dancing in the streets and songs and poems written about him. The French people ADORED him, and this pissed Louis off so much, he decided his brother should not ever ever fight in a war again. Despite Philippe being a brilliant strategist and warrior. Kept down by the man. UGH. Interesting that the writers put all the ‘we luvs Philippe-the-warrior!’ stuff in Season 1’s War of Devolution instead. Huh. But that is minor, compared to what’s ahead.
So Philippe rides in through the shiny Versailles gates looking glum and moody, as per usual, and even the shiny FABULOUS facade of the chateau cannot cheer him up. His hair is rather straggly and grubby, and apparently his war hair will feature heavily this season. This is not a selling point at all. Would it kill him to have a bath once in a while? Make hisself pretty? Riding next to Philippe is a new (fictional) character Guillaume (Matthew McNulty) and I already like him. A carriage follows Philippe, and Louis does not look at all pleased for his brother’s return, although perhaps his bad mood is because the occupant of the carriage is announced as “Emperor Leopold of Hungary, archduke of Austria, and leader of the Holy Roman Empire” (Rory Keenan) and his niece Eleanor (Daphne Patakia), who are the losers in the war. And also there by invitation of Louis. Leopold is confused as to why he is here, and not William of Orange (as am I because Leopold never actually went to Versailles). “I thought perhaps you and I would speak the same language,” Louis replies smoothly. Leopold bows to the queen, and says “You should know your sister bore her last days with great fortitude.” Louis adds, “please accept our condolences on your wife’s passing.”
*historical note: So if you follow me on Twitter, you will know I have mentioned this before. The real Leopold is this dude. He married Queen Marie Therese’s sister Margaret Theresa in 1666 when she was 15 and the queen was 28, and Margaret Theresa died in 1673 at 22 years old. Leopold had some major health issues, due to the fact that he was a Hapsburg and the product of interbreeding and incest (he was his wife’s maternal uncle and paternal cousin). Despite being creepy and icky to us now, incest also presented some serious physical and mental health outcomes, infant death, infertility, deformities… (Hapsburg Jaw, anyone?). All to ‘keep the lines pure’ which ironically, was the downfall of them all. The Church was all “ugh NO – do not mix the bloodlines!” but funnily enough, made allowances if those marrying were of royal blood. Fancy that. There’s an interesting article about it here.
Leopold chats with Louis and Louis is very much the graciously smug victor, who invites (read: commands) Leopold to stay as they have much things to discuss regarding the terms of surrender. Leopold also side eyes the queen, and from the look there is something already going on there. Not just the fact that Leopold and Marie-Therese are brother and sister-in-law and therefore in the eyes of the law and God, brother and sister. This is IMPORTANT, because the queen is very religious and pious, as we have been told over and over in S2.
Louis welcomes Philippe’s return, saying he has done all of France proud…”you’ve made ME proud, brother.” But no affectionate embrace from Philippe…. he just looks up at the palace and says, “I see you have been busy.” – a nod to Louis’ building efforts. Everyone looks on, smiling. I see Liselotte, the Chevalier with a fabulous 80s flick, Colbert, the ministers et al. Ahhh, but Louis has a surprise.
We walk up the marble staircase with the rest of the entourage, while Louis performs his monologue: “I built this palace as a symbol of imagination. and human achievement. But that is not enough. Every body must have its heart. Every crown must have its jewel.” They keep walking, through corridors, and I see they pass Madame de Maintenon, who smiles proudly at Louis. “Versailles needed a diamond SO bright, you might think it was forged by the creator of the sun, the moon and the stars. A beacon to the world, reflecting the power and glory of God himself.” They all stop at a set of fancy closed doors and I know exactly where this is going. He looks at Maintenon and she nods proudly. The doors open, Louis walks in: “the Gallerie de Glace, now completed.” They all move inside the Hall of Mirrors, looking awestruck and overwhelmed, while Bousset blesses the hall, Louis looks proud – almost orgasmic, tbh – and everyone else is all 😮
*historical note: at the end of the Franco-Dutch War in 1678, it would take 6 years for the Hall of Mirrors to actually be complete, in 1684. This was one of four Versailles building campaigns that co-incided with the end of four very important wars of France. It was like Louis just completely ignored all the death and destruction that the wars wrought (not to mention decimated the royal coffers) and just went, “hey, fuck it! Let’s celebrate ME and my GLORIOUS VICTORIES by adding new sparkly stuff to my most awesome palace!”
From there to the streets of Paris and it is a marked contrast. We are with Guillaume as he returns home, the camera sweeping in to follow his uniformed self through the streets, to his shoemaking business on the banks of the Seine. He is mucho pleased to be home, that much is clear and his sister Jeanne (Jenny Platt) is delighted to see him return in one piece. As are all his other workers, who greet him with hugs, handshakes and such broad English accents that it made me LOL muchly.
Back at Versailles and we see the Chevalier holding a ledger and directing servants about like some kind of party planner. “Servants must be crisp and clean as the linen, the wine perfectly chilled and the glasses never empty.” As he goes on, Philippe looms in the doorway, his expression unsure, broken only by a small smile as he listens to the Chevalier issue orders. This is their first alone-meeting and there is tension, and finally, as the Chevalier finishes then turns, he sees Philippe. There is a hesitation, an uncertainty. But then he smiles and Lord, is that man beautiful when he does *heart eyes* Philippe, meanwhile, cannot muster the same: he glances down. The Chevalier walks over to him, now a little uncertain of his reception, and says – almost causally, “So. Tell me how much you missed me.” …although his expression and eyes show much more vulnerability.
Philippe replies quietly: “I was… somewhat preoccupied, marshalling troops, defending the empire and dodging death.” The sad puppy dog look on the Chevalier’s face…. OMGGGGG. His “I have been rather busy myself,” is a poor riposte because he is hurt and we can see that. Philippe casts a brief eye around the room, staying where he is in the doorway: “All that cavorting and carousing must be quite gruelling.”
COME ON, PHILIPPE. SRSLY.
The Chevalier cooly brushes it off: “Of course, I must hear all about your derring-do on the field of battle. But…we have a little surprise for you first.” Philippe barely nods.
Scene cut – and we see the Chevalier and Liselotte (she is sooo gorgeous) before Philippe, who is awkwardly holding a screaming baby – his screaming baby.
Liselotte: (cheerfully) Say hello to little Philippe. He just might be a future king of France!
The Chevalier: (just as cheerfully) A fighting tiger. Just like his father!
Philippe: Make it stop.
So the Chevalier swoops in, saying he’s not holding him correctly and we are witness to the man’s gentle regard for the child of his lover and his lover’s wife. In fact, being more a father than the real father is, which is one of many things that irritated me.
*historical note. While this is all lovely and cozy, the real Chevalier de Lorraine and Liselotte loathed each other for quite some years. The Chevalier was the source of much hatred directed towards Philippe’s wife, and Philippe himself did not smooth tensions at all. It wasn’t until Philippe’s twilight years that Liselotte wrote about an easing of animosity between her and Philippe’s mignons. And Philippe adored his children – when his first born daughter Marie-Louise left to get married and become queen of Spain, there were genuine tears wept. He wasn’t very good at disciplining them, however, and left being the bad cop up to Liselotte. *Also, postscript* I just realised the baby was introduced as PHILIPPE, and not his actual first born son, Alexandre. Philippe was his second son, born in 1674 and went on to become Philippe II, serving as regent of France when Louis XV was too young. So I guess we are just ignoring the first boy who ended up dying when he was three years old, then, eh? Right.
Liselotte takes the baby to be fed and Philippe and the Chevalier are now alone. “So,” says the Chevalier, gently playing with Philippe’s cravat. “here we are. The hero returns.” Philippe looks unsure, and the Chevalier steps forward…aaaaaand Bontemps Chief Cockblocker Extraordinare, suddenly enters the room and coughs. UGH.
The Chevalier: You have a remarkable sense of timing, Bontemps.
Bontemps: It’s a natural talent, sir.
And so the Chevalier is summoned to Louis… as The Master of Festivities. Philippe looks a bit surprised and lost and I am SAMES, PHILIPPE.
*historical note. WTF. Louis has a maître des Menus-Plaisirs and it is not a prince of the blood. He has servants for servants. This is stupid and weird and I have thoughts on this, which I will address a bit further on.
We are in Leopold’s room, and his niece Eleanor is impatient to join the festivities – she wants to dance. He tells her in order to acquire a husband she must stay silent and drink no wine. UGH. What a Debbie Downer. She says that Louis seems to be very generous, but that amuses Leopold. “Louis is never what he seems. He’ll find a way to make us pay.”
Now we are with Louis, and his cravat is being fixed by Madame de Maintenon. “Your destiny is there for the taking. If you chose to seize it.” The more I hear her, the more she is coming off as some kind of ass-kissing breathy rabid fangirl. She feeds him these words, words he wants to hear, like she is deliberately playing into his God complex.
And now to the party and a long row of tables, laden with food and stuffed peacock displays and servants walking out with silver platters. The queen says to Louis that their visitors “will not fail to be impressed, my king.” Louis and Maintenon exchange looks and Philippe asks Liselotte, “so is he sleeping with the ice queen or not?” The Chevalier pauses behind their chairs as she replies: “good point. They certainly are as thick as thieves.”
The Chevalier: Some women simply aren’t built for sex. Apparently.
Then Louis stands and launches into a monologue about welcoming Leopold not as an old enemy, but as a new friend. He has invited him to Versailles to “discuss creating a new world, where our empires co-exist.” We see Montespan (finally! Her first appearance) looming in the doorway, now an outsider looking in, Louis says they must thank God, “without whom we would not have peace.” And— “…to my brother, who’s strength and valour has given us this glorious victory.” They all clap, Philippe looks awkward as he stands and nods, and the guards stop Montespan from entering the room. Shunned, she turns back and Maintenon sees this, rises and goes out to her.
Maintenon: This must be hard for you, I imagine.
Montespan: (calmly) No, I’m fine. I know how to survive.
Maintenon: We should spend some time together. We haven’t spoken properly in ages. *ORLY???? Fuck off.
Montespan: You are fully occupied. Evidently.
Maintenon: Such a shame. We used to be so close. But… things get in the way.
Montespan: (pauses) How is the king these days?
Maintenon: (looks across to Louis) I think he knows himself better than he used to.
Montespan: He can be a hard man to satisfy.
Maintenon: Well, we have an understanding. A deeper connection.
Montespan:……..I don’t see you by his side that much in public.
Maintenon: I know my place. I am not the queen. Nor am I a harlot who will sin with impunity.
And with that, Maintenon sweeps back to the festivities and I am just going UGH I LOATHE YOU. Especially someone who spouts shit like that and hides behind religious piety. Troll #1, that is Maintenon.
So then we see the camera sweeping through the room, of courtiers enjoying themselves, and Leopold approaches the queen and bows. “I was hoping we might meet again.” The queen smiles: “It was unfortunate you had to lose the war to do so.” From their convo, it is clear they have chatted/met before. He tells her she is beautiful, she says she is old, he replies that one gains more appreciation for the finer things in life as time passes. She indicates everyone at Versailles seeks pleasure for themselves, but the queen is not allowed to. He says he would very much like to spend time with her, she is a bit taken aback, says it would not be wise, then walks off.
Back to Montespan who is in some private rooms and she interrupts a servant to ask about her working at the chateau de Villarceaux, a place where Maintenon (as the widow Scarron) had stayed for a while. “If you really want to know what happens behind closed doors-” waves a bracelet at the servant- “-you just have to ask the chambermaid.”
*historical note: Maintenon/Scarron did indeed visit the chateau de Villarceaux after her husband had died (he was a cripple and much older than her, and they had a very popular salon in Paris, hosting poets and writers and intellectuals). Through Ninon de l’Enclos (popular salon owner, writer, lover of the arts and men #LOVEHER) the Marquis de Mornay of Villarceaux had already met a young Maintenon when she was just Françoise d’Aubigné and it appears he was VERY interested in her, and even painted a rather risqué portrait of her as Diane (way to not be creepy, dude), and you can see it hanging at the chateau today. The rumour du jour was that she and de Mornay did become lovers and the three-year affair was ended by her when she writes: “I do not want to see you here or anywhere else for a year, and then when we meet again we will meet like old friends, but the door to my room will be closed to you forever.” (there is more here.) Love or hate Maintenon, that woman can write an excellent break up letter. Even if she did have a selective memory regarding her past, and chose to ignore this affair, plus the fact she was ACTUALLY MARRIED to Scarron for eight years and EVERYONE saw them and knew them. But hey, that was fake news according to her. 🙄
We are with broody Philippe and his glorious glass of wine (those goblets again… ahhhh!) in the empty salon. Louis enters and pulls up a chair. He praises Philippe re: the war victory, Philippe says it’s the soldiers and that he has learned much. So Louis says, “which is why I want you by my side in government.”
YEAH. OKAY THEN.
Philippe: It is entirely against protocol.
AND ACTUAL HISTORY.
Louis: Protocol that I dictate.
Philippe: I am no longer a child to be humoured.
Louis: And I’m not given to empty gestures.
Philippe: I would not be another of your lapdogs. (exchange looks) Besides. Versailles is complete and the war won. What more could any man ask for?
Philippe drinks in silence. Louis says nothing. 🙄 (warning: this emoji is now on retainer and will be used often)
Bontemps rouses from sleep, beside Louis’ royal bed. The bed is empty. Louis is sat by the fire, turning a coin and being broody at the flames. Bontemps goes to him, tells him he can rest, that he is victorious. Louis replies tightly, almost shittily, “But I am not finished yet.” He wants the counsel called. Now. He has an idea. And so the minsters shuffle in and Louis announces it is “time to write the next chapter of our glorious empire.” They are going to the Americas.
*historical note: Spain, Sweden, England and France had been venturing into the colonies for ages, France since the fifteenth century – French Huguenots failed in Florida and South Carolina in the early 1500s, plus they also went into Montreal, Texas, Michigan, Illinois and New York. And Louisiana in 1699, which was named after Louis. Some interesting details can be found here. This Americas venture is a weird addition to the plot but by the end of the ep, I realise it’s a device to nudge Philippe in the direction of the mysterious Man in the Iron Mask.
Louvois thinks it’s admirable; Colbert says they could pay for it from Leopold’s coffers. They has no monies…. and Louis says that is what taxes are for. This will benefit all of France, apparently. And even though Colbert says the people will not like it, Louis says his role is “not to please the people.” Yeah, so the people are struggling financially, but Louis will not hear of it. Paris is crippled with poverty, sewage is rife. Louis thinks a bit, quotes a religious line then suddenly has an epiphany – he will provide clean water for the peasants, provide light to illuminate the streets. “We are creating a new France. A new world. How can my people love me if I am not a benevolent father?”
*historical note: In 1667, with the help of his chief of police, Louis had public lighting installed on the streets of Paris. Initially this was to stave off crime during the winter months, but eventually it was all year ’round. It’s where the term “the City of Lights” came from.
The next day, and Guillaume arrives on horseback to meet with Philippe, who has sent for him. And it is the first time I have actually seen Philippe genuinely smile. There is someone he wants Guillaume to meet.
And so Philippe regales Louis with a tale of war, of being on the battlefield awash with blood and bodies, and Louis is fully committed to the recounting as his servants dress him. Guillaume is presented as a hero, saving Philippe from a final attack, and Louis is well pleased: “You, Guillaume, are the true heart of France! How can we ever repay you?” He is looking rather embarrassed, and says he needs no payment. Louis is impressed, asking his trade. He is a tanner: he makes shoes. And business is struggling. So Louis makes him exclusive purveyor to Versailles. Louis leaves and Philippe is very happy for his friend. As am I. Joyous Philippe is lovely to see.
We are out in the gardens, walking with Leopold and Eleanor and the dude who seems to be Leopold’s Bontemps. Austrian Bontemps. Austemps. Leopold grumbles about still being at Versailles, then they meet Louis’ entourage. They banter about war and fighting against Catholics and the pope, blah blah. Protestants are also in Louis’ court (Louis: ‘nuh-uh. But they are the good Huguenots – they luvs me!’) and Leopold is low-key trolling Louis, planting the seeds of “they live amongst you but you defend the catholic faith.” Louis zings back with: “Protestant or Catholic – we are all French here.” He walks off, giving a bit of a look to one madame, who we eventually learn is Maintenon’s friend Delphine (Marie Askehave).
Guillaume hurries back to his workshop with a bottle of wine, declaring to his sister that they are made, that he has met the king and that they are to be a part of the king’s goldenness. He announces their good fortunes to the workers and they toast to the king.
At night and Liselotte is strolling through a salon, unimpressed with Montespan’s ‘tittle tattle’ with a group of ladies. She does not take pleasure in the misfortune of others, but Montespan hooks her interest with “so you don’t want to hear about the king’s pious favourite, then? Apparently she has a very shady past indeed.” Liselotte scoffs: “her arse is tight enough to uncork a wine bottle!” but Montespan is on to something.
The scene cuts to a contemplative Maintenon sitting with Louis beside a fire, and Louis asks how many protestants there are at court. Bontemps suggests it may be hundreds. Maintenon is curious to know why he wants to know, and he says he is just curious. “I didn’t realise they were a threat,” she replies. “Some Huguenots plotted against me in the Fronde,” he says. Bontemps adds, “along with Catholic noblemen.” Maintenon also reminds him that French protestants fought with him against William of Orange. Bontemps then casually reminds him about his grandfather’s Edict of Nantes (a decree that Huguenots could live in Catholic-centric France and be free to practice their faith without persecution). Louis stands, says he is right then dismisses Bontemps. Then Louis kneels before Maintenon; she is vexed and says “some of us were born protestants through no fault of our own.” “But now you see the light,” Louis replies. “I see it every day.” Louis goes for the grope, with a hand up her leg then under her skirts, but she will have none of that hanky panky, thank you very much. “Forgive me, sire. I fear I am not made this way.” And of course, being denied the sexy times annoys Louis SO MUCH. “Anyone might think you are toying with me.” She goes to her usual excuse of ‘we are forbidden, you are married’ blah blah and he reaches up, touches the crucifix at her throat then gets to his feet. After he walks off in silence, she is left there, looking worried and contemplative and a bit conflicted, I’d say. But really, she deserves all the stupid conflict because she is a manipulative, two-face bitch and I hate her and she gets worse. Much worse.
The next day and we are in a cabinet meeting, with Colbert going on about how much the water and lighting will cost, which is way too much, and wants Louis to reconsider. Philippe, however, says it is a great idea and is suddenly on the side of the peasants which is weird and strange and upsets me greatly, mainly because he has absolutely NO BUSINESS being in these meetings because IRL Louis denied him any kind of authority throughout his entire life. Right, so Louis says they must increase the taxes. “Of course, Sire,” is Colbert’s curt-and-shitty reply, to which Louis gives him such a ‘you ungrateful wretch’ look…. lulz. So now Louvois says they have a problem with the colonies, that the people they sent have died, starved or were set upon by natives. They need to send at least another 400 – of tough constitution but dispensable. Troops? Ugh, no, Philippe thinks that idea is unfair, considering they risked their lives fighting for France. Why not send convicted criminals? Louvois is not convinced – they have to be reliable to some degree. So Louis declares the task of vetting these criminals to be Philippe’s job. There is a nice brotherly moment where Louis puts his hand on Philippe’s shoulder, says “I am pleased you accepted my offer.” and Philippe nods and smiles in response.
*historical note: There is absolutely no evidence that the duc d’Orleans ever had a hand in this little piece of baroque-style Survivor fiction.
Maintenon strolls through the salons and walks over to Liselotte and Delphine, with the latter saying “it cannot possibly be true, that the king is less than happy with us.” Maintenon gives hollow reassurances, but Delphine remains unconvinced. Liselotte makes a joke about Maintenon not only having the king’s ear, but other parts of him too, and Maintenon gets a bit snotty:
Maintenon: The king and I have an understanding. We connect through heart and soul.
Liselotte: Ugh. You do make life hard for yourself. One is permitted to have fun. Once in a while.
Maintenon: My God frowns upon wanton indulgence.
Liselotte: (casually) Oh, is that what they said in the Chateau de Villarceaux?
Maintenon: (taken aback) I’m sorry?
Maintenon then excuses herself and floats off, clearly disturbed, and I am totally convinced that it was this little exchange that sets her fully against Liselotte (you will HATE what happens later!).
We are strolling with the queen and Leopold along the canal, and they are talking about her dead sister and Leopold laments the fact that as the years went by, he heard her laugh less and less. The queen is smiling when she replies “that is because she hated you.” Isn’t that the fate of all marriages? Leopold asks. Nuh-uh. “I love my husband.” Leopold replies: “And yet, he’s a Bourbon,” and pronounces it as ‘Boar-Bon’ and that just sounds weird, like he’s pig candy or something. Leopold is heavily invested in the flattery, saying Louis doesn’t know how to appreciate true beauty blah blah. The queen ain’t got time for that – she asks him what he wants. He wants to talk to the king and is sick of waiting. No, he mumbles then – Jebus – he goes in for a kiss. Srsly. Right there, out in the open. The queen quite rightly gives him a ‘da fuq??’ look as she pulls back, then swiftly leaves.
Cut to a scene with the queen striding through the palace, guards giving her entry to Louis’ rooms. Louis is standing by the window with Maintenon, stroking her cheek and whispering something as they look outside. The queen pauses, watches them, and he expression is one of deep thought. Then she turns away and leaves.
Bontemps drops three large ledgers on Philippe’s desk but Philippe is unimpressed. He wants ALL the prisoner records, not just a few. Ahh, but that would be a mountain of paperwork. But Philippe declares that he will scale it. “A good job is worth doing properly.”
Back in the salons, to a morose Maintenon sat outside, and Delphine approaches to lighten her mood. They are friends and Maintenon soon discloses her issue: she believes the king becomes impatient…. and she does not share his bed “for fear I might lose him.” Delphine is shocked and amused: “you would definitely lose him if you don’t!” But Maintenon is unconvinced: “that would be the beginning of the end. Louis has destroyed every woman he has slept with.” Delphine is unimpressed with this celibacy: “every man has his needs. And every women knows how to satisfy them.” Delphine flounces off, leaving Maintenon in thought, until a couple of demoiselles laughing in the salon catch her attention and you can just see her mind working when the camera focuses in on one of them. I know where this is going and it is stupid. Because we are in the next scene and Louis is in bed, the door opens and that giggly demoiselle enters. “I believe his majesty would like some company.” And there Maintenon is, staring through a crack in the door like a creeper while Louis and the girl get it on in bed.
*Historical note: This did not happen with Maintenon. It was Madame de Montespan who, fearing her power and charms with Louis were waning, pushed other women in his direction, asserting some control over who he bedded. Her sister Gabrielle was one such fling, and they both also plotted to send Gabrielle’s daughter Diane to his bed (this didn’t happen, as Diane was happily married to Philippe-Jules Mancini, duc de Nevers and brother of Marie Mancini, Louis’ first love).
Maintenon turns away, Louis finishes and the girl walks from the rooms, looking rather subdued. Maintenon is sat on a seat as she turns the corner, says coolly, “You have done the king a service. But you must never return here. And you must never approach him. Is that understood?” The girl is confused, but Maintenon is cold. “You must never meet his gaze again. Is that understood?” Of course it is, and the girl hurries away. And so we get an insight into how they have written Maintenon in this series…. and her horribleness is just as bad as Montespan’s, except Maintenon’s is concealed by hypocritical piety and selfishness. Worse, she is brimming with judgement and criticism and intolerance, zealous blind-faith worship and, as we will see later, vengeance.
We are in Philippe’s rooms and we see the chevalier slowly approach him, shoes in hand, as Philippe sits at his desk, still working. Their meeting feels so awkward and weird and it is reflected in Philippe’s expression when he notices the chevalier standing there – it remains cool and neutral, not a glimpse of joy at all. “You missed a splendid soiree in the salon,” the chevalier attempts conversation, but Philippe says nothing, just goes back to the ledger. “And here we are,” he continues, a little trembly with the words as he removes his coat. “Alone. At last.” Philippe has an ‘ugh’ expression, mutters, “Are you just going to keep stating the obvious?” but the chevalier is persistent, gently leans in and brushes Philippe’s hair from his face, says softly, “I have a much better idea,” before he places a lingering kiss on that cheek.
Philippe closes his eyes, doesn’t react and I think the chevalier takes that as encouragement. But then Philippe gives him a serious side-eye and they kind of hold the moment for a few seconds, the chevalier leaning in and Philippe staying his ground. They finally FINALLY kiss and for a second I am all YAY! but then I am WTF NO???!!! when Philippe pulls back and says no, then again, repeats “I said no,” and grabs the chevalier’s wrist, pushing him away. The chevalier’s hand is shaking and Philippe has this cold and distant expression as he again turns back to the books, while the chevalier looks at him with an expression that’s a cross between fed up and wtf.
I can see there are tears in his eyes when he says, “So are we going to take this seriously or not?” Philippe cops out with a lame, “I don’t know.” Totally don’t blame the chevalier when he replies with a tight, “perhaps you are interested in shoemakers now.” Philippe abruptly stands. “Guillaume was just a friend.”
The Chevalier replies with, “So why won’t you let me touch you?” They stare at each other and Philippe does not answer, and the chevalier adds, “You’re like a complete stranger! You’re like this every time you come home. Got a bug in your britches.”
Philippe replies calmly, “says the cuckoo in the nest.” (wat??? WTF has the chevalier done now?? Is… is he seriously pissed off that his lover and his wife have appeared to have bonded???) The chevalier is now forcing back tears. “It may have escaped your notice, but things have moved on since you’ve been away.” Philippe replies ominously, “can’t disagree with you there.” UUUUGGGGH. The expression of sadness and heartbreak and finality on the chevalier’s face…. “So we’re wasting our time then, are we?” And finally FINALLY Philippe gets teary. He realises the gravity and seriousness of this conversation now, does he? “Look,” he begins, his eyes damp, “I was… looking forward to seeing you. But.. then I- I just-” clearly he is struggling. But then so is the chevalier, now openly crying but in such a dignified way that my heart just HURTS SO MUCH. That man is BEAUTIFUL when he cries. He swallows, chuckles through the tears as if he gets the irony, then says, “I will bid you good night, then,” picks up his shoes and coat and makes a dignified exit, while Philippe watches him go.
And you can fuck RIGHT OFF with that shit. Stupid conflict – WHAT CONFLICT?? We don’t even know whyyyyy!! – just to keep them apart? I just cannot.
Right, so back to Maintenon (UGH) who is obvs trying to pray her stupid away but clearly not succeeding. The door opens and Louis appears, kneels beside her and gives her this look. SAMES, Louis. His bullshit meter is on high: “I thought I might find you here.” Just hangin’ out here, confessin’ mah sins and btw, you good? Apparently he is, although he doesn’t exactly LOOK content.
The next morning and we are returning from a hunt, and Leopold is getting antsy, wanting to know how much longer the king wishes him to stay as his guest. Louis casually replies, “until we become friends. Only then can we find a way to work together.”
(as an aside, this reminds me of a scene in Le Roi Danse, where a shocked Lully (Boris Terral) says to Louis (Benoît Magimel) “I thought we were friends!” To which Louis regally turns, looks down his nose and says calmly, “I have no friends.” It is powerful and fabulous and I love this movie so much)
So Louis launches into a bit about Leopold being vulnerable to the Muslim Ottoman empire and he will send troops to defend him, blah blah. Louis wants some territories that are the Vaticans and zzzzzz Frankly, this war talk always bores me and it comes with the added frustration of it not even matching up with the actual historical dates. I am over it, frankly.
We are now with Philippe in what looks like Marchal’s dungeons, flanked by guards and running through a list of criminals as they are presented, doing a yes/no selection for the Americas. Then he calls up a duc de Sullun… but the man before him is certainly not he. The guard says he had been moved years ago. Where is he now? Dunno. “We never got near him. We weren’t even allowed to see his face.” Right. Philippe puts down his… is that an actual FOUNTAIN PEN? – and we are suddenly in the next scene, with Louis and Louvois and Colbert et al, discussing war stuff. Philippe says he has made a list, but cannot pinpoint one prisoner. “Who is the duc de Sullun?” Louis does not know, nor do the others. Bontemps doesn’t either but it is clear from his expression that he so fucking does. Philippe is annoyed and frustrated and confused. How can there be a duc that no one has heard of? “He is a nobody. he must have some significance. Yet there’s no record of his crime, his family or his sentence. It’s like he doesn’t exist.”
Duh-DUH. Orchestra, play something dramatic.
Ugh. Louis has had enough. “Find the wretched creature and send him to the Americas.” Because that is what you do. Philippe leaves and Louis goes back to discussions about the water and the lighting. Colbert is still being a Debbie Downer with all this talk of ‘cashflow’ and stuffs, and Louis is all UGH-Face about this fly in his soup. “We must find an efficient solution,” says Louis, then nods at Marchal. What…. what is his chief of police gonna do?
We are now in the streets, and money is being collected from the peasants, some being pushed around in what I am assuming is forced labour. Marchal announces that there are opportunities for them all to work – sewers to be dug, lanterns to be raised, taxes to be paid. We see one of Guillaume’s workers being dragged over as he and his sister look on, and the dude says, “there is no justice in this city,” and Marchal replies, “I am justice. And you will pay your dues.” And then HITS HIM IN THE FACE WAT THE FUCK. SRSLY. This is such a diversion for Marchal, and I am not aboard this train, not AT ALL. I am off at the next station if this is the way they have decided to write him this season. Guillaume and Jeanne look subdued and upset and the peasants raise the street lanterns and guards look on and I am just UGH.
Right. Back to Philippe and his current obsession/mission of going through the prison records, looking confused, turning pages and displaying hair that is in need of a good wash. Then he is walking through the corridors with Bontemps, declaring that the real records appear to be buried, as if someone didn’t want him to find it. Bontemps is saying it is dangerous, the prisoner is obviously dangerous but Philippe is not swayed. He wants to see this duc de Sullun himself. And off he goes on his horse through the trees, a prince of France, second in line to the throne and riding ALONE AND WITH NO ESCORT. 🙄
*screams into the void*
Back with the queen now, and one of her ladies delivers a present from Leopold… a rather magnificent silver box with a jewelled cross inside. Rubies, it looks like, with pearls (which were very expensive at the time). The queen looks excited and pleased but also a little troubled.
Now we are at night, and the court is trudging up a grassy hill, everyone blindfolded and with guards holding torches to guide their way. We see familiar faces, and Liselotte is giggling, the chevalier with his foppish ever-present cane, Maintenon, Colbert, Louvois, etc. They approach a marquee, and step up onto the platform, still blindfolded. Then we see Louis ahead, his back to them and with a stern expression, then launches into his performance: “God looks down, and saw that the earth was without form. And void. And darkness was upon the face of the abyss. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” Bontemps says they make take off their blindfolds and they do so, and Louis adds, “And God said, ‘let there be light!’ And there was light.” He turns to wave a hand towards Paris below, and slowly, the lamps are lit in the darkness and the streets illuminate. Everyone claps, Louis smiles proudly.
But now we are with Philippe, still alone and unguarded as he draws his horse down the streets to the jail (I am assuming the Bastille?) He is taken though and we hear some faint yelling and noise from the prisoners inside.
Then we see Leopold in bed, dressed in a fine white night shirt, on a nice clean bed, reaching under his pillow for a dagger as he hears a door creak open. He whirls, dagger outstretched, and the intruder is the queen, dressed in her nightgown. They stare at each other.
Cut to outside again, and Louis is sat alone on the marquee, the new lights of Paris below him while everyone except Maintenon and his guards have left. He is praying to God in his head, and his voice over follows a few scenes – of the queen and Leopold in bed together, of Philippe descending deeper into the jail. “How can I thank you, my Lord and Saviour? Now I have might over my enemies? I have the adoration of my people. I am alive to your wishes. I can feel you in my veins. I pledge my life to do your will on earth. To show love and to show mercy. To celebrate the virtuous and to punish the sinners. For all your bounty, I give you thanks.”
It is on Philippe we remain, and he steps incredulously into a cell, and we see a man at a desk, his back to the door, a small shelf of books, a handful of candles. A quill and parchment. The man slowly turns, and we see the iron mask, the blue (?) eyes revealed… and then someone clonks Philippe on the head and he goes down like a sack of shit, eyes wide and unfocused on the Man, before he loses consciousness.
And Louis’ narration goes on: “How can I ever have doubted you? You have given me the wealth of King David and power beyond my greatest desires.”
The scene cuts to the queen and Leopold, naked and post-coitus in bed, staring dreamily into each others’ eyes, then we go back to Louis, sitting alone on the marquee with his final words: “And there is nothing can take that away from me.”
So I have MAJOR thoughts about this Queen/Leopold coupling. Characters have core beliefs, a personal code/motto they live their life by, if you will. Like, “never get hurt in love” or “all cheaters will cheat again” or “I am the king, greater than God so I can do whatever TF I like.” These beliefs can be right or wrong, but they are RIGHT in the character’s mind. If you have a story with characters who do not show growth or gain new awareness about things and beliefs, cannot conquer their fears, struggle and triumph and have the readers cheering for them, then you will lose your readers/viewers (unless you are writing a Seinfeld ep where the characters never changed or grew throughout the entire 9 seasons). Characters MAKE the story and stir our emotions. We cheer for them, we loathe them, we fear for them. Their pain is our pain, we want them to get the girl/boy, find the treasure, kill the bad guy. And if they hold core beliefs that we know are wrong, their growth comes from slowly becoming aware of this, then striving to change it to gain their happiness. This is the hero’s journey.
For me, I saw the queen’s core beliefs through two seasons as “honour the king, my husband. Be pious and respectable. Praise God. Follow the church.” She had a slip up in Season 1 with the whole secret baby thing and srsly her thoughts and feelings were never really explored and I did feel bad for her, because Louis could bed hop with gay abandon because he was the king, but she had to preserve herself for her husband and him only . That’s shitty to us 21st century people, but hey, that’s 17th century for you. But in S2, it’s like the queen’s fall from grace never happened. She is judgey and “NO FUN FOR YOU!” because people are SINNING around her. Drinking, partying, fornicating. Her husband is shagging a married woman, which is SO MUCH A SIN, worse than shagging a mademoiselle. This goes against every teaching of the church. But then in S3 her brother-in-law appears and she basically goes against everything she believes after some conversation, flattery, bonding over her dead sister and a pretty jewel? No. This is so fucking weak, pushing a character into an unbelievable situation just to create a plot point. It is not character growth. We saw some half-assed build up, with her seeing Louis and Maintenon together. A mention in a casual convo about not being able to seek pleasure. Then a gift.
And this, I think, is the issue I have. The scenes are quick and snappy – visually beautiful, yes, but in making them short, backstory and plot development have been sacrificed. A lot of it does come through in the dialogue but there are still holes. The months seem to race by, and things that happen are just introduced without any kind of backup or reference. I go back to Season 1, for example, and at least there was some context and explanation to Philippe’s backstory, his relationship with Louis and how they were brought up. Now, this season gives us no reason why Philippe is rejecting the chevalier so cruelly. What is the point of them being together anymore? UGH. 🙄 😡 And this development between the queen and Leopold is weird and uncomfortable, given the writers wrote her as not at all like that in the last two seasons.
So, anyway. That is ep 1 done. Merci beaucoup for reading and here is your open thread to discuss your thoughts.