So I just realised I never posted my BBC Les Mis episode-by-episode reviews on here! Let’s rectify that:
Les Mis episode one. Apparently writer Andrew Davies hates the musical, so I have an instant distrust of him, I’m sorry. I also have an instant distrust of a man who claims to be “saving Hugo from himself.” Victor Hugo was a womanising fiend who once sent a live bat to his fiancee via post, the old asshole would die laughing at the notion he needed “saving.”
Anyway. It wasn’t bad! Perfectly cast so far. Johnny Flynn looks EXACTLY like the Felix Tholomyes in my head. It was nice to see Fantine’s friends, too, even though they’re down to two from the novel’s three. I always wondered if they met kinder fates than her.
It was good to see the Petit Gervais scene. I understand 100% why it gets omitted from the musical but of all the scenes Not In The Musical it’s probably one of the more important ones. Also Dominic West makes a very good closer-to-the-book Valjean. Hugh Jackman is lovely but he can never hide his loveliness even when playing a hardened violent criminal. (Sorry Hugh.)
This is a good Fantine. One thing I do agree with Andrew Davies on, Fantine is silly and soppy and easily led. She’s not a strong female character. You should care about her anyway.
Les Mis episode two. The writers seem to have given Fantine a last name, which I’m actually quite pleased about. (I wonder if they’ll also give Javert a first one.) However, that’s the only thing I’m pleased with. NO Valjean doesn’t and shouldn’t have anything to do with how Fantine ends up on the streets! In the book he has no idea she’s been fired. His only crime, if it could be said to be one, is trusting that his factory workers will treat their employees well. So yeah, why, whyyyyy throw that in for no reason? Why make it Valjean’s fault when it was *society’s* fault? You know….?
David Oyelowo is a great actor but Javert hasn’t been given anything to do so far except stand around and be menacing. (And all his dialogue is so clunky.) But also… Book Javert is just cold and aloof. *This* Javert is outright mean and nasty, calling Fantine terrible things and just generally being awful. Again whyyyyy? What’s the point? We’re supposed to feel sorry for him, that he’s given up his identity to an establishment that doesn’t care. This Javert *is* the Establishment, and oooh, that’s getting on my nerves.
Actually yeah, I kind of feel that’s the problem with this whole adaptation. Everything that’s happened in it has been A Person’s fault, not People’s fault, you know? Fantine can’t suffer and die because of a whole community being compassionless and cruel, it has to be primarily the doing of Valjean for some reason.
Sigh. I am at least looking forward to meeting Eponine and Les Amis, who I love with all my heart. (Also I only found out today that the actress who’ll play Eponine also played my favourite character in the Star Wars Han Solo movie. Noice.) Oooh, and I am very glad to see Eponine’s little sister, Azelma, around. She’s actually one of my faves in the book because god, she suffers SO MUCH and I want to protect her poor soul. But anyway, this complete misunderstanding of the story is really rattling me. As you can probably tell.
So far I rate this production 0/2 candlesticks.
Les Mis episode two OH GOD I HAVE MORE I’M SO SORRY. I love Olivia Colman a lot but there’s not a terrible amount of depth to Mme Thenardier so far. I find her more interesting than her horrible husband so I wish there was.
(Side note: Oh, when The Crown airs with Colman and Helena Bonham-Carter this year, two Mme Thenardiers will be sharing the screen, how fabulous a tidbit that is to NO-ONE BUT ME)
Another irritating thing: Sister Simplice. She’s an interesting minor character in the novel and here’s the thing: she LIKES Fantine! Simplice is a nun and Fantine is a “fallen woman” and yet she cares for her health completely and is kind to her. It’s not what you would expect and is a great departure from the cliche, so OF COURSE she’s only in the adaptation so Valjean can yell at her for calling Fantine ‘the prostitute’.
Please somebody make me stop talking
Les Mis episode three. I liked it a bit more than the last. LOVE the fabulously morbid detail of Cosette’s first doll possibly being where her dead mother’s hair ended up.
The writers have compressed a lot of stuff down for this episode. No Fachevelent, and Sister Simplice and the Mother Superior are sort of both composite characters of each other, if that makes sense. Between this show and Call the Midwife it was a good night for Benevolent Nuns.
It’s good to see Gavroche so early (the musical never bothered mentioning he was a Thenadier) and ah look he’s being mistreated by his parents even as a very young kid because they’re literally the worst people on the planet.
I saw someone on Twitter point out that it’s kinda disconcerting how Les Mis seems to have been cast colour-blind and yet two of the main antagonists, one of whom PIMPS OUT A CHILD (ugh) are also two of the few characters of colour. So I kinda agree with that I think. Javert still seems to have been written meaner and crueler than he is in the book.
Another thing! Despite the protestations of Andrew Davies this production seems to borrow an awful lot from the movie musical. Even Georgie Glenn has been reused. (She was a nun in the movie and a Mother Superior in this.) Obviously there’s only so much you can do when both are based on the same source material but it’s a wee bit surprising how many shots look so similar.
One big departure I forgot about and LOVED: Little Cosette swearing! I mean, of course she bloody would, wouldn’t she, considering the environment she was in. It was nice to see her have a bit of bite.
Les Mis episode four. Too much sex. Too much not-in-the-book sex. It’s very silly and totally unnecessary.
Les Amis! Enjolras looks nothing like anyone ever imagined him (where are his ridiculous angelic blonde locks?) but Grantaire is bang-on perfect.
They did pay a TINY bit of lip service to Enjolras/Grantaire but so far even less than the movie-musical did. Still I wasn’t really expecting much.
…Weird how every other relationship in this story has been given sexual overtones (including Valjean/Cosette, UGH) but not the only gay relationship. WHO WOULD HAVE GUESSED…
I love this Eponine. Everything about her is perfect.(I mean, apart from the pointless sex scenes) Actually I like her better than Sam Barks’s Eponine, and I liked her a lot.
Good to see Azelma still around. I wonder if she’ll meet the same fate in this she does in the book (she remains tethered to her horrible abusive father even when he goes to America and becomes a slave trader). Which brings me to…
I think this adaptation’s a good example of how colourblind casting (though great in many cases) can fail. As a lot of people have pointed out on Twitter, almost all the protagnonists are white and almost all the antagonists are people of colour. They could’ve gotten around that pretty easily and they didn’t. (Why not a black Valjean?) And Thernadier, considering his position in the story and where he ends up (a SLAVE TRADER, although most adaptions leave that out…) I kinda feel he should have been white, you know? A few things switched here and there and it wouldn’t feel so uncomfortable.
Um. I guess that’s it for now? Yeah I still don’t like it, you can tell.
Les Mis episode five. I guess I’ll be keeping my eye on Grantaire since he’s still my favourite fictional character of all time! They still haven’t quiiiiiite got around to stating he’s gay/bi (Victor Hugo managed it the best he could, with lots of euphemisms regarding Greeks) but his death scene was in the ‘next time’ trailer so maybe they managed to tell his story to *some* extent at least. That’d be nice.
I LOVE Erin Kellyman’s Eponine. I loved her smile when she’s finally free of her mother, I loved her final moments, it made me so sad. She better go onto be big.
Gavroche is also great, but it pisses me off they didn’t show his reaction to his *sister* dying right there in his vicinity. Great time to forget they’re related guys, you remembered in previous episodes.
All in all this was probably the best episode they’ve done so far, nothing MASSIVELY out of character. Valjean and Cosette maybe but I’ve kind of given up on the adaptation getting them right. And any adaptation getting Marius/Cosette right. No, they didn’t actually fall in love in that short space of time! In the book it takes ages!
Thought I posted on Twitter: I love Eponine so much, I could write essays on her. She has no reason to ever be heroic and she fails a lot but she’s always TRYING SO HARD to be good. Imagine what she might have become.
Thought I didn’t post on Twitter: I still have no idea whether Victor Hugo intended his audience to like Marius or not.
Les Mis episode six, the last one!
Okay I find it hard to collect my thoughts, because they all go back to my overall thoughts on the series. Mostly it’s been alright, but there are some character things I just can’t forgive. Like Valjean being responsible for Fantine’s downfall. And in this episode something even worse: Marius hears directly from Thenardier that he plans to become A SLAVE TRADER and GIVES HIM MONEY ANYWAY. SO HE CAN TRADE SLAVES. Absolutely 100% cannot accept that one. (In the book Thenadier just spins some yarn and Marius gives him the owed money to “go get hanged somewhere else.) So that put a BIT of a damper on the otherwise alright ending, shall we say. Gah.
Enjolras and Grantaire’s death scene had all of the visuals but none of the heart. If you don’t know it’s a love story (or if it’s a love story you can’t be arsed to tell) it loses some of its power, you know?. (I’m still terribly suspicious that they managed to sexualise every single relationship in the story *apart* from the gay one.) That being said, both their actors were really good, I just wish they’d gotten to be the tinest bit more like their book counterparts.
David Oyelowo’s portrayal of Javert’s suicide better be the BAFTA clip that plays when he wins it. MAN, that was good. Dominic West was also good. I don’t have a single quibble about the acting in this series, it’s just those little things here and there which made me sigh and go back to the book…
This series ends with two kids (the lost Thenadier siblings?) begging in the street. It’s not a bad ending but god, imagine how powerful it would have been if they’d flash-forwarded to the modern day, just for those last few seconds.