It’s online ya see. So, against my better judgement (since I thought the whole thing was awful and all) I decided to go look up the Grantaire bits.
AND WE’RE ALREADY OFF TO A TERRIBLE START.
I don’t think the Grantaire-Eponine bit made it to the actual TV screen but it definitely wasn’t in the books. And okay, I’ll concede that Grantaire is pretty shitty towards women in the book, but not this shitty. He goes out and parties with Marius and the others at the ball of “lost women” (which takes up one paragraph in the book rather than the entire sequence devoted to it it in the miniseries) but he doesn’t seem like the type to hire a prostitute:
“Oh! frightful old world. People strive, turn each other out, prostitute themselves, kill each other, and get used to it!”
-from “PRELIMINARY GAYETIES”
But the thing that possibly annoys me the most about this scene (apart from it also reducing Eponine to a quip machine, which I hate) is that if it had just stopped before that bit it would have actually been a good moment, because Eponine and Marius and Grantaire at this point are “in love with an angel”:
Grantaire admired, loved, and venerated Enjolras. To whom did this anarchical scoffer unite himself in this phalanx of absolute minds? To the most absolute. In what manner had Enjolras subjugated him? By his ideas? No. By his character. A phenomenon which is often observable. A sceptic who adheres to a believer is as simple as the law of complementary colors. That which we lack attracts us. No one loves the light like the blind man. The dwarf adores the drum-major. The toad always has his eyes fixed on heaven. Why? In order to watch the bird in its flight. Grantaire, in whom writhed doubt, loved to watch faith soar in Enjolras. He had need of Enjolras. That chaste, healthy, firm, upright, hard, candid nature charmed him, without his being clearly aware of it, and without the idea of explaining it to himself having occurred to him.
-from A GROUP WHICH BARELY MISSED BECOMING HISTORIC
Honestly (to me at least) the Grantaire/Enjolras relationship is one of the most tragic, romantic and interesting relationships in the whole of Les Mis, and for the life of me I can’t see why it was just… left out. There was time to show Marius having a wet dream about Eponine (ugh) but no time to explore the only bit of the book which depicts an (albeit one-sided) love between two men?
I assumed when I first watched this episode that “I have felt what you are feeling” etc was a veiled nod towards the relationship, but I kinda have second thoughts now.
I don’t hate this but it’s nowhere near what happens in the book:
He sat down, put his elbows on a table near the window, looked at Enjolras with indescribable gentleness, and said to him:—
“Let me sleep here.”
“Go and sleep somewhere else,” cried Enjolras.
But Grantaire, still keeping his tender and troubled eyes fixed on him, replied:—
“Let me sleep here,—until I die.”
Enjolras regarded him with disdainful eyes:—
“Grantaire, you are incapable of believing, of thinking, of willing, of living, and of dying.”
Grantaire replied in a grave tone:—
“You will see.”
-from NIGHT BEGINS TO DESCEND UPON GRANTAIRE
Okay this actually is in the book (though it’s more than Grantaire joining in) and yes it absolutely would count as sexual assault in today’s world. Sure it would have been nothing in the nineteeth century but now it is, which makes this all the odder:
Disclosure! I once wrote a fanfic where (a pre-barricade) Matelote and Grantaire do indeed go to bed together, but there’s nothing really in the books to actually indicate she was attracted to him in the slightest. Or even liked him, really. (Can you blame her?)
We are now up to The Death Scene:
I’m glad they got some variation of “I am one of them” plus “Long live the Republic” in there. But here’s the kicker, here’s what They Did Not Get…
Grantaire doesn’t face the firing squad because he has “the courage of a very drunk man indeed,” the exact opposite in fact-
Grantaire rose to his feet with a start, stretched out his arms, rubbed his eyes, stared, yawned, and understood.
A fit of drunkenness reaching its end resembles a curtain which is torn away. One beholds, at a single glance and as a whole, all that it has concealed. All suddenly presents itself to the memory; and the drunkard who has known nothing of what has been taking place during the last twenty-four hours, has no sooner opened his eyes than he is perfectly informed.
-from ORESTES FASTING AND PYLADES DRUNK
He chooses to die alongside Enjolras because he’s in love with him, whichever way you wanna take that. Oh sure, the miniseries version of the death scene is snappy enough, and they did at least get the clasped hands in there in the finished version-
-but it doesn’t have anywhere near the power of the book. Why? Well honestly very little of the miniseries has anywhere near the power of the book, but leaving out the Grantaire/Enjolras story in a show that had more than enough time for it is just sort of galling to me personally… plus I notice that they managed to sexualise almost every relationship in the book (in increasingly gross ways) except the one same-sex one. Sigh.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.