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.
javert: let the old man keep on running
javert: i will run him off his
I’ve seen that ‘modern LM film set in NYC’ post a bunch, and while it’s definitely an A+ post, something about the portrayal of Javert strikes me as just a bit off. I could be looking at things completely wrong, but for me one of the really big things about Javert, one of his crucial points, is that he is not from a more privileged societal position than JVJ or even necessarily Fantine. Like, Javert was born in prison to, IIRC, a single woman of uncertain racial heritage who had been arrested for fortune telling. He is, arguably, starting from a position of less societal privilege than Jean Valjean, who, before his arrest, was a bog standard poor peasant type. The point of Javert’s story, I think, is to directly respond to a very standard criticism of the book’s main argument, i.e. that Jean Valjean brought his misfortune upon himself by stealing/Fantine did the same by becoming a prostitute/having a kid out of wedlock/whatever people want to say about Fantine, and that if they had just Followed The Rules and Kept Their Heads Down they’d have been better off. Javert did exactly that. Javert’s entire character arc is grounded in the fact that he is a man who epitomized Following The Rules. He is the system (complete with having internalized its hierarchies completely). And in the end he too is destroyed by it. The point of Javert (or, one of the points; this is LM after all) is that the system will crush you even if you cooperate with it. The amis and their fellow revolutionaries are trying to destroy it because it hurts everyone, no matter how hard they try to stay within the lines and follow all the rules.
So, getting back to the modern AU, I feel like Javert would work better if he was more like Jean Valjean and Fantine. I’m kind of leery of saying that straight up, since setting the story in modern day USA brings up a whole boatload of racial politics that I am absolutely 100% not in a position to address. But I feel like making Javert obviously different from people like JVJ and Fantine, like making them black and making him white, loses a little bit of that piece of the story. Javert isn’t just a representation of the system and an authority figure, Javert is a symbol of how following the system can fuck you over just as hard as not following it.
The point of Javert (or, one of the points; this is LM after all) is that the system will crush you even if you cooperate with it. ^^^^^
Yes yes yes EXACTLY!
And it’s not like he’s *only* crushed at the end, either. He lives his entire life fairly poor and incredibly isolated; the price of not being treated like a criminal by the legal system is that he basically turns his own life into a prison.
–And as someone else (sorry, I can’t find the post atm!) recently pointed out, Javert is described in a way that makes it clear he *looks* exactly like the sort of person law enforcement of the day would have expected to be a criminal–like, there were guidebooks with lists of “criminal features” and Javert has those features, pretty much all of them. So there’s that for the visual side of things.
When I saw Les Mis last week I noticed Grantaire was just chilling by Javert (guarding him I guess), leaning on him and drinking while the rest of the students were fighting or doing other things. Thought it was pretty amusing.
I feel like every Les Mis translation is taking a part in a competition: “How violent and macabre can we make Javert sound in One Day More?”
If “wetting themselves with blood” isn’t enough for you, there are other options…
Swedish!Javert wants to rinse children’s clothes in blood; Icelandic!Javert wishes the cowards to be quickly slaughtered; Spanish!Javert shares the thought that watering France with blood is a good idea; Finnish!Javert wants to end the games of these schoolboys by dipping them in blood; Polish!Javert wants to let them dance in their own blood.
Just saying, javerts around the world do need to chill.
And according to a Danish friend Danish!Javert may be talking about drowning schoolboys in blood.
German!Javert, meanwhile, has found all the other Javerts’ missing chill: the line is, depending on version, “we won’t be fooled by anybody” or “we’ll send them home bloody”.
hah, I love that! It makes me imagine a whole bunch of Javerts getting arguing with each other. “ THEY WILL WET THEMSELVES WITH BLOOD! “ “WE WILL DROWN THESE SCHOOLBOYS IN BLOOD!” “ LET US SLAUGHTER THE COWARDS” “ AND THEN THEY CAN DANCE IN THEIR OWN BLOOD!”
“ …or maybe we could just like…talk it out…? No…? Okay, how about we just smack them and send them home?”