Three seasons of Versailles. Thirty episodes. Thirty reviews. If you read them all, you read something like 250000 words. That is a lot…. and to be honest, I never thought it would be that much. I did a little summary at the end of every season and that is what this is about, along with a bit of a series summary. Pretty much everything below this will be one huge spoiler, so read at your own risk. Here we go…
…starting with that I, after the soap opera that was season two, did not really look forward to season three. That even less so, after they made it known the Man in the Iron Mask will play a big role. I could not understand why they would do that, still can’t, when that story, in various versions, has been told over and over. So, I was hoping they would add a bit of a twist to it at least. My worst case scenario was it being a twin-brother… they made it even worse by making it their father. Which isn’t just total horse shit, but also rather insulting. The nice twist I hoped for did not happen, instead we had to endure a endlessly talking Cardinal throwing threats around, which got boring at the third time he did it.
As nice twist I actually pictured something like Fouquet being Mask Man, condemned by Louis for knowing secrets of State.
I’m not totally anti fiction in historical drama, but I am strongly against twisting and turning historical events and characters to fit them into some random story that could easily play in any other century.
The thing is, all this fiction was not needed at all. Louis XIV’s reign is so very full of interesting stories and those interesting stories just got brief mentions for the sake of dramatizing with fiction. What about the Sacking of the Palatine? Why only mention that in one scene and be done with it? Why replace historical characters with fictional ones? To make the writing easier? Why is there the fictional Madame Agathe and not the actual la Voisin? Why not put little Fontange in and play with the idea that a jealous Montespan seeks her death? Why not have Marie Mancini seek asylum and put Louis in the strange situation where he has to deal with his first love again, for whom he wanted to give everything up years ago? I could go on…
Season one had a nice balance between history and fiction. They picked up some little known stories, like the black baby and the Rohan thing, added a bit here and there, and it was alright. I wanted to know what was about to happen next. There were some things I did not like, but I had hope it would improve with season two. Then season two came and the first two episodes were alright as well…. but then something happened. Instead of improvement, it just went down hill. They suddenly paid no attention anymore to things they paid attention to in the first season. Things they praised themselves for paying attention to. They started to take things from all over Louis reign and assigned characteristics of specific characters to others. Like they did to the Chevalier and Philippe in the first season. The actual history part of this supposedly historical drama, was either not there at all or too twisted. It got to the point were I did not want to know what would happen next anymore, because I thought whatever it is it will be stupid. With season three all of that just got worse. They did everything they could to introduce drama wherever they could, while not really caring if their drama actually makes sense or not. And that to a ridiculous degree.
The most important thing when writing historical fiction is to make this fiction believable and fit the time. The hero can not do this or that, no matter how awesome the writer thinks it would be, if this action does not fit into his time. You have to take your story and fit it into the historical setting, not take the historical setting and bend it until it fits into your story.
The general story-line did not change one bit over all three seasons. It is always about the hero being confronted with plots that seek to destroy him. Sometimes they get close, but never close enough… the hero manages to overcome it all and rules supreme… then almost entirely forgets what happened the season before to jump into the circle again. The story drags on and on, splits into a thousand little side stories, but in the end nothing of it really matters or has any lasting consequences.
The story between Louis and Philippe is the same too. Louis does his thing, Philippe gets pissed off, doubts his brother loves him and if they ever can by friends again, then they hug and all is well again… until next season, when the circle starts again. The same applies to Philippe and the Chevalier. They spent episode after episode with being passive aggressive, then snog and all is well. It is boring. It is disappointing. It makes me feel like all of it is lazy writing with an idea that worked once being recycled.
To go into more dept regarding season three… at the end I was left with one big question. Namely: what was the point of it? Is there one at all? The story could have been told without Leopold and his niece, because what they wasted episodes on played no role later on. I guess the only point is that show Louis is a monster willed to kill little girls. There was no need to have the Queen be killed by poison. They could have simply killed her off how she really died and it would have made no difference. I often felt like characters were written into the story for the sake of giving them something to do. The return of Sophie, for example. Or the whole story of the Chevalier this season.
He starts out as circus-master and lapdog to justify his presence at Versailles, because Philippe does not want him anymore. Without Philippe, he must be in dire need of money, so he tries to hit on some chick. Chick plays with him. He eventually falls in love with her, but oh… they can not be happy because she is a Protestant… blah blah. In the end, Philippe is impressed enough to want him back. Like at the end of season two. All will be well. The Duchesse is forgotten, as if nothing of it really mattered from the start on…. because it did not matter one bit from the start on. It was just to give him something to do, while Philippe was otherwise occupied, so hey… why not make him go down on a woman for a change, otherwise he would only have five minutes screen time the entire season. Don’t get me wrong, I would have said the very same if it had been a Protestant Duc. Philippe and Philippe snog at the end to give the #MonChevy brigade their hoped for awww moment, which feels like a lame attempt to save a fucked up story and give the fans what they want.
I had the same feeling with our shoe maker Guillaume, who, after forsaking shop and family, is made noble and has nothing else to do anymore but to sit around. With nothing to do, there is no reason for him to be in the last episodes. But alas, time has been spent on him and he must have something to do. So, he becomes the new Fabien, although he totally lacks qualification and is basically just some random dude. Yet, the life of King is trusted into the hands of this former shoe maker, who happened to have fought in a battle once or twice, but has no clue about police work. You don’t need a degree in history to question that. In the end, because it must end somehow, both Guillaume and his sister Jeanne get shot in order to conclude their story and not leave another open thread. As for Fabien…. what is one supposed to say about that?
Let’s look at Louis and what the actual fuck was what I thought most of the time regarding him. It is being painted in a totally fucked up way that has little do who the actual King. Was that a case of ‘how far can be go before people hate him?’ kind of thing? Let’s turn him into a totalitarian tyrant that kills little girls and his father, while don’t giving a shit about his people because he’s too busy pondering how he can get under Maintenon’s skirts and if God feels alright about him. That is just ridiculous. His general behaviour has more to do with Adolf Hitler than Louis XIV. Show Louis rules a fascist regime in which he is the dictator, the Protestants are declared a source of evil which plans to ruin him, so he locks them up and has them killed, with Maintenon whispering to him a la Joseph Goebbels and Louvois does a Heinrich Himmler. Louis XIV was an absolutist bumhole at times, but to portray this glorious King in such a way is absolutely impertinent. It insults him and everything that he achieved.
The thing that I am most disappointed about is that they had the means to do it right. Money not just to make the set and outfits look good, but money to tell a good story. There had the chance to make things right, you know. They had the chance to tell Philippe’s story, a man who has been portrait as a perverted good-for-nothing, and tell it how it really was. Instead we get an extremely broody violent guy, who is desperate for his brother’s love, but doesn’t give a fart about his family. They had the chance to portray his relationship with the Chevalier in a less insulting way. Not as something based on the need of money, but affection. Something with reasonable up and downs of a relationship set in the world of 17th century France, where men were still hanged for loving other men. But they took those two and fucked them completely up to the point where they share nothing but the names with the actual people. For the sake of drama. To get some females to gasp in shock here and there or be outraged about some naked flesh. That’s insulting to them and insulting to every person who invested time to study their lives.
There is just such a blatant disregard for history in this show. It could be set in Westeros before the Targaryens took over, if the names of the characters and the general setting would have slightly been altered. Yet isn’t it the duty of historical drama to tell people about history in a world were less and less people read and a lot receive their education via tv screens? Isn’t it the duty of something that calls itself a high-class production to put effort into the story? Aren’t things like that meant to wake interest for what is shown? To inspire them to get deeper into it?
And isn’t it just entirely disappointing to find out that basically nothing happened as it was shown? That your favourite characters weren’t actually at all like they were portrayed in the show? That the story has fan-fiction quality? Now I know there are some who do not actually care about all of that and probably think I should keep my mouth shut, but there are tons who do care about that. There are people who looked things up. People who travelled to the places. They should not feel like the writers considered them to be stupid. And for those who have studied history, it should not feel like a task to watch this show. We should not have a reason to complain every five minutes. A high-class production should amaze us.
It does not need to be a documentary, where every little thing is researched to perfection, but it should make sense, shouldn’t it? I remember how at the start of season one people from the show said they not just aim to entertain but also to educate…. what happened to that?
All in all, Versailles looks very good. The sets are amazing. They outfits are amazing. The actors are amazing and the kindest people in the world. The story repeats itself and lacks more with every season. I would watch the first season again. I do not want to watch the second season again. There is no way I would watch the third season again. Versailles, as palace, deserves better. Louis XIV and his court deserve better. The viewers deserve better. The people who worked on the show, who put so much effort into building those awesome sets, deserve better.
I could go on and on and on, but shall end this now. I thank you all for reading my ramblings and your support.
Like I said, maybe someone will do another show featuring Louis XIV and his court, in which case we will probably see us again for some reviewing. In the meantime, hit the comment section and let me know what you think about it all.