Poison, murder, cabals, betrayal, weddings, good versus bad… this season two was packed. It was dark, dangerous and wicked. If you read my thoughts on Versailles, you probably already know that I had some issues with this season regarding its general story and with how some of the characters have been written. Especially one character in particular. If you haven’t watched the full season yet, you probably should not read on now because I shall talk of my viewing experience here and this includes some spoilers.
I really looked forward to this season and you most likely as well. It was supposed to be darker than the first one and it indeed was. The scenery was spectacular, the costumes great, the actors brilliant, and before I begin my ramblings, I would like to thank all involved in making the show for doing a fabulous job again. You guys rock.
That I have one or two things to complain about, does not change the fact that cast and crew did a fabulous job again this season. Yet I am not someone who blindly likes everything that is presented to me and since my whole life circles around 17th century France, it is obviously a matter of importance to me that those things, since they are very dear to me, are portrayed in a way that stays somewhat true to how it was. Nothing can ever be 100% historical accurate and it’s not the job of a tv show to be so…. yet a tv show is also in the unique position to transport the spirit of a time and to educate.
So… let us begin…
Did I like this season? I did. It was entertaining, at times a little over the top, but still entertaining. The fictional characters and their building up was nicely done, unfortunately I can’t say the same about the historical ones. Obviously it is way easier to create something and fit it into a story, or to create something that is based on a other something, than to stay true to the character of a person that actually lived… more about that later.
What about the story? My first disappointment was how the whole Rohan situation was solved. We spent most of season one with building up to Rohan and his wicked plan. Episode ten of the last season left us with the Dauphin being kidnapped… and then we start in some years later and it’s a bit like everyone is in a haste to forget about it. What happened in the meanwhile? All we get is Rohan being captured. I do not know about you… but it would have satisfied me already if this scene had been a little longer. As in instead of Rohan hiding behind the bushes, we would have seen some sort of chase with him pushing the Dauphin into that shack, pointing a pistol at him, then horses can be heard, he doesn’t know what to do, shoot him or run, tension builds, he runs as Fabien and his men slash their way to him. A terrified Dauphin is rescued, some sentence of finally having found him after so long and blah, Rohan is captured. And that’s not my only Dauphin related issue… we see him three times in the whole season. In the shack, back at court, in the last scene. I’m surely not the only one who constantly wondered how that boy coped…. again one small scene would have been able to erase my issue with it. One scene, a concluding one, in private and perhaps with the Queen and a bit of talk of what happened.
Since I just mentioned the Queen, lets stay with her and what the hell did happen to that woman? Oui, she was very devout, but some things, even when I leave history aside, do not make sense. It’s a bit like her only purpose this season is to complain and make everyone’s life a little harder. Oui, her hubby does cheat on her… I always have been someone who felt for the historical Queen and how she was treated at times by her husband, but this show one just annoyed me. I could not feel bad for her. Again, a doting mother scene with the Dauphin could have changed this a little and would also have aided the whole ‘Louis creates his own enemies’ that is hinted so often this season. How to hint it better than with a scene of son and mother being forsaken by the one they love the most aka Louis.
Moving on to the fictional characters. Like I said, I do love the work which has been done with them… Thomas the poet-spy, Madame Agathe as the evil witch, Sophie going from innocent to murder, Fabien being his usual bad-ass self, Jacques….. his death had the only purpose to shock and seclude the King further… then it was forgotten again. Claudine… I don’t even know what to say about it, apart from story-wise it did not have much of a purpose and was probably done in spirit of GoT killing characters everyone likes.
Versailles, the prison. I had my issues with this already last season. Why? Because the way it is shown in the show, it appears like Louis did force everyone to come to Versailles when he much more lured them. You could argue that his luring was forcing, but the luring had a bit more style. Since the show is called Versailles, obviously this place is the main-stage… unfortunately, this excludes many other settings and everything has to be pressed into this one place. Like Saint-Cloud. We see a bit of Saint-Cloud in the first two, before Philippe is locked back into Versailles and this annoys me. Although Versailles was the main residence, Philippe still had his own house. He spent lots of time in Saint-Cloud or the Palais Royal… sometimes he went to Versailles in the morning and returned to Saint-Cloud after supper. His brother did not force him to stay in Versailles. One gets this idea in the show and it is simply not true. I guess the main reason why this annoys me, it that due to this so many possibilities of interesting stories are erased. And you what? During this time Versailles was a fun place to be, compared to the later years of Louis’ reign. Now was supposed to be the fun time, the time for parties, balls, and such things. What do we see? A totally out of character Queen turning it all into a convent. I am curious to see how they will try to make Versailles a fun place again now, considering that the fun stopped pretty much after the fall of Madame de Montespan.
While I said in my summary of season one that history and fiction were in a good balance, I can not say it for this season. There is a whole lot more fiction in it compared to season one and it starts already with how the characters have been written in a way that is sometimes miles away from how they actually were. One of my main complains last season was the Chevalier de Lorraine and this season I had a whole lot more to complain about him. What we see on-screen is not the Chevalier de Lorraine. It is a version of him that has been twisted so much, it is hard to actually see a glimpse of him. His story is… I could not enjoy it. Even if I wouldn’t know anything of him. We have him return from exile, without ever knowing why he was there, and turn into a maniac. Oui, while he feels somewhat secure at Saint-Cloud with Philippe under his control, this control gets a little less as they return to Versailles. Oui, he does not know if he still is the number one after Liselotte shows up… all of this makes sense, but what does not make sense at all is his general behaviour afterwards. It feels for me as if one character attribute has been taken and everything else ignored. His jealousy is in the focus. He was a jealous person, but what he was not is a whiny baby. That man was a master of manipulation. He knew how the court worked. He played everyone around him. Destroyed those that refused to play along. He always found a way to secure his position and he did not care who he had to ruin for it. A man like this would use this power to twist Philippe to his own will. There is no reason to be jealous of Liselotte for him. He knows Philippe has no interest in her. He knows it is duty. Sigh. Being jealous of Thomas makes a bit more sense, but instead of getting his magic out…. he whines. He makes scenes. It’s ridiculous. He even whines to Liselotte…. then points a gun at Monsieur….. wtaf….. this is not the Chevalier de Lorraine. Period. It’s not just me that has this issue either. A whole lot of people jumped into my comments, emails, DMs and said exactly the same. One even said, and it hurts me to say this because the acting is great, that this person actually skipped the Chevalier scenes…. it hurts me even more to say that I had the longing to do the same. It was just too soap opera for me. The very predictable from zero to hero at the end did not make things better. First of all because I have no clue why a man who was praised as a great soldier and fighter has been written to be a coward… maybe to make Philippe appear a bit more butch…. but he is already butch enough the way he was written… Anyway, Philippe goes war and Chevalier and Liselotte remain back and suddenly appear best friends, united in worry…. give me a break.
In matters of etiquette, this season was not too accurate either. While I loved it every time etiquette was observed, armchairgate made me rather displeased. Especially since season one did point the whole sitting situation out. Season two had way too many arm chairs. Now, they do have a historian on set to point certain things out…. but I wonder how much they actually listen to him at times.
What else…. ah, oui. Liselotte. She was something I really enjoyed this season, not just because I love the historical one. She is a brilliant force of nature. I also enjoyed the fictional meeting of Louis and William of Orange. What I liked less is the general speed of things. It just moves too quickly at times, which makes character development a bit difficult. One scene Louis hardly looks at Madame Scarron, the next scene he suddenly entrusts all his worries to her. The general speed also makes it impossible to linger on one issue or to go more into dept… which I find a shame, considering things like the destruction of the Palatine were something major and are just mentioned in the show. If there is not enough time to cover a topic that effects a character so much, leave it out. Do it next season. Focus on a few things less. Do not try to squeeze so much into one episode, just to be able to move on and totally forget about it in the next. Actions have consequences and sometimes these consequences linger. Putting ten years of history into ten episodes is not always a good idea.
Another thing that irked me a little was, for example, Monsieur’s constant grumpiness. He was quite grumpy last season already and even more so this season. His daughters were briefly mentioned… why not show him from a different side? Why not include a quick scene where he plays with his daughters? He did adore them. Character attributes are mentioned, but we never see anything of them. One gets the idea he was constantly pissed off all his life, when he was not. He had a lot to deal with, but made the best out of it.
Right…. I shall stop now, or I will never finish.
General perception? If you had issues history-wise last season, and I know some of you did, you had even more issues with this season. While I was able to say if one left all history aside, it was an enjoyable ride last season. I can not say this for this season. Some things were just so very over the top. Some things did not make sense. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy this season as much as the last one and what I had feared as I first heard of a show about Louis XIV and Versailles being made, came true this season. I was afraid that things would be too twisted.
My favourite Episodes? One and two. Feel free to disagree here, like you can disagree with everything else I say, but in my opinion it went down from episode three on, with an upwards curve at six, then down again for seven and eight, nine and then back up but not able to reach one and two. I had a hard time to watch certain scenes, which was never the case in season one. I had a hard time watching not because they touched me as they were supposed to, but because I found certain scenes, and guess what… they are all Chevalier ones, too ridiculous to watch.
What and who do I want to see next season? What I want to see is that historical characters do become a little more historical again. Louis XIV’s reign is so very interesting and so full with awesome stories, it does not need a fictionalisation of so many events either. Things are interesting enough as they are already. I said this in my season one summary too… I really really really would love to see a Monsieur that is a little more merry. He was not grumpy all the time. Another thing I mentioned back then are the Mancinis, but I doubt we will see anything of them in season three.
Conclusion? Season two was entertaining, but it could have been more entertaining. In my opinion, it was a little too fast at times, a little too over the top, a little too soap opera, then in other parts of the story there was just something lacking. I can’t put my finger on it. It’s just a feeling that some things, like with Dauphin, could have done differently to be more entertaining. The sets looked all very stunning. The outfits were great. The acting fabulous. But I do have my issues with the script.
That’s it from me for this season in matters of reviews and such things. If you took the time to read this far, let me thank you for it. It means a lot to me. I shall do my very best to keep you updated on what season three might bring and if you want, leave a comment below and let me know what you think of season two.