Bonjour. Comment allez-vous? Did something happen last episode? Something dramatic? Like someone getting stabbed?
Ah, oui. Fabien got a knife in his chest and we start with him pulling said knife out. He yells for the guards and collapses. It appears the guards found him and he is brought to Claudine.
He will live, for it appears his heart might not be where it is supposed to be… would explain a thing or two. Mama-Gaston, in the meanwhile, rushes through the forests of Versailles, chased by two guards on horseback. She runs and runs, while dramatic music plays in the background, and is thrown to the ground by the riders. I guess the whole thing was supposed to be somewhat thrilling and probably read nicely on the script, but is a little flat on screen.
She is brought to Versailles’ own inquisition rooms, aka the dark chambers Fabien lurks about, and greeted with a good slap by the King himself. Louis XIV wasn’t really a violent person, but he was indeed close to hand out a few punches during his life. I don’t know of any mentions that he actually did it, but there are mentions of him loosing his temper on several occasions. Once, for example, he was rather enraged as he saw how a servant pocketed some noms at Marly while clearing the table and nearly got violent.
Our Louis here is, of course, quite interested in what the hell Mama-Gaston was thinking. It was for her son, she says, and he returns she will be decapitated in front of all the court, throwing a warning in that Louis has opened the gates to an enemy that he does not know and aims to destroy him. She beckons him closer and he actually does so to hear a name…. Satan.
Oh dear, I think as we return from M83’s Outro-intro. From Satan to God, we are in the chapel with Mademoiselle de Clermont and Monsieur de Cassel as both are joined in marriage. The attendance is not too vast and so is Sophie’s joy at becoming Madame la Duchesse de Cassel.
Someone that does not look happy either is the Chevalier. He enter’s Monsieur’s bedchamber and casts a glance at the bed. No wife. Good. A bit of a smile returns to his noble features as he is told the wedding night was uneventful, but vanishes again as he is pointed to a bit of paper on a table. It’s his garment bill and it appears he ordered quite a bit. Monsieur is not pleased…. which I do find a little odd… a little out of character even…. Monsieur’s ‘wasting of money’ was notorious and he never really bothered too much about it. He spent money on himself, on his friends, on his Chevalier….
Liselotte and the new Duchesse de Cassel stroll the corridors and talk of a certain wedding night. Sophie looks like she hopes he own will be just as successful and she left in peace. La Montespan is there too and joined by Madame Scarron. The child is ill. The Marquise shows no interest in returning to her rooms, but rises eventually… from her arm-chair.
Fabien is back on his feet and releases Gaston from his cell. The latter inquires if the poisoner has been found and encounters his own mother. She did it all for him, she says, he can’t quite believe she is serious with it.
The King arrives at la Montespan’s apartments and inquires after his daughter. He stops in front of the door and…. have you noticed what they do door-wise this season? How certain people do not open them themselves and have them opened? This is a nice etiquette reference. The King did not open any doors himself, they were opened for him, and this extends to his courtiers. If the King or certain high-ranking courtiers entered a room, both sides of the doors were opened, for lower ranking people only one side is opened…. if they manage that, why don’t they pay more attention to other matters of etiquette I wonder? Like addressing. I am sure I have mentioned it before, but it’s not too difficult and we are at Versailles, where etiquette dictates everything. It’s beyond me why Monsieur and his Madame/s are only referred to as Highness when Royal Highness is correct. A small detail, only one more word, but it means a lot. I think historical Monsieur would be furious if someone forgot the royal in front of the highness when addressing him…. (They did this already in season one and I did not get their motivation back then either. There is no reason not to add the royal and surely they must have noticed that all references call him Royal Highness…. Some of you probably couldn’t care less about it, but there are just as many that do care about the details.)
Back to Louis in Montespan’s chambers. Claudine is there too and informs our King the child appears to have smallpox. Smallpox is a serious matter that did cost many their lives. Our King had it too. He got it at the age of nine and was in critical condition for quite some time. As he was still recovering, Philippe got it too and nearly did not survive it. The disease is highly contagious and spreads quickly via direct contact with the infected person, their clothes, bedding, and pretty much everything that came into contact with them.
Bontemps suggests Louis should go for a ride, to get some fresh air, and the latter wishes to be joined by his brother. Dramatic music and nice looking shots of servants fumigating the palace in order to clean the air. I do like how the courtiers just carry on with whatever they were doing. Gaston joins them. He is dolled up again and washed the blood off his face, but not received as he wished for. Cassel tells him he has no place among them anymore. Which again is a nice reference as to how a whole family could be disgraced if one member did not act as they should have. It did not need poison and murder for it, sometimes a simple disagreement with the wrong person could do the trick and the fortune of a whole family was ruined.
Cassel leaves his new wife and noble friends to have a bit of a chat with Thomas. The latter apparently knows all about the former and blackmails him into reporting on the King.
Monsieur Bontemps makes his way to Monsieur in order to inform him of the wishes of his brother. Philippe has other plans, involving Thomas, and Liselotte suggests to go hunting with Louis instead. She impresses him thus with her knowledge about various forest inhabitants. That woman was really into hunting and this brought her into the good graces of the King. Louis enjoyed how she actually loved to participate in the hunt instead of following it in a carriage as other noble ladies did.
He looks rather jolly and impressed as Liselotte chases after a boar. Fabien is occupied with Mama-Gaston as the King hunts. She looks quite bloody already and Fabien intends to make her even more so in order to spill the beans, but suggests she might spill them if allowed to see her son.
In the chamber’s of Madame de Montespan, Claudine does her best to treat the smallpox. The Marquise does not really put too much trust into Claudine. After all, what does this peasant woman know about life at court and how smallpox scars can ruin a bright future? Hm, considering that a lot of people at court actually had smallpox and were left with scars, this includes the King himself, the skin of our show characters is way too perfect.
In Monsieur’s rooms, Thomas is getting a bit of a dancing lesson from Philippe and both are spotted by a certain Chevalier. He sweeps in, all huffy, and sweeps out even more huffy to join a card table, where he loses quite a bit and puts his losses on Monsieur’s account. I dare say this is something he would actually do… but perhaps not in this dimension.
Back to our merry hunting party. Liselotte entertains the King with stories of her adventures as everyone’s attention turns to the dogs. They discovered something in the forest. It’s the dead Jacques.
Our King mourns the loss of his gardener, who had become a bit of a father-figure to him, alone in a salon. Listening to the same tune over and over again. (Le Labyrinthe by Marin Marais. The labyrinth references are strong again. I suppose someone wants to tell us that our King is stuck in such a thing and desperately tries to get out of it, but instead only gets in deeper and lost. Not knowing whether to turn left or right, back or forth, and scared to find out with might await him around the next corner.)
The guards change outside the palace. It is morning and Philippe awoken by a hand belonging to Monsieur Colbert, who informs Philippe of a matter concerning the Chevalier. Said Chevalier lies snoring on a table, having gambled away a whole lot of Monsieur’s money.
I do try to stay calm now as I see the Chevalier flying inside Monsieur’s rooms, but it is hard. Let’s look at it before I start my rant… The Chevalier is thrown inside by Monsieur and lands on the floor. Monsieur goes into a rage about the loss of money, slaps the Chevalier, who then head buds Monsieur. Regretting it at once. Is pushed against a wall by Monsieur, who then throws him on the floor, all the while strangling him. The Chevalier reaches in defence for a candlestick, after having bitten Monsieur’s arm, and Monsieur strides out to return with a rapier in his hand. Liselotte jumps in to put an end to it and the Chevalier rambles on about Monsieur doing bed-sport with someone. I guess he means Thomas. Jesus. Seriously. I can’t even. I guess the whole thing makes (somewhat) sense for the show characters, but I want to slam my head against a wall. This scene touched me, but not as the writers might have expected. I find it ridiculous. I find it ridiculous and an offence to the Chevalier how he is written as such a good-for-nothing coward. That man was a fighter. He received praise, was called a hero for his bravery. He was elegant and a great master at manipulation. All I see here is a love-sick idiot that our historical Chevalier would have destroyed without blinking once. The characters of Monsieur and the Chevalier have been twisted to an extend that kills my joy. Where is the merry fabulously dressed Monsieur? Who is this raging ball of anger? Where is my awesome mind twisting Chevalier? Why on earth did they twist their personalities so much? Why did they make Monsieur so butch and why did they make the Chevalier so much of an idiot? I need a break…. (Really, the actors do a fab job…. but I can’t be polite about how those characters have been written this season. It’s the script that is the issue, not the actors or acting.)
In possession of a fresh cup of tea, I hit play and see we are in the gardens. The coffin of Jacques is lowered into a grave and Louis looks like he would like to join it. I suddenly wonder what about the Dauphin? How is he? Is he coping after being kidnapped and dragged away from papa and mama? How does his hair look? Will we ever know? (No. We won’t. It is a little like it never happened.)
Fabien and Bontemps walk through the palace. After my previous ranting, I have to say it is always nice to see how they included that Versailles is still a building-side by adding scaffolding here and there. Fabien and Bontemps discuss how Jacques might have died and who might have something to do with it. The conversation shifts to Mama-Gaston and her unwillingness to spill the beans. Fabien suspects that she might not be the only one to kill in order to gain and requests the files from Bontemps. I have to think of the Marquise de Brinvilliers and how she killed half her family, wonder if she might be the inspiration here… and why they did not include her, because her story is ace. It’s dark, shocking, wicked. One would think it’s perfect to be put on screen (or at least mentioned) and it is actual history. Something that just has to be put on paper and acted out…
We are half way through the episode and our King is getting a shave. Or not. He is too paranoid and sends everyone away. Real Louis XIV did shave himself.
Father Pascal, with his potential serial-killer look, chats with the Queen about the progress they made. A lot of female beings have been to confession. The Queen is not as pleased with it as her priest… and she starts to annoy me. The writers have given her a greater role than she actually had, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but her pious whatnot is a bit over the top. I get that it is supposed to mirror the whole poison thing, as in turning to Satan, and she is the pillar of hope, God’s servant…. but let’s be honest, it puts her a bit in a kill-joy position. The whole story-line is dark enough already. (Also, what’s wrong with how she actually was? Why so much fiction? It’s a historical drama, oui, but a bit more history would harm no-one. That is why a whole lot of people actually watch this.)
Bossuet and Father Pascal hurry through the gardens and chat about that the King must be informed of what the previously mentioned female beings have confessed and it is thus acted out. We join them and the King, discussing said confessions and how the court looks to the King for security. He can not make them good people, he says, and is threatened with not receiving communion at Easter in turn. How dare they, you think? That actually happened in 1675. The whole issue circled around Madame de Montespan and her relations to the King. Louis was furious about it all, but sent la Montespan away in the end and broke with her. He received communion, but his break with the Marquise did not last long and she returned to his side. Louis always was a little paranoid around Easter time about the possibility that his mistresses might cost him God’s favour. Our Louis here dismisses Father Pascal, after he has been told his Palace Of Dreams is rotten on the inside and his child might be ill because it was born out-of-wedlock.
We are back in the amusement-establishment of the town of Versailles and I roll my eyes. Here’s the Chevalier talking with the master of the house about how they can smuggle powders and potions into the palace. He has an idea and wants a share for it. Think about it… A Prince of Lorraine smuggles powders into the palace. A Prince of Lorraine discusses this with a couple of peasants. I sigh. You know, although he is portrayed here as if he had not a single cent of his own, he actually had money at his disposal. He had an income. He was not entirely reliable on Monsieur’s money. He had his own. Which he invested and spent. It is true that he also spent that of Monsieur, but he still had a own income from various possessions, a share of the wine taxes and Abbeys. It is getting frustrating.
Louis gets a briefing on where his troops are currently placed. The Palantine has promised its support and Cassel inquires if Louis does trust this funny German Elector. Oui, he does. After all his daughter is married to Louis’ brother. Cassel reminds him that he is married to a Infanta of Spain and yet at war with Spain. Cheeky thing that Cassel. And smart.
We stay with Louis, Cassel and Louvois, who looks rather funny on horseback, and have them observe Philippe command the training of the royal troops. Philippe has fun, Louis is annoyed. Bontemps races to him and we are back in the palace. The child, which I still can’t name, is getting worse. While every other doctor would naturally advice bleeding now, which would make perfect sense in the 17th century minds and with their understanding of the body, Claudine is more educated than all of them together and advises the contrary.
Madame de Motespan does not trust the healing skills of Claudine and wants to ask for her family doctor to help, but Louis ignores it. He puts all his trust into Claudine and orders her to save the child. I’m sceptical.
In the lands of the Dutch, we have William of Orange sitting for a portrait, while being briefed on the current situation. Louis is knocking at his door, but William is more bothered about a certain de Witt. That man shows up thus. His full name is Johan de Witt and he is the Grand Pensionary of Holland, thus the current political leader of the Dutch.
We return to Versailles and have Louis sitting for something, while Thomas reads a few praising words. Judging by the position our King is placed in, I would say the gentleman sketching him is Gian Lorenzo Bernini and the thing he sketches a draft of what will become a equestrian statue. This statue took Bernini so long to complete that Louis XIV had grown out of his military-commander phase already. It was supposed to show him as brave commander, but Louis did not like that statue at all. It was exiled to the end of the gardens after being altered. The hair was changed, the nose shortened, and flames added to turn this statue of Louis XIV into one of the Roman hero Marcus Curtius.
Louis tells us a little of William of Orange and Thomas hands another missive over in a servant corridor to inform William what is going on in Versailles. Mama-Gaston is reunited with her son in the next scene. She tells him to go and find a mysterious lady in town. Then reaches between her legs and pulls a bottle of poison out of her…. yep.
After a beautiful shot of the allée royale and Versailles, we are in the nursery. Claudine was not able to save the child and I am finally somewhat sure which child it is. It appears to be the very first one. As fast as we proceed in the historical time-line, Madame de Montespan would need to give birth to a child in pretty much all of the remaining episodes to catch up…. of course that won’t happen and I guess the rest of the horde will simply be not mentioned to mysteriously appear out of nowhere in season three if needed.
Louis dismisses Claudine from his service. We see la Montespan by the windows, acting cold for someone who just lost a child and suggesting to make another, Louis reacts with a disgusted glance, while Madame Scarron kneels and prays for the soul of the child. Louis looks at her and back to his mistress. Leaves. It is not hard to guess what he was thinking there. Historical Louis was very touched by the sadness Madame Scarron displayed as the child died. This made her a bit more agreeable in his eyes. In first he found her a little strange and her devout behaviour a little over the top, but got to like her as he noticed how much she cared for his children. All of them. Not just that one.
He seeks the presence of the Queen and she is surprised that he actually desires her company. Of course she is. The Queen is swiftly dressed and strides into a salon with Louis in the next scene. I see Monsieur and the Chevalier in the background and wonder if they made up. (If so, why can’t we see that?) Louis starts another of his speeches. Touched by the death of his child, and worried God might have something to do with it, he addresses his court. Urging them to turn away from darkness and back towards the light. He reminds me a little of a nursery school teacher that scolds naughty children and is interrupted by the appearance of la Montespan. Her eyes are swollen and red. They look at each other and a huffy Queen stomps out. Louis follows. I hope he scolds her not to walk out on him again.
Fabien pays a visit to Claudine, she had a bit of a drink and is carried into bed by him. He does not take advantage of her situation. Unlike the Duc de Cassel, who now claims his wife in rather violent manner. By 17th century standards, where a wife was pretty much possession of her husband and he could do with her as he pleased, not something too unusual.
Crying and with blood on her chemise, Sophie flees to Liselotte. A part of me things this would have been the perfect chance to put the Chevalier into a better light. If I had written the script, Sophie would have turned to him and he Cassel into a pile of bloody sludge.
Philippe tries to give his brother a bit of advice, but as usual the glorious Sun King does not appear to care. Do you see Monsieur’s expression? It yells ‘I just want a tiny bit of appreciation. A bit of trust. Maybe a cuddle.’
Episode four draws to an end as we see Father Pascal in the chambers of the Marquise de Montespan. She knows that Father Pascal seeks to turn the King away from her and won’t have that. Arguing that he is just a man behind his mask of pious behaviour, she grabs him by the ding-dong, sure to feel a stirring and is disappointed.
Gaston follows the instructions of his mother and knocks on a door. Surprisingly he had no trouble to find the right door. After being told of a woman living at a square, I would have needed a few tries to find the right door. Maybe he did too and that is why he looks as if he stepped into dog poo. (Maybe he actually did. Who knows.) The code words are said and he admitted. We all guessed who that woman is. Madame Agathe. She is during her mysterious witch/bitch things and magically knows that his mother has died… also that he wants revenge on Louis, she too, they should team up. Which they do and seal with a kiss.
That’s it for episode four. As you might guess, I am not entirely pleased with this one. Thank you for reading.