For the past six weeks, I have been watching the PBS Masterpiece Series of Les Mis. Each week on this blog, I did talk about each episode, and what happened. This post will focus on what my overall opinion was.
In my opinion, I felt like this series needed more than six episodes. The last two episodes felt rushed with two subplots. I wished the series could have spent more time on the romance between Marius and Cosette and the Uprising. Those were speed up too quickly just to fit everything in- those are my favorite subplots that happen in Les Mis: the love triangle and the uprising.
What I do love is that the series focused much more on backstory. This series was not based on the musical- it was more book based- even though some things I saw never happened in the book or musical.
We were able to see what happened to Fantine before Felix (Cosette’s biological father) abandoned her- we saw her when she was truly happy. It makes her story much more heartbreaking- not only did we see Felix leaving her, but we also saw Fantine leaving Cosette in the hands of the Thenardiers. Seeing those two elements puts much more pain into her storyline- after all, if you know Les Mis, you do know how poorly the Thenardiers treat Cosette. It was harder for me to watch the “Lovely Ladies” scene in this version- I felt more uncomfortable with it- the scene always made me uncomfortable, but this one was more intense. I actually do love the fact that Azelma is in this series- she is one of the Thenardier children after all.
Thinking of Thenardiers, at the beginning of the series, it starts at the Battle of Waterloo, which helps clear up the fact that Les Mis does not take place during The French Revolution. It does show Thenardier “rescuing” Marius’ father- that scene is important to Marius’ backstory. When it comes to the Thenardiers’, you saw how abusive they really are-when you first saw them, it does appear as if they are “good” people, but after Fantine left them, you eventually saw Azelma and Eponine mistreating Cosette. You saw Cosette being abused at a much deeper level. You saw Gavroche in their house- now you know he is their son. You saw them falling into poverty. This version made me hate the Thenardiers even more- seeing just how poorly they treat Azelma and Eponine- right when Cosette left, we saw a scene with one of their daughters being treated as a servant- so we do realize that if Cosette wasn’t there, both daughters would have treated the same way.
Back to Jean Valjean- in the musical, you have an idea of how prison affected him. What this version is able to do is show you how poorly Toulon really is. You saw that Valjean did believe that love can’t change a man- that was before he was forgiven. You saw multiple scenes of Toulon, and you saw them affecting Valjean at a much deeper level- so you can understand better why he left prison as man with so much anger at society- because of his days in prison. Now one thing never made sense- one plot point never happened- in this series, he fired Fantine- well, in the book, it was a woman foreman who fired Fantine. I did not understand that change.
At the same time- I can now understand why Javert believes “once a criminal always a criminal”- he says Valjean that he was born in jail and that his parents were criminals, and that he learned to hate them- I never really understand that viewpoint- now it makes sense.
Now, I would like to talk about the love triangle. It actually showed a side to Marius that we never get in the musical- a side that shows up only in the book: it is a part of him that makes him complex. This does start when he was a child- you saw his grandfather raising him to believe his father hated him, which he eventually realized wasn’t true. That is what soon led to him having this political conflict- that side is what made him complex-one of the reasons why I love him as a character. Many people say he is annoying and a jerk- but I disagree: yes, even from the book, I never saw him that way. Marius still is a revolutionary- not at first- he is not close to the revolutionaries here- which I did expect- still sticking close to the book.
The love triangle was subtle in the book, and it is in this series, but I did feel like the romance was rushed. I love Marius and Cosette as a couple- but I felt like the series could have spent more time on their relationship. They only had like one scene in the Gardens and two in Rue Plumet- this was before the barricade- wish there was more of them. As far as Eponine goes- I am glad this series focused on what her life was like outside of Marius more than the unrequited love. They do show the unrequited love-yes, but we got several scenes that showed her life outside of him. I knew that the unrequited love was there for all the scenes she had with him (since I saw the musical and read the book), but the first scene she made it clear was right after she led him to Rue Plumet- That was when I realized she was in love with him. The love triangle still feels rushed- even though it still stays subtle like the book- but it is too rushed. Marius and Eponine’s relationship is closer to being acquaintances here- which I was expecting due to knowing this series was following the book. Just like in book, Eponine sacrificed her life for Marius at the barricade, and Marius stayed with her. In both the book and musical, I believe Marius is still this kind, sweet, compassionate, brave, and romantic revolutionary.
Cosette- you have a lot more sympathy for Young Cosette. You actually saw how abused she is. As she gets older, I am glad you saw how overprotected and sheltered she. It does make sense- for starters, Valjean is an ex-convict and is trying not to be recaptured and Cosette means everything to him. What I do love in this series is that it shows Valjean raising Cosette.
Another subplot that I felt is too rushed is the uprising. I love Enjolras and the students. All the uprising events take place in the 5th/6th episode- so much had to happen in those episodes for the story to finish. You already saw a bit of uprising in the 4th episode, but you only got introduced to Enjolras and the students. The 5th episode is more about planning and the beginning of the uprising, but had to end with Valjean leaving for the barricade- I thought that was odd. I wanted more time with them- it was like it was quick action before the uprising even started. The musical makes it always clear who Enjolras is, but at times in the series- I kept on forgetting- you are supposed to always knew which one of the group he is. Literally in the 6th episode after Valjean released Javert, the final battle began- that was too rushed to get there.
I thought it was a wonderful way to watch Les Mis. I still had moments I was in tears- some of those were moment I was expecting to cry during- “A Little Fall of Rain” for instance. I still think this series needed one or two more episodes. I wished some moments were not rushed- the uprising and romance was too rushed. The 5th and 6th episode were extremely rushed at the start just to fit everything. Some moments happened way too soon- as in should have happened later- reasons why there should have been more than six episodes.