I will describe here why the love triangle in Les Mis is less complex than the one in Wicked. The love triangle in Les Mis is found between revolutionary Marius, brave and strong Eponine, curious and protected Cosette. The love triangle in Wicked is between Elphaba, Glinda, and Fiyero. What makes one love triangle less complex than the other.
For starters, all the characters in Wicked are complex. It is the most obvious that Elphaba and Glinda are complex. Fiyero is complex even though it does not seem that way. Fiyero’s complexity comes from his role in the love triangle and his development. In act I, Elphaba has unrequited love for Fiyero, and you are expecting for her to always have unrequited love for him. However in act II, that unrequited love jumps to Glinda when Fiyero realizes his love for Elphaba. You end up questioning a lot of things-such as did Fiyero have feelings for her previously? Why does the plot twist happen?, etc…. This curveball is important on Fiyero’s development. It makes Fiyero mature. The love triangle in Wicked is important for the friendship found between Elphaba and Glinda- both of them decide to not steal Fiyero away from their best friend when they both have unrequited love for him- it strengthens their friendship. This love triangle is not straightforward.
Now on to the Les Mis love triangle. It is the one found between Cosette, Marius, and Eponine. There is a reason why it is less complex. It is straightforward. It is not like two people are getting hurt from unrequited love. Only Cosette and Marius are a couple and Eponine has unrequited love- it stays that way unlike Wicked where the scenario switches gears on you. See what I mean. Fiyero and Marius are characters who are more complex than what they seem to be. To fully understand the Les Mis love triangle, you have to remember Cosette and Eponine’s childhoods- that would be important latter on.
Young Cosette is a servant at the Thenardiers’ inn. The Thenardiers are Eponine’s parents. As a child, the Thenardiers treat Cosette horribly- so you already know the Thenardiers are abusive- based upon how they treat Cosette. They seem to love Eponine as a child. After “Castle on a Cloud”, you discover that the Thenardiers are also pickpockets. You slowly get an idea of the environment that Eponine is going to grow up in. As a child, Jean Valjean arrives and takes Cosette away and provides her with a better life leaving the Thenardiers to treat Eponine the same way they treated Cosette. So while Cosette goes from bad to good, Eponine goes from good to bad- that switch intrigues me. Eponine ended up being raised to be a thief and criminal and also ended up being unloved, abused, and neglected. She wasn’t shown kindness growing up.
Enter Marius-in Eponine’s situation, he was the first person who treated her kindly. He ended up being the only person who treated her like this. He was sweet and kind to her. He ended up being the good thing in life. She never saw any like him before. His kindness moved her to fall in love with him- this love ended up her greatest strength. Then, what happens when he and Cosette first bumped into each other- they fall in love, and Marius constantly is oblivious to Eponine’s love her him. Now Eponine’s love for Marius falls unrequited- it was before, but now it hurts her further, but she would anything for him even if it means losing him forever. Marius was Eponine’s light. She would risk a lot for him- she was why Marius and Cosette got together, and she protected Marius no matter what even when it meant standing up against her father.
Eponine did accept her unrequited love, which was clearly shown in “On My Own”. Based on the fact that she would protect Marius, she was led to the barricade. Marius was trying to protect her when he discovered her: that was why, I believe, he sent her away with that letter: hoping she didn’t come back, but she did. She sacrificed herself to save Marius from being killed. Her injuries were fatal, and still climbed down the barricade. She knew she was dying. When Marius saw her, he was worried: why else do you think he asked, why she came back. When she collapsed, she was happy being in the arms of Marius. Yes, Marius was devastated, but at least he stayed with her. You might call her love for Marius a weakness, but it was her greatest strength.
Wicked’s love triangle has the unrequited love jump from Elphaba to Glinda. The Les Mis love triangle does not have the unrequited jump: it stays on Eponine. See what I mean, it is easier to understand the Les Mis love triangle. Both have a reason for being in the musical- they are two of my favorite love triangles. To love a love triangle, you need to love the songs that come with them, the characters found in them, they are unique, and it is a love triangle where you understand why it is in there in the first place.