My Overall Opinion of the PBS Masterpiece Les Mis Series

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.

Major Spoilers:

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 it 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.

Conclusion:

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.

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Les Misérables-Episode 3

I have finally watched episode three in the Les Misérables series. It is interesting how you can match scene with song. Below I will talk about this episode.

Major Spoilers:

This episode starts where the last episode ends. Fantine is weaker now, and thinks that Valjean is getting her child. Valjean is actually saving an innocent man from getting imprisoned. They have convicts in the case, and they all believe this innocent man is Jean Valjean. The real Valjean proves it is him by saying markings he knows they have, and then turning to Javert. He does go to his factory asking if that woman came for Cosette, and she did not.

Fantine does die in this episode. She does figure out that Cosette isn’t there. Javert is there, and does tell Fantine the truth about Valjean- that he is a thief, and she dies from the shock. That is exactly how she dies in the book. She does not get to know if Valjean is going to raise her child or not- unlike the musical. Valjean, being recaptured, escapes once again, to find Cosette.

Cosette is treated even worse in this series. Madame Thenardier beats her and yells at her. You really get to see just how despicable and abusive those Thenardiers really are. When Cosette first meets Valjean, she does not know if she can trust him, but when he says he will not hurt her, she does trust him. He realizes the full extent of how Cosette is treated- he sees that Cosette is a servant. He ends up buying her a doll, and ended up buying her time to play.

A lot of this episode is focused on Valjean raising Cosette and being a father for the first time. You see other things happening like the moment when The Thenardiers’ inn fails, Javert chasing Valjean/Cosette (this is when they end up in Convent), and you do see the Thenardiers beginning to treat Azelma like a servant. So you realize, that if Cosette wasn’t there, the Thenardiers would have treated their daughters just as poorly. When Javert first visits the Thenardiers’ inn, he does recognize Thenardier as a scoundrel. There was no time jump into 1832 in this episode- that isn’t going to happen until the 4th episode.

https://megsdailymusings.wordpress.com/2019/04/24/les-miserables-series-episode-2/

https://megsdailymusings.wordpress.com/2019/04/16/les-miserables-series/

Les Misérables Series-Episode 2

This week, instead of watching the six part mini series on the regular Sunday, I had to watch it on Monday night. It was because of Easter Dinner- my family came back close to the end of the episode. Due to not knowing when my family was going to get back, we recorded the second episode. The first episode ended with Jean Valjean releasing he needed to change his ways to become a better person and Fantine left with Cosette what they are supposed to do now that Felix left them.

Major Spoilers:

This episode starts on Fantine. We now have an older Cosette- about three or so. Fantine is looking for work. Fantine’s only light in the world is her daughter. They end up at the Thenardiers’ inn- so now another character is introduced- Madame Thenardier. We see her being loving to both Eponine and Azelma. I actually love how Azelma is in the series- in the musical, the only Thenardier children they show is Eponine and Gavroche, but they did have five children. Eponine and Azelma are outside swinging and playing- it seems to Fantine that she can trust the Thenardiers with Cosette. It does look like she is abandoning Cosette, but she isn’t- she still loves her daughter. As she leaves, the Thenardiers still seem like they are loving.

Back to Jean Valjean. He has a prosperous company and is now mayor. You can see his past haunting him. That is most clear when Javert arrives. Everything that Javert said- a number of things, I am like that was exactly that character would say. Javert questioned Valjean a number of times it seemed- like he seemed to notice that Valjean was hiding something- don’t forget Valjean is Monsieur Madeline at this point. When Valjean said a certain line- Javert said did something in your past make you come to that conclusion. There was the cart scene that made Javert wonder if Madeline was Valjean. This series goes deeper into Valjean and Javert’s dynamic and deeper into the complexity of Javert- a character I struggle to find common ground with and understand.

Fantine does ask for a job in his factory, and it seems like things are going well for her. The Thenardiers do increase her salary, and she still trusts them. Well, what does one of the factory women do? Find out her little secret by following her and listening to one of the letters the Thenardiers have sent- which leads to her being fired. I was surprised it was Valjean that dismissed her- that is not like him- in both book and musical- it was a foreman person who fired her, not Valjean- I remember that. I know what is going to happen, which I don’t want to watch. After being fired, that is when she hears about Cosette being deathly ill- which leads to the beginning of the whole “Lovely Ladies” scene. It is the worst I have seen that scene played- you see all the tools they use before the cutting of hair and the teeth pulling, and then while the action happens, you hear her pain. After the teeth pulling, her mouth is bloodied- all of that is harder to sit through. All of that happens before becoming a prostitute- which is the order it happens in the book. When she becomes a prostitute, no one wants to take her because of what she looks like now. She has become sickly, and you can tell because you see blood when she coughs- you know.

This episode actually shows Gavroche- the Thenardiers actually use his name. It actually tells you that he is related to them- the musical or musical film does not tell you that he is a Thenardier. The musical only tells you about Eponine- not about Gavroche. You see their abuse further- you saw how abusive Monsieur Thenardier can get- in the musical, in the early scenes, you only saw the nature of Madame Thenardiers’ abusive side, not Monsieur Thenardiers’ abusive side- you don’t see that until 1832. You saw Eponine and Azelma throwing things at Cosette- so in one scene, these three girls were playing together, and now that is lost. So you slowly are starting to get an idea of the environment the Thenardiers’ daughter are going to be growing up in considering what you saw in this episode.

It did go back to Marius and his grandfather. His grandfather has taught him to believe his political views. Marius is still a child, and has been believed both Napoleon and his father are traitors. You saw Marius see his father on his deathbed- so in this series, Marius saw that happen as a child- which I believe happened at a later age in the book.

I got emotional again, which was at the “Lovely Ladies” scenes. I was kind of shaking at times. It was very very hard to watch all of that. Usually it is a bit easier. I was crying seeing all of that unfold. That is the hardest scene to watch in the musical.

This episode left you at a cliffhanger- Valjean heading to turn himself in when someone was believed to be him, Fantine in the hospital quite weak (hoping to see Cosette again) and Valjean did ask a factory worker to get Cosette and take her to the hospital (which we don’t know if that will happen). I believe I know what is going to happen towards the beginning of the third episode. I hope at the end of the 3rd episode or the middle of that episode, there is a time jump- after all there is a lot going on in 1832.

https://megsdailymusings.wordpress.com/2019/04/16/les-miserables-series/

Les Misérables Series-Episode 1

What is it like to see Les Misérables without the music? Les Misérables has a six week series, but without music. I was thinking, I don’t know how I can watch Les Misérables without the music. After all, I had been watching Les Misérables with the music for six years now. Then again, I had the book, and when a scene came on that resembled a song, I did not play the song. It was Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables that the musical came from. Yesterday, I watched the first episode- since I only knew the musical film and the stage show, I had no idea what the order of scenes would be and had no idea if I would be affected in the same way the musical affects me.

Major and Minor Spoilers

Right away, I knew how different this series was going to be different. It starts at the end of The Battle of Waterloo- that would mean the first character you would be introduced to would be Thenardier. This episode gives you a backstory to Marius- it was Thenardier that unintentionally saved Marius’ father from the Battler of Waterloo. In the musical, you never saw Waterloo or Marius’ father. You never knew about Marius’ grandfather and the conflict between Marius’ father and his grandfather- that is an important part of Marius’ backstory. You got to see that Marius’ grandfather did not want Marius’ father in Marius’ life.

You got to see that life in the prison was affecting Valjean even deeper. The prison was terrible. You saw them working for more days, and the guards yelling at them. You understood why prison made Valjean a harsh and angry man when he left. The musical only shows a snippet of that- at least in this version, you understood it much much better. When he visits the bishop, he did say to him that he does not believe that love could change a man. He still was angry at society. It has that scene in the book where he stole a coin from a young boy- this is when he realized he truly messed up, and that he needed to change.

Even with Javert, you got to explore more of his backstory. The only thing I learned of his backstory in the musical is that he was born in jail. I did not know anything else. In one scene, Valjean saved a prison guard. Javert questioned him, and he explained to Valjean that he was born in jail, and that his parents were criminals-that now makes sense why Javert believes that “once a criminal always a criminal”. He was born to criminals and in jail. So Javert learned to hate them- now that logic makes sense.

Now with Fantine- like the other characters, backstory. You got to see her when she was truly happy. You saw her before she was abandoned. You got to see her living life and loving Felix, the one who would be Cosette’s biological father. This episode ends with Fantine holding baby Cosette wondering what they are supposed to do now that Felix left them.

Since there was no music, I had no idea how I would react. I cried and got emotional- which is my same reaction in the musical. I had gotten so emotionally connected to Les Misérables- the plot and characters. I feel like next week is going to be harder to watch.

Non-Survivors I love in Musicals

What do I mean by the non-survivors? These are the characters who die in musicals. So this will be SPOILER HEAVY. I used to think a character death would be not memorable, but I learned my lesson.

  1. Enjolras and the students
  2. Gavroche
  3. Eponine
  4. Fantine
  5. Jean Valjean
  6. Don Quixote
  7. Angel
  8. Mufasa
  9. Kim

It was Les Mis that taught me that I can love a character death. I love more characters who survive than characters who don’t survive. A lot of that it because I can’t think of more. Death in musicals are not EASY to watch, but you have to understand WHY they had to happen- all of these deaths had to happen. Yes, character death is sad, and you are heartbroken because you loved the character. The only way they will continue to live is in you.

How do you feel about character death?

Death in Musicals- My feelings on It

How it Once was Viewed:

There was a time when I had this negative view on death in a musical. I believed that death was ALWAYS going to be unmemorable. How can you fall in love with watching a death scene? I truly believed that if it was going to happen with a core favorite character- after all you are going to feel angry with the fact that they are going to be killed of. I even believed that there is no way it could happen during a song- that seemed like there has a high chance that could NEVER happen. That was only because growing up, I never once came across a death song.

After Les Mis entered: Major Spoilers

All of those thoughts I had would soon be tested. Les Mis was the musical that would go against everything. Les Mis has songs such as “Javert’s Suicide”, “A Little Fall of Rain”, and “Come to Me”- all songs that deal with a death or happen while a character is dying. So my thought on a song could NEVER happen during a death scene was disproven. Even my thought on a character’s death could NEVER be memorable was disproven as well. In Les Mis characters’ deaths are memorable.

“Come to Me” is a memorable death scene. This is Fantine’s death scene. She has been fired and lost her hair, and became prostitute. She has been through some very awful things. She did what she did for the sake of her daughter, Cosette. Even while she was dying, she still was thinking about Cosette. She was still worried about what would happen to her. Valjean was with her while she was dying. “Come to Me” is memorable in the fact that Valjean promised that he would raise Cosette- so Fantine is able to die in peace. The fact that Fantine did not have to die alone- she was shown compassion by Valjean.

“A Little Fall of Rain” is also a memorable death. This time, Eponine is dying from a gunshot wound after sacrificing herself to protect Marius. During this scene, Marius is devastated, but ended up showing her compassion by holding and comforting her while she dies. Eponine is dying in the arms of Marius, the love of her life, who is also the only good thing in her life because he is the only person who showed her kindness. So I just gave you two examples of memorable deaths in just one musical. In “A Little Fall of Rain”, I am heartbroken for BOTH Eponine and Marius, but feel joy knowing that this is Eponine’s happiest moment of her life despite the fact that she is dying.

Tragic Love Stories:

Here is where things can be messy. If you fall in love with the couple, you don’t want it to end tragically, but it WILL. I know this first hand due to recently seeing Miss Saigon and falling in love with Kim and Chris as a couple. Even Kim’s death was memorable- like the other two I mentioned- she wasn’t alone. Chris was there- he actually realized he always loved her- I believe more than Ellen- that was how good Emily Bautista and Anthony Festa were as Kim and Chris were. I can especially tell due to Anthony’s Chris’ cry at the very end- he realized just how much he loved Kim. Kim died to give her son, Tam, a better life- another reason why it is a memorable death.

Conclusion:

Yes, deaths in a musical are devastating, but they can be memorable. The first time, you are shocked. You are like “but I loved that character, why did they have to die?”. You soon realize they are meant to die even each time, you hope that doesn’t happen, but you can’t change it- that death will always happen.

Journey with the Les Mis movie

As many musical fanatics know, there is always a way you become a fan of a musical. It is either by songs, stage, or film. Where did my love of Les Mis begin? It was by the musical movie.

I first saw the Les Mis film in December 2012. I came into the film with a very slim knowledge. I knew of the song, “I Dreamed a Dream”. I barely knew the plot. I knew of the actresses, Amanda Seyfried and Anne Hathaway. I was unsure coming into the film- I only went to listen to “I Dreamed a Dream”. Right after Fantine died, I came to a realization- Les Mis is a tragedy. I was shocked and confused after realizing that. After all, I never knew musicals could be tragic. I did not know how to exactly respond. By the end of the film, I did have “Do you Hear the People Sing” stuck in my head, but at the same time, I did not know if I liked Les Mis. So I had a rocky start to Les Mis. I was NOT an emotional wreck watching Les Mis this time around.

Fantine singing "I Dreamed a Dream" during the film, Les Mis

Despite not knowing if I liked Les Mis, I started researching the musical. I also wanted to listen to the songs on Pandora. I have no idea why I wanted to do that.

March 2013- I don’t why I did this, but I decided to watch the film a 2nd time. Due to knowing the film’s tragic nature, I was able to calm down. I got so much more out of it. This time around, I truly became a fan of Les Mis. By the end, I felt uplifted. I was thinking “why would such a tragic musical make you feel uplifted?”. So I continued researching it. By Summer 2013, I was officially obsessed with Les Mis. I know the 2nd time was when I began to have a beautiful bond to Eponine; I have no idea when I began to have an emotional connection to the other characters I have an emotional connection to. If I didn’t give the film a 2nd chance, I never would have a Les Mis fan.

Eponine singing "On My Own" during the film, Les Mis

Summer 2013- I think my family was on vacation in Florida, and we were in target in the DVD section. My mom told me, will you find it? I did not know what she was talking about at first. She told me- you know what I am talking about. I realized- my mom was talking about Les Mis. My emotional response to the film grew over time.

Present- now it is 2019, and I have watched the film so many times. Now, I have to buy another copy of the film. Usually in that amount of time, I don’t wear out a DVD. I still am an emotional wreck watching it. This film was why I love Les Mis, which led to my obsession with Les Mis. Without the film, Les Mis wouldn’t have been in my life.