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 5

Major Spoilers:

Last week the final scene was “The Robbery”. This episode was more focused on the romance between Marius and Cosette, but was mostly focused on the Uprising. What I didn’t know was if we would see any of the Uprising taking place or not- would we only see the student planning the uprising and building the barricade and then the episode would stop.

Some things had to happen pretty quickly for this episode to work out. It was the 2nd to last episode. We did see Eponine and her sister in prison and released. We saw Javert still being obsessed over finding Valjean despite the uprising that is soon to happen.

Back to the love triangle. Last week’s episode, it was hard to spot the romance. I knew that the love triangle was subtle in the book. This episode made the romance more clear. Now Eponine is leading Marius to Cosette’s house. Marius and Cosette are finally able to confess their love for each other. I also was able to spot Eponine’s love for Marius- that was very very difficult to find in the book.

Well, in this episode, when it comes to the students you see them planning the uprising and building the barricade. The uprising does begin in this episode. There are two deaths in this episode- one of which is one that only happens in the book- Mabeuf, who is the first one to die during the uprising. We do see Eponine’s death as well, which I did cry during, which I did expect. Gavroche delivers the letter to Valjean, and the episode ends after Valjean leaves for the uprising. So we are in the middle of an uprising- at the end of this episode.

I am starting to feel like this series needs a 7th episode. I don’t know if an episode should end in the middle of an uprising- that seems like an odd place to end. The next episode needs to have things happen at quick speed in the same speed some of the events in this episode happens. Knowing Les Mis- the next episode is going to be filled with death considering the fact that we still are in the middle of an uprising and there are two more after the uprising. Knowing Les Mis- there is still a lot that needs to happen.

Below are what happened in the other episodes:

https://megsdailymusings.wordpress.com/2019/05/07/les-miserables-series-episode-4/

https://megsdailymusings.wordpress.com/2019/04/30/les-miserables-episode-3/

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 4

Now I have watched four episodes of the Les Misérables series. I was waiting until there was a time jump into 1832. Finally it happened. The last episode ended at Valjean and Cosette escaping into the convent- so there needed to be a time jump. Two of my favorite storylines of Les Misérables are the romance and the uprising- that happens later in the storyline- in 1832- and that wasn’t part of episode 3.

Major Spoilers:

In the beginning of this series, you see that Cosette has finally grown up. I was wondering when that time jump would happen. Valjean and Cosette are still living at Covent. Cosette convinces her adopted father that it is time for them to move out because she wants to see more of the world. They move into Rue Plumet, and they do go on walks into the Luxembourg Gardens.

Now we are back on a grown up Marius. Marius finds out the truth about his father. He realizes he has been lied to by his grandfather all of these years about his father. Learning this does help make Marius a complex character. His grandfather tells Marius to move out after Marius blows up on him after telling him “why did you lie to me all of these years”. Where Marius moves to is the same place the Thenardiers currently live. At some point in this episode, Marius meets Courfeyrac, who introduces him to The Friends of The ABC- finally we meet them. The Friends of the ABC are some of my favorite characters in the book and musical- it their brotherly love for each other and their passion for the cause that makes me love them so much.

This is the episode where Marius and Cosette first meet. Instead of Marius and Cosette learning each others names at Cosette’s house, they learn each others’ name where they first met, which never happened in the musical or the book. So, this episode begins the love Marius and Cosette have. I still love the two of them together, and my opinion will never change.

I will go back to the Thenardiers again- now they are living as the Jondrettes next door to Marius. Their poverty has gotten worse- they are now living in extreme poverty. You do notice that Gavroche is no longer living with them. Only Azelma and Eponine are living with them-you see Monsieur Thenardier showing his abuse on Eponine. You see Eponine delivering the letters, which are hoaxes. Eponine does recognize that Marius does have a good heart when they first interacted. Marius is able to look through a peek hole, and actually sees how terrible this family is treating their daughters and learns of the robbery that will happen later, and reports this to Javert.

The episode ends at the “Robbery”. The next episode will focus more on the romance between Marius and Cosette and the rebellion.

https://megsdailymusings.wordpress.com/2019/04/30/les-miserables-episode-3/

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

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

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 Mis Songs- Choosing a Favorite

Musical theatre fans know that in a musical they have their favorite song. There is an exception to that, and that is in Les Mis. Why do I think that is? I think it is a combination of things: the passion, the epic nature, the powerful nature, and the level of emotion. There is something found in the songs that has made Les Mis last so long in the West End, and had made it keep on touring throughout the World. The songs are key to any great musical- they are the first step- then the characters and plot.

On My Own- this is one of my favorite songs in the musical. It is perfect for Eponine. It is about her unrequited love for Marius while still giving some insight into her life outside of Marius. It perfectly complements her character- it shows just how strong of a character she is. It also shows how strong and deep her love for Marius is. A beautifully heartbreaking song, which can be sung in so many ways- different emotions can be shown each time. This easily can be my favorite song from Les Mis, but the same applies to a number of other songs from Les Mis.

A Little Fall of Rain- this song ends Eponine’s story. She has sacrificed herself after seeing a gun aimed at Marius. This is the most intimate moment Marius and Eponine have. After Eponine collapsed in Marius’ arms, he realized she was dying, and he was devastated. Despite how he felt, he ended up staying with her to the end. A bittersweet scene- you do feel devastated for BOTH Eponine and Marius, but happy for Eponine because she is in the arms of Marius. He is there for her, and is comforting her. You get to see how much compassion Marius is capable of. This is my favorite death scene in Les Mis.

Empty Chairs at Empty Tables- While “On My Own” can easily be my favorite solo, I can’t help but think about how this song can also be that song. Devastatingly heartbreaking-more heartbreaking than “On My Own”. It perfectly complements Marius- the rebellion has ended, and Marius is the only one who comes out alive. He lost all of his friends, and is now dealing with survivor’s guilt. Marius is my favorite survivor in Les Mis, and has become almost a core favorite character.

One Day More- the perfect act I finale. Do I have to say more? This easily could be my favorite song from Les Mis song too. There is no way to describe what you are feeling in this number. It is one of my all-favorite musical theatre finales.

Bring Him Home- This song is another song that can be my favorite song from Les Mis. This further highlights the love Valjean has for God, and shows his love for Cosette in a way. After all, he went to the barricade to protect and save Marius, the revolutionary his adopted daughter loves, from dying. It sounds like a prayer.

Do You Hear the People Sing- This song is a very passionate song. It perfectly shows the passion the students have for the rebellion. It easily gets stuck in your head- it got stuck in my head after seeing the movie the first time.

Drink With Me- The thing I really love about this song is how intimate it is. It shows a vulnerable side to the students. It is sadder than it seems to be- you will understand after seeing it a first time. Once you know what is going to happen to them, the song becomes heartbreaking. This is the last moment they will truly get to spend time with each other. They know this is a lost cause, and that they will most likely die, and feel hopeless. At least, they still have their brotherly love for each other, and they still have the passion.

Finale- the perfect finale to a musical. The first half is heartbreaking. Valjean is dying, and he is alone in a church. However, you know he has become a better person, and that he has redeemed himself, become “saint-like”. You might think he will die alone, without anyone by his side. Soon enough, Cosette, his adopted daughter, and Marius, his now son-in-law, come to his side. I think there is some symbolism in the deaths- Fantine, Eponine, Gavroche, Enjolras and the students, and now Valjean will have died with someone with them- have you noticed a pattern with these characters? They know how to love- it doesn’t matter if it is love for a child, love romantically (even if it falls unrequited), or love for a country. After Valjean dies, you are heartbroken, but then a reprise of “Do you Hear the People Sing” starts- you are still heartbroken, but you feel hope- I think the ending represents heaven. You do not leave devastated- you leave the theatre uplifted and with hope.

See what I mean? There is something about each song that makes it hard to choose which is your favorite. Whether that is the bittersweet “A Little Fall of Rain”, the heartbreaking “On My Own”, the devastating “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”, the intimate “Drink With Me”, etc….. So many of the songs have something special about them: you can see the spirituality shine in some of them: “Bring Him Home”, “Come to Me”, “A Little Fall of Rain”, “Finale”, “What Have I Done” are examples of that.

Do you think Les Mis is hard to chose your favorite song, and why? I gave a few examples.