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The following may contain some spoilers for Versailles Episode 2. Episode 1 Recap & Review can be found here and serves as a general catch-up as well as a primer for those watching the world of Louis XIV. 

After last week’s (not very, really) pornograhic premier lots of people will no doubt have tuned in to the second episode of Versailles to be titillated/appalled. And they will have been disappointed for instead we have some major plot building, character expansion and understanding of the court of Louis XIV. But very little sex and violence. Quelle horreur! 

Louis (George Blagden) looking determined and ruthless
Louis (George Blagden) looking determined and ruthless

To be fair, most first season second episodes suffer a similar problem. You’ve started with a barnstorming opener, full to the brim with nudity and blood but a series entire cannot be built on this alone (a good one anyhow). So second episodes are given over to actually putting a story in place. The end last week, with the Queen giving birth to a decidedly non-white and thus not Louis’ baby sets up a long-player thread this week and we get a further insight into just how tenuous Louis’ grasp on his court and power is.

The first royal offspring gets a funeral, despite being very much alive
The first royal offspring gets a funeral, despite being very much alive

Incensed at his wife’s obvious unfaithfulness with the dwarf she keeps for company, Louis orders the baby drowned with the court told it was stillborn. This starts much gossip for many heard the infants cries, and a well-meaning servant girl who saw the child divulges it’s real heritage to the King’s brother (the possibly psychopathic) Monsieur Philippe d’Orléans. Bad move peasant girl. Bad move. Louis tours his grounds and speaks with his gardener who speaks of root stock, the lineage of the King’s fine trees and it’s importance. Which is all about as subtle as a rapier through the eye. Talking of which…

Monsieur Philippe d'Orléans (Alexander Vlahos). King's brother, cross-dresser, and wanting to go to war
Monsieur Philippe d’Orléans (Alexander Vlahos). King’s brother, cross-dresser and warmonger

Philipe is dressed as a woman and at an in-house fashion and jewel show with boyfriend Chevalier de Lorraine (the superb Evan Williams). Incensed at being mocked by some nobility scum, he lashes out with fists, a chair leg and finally his rapier, skewering the noble’s left eyeball. Don’t you just love the French? Philipe is bored and itching for war, something he’s wanted all his life. Luckily Louis is a thoughtful and kind brother and thus arranges one, with Philippe leading the front. Louis’ court advisors rightly think that this may not be a good idea but the King is having none of it.

These same advisors also counsel that Louis can afford the cost of his Versailles Palace dreams or war, but not both. Of course Louis ignores this as well. And there’s plenty more money out there if only the nobility would pay their way and their taxes.

Montcourt (Anatole Taubman) is humiliated and thrown out of court by Louis
Montcourt (Anatole Taubman) is humiliated and thrown out of court by Louis

Louis has a change of heart at the last second and the bastard child is saved from a ‘”thorough baptism” drowning at the last second to be spirited away to a local nunnery. The conceit continues to be covered up with a fake funeral, and a hanging for the servant girl who spilled the beans to Philippe. Saw that coming didn’t we?

With conspirators both in and out of court, Louis has had enough. Rooting one out, the unfortunate Montcourt, at an evening garden party, he humiliates the man, showing his title to be false and ejecting him from Versailles entirely. The rest of the assembled nobility look suitably nervous. This could either be a masterstroke, thinning out his court to leave only the loyal and bringing in much needed money to boot, or Louis’ downfall. Follow it all here at XO.TV