The following will contain some spoilers for Versailles Episodes 9 & 10. Episode 8 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.
And so (and with apologies for the delay in posting), we reach the end of season 1 in the court of Versailles and a double-bill at that. After the Scooby-Doo level of plotting and foreshadowing in episode 8, we’ll admit to hoping things perk up a bit. But we do have the sly, smouldering, calculating Fabien on the trail of the Madame de Clermont – with revenge firmly in mind – to look forward to.
Henriette is en route to Angleterre – despite just suffering a miscarriage – to hopefully negotiate with her brother help to fight the Dutch and William of Orange. No one mentions why this King is of Orange, so there’s little in the way of a history lesson this episode. Louis is worried and takes the air and my, isn’t his palace coming along well? We keep being treated to long (CGI) shots like this and, let’s be honest, we’re all friends here…they’re, well, they’re not very good are they?
Computer generated palaces aside, down in the dungeons Fabien is interrogating Henriette’s would-be assassin. He’s a clever one is Fabien, mixing questions he knows the answers to with those he doesn’t; he’s also as mean as ever, threatening to paralyse his prisoner with a spike to the head. Nice. He manages to get information that William of Orange is complicit in matters before being called away by Louis. And in yet more Scooby-Doo plotting, this gives bad-guy Rohan the chance to slip in, kill the guards and set the assassin free. Seriously, your local pub on a Saturday night has more and better security than this.
Meanwhile, Henriette, who has developed a strong French accent whilst speaking with the English (it’s not surprising some French reviewers were up in arms about the whole show being made in English), has proved more steely and capable than even she thought. Which must really hurt Philippe, still smarting from being given the ridiculous role of being in charge of Palace etiquette. It takes the Chevalier to lift him out of his gloom, pointing out the fun he could have by devising ever-more ludicrous, pantomime-style rituals for the court to follow. Seriously, be glad you weren’t around and of nobility back then; observing the King’s morning ablutions and dressing routine is hardly the most fun way to start the day, but Louis and Philippe think it all a delight.
With the assassin loose, and scolded by his king, Fabien goes prowling in de Clermont’s rooms, finding the phial of poison. Inviting her to a meeting in the garden, the nervous fake noble makes her way to a meeting she’s not sure she’ll return from. And she has good instincts for, confronted with the evidence, Fabien takes no pity and an aide removes de Clermont’s head with a single swipe of a sword.
As the dastardly Rohan continues to play the King’s bff – even having the cheek to win 2,000,000 francs from him at cards – Henriette takes ill again, finally collapsing at one of Philippe’s etiquette balls. Has she been poisoned also? Recent evidence would suggest that to be the case. She quickly deteriorates, ends up in the King’s chambers with, seemingly, half the court looking on, and the trusty doc who can cure anyone is called.
Quelle Horreur! Claudine’s wondrous medical gifts are not enough this time and after confirming it is indeed a poisoning, she pronounces that Henriette will die, and soon, and in agony. And so, as Louis and brother Philippe begin to mourn and make her final hours as comfortable as possible (which entails bringing the Versaille garden to her), Fabien does what Fabien does best, and begins interrogating people. He really does seem to have mastered the art of turning one’s hobby into his work, non? Montcourt is top of his list and, after providing some couldn’t-be-more-French titbits such as “Sometimes the closer you are to someone, the further away you are”, prompty attacks Fabien and Louis. With Fabien suffering a serious wound to the stomach, it’s up to Louis to finally finish off the slimy Montcourt. Très bon Monsieur Sun King.
Fabien makes a miraculous recovery and then shows he really is the Freddy of the Versaille Scooby-Doo Gang by putting Montcourt’s tricksy little clues together; someone close to Louis is the bad guy! Mon dieu! Who? Could it be…..no, it’s not…..yes, it is……it’s ROHAN!
Except Rohan has taken Louis’ son out in the forest for games and japes. Zut alors! And now he’s gone and killed all the guards and kidnapped him! C’est tres mal! And Henriette is dead – poisoned! C‘est encore pire! Merci Dieu pour Google traduction!
Well, that’s Season 1 done and dusted. What did you think? Did Versaille live up to expectations? Or did you, as so many critics have, grow weary and disillusioned as it progressed? For a show heavily trailed on its daring nudity, sex and violence, it had very little of any, especially in later episodes. And as a serious depiction of the time and politics it was, to be fair, fairly laughable.
But it was fun and, as long as you took it as it was intended, a breezy way to spend an hour a week. Not for nothing has it garnered the highest viewing figures in France of any domestic show ever and the decision to make it in English, despite being a French production, seems to have paid off; Season 2 has just finished filming. Vive la France indeed.