TV Review: Versailles (Season 2, Episode 5)
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Unable to recognise friend from foe, Louis is in a tailspin that threatens to destroy his entire reign if he cannot regain control. Frightened of threats he can’t even see, he seems more child than king in the fifth episode of Versailles.
In a dramatic twist, this week’s episode opened to Marchal (Tygh Runyan), Louis’ loyal friend and head of security, being fired. It seems that as Louis (George Blagden) continues to lose sleep and his war on poisons continues to fail, he will strike out and push away those that he should be keeping closest to him. Even Bontemps (Stuart Bowman) is not safe from his wrath, subjected to Louis' anger and frustration, winning our admiration by staying loyal throughout.
Meanwhile Madame de Montespan (Anna Brewster) continues to hold power over Louis, hanging determinedly onto the king even as he loses his mind. A poor lover indeed, she offers no true comfort to Louis, choosing instead to lead him further astray in the hopes of gaining greater control. However, there are clearly cracks forming in their relationship. Strained by the lies and the loss, the two seem tired and agitated. Where they were once wildly in love, they now seem tense and uncomfortable around each other, always having to work at being happy when it should come easily. One can only hope that the straw will finally break the camel’s back and Madame de Montespan will tumble down among those to whom she has been so cruel. It would certainly make the storyline more interesting and would offer unending entertainment to fans who dislike her.
In contrast, Philippe (Alexander Vlahos) and the Chevalier (Evan Williams) are as strong as they have been in previous weeks, with their bond outlasting their spats and jealousies. With war nearing, the two have been able to overcome the insecurities that plagued their relationship until now, however this is only a temporary reprieve and unless the two have an honest conversation, the fights will surely continue. While the relationship between the two is improved, the problems of each man remain. The Chevalier continues to be dependent on drugs, the disease he returned from Italy with continuing to cause pain and discomfort. Meanwhile Philippe still struggles with his new marriage and the newfound, tenuous peace between his brother and himself. Though better for now, the different pieces are so delicately balanced that it feels as though one breath could send it all crashing down.
While the firing of Marchal is both unfair and frustrating, it does allow for the bond between Marchal and Claudine (Lizzie Brocheré) to deepen further, as the two become very close. No longer needed at the king’s side searching for the traitor, Marchal is free to spend time with Claudine. This provides fans with the perfect opportunity to witness the impressive chemistry between the two. Though fans had seen glimpses of this blossoming relationship in previous episodes, this is the first time that the two characters spend a significant amount of time together. Therefore this is the first time their chemistry has been fully explored and a relationship between the two seems possible. While it is still early days and audience members have seen little of their relationship to date, the two do seem to be a good match and the love story is both charming and sweet. For two people who can be so harsh it is certainly refreshing to see them soften with each other, embracing vulnerability in order to get closer. Indeed if their relationship continues as it is now, this couple could soon be as popular as Philippe and the Chevalier.
The episode is undoubtedly slower and less interesting than previous episodes, however there is potential for it to pick up pace and once more intrigue viewers. The problem is that while the politics is interesting, the density of it and the slow pace of the episode leave fans bored. The politics would likely be more interesting if it was broken up into more dramatic scenes, making the show faster paced and more enticing. However the show is currently so focussed on setting the scene and educating audiences on the rough history of the era, that the intrigue fades away.
Instead audiences must concentrate even more just as their interest wanes. The producers will need to fix this quickly if they hope to keep their viewers dedicated and their ratings up.
Versailles airs on Fridays at 9.30pm on BBC Two. Watch the trailer below.