TV Review: Versailles (Season 2, Episode 7)
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Off the battlefield and into the boardroom, King Louis (George Blagden) and William of Orange (George Webster) face each other in the only way that truly matters, that of words, will and wisdom.
The two have been circling around each other ever since the first season, fighting wars, hiring spies and generally seeking to overthrow each other’s kingdoms, yet it is only now that things truly become interesting.
In previous episodes, we have seen the two men at opposite ends of battlefields or separated by seas, discussing each other but otherwise seeming utterly separate and disconnected from one another. At last, with only a table between them, viewers can see how the two great monarchs actually feel about each other.
Moreover, we can see the different aspects of power and authority that each king has, ultimately witnessing Versailles challenge the very idea that there is a better king. Instead there are two men, both different and yet similar, who must carry the burden of power alone. While Louis entered a broken man, slowly crumbling under the pressure of being monarch, he leaves rejuvenated, miraculously freed from fear and sin.
Meanwhile at Versailles, the courtiers must face the consequences of previous indiscretions, as an inquiry is held into the death of Colbert’s (Steve Cumyn) niece. Yet things are not as simple as they seem, as personal agendas and issues between characters turn the palace into a battlefield much like the one in which we leave the King.
Madame de Montespan (Anna Brewster) seems particularly perturbed, fearing displacement from her position of honour in court and seeing enemies all around. This is made worse by Louis’s absence, as without his protection she must face the full fury of the Queen. Though Marie-Thérèse (Elisa Lasowski) is honourable she is certainly no fool, doing all that she can to take advantage of Madame de Montespan’s weakened position. Enemies since the beginning of the season, it seems these women are headed towards their own battlefield, on which their position in court and way of life will undoubtedly be staked.
While things remain tense for many of the characters in Versailles this week, the relationship between Philippe (Alexander Vlahos) and the Princess Palatine (Jessica Clark) continues to improve. Even those who loved Henriette (Noémie Schmidt) are unable to begrudge Philippe and his new wife their happier marriage. Despite Philippe’s sexuality remaining a problem for the union, specifically the production of a child born from the marriage, the two are undoubtedly better suited for each other. The Princess Palatine and Philippe engage in a far more open and caring relationship, appearing comfortable with each other and fond of the other's company. Moreover, Philippe and the princess have more success with sex than Henriette and Philippe, allowing more intimacy into their relationship.
While fans of the couple will delight in this episode, those invested in the relationship between Philippe and the Chevalier (Evan Williams) will find no such joy. Indeed, the beloved relationship between Philippe and the Chevalier has been worsening for most of the season. As Philippe’s relationship with his wife improves, it stands to reason his relationship with his lover will deteriorate, suggesting that fans of the couple may face yet more suffering to come.
As always, George Blagden (Louis) and Alexander Vlahos (Philippe) give excellent performances, further developing their parts to create complicated and vulnerable characters that we can’t help but love. Other incredible talents include Evan Williams (the Chevalier), George Webster (William of Orange) and Jessica Clark (Princess Palatine), who all offer stunning performances. Evan Williams and Jessica Clark particularly stand out for their emotional performances, as both portray characters struggling in a love triangle, neither able to accept nor hate one another. Meanwhile, George Webster gave an intriguing and convincing performance as William of Orange. With both fascination and jealousy in the air, the dynamic between Louis and William is highly entertaining to watch.
The seventh episode succeeds in balancing politics and intrigue with pace. The episode is not particularly action packed, but it never feels boring either. Instead, audiences are gripped by the many intricacies and complications within Versailles, as the web producers have been spinning all season starts to come into vision.
Versailles airs on Fridays at 9.30pm on BBC Two.