Les Miserables

'Les Miserables' Episode 3 Recap: Castle on a Cloud

Valjean and Cosette (Photo: Courtesy of Laurence Cendrowicz / Lookout Point)

Previously on Les Miserables: Fantine exhibits terrible judgment by leaving her young daughter in the care of the Thenardiers, the trashiest and most selfish couple on Earth, while attempting to earn a living for them both. She ends up working for Valjean, who has somehow reinvented himself as some kind of successful businessman and politician in the six years since we last saw them, but she ultimately loses her job, her hair, and her front teeth, before becoming a sex worker, catching consumption and being forced to physically fight dudes in the street before winding up dying in a hospital. Elsewhere, Javert pops back up to tell the new Monseiur le Mayor that a man claiming to be former convict Jean Val Jean is arrested for robbing a child in a different town. Everything is terrible, basically, because that’s really the sort of story this is. Need more details? Our recap of Episode 2 is here.

The third episode of Les Miserables goes a long way toward humanizing the previously offputting and largely feral Jean Valjean. That it does this through the insertion of a small, charming child into his life is a trope and a half, but since it also means Dominic West gets to both talk to dolls and smile occasionally, it’s easy enough to deal with.

'Les Miserables' Episode 2 Recap: I Dreamed A Dream

Fantine and young Cosette (Photo: Courtesy of Robert Viglasky / Lookout Point)

Previously on Les Miserables: A new gritty version of Victor Hugo’s classic tale kicked off – by taking its time. The series first episode introduces us to Jean Valjean,  prisoner given 19 years hard time for stealing bread, and a starry-eyed young Parisian named Fantine, who wants more from life than the world her lower class status has promised her. Freed from prison, Valjean struggles to find work, as Fantine falls in love with Felix, a posh young man slumming it for the few years before the necessities of his social standing kick in. A kind priest buys Valjean’s salvation by gifting him candlesticks and silverware to start a new life, while Fantine is left abandoned, unmarried and with a young daughter to raise. Need more details? Our Episode 1 recap is here.

The thing about Les Miserables the musical is, despite the fact that it’s full of death and sadness, it’s been restructured as a story about hope. It’s full of songs about love, and hope, and the power of resistance to reshape the world into something better than we found it. Do you hear the people sing? and all that. That’s the version of this story that most of us know. Yes, Fantine dies. As does Enjolras. So do most of the boys at the barricades. But that’s okay, because everyone’s brought back together in the end, to sing a song of triumph. Their deaths meant something, stood for something greater than themselves, mattered. The sweeping tricolore promises freedom, hope and a new world for all, at the end.

The novel, Les Miserables, is not entirely like that, and this episode underscores that fact in spades. 

'Les Miserables' Episode 1 Recap: At the End of the Day

Valjean and Javert face off for the first of many times (Photo: Courtesy of Robert Viglasky / Lookout Point)

When news of a new Les Miserables adaptation broke last year, it’s doubtful that any of us immediately cheered. There are so many versions of this story out there, including an award-winning 2012 feature film with an all-star cast. We probably all assumed that if Hugo’s work still has anything interesting left to say, we’ve pretty much seen it already.

Well, Masterpiece is here to prove us all wrong about that. This sumptuous new BBC take on Les Mis feels like something entirely different from its very first episode, fueled by an unexpectedly gritty realism and an honest eye toward the real world these characters inhabit. 

New Stills From 'Les Miserables' are Here and They’re Gorgeous

Josh OConnor and Ellie Bamber as Marius and Cosette (Photo: Robert Viglasky/Lookout Point for BBC One and MASTERPIECE)

Another set of photos from the upcoming BBC and PBS’ Masterpiece adaptation of Les Miserables has arrived and, much like the first set, everyone looks incredible.

Victor Hugh’s epic novel will be brought to the screen by Andrew Davies, the man behind such period drama hits as Mr. Selfridge, War and Peace, Bleak House, the popular 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice and ITV’s splashy new take on Vanity Fair.