Catch up on the essential moments of Episode 2 to relive the drama or review the coincidences, characters, and crises of Les Misérables. Plus, see some of the episode’s filming locations, learn some real history, and find out which of the musical’s songs fit Episode 2’s action!
Episode 2 Recap: Everything you need to know
1. Fantine: You will take care of her, and love her like your own?
Abandoned and worn out, Fantine encounters a mother singing to and swinging her daughters. Impressed by the idyllic scene, Fantine decides to leave Cosette in the care of the woman, Madame Thenardier, and her innkeeper husband. Negotiations ensue and in no time flat the savvy Thenardiers have relieved naïve Fantine of her daughter and her savings.
2. Jean Valjean (as Monsieur Madeleine): Citizens of Montreuil, my friends, I thank you all for your trust in me.
Fantine happens upon an adoring crowd assembled to name and honor the new mayor of Montreuil, Monsieur Madeleine—actually Jean Valjean, who arrived in the town three years before, and has since become a hero and a “wise and generous” employer at his profitable and fair factory.
3. Fantine: I am alone in the world, sir.
Monsieur Madeleine questions Fantine about her family circumstances (husband, lover, children) in interviewing her for employment at his factory, stressing the importance of honesty. Nevertheless, Fantine lies about Cosette.
4. Madame Thenardier: I could do with a treat, Thenardier.
Fantine has sent the Thenardiers a little extra money from her earnings to buy Cosette treats. Little does she know that Cosette is suffering horrible abuse from her so-called caretakers, who now see an opportunity to extract more money from Fantine. They write back demanding higher rates.
5. Javert: You know, I’ve been thinking as we talked: you remind me of someone I used to know rather well at one time, who stole from a child and never paid for his crime.
Monsieur Madeleine (Jean Valjean) is introduced to Montreuil’s new Inspector of Police—none other than his old nemesis, Javert! Both are initially shocked, and both hide their recognition, as a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse commences, with Javert tormenting Valjean. But it’s not until he rescues a man from being crushed by a collapsed cart that Valjean knows for sure that Javert recognizes him. And it’s his distress about it that leads him to quickly dismiss Fantine when her lie about being alone in the world is revealed.
6. Fantine: I’ve sold my hair and my teeth. I might as well get on with it and sell the rest.
Before long, Fantine is penniless, thanks to the greedy Thenardiers. When they fabricate a serious illness afflicting Cosette and demand an exhorbitant amount of money for medicine, Fantine is desperate to save her daughter’s life. Out of options, she sells her hair and, with a gruesome extraction, her two front teeth. Still, the Thenardiers want more, and she resorts to prostitution to meet their cruel demands.
7. Jean Valjean: Perhaps it’s too late, but let me try to make amends. I will pay your debts and send for your child so that you can be together.
Fantine—ill, abused, humiliated, and arrested by Javert for assaulting a man who’d assaulted her—begs the unrelenting inspector for mercy. When Monsieur Madeleine is summoned for help, he realizes his own responsibility for Fantine’s downfall. He’d been prepared to run, but instead he vows to ease Fantine’s suffering by bringing Cosette to her.
8. Javert: Monsieur le Maire, the real Valjean has been found.
In a desperate gambit to close the noose on Valjean, Javert resigns, admitting that he’d denounced Madeleine as Valjean only to learn that the real Valjean has been caught, and is going to trial to be sentenced for life. With the twist of the knife, he tells Valjean where and when the trial is.
9. Jean Valjean: If I do nothing, I am safe. And if I go to Arras, I am done for.
Valjean struggles with his conscience. Will he send an innocent man to prison for life? Will he turn himself in and give up his freedom, to suffer the rest of his life and be treated like a beast? Plus, there’s the matter of bringing Cosette to Fantine…After he tasks the viscious Madame Victurnien with retrieving Cosette, we see him galloping at dawn down the road to Arras.
For Fans of the Musical
Here are the songs that match Episode 2’s action:
At the End of the Day: At the end of the day you’re another day older / And that’s all you can say for the life of the poor!
Master of the House Master of the house / Keeper of the zoo / Ready to relieve ’em / Of a sou or two!
I Dreamed a Dream: I dreamed a dream in time gone by / When hope was high and life, worth living.
Lovely Ladies: Lovely ladies, going for a song…
Real History: Qu’est-ce que c’est ?
What is a public letter writer?
Since most people in 19th century France couldn’t read or write, they employed public letter writers (or l’écrivain public), who worked from stalls lining the streets, as in Les Misérables. Writers for hire have been around in various incarnations since the scribes of antiquity, but with the rise of public primary education, the need has largely vanished in the 20th century.
What is a “hair and teeth dealer”?
The selling of hair was a common way for people in need to make ends meet in the 19th century, when human hair was used for wigs; hair jewelry, where it was braided into ropes and bracelets; and even for dolls. Throughout history—and even in the current day, with the popularity of hair extensions and wigs—the hair trade depends upon a gap in wealth and opportunity between sellers and buyers.
With dental care during the years of Les Misérables limited mainly to the extraction of infected teeth, a need for replacements existed, but readily available materials like wood, bone, ivory, and even animal teeth were poor substitutes. Human teeth were the best replacement, and the trade in them was so robust that teeth were frequently harvested from the dead. So many teeth were scavenged from the mouths of previously healthy soldiers killed on the battlefield at Waterloo that the term “Waterloo teeth” was coined for dentures made from human teeth. Still, there were many living people, like Fantine, who were desperate enough to sell their healthy teeth, usually without anesthetic, and at the risk of infection.
Episode 2 Locations
See where some of Episode 2’s scenes were filmed and get inside information about the real-life locations and the filming.