We end the Summer of Steven to return to, um….a heavily musically influenced episode about everyone in the cast having pain over their failed relationships. Wait.
Episode Specifics: No longer being engaged to Eugenie is the wake-up call he needed to realize his feelings for her truly had begun turning to romantic love, and he runs to the opera house to see her performance. He’s turned away at the door by Danglars, now a pariah thanks to the rumors about his father’s shady dealings (which, oh yeah, the Count totally spread), but Lucien is able to get him backstage to at least see part of the performance.
While he and Eugenie are able to confess their puppy love in a genuinely cute and awkward adolescent way, Andrea swoops in to have Albert thrown out and to nastily let Eugenie know that it wasn’t her talent that booked her the opera house performance, but his money (all of the people in the audience who aren’t named characters look like paper cutouts and it’s one of my favorite small touches). Albert, distraught at how easily overpowered he is, runs straight into the Count’s waiting arms, and when the two walk outside they find an arrest warrant waiting for the Count.
One of the most vivid and lovely images in this episode is of young Eugenie and Albert standing in front of the sunset and turning away from each other. The metaphor’s not hard to sniff out – it’s an ending, both of a phase in their lives and their relationship as they start to grow apart. An image that is then mimicked as Albert and Franz both visit and then walk away from the apartments where they spent time together as day becomes night, and then I start to cry a little bit. Staggered, repeating cycles are everywhere: Franz and Albert mimic growing apart just as Eugenie and Albert finally begin to close that gap again (against a sunrise reminiscent stage light; which is, um, also a false light); Albert begins awakening to the injustice of a world deliberately trying to shut him out just as Edmond did, only to then run smack into the Count. While the players are different, these stories perpetuate themselves, each barreling toward tragedy.
Character Spotlight: Here is what you need to know, at least for the moment, about Andrea: from the day he was born, he was trouble; he was the thorn in his mother’s side. She tried in vain, but he never gave her nothing but shame.
No but really, he’s painted as a full on bad seed. You’ll recall that in the novel Bertuccio rescued the baby as penance and left it with his sister. Well, the kid was a brat – adorable and strawberry-blond and well aware of his cuteness, stealing from an early age and hanging out with cutthroats by eleven. Bertuccio tries to talk him into taking up smuggling, to which Andrea (nee Benedetto) essentially replies “why the hell would I work for my money, my mom will give me some whenever I ask.”
Then Bertuccio goes off and is falsely accused for a while (as we discussed), and when he returns to see his sister….
“There had been a terrible drama, which the neighbours remember to this day. Benedetto had wanted my poor sister-in-law to give him all the money in the house and she, on my advice, had resisted his demands. [..] At eleven o’clock he came back with two of his friends, the usual companions of all his follies, and she held her arms out to him. But they seized her and one of the three – I fear it could have been that infernal child – shouted: ‘Let’s play at torture; she will soon confess where her money is.’”
And then they try to hold her feet to the fire, which catches her clothes on fire. They split, and she can’t get out of the burning wooden house because they’d locked the doors.
….SO. THAT’S WHAT WE’RE DEALING WITH HERE. Basically, the Count was so bent on revenge that he was perfectly happy to unleash a personification of chaotic evil onto Future Space Paris just so that it would help a few steps of his plan.
This is going to go particularly poorly for Eugenie.
Courtly Intrigue Update: The Count continues to be the best at JUST SO HAPPENING to be there at the moment when Albert has reached peak emotional distress; which is, presumably, part of his agreement with Andrea. It’s hard to say, since by all appearances the Count gives him money and a title and then just sort of winds him up and lets him go (we’re now officially on the precipice of when the anime starts doing its own thing).
Meanwhile, nobody is happy with their choice of partners, Albert and Franz are still fighting, Andrea is trying to slide his way into the Danglars house by becoming Eugenie’s fiancé, Fernand’s shady past has gotten him blackmailed (which is good news for Caderousse, since his book counterpart tried this on Andrea and got himself stabbed), and Villefort is revenge-crazed to the point of trying to have the Count arrested for poisoning Barois (and thus the attempted poisoning of Valentine).
Adaptation Corner: Seeing as this is an episode about music, it seemed like a good moment to take a break from chronologically looking at Monte Cristo adaptations and jump temporarily ahead to “the time it was a musical.” Because folks. FOLKS. This thing is a mess. A hot, beautiful mess. And I say that as someone who still thinks fondly of a couple songs from Lestat.
It’s more or less an adaptation of the streamlined 1934 version we discussed – so Valentine is Albert’s lover and the Count is very vaguely implied to be Albert’s pops while ultimately getting back together with Mercedes. Fair enough – Les Miserables only barely managed the task of turning a beloved brick-sized French novel into a musical, and it’s almost three hours long and completely sung. This is really not up to that challenge.
It’s a really guitar-heavy soundtrack that might arguably fit the melodrama of the original serialization, but is also kind of silly. The prologue unironically uses the Kyrie Eleison, y’all. Which. I guess this version of Dantes is ultimately redeemed, but the whole revenge plot kind of undermines a Christ allegory. Just a bit. I do not recall the part in the Passion where Jesus just rips his hands off the nails and comes down to beat Judas and Peter’s asses. And for the most part the romantic numbers are duds, that guitar backing pretty well sapping any real sense of breath and gentleness to let it come all the way down from the heights of intensity while also making most of the songs of that tambour blend together.
Fittingly enough for Gankutsuou though (to the point where I ever so slightly suspect influence), Edmond’s big declarative number that ends the first act, “I’ll Deliver Hell to Your Doorstep,” bears more than a few similarities to “You Won’t See Me Coming.” And while we’re talking about suspicious similarities, somebody on this particular project was a Sweeney Todd. There’s a duet between Albert and Edmond called “Ah, Women.” And yes, it is rather like that other not technically identically titled song.
Now, in fairness, there are a couple of gems in there. Said act one closer is certainly sung with panache – once again we have an Edmond clearly cast more for his ability to play the Count than the sailor – and Mercedes has a pretty good duet for the moment she recognized the Count. I personally made quite a few rounds on “A Story Told,” which contrives to put Villefort, Fernand, and Danglars all in the same room so they can sing a trio about their evil plots. What can I say, I’m a sucker for patter and a well-deployed violin (though there is a hilarious Look How Spanish bit of flare when Fernand sings about LOVE AND GLORY).
It’s also still running, by the by.
Themes: No one is happy, nobody talks, and everybody misses their connections. Alright, it’s a little more complex than that – this isn’t a Lars Von Trier film. But there is a consistent theme of broken links in the conversations going on throughout the episode: alienated relationships and unrequited loves reign supreme, and often one party winds up telling the other things they can’t internalize for themselves: Franz lies to Eugenie that no one can hide when they’re pining, Mercedes encourages her son to be better than her, and Peppo tells Albert to go after the person he cares for.
Even the Count, fully prepared to plunge Albert into the same hell he himself suffered, has grown attached in spite of himself. Eugenie claims she’s going to play for lovers, and yet lovers never meet here – Albert and Eugenie might be about to embark on something, swearing youthful devotion, but even they’re separated. As much as the music is dedicated to love – to hers, to love in general – it can’t penetrate the machinations rotting Paris from the inside out. And yet that sincere affection lives on in the youngest generation, a flame that can’t quite be snuffed out. Yet.