STOP WHATEVER YOU’RE DOING AND WATCH THIS ONE. Le Bazar de la Charité is the best thing I have seen in a while. (I say that a lot, but somehow it always happens to be true??) But seriously, guys, this one is amazing. Now, that said, it is really hard to watch in parts, so go into it prepared, but it’s seriously worth it. It’s a historical costume drama set at the end of the nineteenth century, but this is definitely a show for everyone. It’s on Netflix as Bonfire of Destiny in most places, I think.
The miniseries follows the lives of three women affected by the (historical event) fire at the Bazar de la Charité in 1897. It was a horrible accident that killed over 120 people. It’s so heartbreaking. I read a bit of the case after watching episode one and learned that it was one of the first instances where dental records were used in forensics. I had no idea. My heart just breaks for all the victims.
The characters in the show are Adrienne de Lenverpré (played by Audrey Fleurot), Rose Rivière (played by Julie de Bona), Alice de Jeansin (played by Camille Lou), Victor Minville (played by Victor Meutelet), Jean Rivière (played by Aurélien Wiik) and Marc-Antoine de Lenverpré (played by Gilbert Melki). So basically, three women and the men in their lives. There’s a good number of background characters as well, and it’s wonderful how much character development they all get. But, back to the main ladies, Adrienne is trying to leave her husband Marc-Antoine, because he’s an absolute psycho; Alice is planning to marry Julien, a really, really rich man; and Rose, who’s Alice’s best friend, is married to the wonderful, lovely, fabulous Jean, and they’re planning on moving to New York. Now, here cometh the spoilers, ye have been warned.
The day of the fire, Adrienne was planning on leaving Marc-Antoine and running away with her daughter. She’s been sleeping with Hugues Chaville in secret and hates her husband (which is good, because he’s the worst). Marc-Antoine figures it out, unfortunately, and sends Adrienne’s daughter off to boarding school and then tells Adrienne that if she doesn’t stop the divorce proceedings, she’ll never see her daughter again. (Like I said, the worst.) He then sends Adrienne off to the bazaar and tells her to act normally. Instead, she gets into a carriage with Hugues and disappears. (I cheered.)
At the same time, Alice is trying to figure out how to tell Rose that she and Jean are heading off to New York. Jean leaves her at the bazaar so that she can talk to Rose about it. He then leaves. Inside, Alice and Rose bump into Victor. Well, for Alice it’s literal. Victor picks her pocket easily, but then hands the bracelet back, calling her ‘your highness’ and clearly flirting with her. She calls him a cad. THEIR CHEMISTRY, GUYS.
The fire starts soon after the bazaar opens and soon it’s engulfed the whole warehouse, which has only one exit with a rotating door. I’m warning you now, guys, this scene is horrible. Heartbreakingly, devastatingly horrible. A lot of people die in the fire and the scene is hard to watch.
In the chaos, Julien leaves Alice behind and pushes Rose into the flames. He gets out. Alice witnesses the whole thing. Victor, who had been outside, decides to be an absolute hero and begins bashing in through the wall of the warehouse, trying to make a hole to get the rest of them out. He manages it. VICTOR IS A WALL SMASHING PRINCE AND MY PERSONAL HERO, OKAY? He gets the firefighters into the warehouse and manages to save Alice. He then doubles back to save more. GUYS.
Outside, Adrienne returns to the warehouse with Hugues and decides to use the moment to fake her death and escape from her abusive husband.
After the fire, Hugues takes her in and she pushes him to help her get her daughter back. Alice, meanwhile, refuses to forgive her fiancé for leaving her to die and, you know, shoving her best friend into the fire (I HATE HIM SO MUCH). She tells her father what happened, but instead of being a good person about it, he tells Alice she has to marry Julien because they’re going to be broke and Julien is rich. (Lovely. /s) Alice isn’t remotely amused and starts meeting up with Victor in secret. And Rose, the poor thing, wakes up in hospital badly burned. When it was revealed that she lived, I straight up started crying. Rose begs a women to get her husband, but instead, the woman takes her home and pretends she’s Odette, the women’s daughter. (Don’t get me started.) The woman, Madame Huchon (played by Josiane Balasko), forces Rose to stay and threatens to lock her up if she tells anyone with the truth. Huchon wants Rose to pretend to be Odette and raise Tomas, Odette’s son. (Messed up doesn’t cover it.)
What follows are probably some of the most anxiety-inducing episodes I have seen on television in a while. It’s only eight episodes long and I binged it. It also has a really, really satisfying ending. (I promise!) The characters are so wonderfully done and all the women are just amazing and the romances are on point! Victor and Alice’s chemistry is off the CHARTS; Adrienne and Hugues work together so well trying to save Camille, the daughter; and Jean and Rose are just so precious. There’s also a great mystery to the whole thing that involves a lot of the background characters and just adds an extra layer of intensity to it all. Célestin Hennion (played by Stéphane Guillon), who’s helping Victor and starts investigating Adrienne’s death, is another wonderful character.
I 100% recommend this to everyone! But most especially if you love romance, history and drama all tangled together with a dash of politics and mystery. Oh, and of course, forbidden love!