There’s heartbreak and no little horror as David Oyelowo’s relentless copper Javert steps up the hunt for Valjean

Spoiler alert: this recap is for people watching Les Misérables on the BBC. Please do not read on if you are not up to date.

“There is nothing regular about this villain.” Ah, Javert! The pain, the humiliation. When surely he must know deep inside that he is the one who is a bit irregular. An excellent outing, prolonging the to-ing and fro-ing between Jean Valjean (Dominic West) and Javert (David Oyelowo) as the action moved to Paris and the stakes were raised. Cosette is saved. But how long can she remain safe while Javert is on the warpath?

The net, inevitably, tightened around Valjean this week as Javert showed himself to be the most assiduous copper in the history of policing. Luckily, the fugitive papa and his blonder-by-the-second sidekick were able to hide with a convent of nuns imported from The Sound of Music, Nazi-evading narrative and all. (“Don’t rush to open the door, Reverend Mother!”) Phew.

Before all the drama in the final third, there was a lot of narrative to get through. This is a quality adaptation, but without the acting talent to carry it, I think it would feel heavy. West as Valjean is pretty much perfect. He’s menacing when he needs to be, pitiful at other points and bravely majestic at others. His face during the court scene at Arras when he faced his destiny … this was the bit where a man pretending not to be Valjean rode to the rescue of the man who was not Valjean, but everyone thought was Valjean. The noises of the crowd in the court were priceless, giving their “oohs” and “aahs” as the prisoners showed the marks that meant they knew the real Prisoner 24,601.

Of course, Fantine was great in her death throes. But this was another scene stolen by West’s heartbreaking portrayal of humility. It would be hard to find a more pathetic death scene, and there were tears in our household. I had to suppress a snort, though, at this hilariously insensitive line: “She’s dead and you’re my prisoner.” Javert misjudges the mood yet again. Read the room, Javert! She’s just died.

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