Much like La Casa De Papel being renamed Money Heist, the streaming giants strike again but this time it’s French series Le Bazar De Charite (literal translation Charity Bazaar) ]renamed to The Bonfire of Destiny. Despite the initial name change, the French series is unchanged in pretty much every other way and that’s just as well; the first episode gets off to a great start. With an imminent sense of doom and a well-paced action-packed second half, Le Bazar De Charite sets the foundations nicely for the season to follow.
We begin three hours before the tragic fire that took the lives of 120 people. Adrienne helps her daughter Camille until she’s taken away from her. As Adrienne screams for her daughter, watching her ride off in a horse-drawn carriage, her husband Marc-Antoine vows to never let her leave him.
Meanwhile a maid called Rose prepares to leave with her lover Jean; there’s a boat waiting for them, ready to depart in a week. Before she does however, she makes it to the Charity Bazaar and attempts to speak to Alice about leaving. Unable to find the right time, Alice instead buys her maid a model boat. As Adrienne arrives at the event, we learn she’s related to Alice.
Sneaking out the back, Adrienne manages to leave but with everyone else distracted inside, the roaring fire begins, engulfing the cinematograph and prompting the helpers to start pouring buckets of water on it to try and extinguish the flames. Rose holds Thomas in her arms and heads outside, where she leaves the young boy with his boat before rushing back inside to save the others before it’s too late.
Screams pierce the tranquility and a wave of panic grips the room. People swarm the revolving doors but the slow trickle leaving is nothing compared to the speed of the fire spreading. It’s chaotic, men beat down women with sticks and in the midst of all this, Thomas’ Mum Odette is trampled to death. As the roof looks close to caving and the one way out is jammed shut, the surviving group huddle together while outside, firemen arrive and rally the troops.
Through a series of tense segments that see the small group screaming for help, the firemen manage to get in through a segment of sledgehammered wall, extinguishing enough of the fire to save everyone. Alice falls and as she does Julien pushes Rose into the flames, saving himself and refusing to go back. Rose does manage to get out though, despite the horrible burns she’s clearly suffering from, while Alice collapses to the floor and screams for help. Unfortunately it’s too late and the firemen leave. Thankfully one man, Victor, breaks in and manages to save her from the flames.
Leading her to safety, Victor hurries outside and tries to help the wounded as the flames roar and hungrily eat up the rest of the wooden structure. In the morning, Adrienne makes a decision regarding her life, realizing that if she pretends to be dead, she’ll be able to start anew where we leave the episode hanging in the balance.
The first episode leaves things wide open going forward and I have to say, the production design on this one is top notch. French network TF1 have done a wonderful job with this, boasting authentic costumes, dialogue and slick cinematography throughout. Late on, the dolly movement across from the left to right of the burning room, swooping over the survivors and round to the firemen in one shot is arguably the highlight of this and really typifies the quality on display.
I’m very intrigued to see what direction this one goes next and with plenty of romance and drama on the horizon, Le Bazar De Charite sets the scene nicely for an absorbing period drama to follow.