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Series / The Scarlet Pimpernel

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The Scarlet Pimpernel is a 1999 TV series loosely based on the series of adventure novels by Baroness Orczy. It stars Richard E. Grant as Sir Percy Blakeney, who rescues aristocrats from the French Revolution under the guise of the Scarlet Pimpernel. Elizabeth McGovern co-stars as Lady Blakeney and Martin Shaw as Chauvelin.

Ran for two series, of 3 episodes each.

Series 1

  • "The Scarlet Pimpernel"
  • "Valentine Gaultier"
  • "The Kidnapped King"

Series 2

  • "Ennui"
  • "Friends and Enemies"
  • "A Good Name"

In addition to tropes inherited from the novels, this series provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Dye-Job:
    • Dark-haired Richard E. Grant as the blond Sir Percy.
    • The novels emphasize Lady Blakeney's reddish gold hair, but she's played by brunette Elizabeth McGovern in this adaptation.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Chauvelin's first name is now Paul.
  • The Baroness: Gabrielle Damiens, aka Madamoiselle Guillotine
  • Bathtub Scene: Tony Dewhurst has a bath in public, with several girls washing him. He's a bit ashamed, and comments from the others suggest this might have led to an off-screen Shower of Love—and the loss of his virginity.
  • Canon Foreigner: As this is a loose adaptation of the books, quite a few characters are this, including members of the League.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Suzanne de Tournay and Andrew Ffoulkes do not appear in series two; Andrew's role as Percy's lancer is passed onto an original character, Sir William Wetherby.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Used on a member of the League to get him to reveal the Pimpernel's identity. It doesn't work.
    • Fr Joseph is subjected to torture by Madamoiselle Guillotine in an attempt to get information on the royalist rebel army in the Vendée.
  • Darker and Edgier: A lot more sex, gore, and grime than the original.
  • Death by Adaptation:
    • Tony Dewhurst is killed in the first episode despite being a major character throughout most of the books.
    • At the beginning of the second series, it is revealed that Marguerite has died giving birth to Percy's daughter.
  • Dies Wide Open: A member of the League, after being tortured by the Chauvelin's men. The Pimpernel does the obligatory eye-closing thing.
  • Fake Defector: Marguerite affects this in 'The Kidnapped King', staging a public estrangement from Sir Percy in order to return to France and get back into Chauvelin's confidence to inform for the League.
  • Honey Trap: Minette Roland, an actress who has been seducing members of the League of Scarlet Pimpernel in order to gather intelligence for Chauvelin.
  • Ikea Weaponry: The Pimpernel has a dagger assembled from three pieces that fit into secret compartments in his boot.
  • It Will Never Catch On:
    • The Pimpernel, an avid cricket player, delivers a bomb to a hard-to-reach area in the modern overarm manner. A companion suggests he should try that in his cricket games as a variant to the traditional underarm bowling. He says it'll never catch on. Either method of delivery was perfectly acceptable (although underarm was phased out in the late 19th century) until the 1980s, when underarm bowling was banned.
    • In the same episode, Percy hires a young unknown painter, Joseph Turner, to paint a landscape of his house and the surrounding gardens. Percy's friends are skeptical by the finished product, but Percy himself loves it and assures Turner that he's going to go places. This is Truth in Television; landscapes were relatively uncommon and it was in a large part Turner's work which elevated their status.
  • Kick the Dog: Chauvelin shoots the already badly injured Tony Dewhurst to finish him off. It's not a Mercy Kill because of the likely fatal wound that he already has, it seems to be out of nothing but pure spite and anger that he wasn't able to catch Percy.
  • Kill the Cutie:
    • Killing off the cute and endearing Tony Dewhurst in the very first episode? That's just cruel.
    • Helene de Rochambeau in "Valentine Gaultier". Shortly after she sees her lover Henri mortally wounded, she runs out to him, only to be shot herself.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: Not with the series so much, but with the original novel with regards to the Pimpernel's identity; from the start there's no attempt to conceal the fact that Sir Percy Blakeney is the Pimpernel.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father:
    • In 'Valentine Gaultier', Chaveulin is revealed to be the biological father of Helene de Rochambeau.
    • Subverted in 'A Good Name'. Robspierre is revealed to be Claudette's father, though she is not aware of this and the characters that are decide not to reveal it to her.
  • The Mole:
    • In the first episode of the first season, Minette Roland informs on the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel for Chauvelin.
    • In the first episode of the second season, Arturo Mazarini is revealed as a traitor.
  • Neck Snap: The Pimpernel kills a guard this way during a prison break.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Resulting in nothing more than a smear of blood on the wall.
  • Shirtless Scene: Several, including a particularly gratuitous one for Jamie Bamber (in the abovementioned Bathtub Scene).
  • Speech Impediment: Tony Dewhurst gains a stammer.
  • Super Window Jump: The Pimpernel escapes from a café in Paris through a closed window.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: La Touraine
  • Throwing the Distraction: Used by the Pimpernel during a prison break.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Marguerite, when she's about to be executed.
  • Tricked-Out Shoes: The Pimpernel's boot with the secret compartments in the lining and heel.
  • Wall Slump: Tony Dewhurst dies this way. He's shot and badly wounded, but he manages to stand up, and he leans on a wall. Chauvelin shoots him later in the head. He just slumps down, and ends up half-sitting, half-lying and dead for good.