The aftermath of a real-life tragedy turns the lives of three women upside-down in this French period series.
In 1897, at the Bazar de la Charité, an annual charity event organized by the French Catholic aristocracy in Paris, there was a fire. A big one. It killed over a hundred people, many of them aristocratic women, and forms the basis for The Bonfire of Destiny (Netflix), a new eight-episode historical series which chronicles the lives of three women, Alice de Jeansin (Camille Lou), her maid Rose (Julie de Bona), and Adrienne de Lenverpré (Audrey Fleurot), whose lives are upended in the aftermath of the tragedy.
The first episode of The Bonfire of Destiny is devoted almost entirely to the calamity, an attention-grabbing shock-and-awe opener that briefly introduces the very different protagonists and then the disaster that will come to define their lives. From there the series moves into a more layered story of personal relationships, betrayals, ambitions, turmoils, and romances. There’s a distinctly feminine slant to the story and a class-conscious thematic undercurrent as the show maneuvers between the bourgeoisie and the working classes. It might be a bit heavy for Boxing Day viewing, but since Netflix has elected to dump the entire season on the platform today, the expectation must be that the first episode will do the necessary legwork in attracting an audience. A well-made drama awaits those who stick around, but one can’t help but feel that, given the release date, the likelihood is lessened. Perhaps a long post-Christmas weekend will be favorable to it.