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Franklin (Apple TV+) Episode 4 Review 

Benjamin Franklin stands in the middle of a crowd wearing a blue uniform in episode 4 of Franklin

With higher stakes, episode 4  of Franklin goes to the heart of 18th-century politics as an exciting continuation to the Apple TV+ show. 

In the latest episode of Franklin, the titular character is introduced to an enthusiastic French audience as“the man who discovered electricity and has now electrified two continents.” And in episode 4, we see the politics of the two continents, and Franklin himself as the ambassador and mediator between the two countries, take centre stage in the plot of the show. This week’s episode once again shines a light on Franklin as a man and as a politician at the centre of unprecedented tension in France as the American Revolution reaches a new stage across the ocean.

Episode 4 of Franklin sees Benjamin Franklin (Michael Douglas, of Avengers: Endgame) continue on his mission to gain the favour of King Louis XVI for the American cause. As he gains an audience with the king and his wife, Marie Antoinette (Maria Dragus, of R.M.N.), fortune seems to be turning around for Franklin, but is it really? The scheming of his enemies across France and the betrayal by a close friend may suggest otherwise. The unexpected arrival of a familiar face from abroad, John Adams (Eddie Marsan, of Fair Play), may also not be as good of a sign as Franklin would hope. 

The opening scene starts us on the right foot with a fast-paced sequence that immediately delivers the stakes of the episode. In fact, episode 4 is the best-paced one yet. Now that the audience has seen its introductory premiere where all the necessary historical context is conveyed, Franklin can freely delve into the conflict and actual storyline of the series. Contrary to the previous episodes of the show, the show’s stakes become a lot more personal as the conflict starts involving Frankin, and the people around him, on a personal level other than the fate of the American colonies. 

The use of language in Franklin is also very interesting. Unlike many other American television shows set in France, this one has their French characters speak French to each other in private conversations, which is quite refreshing to see. Both Temple and Franklin also attempt to speak French, with varying degrees of success: this is a nice addition as it shows the different cultures our protagonists find once they move to France. Of course, as we see in episode 4, English is still widely spoken in the show. I particularly see the minimal and yet significant differences in the accent, choice of words, and inflexion in the language in the way British and American characters speak English. 

Marie Antoinette sits on a couch in episode 4 of Franklin
Jeanne Balibar in episode 4 of Franklin (Courtesy of Apple TV)

Episode 4 also introduces the audience to another Founding Father – and future president – of the United States: John Adams. The introduction of this character in Franklin is particularly fascinating. Despite only having one scene and barely one line of dialogue, it is already clear that he will stand in stark contrast with Franklin, despite the two being on the same side. It also seems that his character is setting up the conflict for the second half of the season. And, given such an impactful interaction, it is safe to probably safe to say that Adams will be a major player in future episodes, which I am excited to see. 

Much like in the season premiere, Episode 4 of Franklin also features impressive directing. I especially liked the lighting of this episode which manages to look both dramatic and natural at once. On one hand, the show gives us the impression that the light is always coming from visible sources, like candles or big windows. On the other, the lighting gives dramatic effects and also serves to draw our attention to Franklin who is often the visual and narrative centre of many of the scenes he is in. This is evident in the final scene which surprises us, and the characters, with fireworks that light up the scene and the main character at the same time, creating a beautiful visual effect.

However, given the prominent role of women characters, I wish Franklin featured a commentary on the role of women in 18th-century France. Instead, as proven by episode 4, the female characters seem constantly relegated to being love interests rather than fully-fledged characters with their own interests and personalities. If looked at more closely and given more attention, they could be interesting characters to explore and even drive the plot forward rather than simply appearing when the male characters need them. 

This is also true for the monarchy, which could have had a bigger role in this episode, especially as Franklin is trying to gain the favour of the king so desperately. They are also two of the most iconic and memorable characters culturally, given the many films made on Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, and their historical relevance. In episode 4, Franklin meets the king and queen of characters. However, they only appear briefly and insignificantly as the audience learns nothing about them. I would have loved to see more of that: after all, as many of the viewers will know, France will soon follow suit with its very own revolution against the monarchy. 

Episode 4 marks the halfway point of the season, which is often a critical one for limited miniseries: the plot, conflict, and characters have been introduced already, but it is too early to resolve any major conflict yet. If the midseason point was a test, then Franklin passes it with flying colours as this week’s episodemay be the best one yet, despite some smaller issues that the show might resolve in the coming weeks. This, and the introduction of a new significant player in the show’s plot, makes me very hopeful for the second half of the season.  

Watch on Apple TV

Episode 4 of Franklin is now available to watch on AppleTV+. Read our review of episode 5 of Franklin!

Franklin (Apple TV+) Episode 5 Review  – Loud And Clear Reviews
In episode 5, Apple TV+ show Franklin repeats its tried and tested formula, but is it enough to win audiences over once again?
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