And the reckoning does come. Javert and Valjean meet again, this time in the sewers. Some pretty interesting things happen in the sewers. It’s also the re-meeting of Valjean and Thénardier.
First Thénardier, is scavenging dead men in the aftermath of the battle. Valjean has escaped with the severely wounded Marius into the sewers. He drops Marius so they can rest and Thénardier approaches to pick their pockets. He finds a ring on Marius and then moves on to Valjean. Thénardier recognizes Valjean before he departs. This is a key moment for the future.
Then Javert and Valjean meet. Valjean begs Javert for more time in order to get Marius to safety. If you’ll remember with me, when Valjean asked Javert for more time in order to rescue Fantine’s daughter, Javert refused. This time, however, he grants Valjean his request.
As much as we want to hope that Javert has changed, sadly he has not. As much as we want him to be free from his bondage to the law, he won’t be freed.
Javert’s final song before he dies rips your heart out. You want him to experience a new life the way Valjean did. You want Valjean to be the priest that brings Javert into a new world.
But things don’t always turn out happy in the end. Javert can’t bear to live in a world where mercy triumphs over justice. So he escapes from that world by drowning himself in the river.
Watch the following two clips in succession. They are written to the same tune, intending to parallel the experiences of Valjean and Javert. One is Valjean singing “What Have I Done?” after the priest has given him his freedom. The other is Javert’s struggle before his suicide. Their experiences are similar, yet with different outcomes. It’s such a realistic depiction of experience in life. Not everyone who tastes redemption will accept it. Not everyone offered mercy will embrace it. Not everyone is saved.