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Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Musketeers: Through A Glass Darkly

This week on The Musketeers: Two-Face hosts Die Hard in a planetarium!
As with last week, a fairly predictable story is held up by the dynamics of the characters.  I mean, you can't go wrong with a hostage crisis. Who will crack under pressure? Who will prove themselves a hero? How will they all escape? And did anyone else think Constance and Queen Anne were totally going to make out when they were reunited?

After last week's sojourn in the countryside, it was a bit of a jolt to return to the palace for court-related shenanigans. On the plus side, this means the girls are back. On the other hand, so are King Louis and Rochefort, the latter of whom I've decided to dub this show's very own Agravaine.  
(For those not in the know, Agravaine was a villain in the fourth season of Merlin who wore black, sulked in corners, glared at everyone, and was 100% trusted by the royal family. No one in that fandom liked him either).
It starts on a rather fun note, with three out of four Musketeers rolling up and staring mournfully at three particular women in Louis's court. After a careful pageant of reactions from everyone, Athos mutters "screw this" and buggers off. I laugh for a solid ten minutes.
Athos out.
It turns out the court is headed off on a field trip to a planetarium to see something or other, and for some reason Milady and the Dauphin are brought along with them (okay, I suppose it wasn't that strange to have court mistresses rubbing shoulders with long-suffering wives, but I still don't understand why they dragged along an infant).
Once there, it's soon apparent that the astrologer Marmion is up to something – not least because his guards are inexplicably wearing plague masks. Seriously, what was up with that? Surely the court would have taken one look at them, assumed there were sick people inside, and high-tailed it out of there. Later we find out that Marmion's family was killed by the plague, so presumably these masks were some sort of symbolic gesture, but again – surely this would have disconcerted the guests they were trying to lull into a sense of security.
Listen to your instincts, Porthos!
Personally, I get the feeling someone behind-the-scenes just really liked their creepy aesthetic, though that doesn't change the fact their presence makes no sense. Think it through, show!
Just as everyone is getting comfortable, Marmion springs his trap. Much like a wannabe Jigsaw, Marmion separates everyone, ties up others, pushes Aramis out a window, and treats the King to a game of "chose a number and I'll kill all the people in that particular room."
To be frank, it all gets a little tedious, not least because we KNOW the characters that feature in the opening credits are going to pull through (and I wasn't even that worried for Marguerite considering the writers are clearly saving her up for something). Assorted courtiers who we've never met before are duly slaughtered, and the core actors put on a good show of getting increasingly frazzled and desperate, but for the most part Milady hit the nail on the head when she tells Marmion: "I would rather be dead than listen to your endless babble for one more minute."
She wins a coin toss which allows her to go free (random dude who goes next is inevitably not so lucky), while the Queen, Dauphine and Marguerite are shuffled into another room, Porthos and Rochefort are sent downstairs, and D'artagnan and Constance are tied together and given front row seats to the ensuing drama. Oh, and like I said – Aramis is tipped out a window.
In a nice touch, it takes a group of men to restrain Porthos and only one to manage Rochefort, and the two of them are left chained to a pillar and forced to work together to escape. By the time Rochefort has shared his pitiful fantasies about the Queen (the guy seriously thinks he has a shot with her), Porthos is perfectly willing to get his shoulder dislocated in the bid to get free.
But the REAL interest lies in what Milady does next. She grabs a horse. She gallops back to the garrison. She tells Treville and Athos what's going on. She insists on returning to the planetarium with them. She kills at least two of Marmion's men, saving Athos's life in the process.
Between the sass and the ass-kicking, she was on fire tonight, and I think my favourite moment would have to be her "get the hell outta my way" attitude on returning to the Musketeers garrison, and grabbing a chicken leg from a gawking teenager on her way up the stairs. The chicken leg just MADE the scene.
"I'm here to kick ass and eat chicken. And I'm nearly out of chicken."
As an added bonus, we get to see Athos helping her onto her horse – and never before has horse-mounting been filled with so much embittered sexual tension.



From there, Marmion continues his best Two-Face impression: flipping coins, shooting guest stars, unloading his tragic backstory, until even his brother is sick to death of the endless pontificating. Constance gets a chance to pull the "what would your dead family think of you now?" card, though it doesn't much good. Does it ever?
By the time the hostages look like they'd prefer getting shot to listening to Marmion going on for one more second, D'artagnan makes a last stall for time, offering his life in exchange for Constance, and Marmion's brother decides to take the bullet. Does this shut him up?
Nope!
It takes the swat team of reunited Musketeers + Milady to finally take him down. And disappointingly, this is where the episode really loses its way. Once again, Rochefort gets to play the hero, while the Musketeers once again screw up in the eyes of the King and are forced to endure another of his tantrums. Would it have been so hard to let them have a win? Or for Rochefort to scramble just a little? It's probably leading up to a total vindication of our boys by the end of the season, but the wait is excruciating. And predictable.
To rub salt in the wound, Louis also kicks Milady out of her quarters before she really got a chance to enjoy them (or for me to enjoy Anne and Constance death-glaring her every chance they got). And I was sure there'd be more of a battle-of-wits between her and Rochefort.
Miscellaneous Observations:
I grudgingly concede that D'artagnan and Constance are cute again. I suppose his commendation of her as the bravest woman he knows is meant to directly make up for his "coward" comment in the premiere, so it's time for me to let that go.
However, I have a new candidate for my shit list. Aramis: what, what, WHAT are you doing?? I mean honestly, seducing a woman to get close to your infant son (and by doing so, endangering both him AND his mother) is one thing, but Aramis's total disregard of Marguerite was borderline character assassination. Prioritizing the Queen and Dauphin? Sure. But completely ignoring a woman that you do in fact claim to care about in such a blatantly hurtful way?
"Excuse me, dickhead coming through."

Total ass. And that's not who Aramis is.
Another problem is that Marguerite is a blank slate. I find it incredibly strange that though the show is great with its leading ladies, and manages to craft three-dimensional female characters in very short spans of time, she remains utterly bland. We learnt plenty about Emilie, Samara and Catherine in just one episode – so how come we've got nothing on a recurring guest star?
It smacks of a plot device, and I really hope it doesn't end with her betraying the Queen out of spite. Here it looked as though she was beginning to figure things out, and Rochefort already has his claws in her.  
Howard Charles has been criminally underused this season (he didn't even get to remind us of his impending father plot), but Porthos remains the King of Facial Expressions. My particular favourite for this week is his quiet bemusement at the court love triangles unfolding before him:
Porthos ponders the joys of being single.
So if Treville has been demoted, who exactly is the current captain of the Musketeers?
Constance gets a chance to play the Scarecrow (my mind immediately went to the scene in The Wizard of Oz when the Scarecrow's eyes follow the rope holding the chandelier in place) and follow it up with a great Princess Leia moment:
I like that they give the women these little scenes, and Milady got one too when she shot the man attacking Athos.
I guess Athos telling Aramis to "come straight back" after securing the Queen's safety was funny, but again – was Aramis really going to ditch his friends for a quickie with the Queen?
Much better was Athos's "it'll be safe [if you wait here]" to Milady.
Funny how all their scenes look like love scenes,
regardless of what they're actually doing.
If there's something that's been missing for a while, it's the camaraderie between the Musketeers, for now each one has a subplot with a handful of other characters that has little to do with each other (as opposed to last season's singular storylines that required teamwork). Even their reunion here was just a scattering of meaningful looks and those short little nods men do when they're trying not to be too emotional. It's a shame, as the thing I liked most about these guys is that there was no real taboo against body contact – group hugs, back clapping, fist-bumping, neck clasping... where's it all gone?
But if it's any consolation, Constance and Queen Anne are more than making up for any reticence between the boys:

As I said last night – these actresses are aware their love interests are D'artagnan and Aramis, right?
Next week: Perdita Weeks. That's my cue to head to IMDB and figure out why her name/face is so familiar.

4 comments:

  1. Not just Die Hard, but Sophie's Choice as well.
    I'm not sure why they feel the need to keep putting the King in a position where he might learn something, but then doesn't. I know in the books (as well as real life) he was a real tyrant, but then from what I understand he also had repressed homosexual tendencies, so they're not totally faithful to history.
    Also there is no real logical reason for the King to congratulate Rochefort for the rescue. Unfortunately it seems to becoming a trend in scriptwriting to have the characters do things "because the script says so, not because of any character logic - yes, looking at you Broadchurch, Fortitude AND How to get away with murder!)

    All that said. Milady is magnificent! (and Aramis is a dick, he really should beware of a woman scorned)

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    1. Unfortunately it seems to becoming a trend in scriptwriting to have the characters do things "because the script says so, not because of any character logic

      Yeah, I can handle it a couple of times if they need to hurry things along or are short of time; but this is a pattern that's been going on for a while now and it's getting rather aggravating. Perhaps it's meant to make the Musketeers' vindication at the end all the sweeter ....?

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  2. I know Perdita Weeks as Mary Boleyn in The Tudors (her parents apparently had a thing for odd names; her brother Rollo was in Stephen Poliakoff's The Lost Prince with Miranda Richardson back in 2003 (one of my all-time favourite miniseries), and her sister Honeysuckle is Sam in Foyle's War).

    The Agravaine comparison is especially apt as it's another waste of a really solid actor (although this is not the first time Marc Warren has played a total dud of a character). I was hoping for more from Rochefort, quite frankly. He has the same motive as Agravaine too, although at least we didn't have to go to the deleted scenes to find this one.

    Given how great she's been handled all this season, I have hopes that this means something more for Milady. She is probably my favourite character at the moment. It's a pity what they're doing to Louis; I thought they struck a fine balance with him in S1 and they're ruining it all now with this Pendragon-esque "Well done, Obvious Traitor, for not really doing anything but I feel like it MUST have been you that saved the day". I mean, why was he upset with the Musketeers in this one? Not to mention Milady; his reaction to her pretty much killed any residual liking I had for his character.

    Minor pedantic nitpicks: Porthos' actor is called Howard Charles, not Charles Howard. And "Dauphine" is the title of the wife of the Dauphin.

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    1. I know Perdita Weeks as Mary Boleyn in The Tudors

      I looked her up, and it was actually an Inspector Lewis episode I knew her from! Honeysuckle Weeks also rings a bell (poor girl!)

      The Agravaine comparison is especially apt as it's another waste of a really solid actor (although this is not the first time Marc Warren has played a total dud of a character). I was hoping for more from Rochefort, quite frankly. He has the same motive as Agravaine too, although at least we didn't have to go to the deleted scenes to find this one.

      I'm hoping they'll establish a "bad guy rota basis" by killing off one each season and introducing a new one. Capaldi started the trend, fingers crossed they'll continue with it.

      Minor pedantic nitpicks: Porthos' actor is called Howard Charles

      Oh crap, I've been calling him Charles Howard all this time!

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