Last week I was left scouring the internet for any sign of this episode; turns out that it was delayed thanks to something-or-other taking its timeslot on British television (which was particularly confusing since this episode did air on BBC America, leading to plenty of GIF sets appearing on my dashboard without any sign of it on my usual torrent sites).
But anyway, here we are at this season's penultimate episode. You know, I really enjoy second-to-last episodes. If writers have done their job right, you can begin to see all the disparate threads of the season being drawn together for the big climax. You can be guaranteed a few "big moments" as they get everyone pumped up for the finale. And the funny thing is, even if the last episode does prove to be a disappointment, the one directly preceding it is all about building anticipation, which in some ways is more enjoyable than the payoff. For now, we're left with the possibility that anything could happen in the finale.
So after last week's closing scene, in which Rochefort attacks the Queen in her chambers and gets a well-deserved brooch pin to the eye, Constance immediately summons the Musketeers for backup. It's pretty awesome, because they're clearly not the King's Musketeers at this point, but the Queen's. She even says it herself: "My loyal Musketeers will escort me."
She's living the dream.
Of course, it's fairly ludicrous to suppose that Rochefort would have a leg to stand on at this early stage. Anne has a trustworthy eyewitness to the attack and the results of said attack on Rochefort's face. Even the Cardinal, who had something that resembled a father/son relationship with Louis, was reprimanded a few times when he overstepped the mark, and whose word clearly had no power whatsoever when it was up against the Queen's.
So for Rochefort to be wielding this amount of clout, even in the face of Louis's current Howard Hughes attitude (which was nowhere to be seen in this episode) is a bit much to swallow.
Still, at least he knew better than to outright accuse her of adultery at this point. Because no. Instead he conjures up the letter that Anne wrote to her brother back when Louis had been kidnapped; the one I had forgotten all about, so kudos for that call-back writers.
Demonstrating both Rochefort's infinite pettiness and Louis's ability to throw a hissy fit over anything, it stymies Anne's attempt to tell her husband about the assault.
So once again, King Louis decides to keep trusting THIS guy:
While Marguerite wanders around with the face of abject guilt without anyone noticing:
At this point, it's clear the baby is the only one who's figured out what's up:
Elsewhere, Milady gets sassy with Rochefort and finds herself in a stranglehold, with him demanding that she beg for her life. I was a little disappointed that she did (from a writing perspective, not a character one) but near-death-by-asphyxiation seems to be her theme for the episode. She catches on pretty quick as to who Rochefort is really angry with, and scurries off to tell her ex-husband the juicy news.
As an aside, all this is a pretty demonstrative example of how the Madonna/Whore Complex works: Rochefort idealized Anne, but once she falls off the pedestal he built for her, he considers it his duty to punish her for disappointing him.
Thankfully, none of this nonsense applies to the Musketeers, who level most of their anger at Aramis (which is a bit rich coming from D'artagnan – oh now he recognizes that a woman's reputation is actually an unfair but nevertheless important social construct?)
Treville makes the best faces.
But actors must love reaction shots, as everyone in this room is clearly having the time of their life responding to the idea that Aramis not only slept with the Queen, but is the father of the current heir to the throne. I can't decide what I love the most: that Porthos hugs Aramis only to be promptly shoved out of the way so Treville can yell in his face, or that Athos delivers every single line completely deadpan.
Another aside: Anne/Aramis is not my favourite love story, precisely because they've tried to make it a love story. Throughout season one, things happened between them: there was a physical attraction, they acted on it in a life-or-death situation, and it resulted in a longed-for pregnancy. And that was all it really needed to be.
Sure, wring out some angst over Aramis not being able to properly raise his own son (which is precisely how this season started) but try to convince me now that Aramis and Anne are true soulmates and star-crossed lovers instead of just two ships passing in the night? Nope. Sorry. Not buying it.
The plots intersect when Milady turns up wanting money for some much-needed dirt on Rochefort. It's quite heartrending to watch Athos want to believe her so badly, especially when she's up against Treville and D'artagnan as the naysayers who have placed his ex-wife firmly on the "whore" pile. However, with no other options they decide to trust her when she tells them Rochefort is a Spanish agent, and together they sneak into the palace to find incriminating evidence.
In my favourite detail of the episode, Constance is brandishing a candlestick in the Queen's defence when the boys return to her quarters. That's my girl. It seems a bit OTT to whisk the Queen away from the palace like this, and I've no idea why she feels the need to run in the first place, but let's all take a moment to appreciate the composition of this shot as the gang splits up:
Elsewhere, Catherine is back and has wasted no time in tracking down Milady. On some sort of handy scaffold that just happens to be in the part of town Milady is wandering through, Catherine has prepared a noose for her old rival to stick her head through. At gunpoint, Milady obliges – but in what she thinks might be her final moments, shealsosticks to her story about how Thomas tried to rape her.
Luckily Athos is nearby to overhear every word and ... just give me a moment here.
In the past I've said that Milady's rage stems from the fact that Athos really did pass the sentence of death. Perhaps she could have handled being rejected and cast out, but if not for him ordering her execution, she probably would have just gone back to being a petty thief. As she points out to Catherine, Athos didn't spare her from the noose, and it was that more than anything else inspired her to become the woman he thought she was.
And contrary to Catherine stating that only Athos "believes your lies", it's equally apparent from their talk immediately following Milady's second botched execution that Athos didn't believe that Thomas was an attempted rapist. He honestly thought his wife was a murderer. Let's just take a moment to appreciate the naked anguish on their faces when each one realizes how at odds they've been:
I'm getting ahead of myself. In what is a Wonderful Repetition of Past Events With a Touch of Redemption (it deserves capitals), Athosdoesn'tallow this hanging to commence and leaps to Anne's rescue. Catherine breaks down, and once regaining her composure Anne bitingly asks: "My God does she never stop talking?" I'll admit; I snorted. This cold dismissal is worse than any physical retaliation Milady might have inflicted on her old rival.
Catherine tries to get in a few verbal barbs, but let's take another moment to appreciate how all this is staged – and keep in mind that Catherine's dialogue runs over the image of Athos and Milady just staring at each other:
And as it happens, I think Catherine was wrong about Athos being turned on by Milady's cruelty; in all their flashbacks together Anne was very much the coquettish butinnocentingénue, and here it's only until AFTER Athos has established that Thomas really DID try to rape her that he lets his guard down and the make-out session in Rochefort's closet commences.
The fact that they COME OUT still attached to each other kind of makes me wish Rochefort was still in the room. Interestingly, the foreboding music throughout all of this seems to suggest we're not supposed to consider this explosion of pent-up sexual attraction a good thing. Yeah, whatever.
Rochefort has managed to poison the king right under the eyes of Marguerite, and there's a rather adverse effect once Louis has downed the concoction.
What do you mean it's not symbolic?
Unfortunately, Lemay and Constance are dragged to his sick-bed, Marguerite is forced to speak against them, and ... Hot Physician! NOOOOOO!!!!!!!
That was pretty brutal, but I suppose his death makes sense. He was an established character, he was popular and likeable, he was in an easy position to be stitched up, and it raises the stakes for Constance's survival. Now Constance knows she's next if she doesn't speak out against the Queen's adultery, which we know she never will, and so help me BBC if you go through with this...
Still, the prolonged Held Gaze between Constance and Lemay, as she desperately tries to convey some comfort to him in his final moments – ouch.
I'm SO looking forward to Rochefort's downfall after this, though I suspect that Marguerite will topple with him. If there's a redemption arc in store, it'll probably involve her death considering she's now had a hand in someoneelse'sdemise.
In other sad news, the passing away of Gabrielle Reidy means there's no return from the Mother Superior of last season, though the nunnery and its location is as beautiful as ever. I still have no idea why they're all there beyond the symbolic value of seeing Anne and Aramis on opposite sides of the very room where their son was conceived, for on hearing that the King has been poisoned Anne decides to immediately return to Paris.
Though I suppose between Athos snagging Rochefort's seal and the discovery of a nun who can easily forge his handwriting, the Musketeers manage send off a missive to Spain's spymaster in order to – you know, I forget. All that matters is that it involves Porthos going off on a solo mission that everyone looks extremely grim about.
So we end with our heroes in a pretty bad place: the Queen sequestered, Aramis and Constance arrested, D'artagnan beaten up, Porthos on what might be a suicide mission, and the others more or less helpless. In other words, a great set up for your grand finale.
Santiago Cabrera; you're a beautiful man, but when you've just been arrested for treason, your affair with a married woman and illegitimate son is about to be exposed, and the woman you supposedly love has learnt you were sleeping with the kid's governess just to gain access to him, I would have expected a bit more emoting than this:
I found it amusingly ironic that that the boys could trust Milady but not Marguerite.
That green dress! Where can I get one? Honestly though, I've heard the saying "wear the outfit, don't let the outfit wear you", but I've never really understood it until seeing Maime McCoy in this role. She WEARS these dresses.
It's interesting to consider that the Musketeers actually ARE covering for a pretty serious crime, even by today's standards. Obviously adultery is no longer punishable by death, but to let a man believe that a child is his own when the father is someone else entirely ... look, it's glaringly obvious why the Queen made that call and I'm not judging her for it – but it is interesting to consider that Rochefort is technically correct when he calls it treason.
That said, I can't wait to see him go down. I think the character has pretty much outstayed his welcome at this point, so hopefully the show will follow the pattern of one Big Bad per season – it'll keep things fresh if nothing else, and next time we might get someone with a tad more subtlety.