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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Musketeers: The Queen's Diamonds

I know this review is horribly late, but it's been a pretty awful fortnight for me. It wasn't just international news concerning Brexit and terrorist attacks and tragic deaths both accidental (Anton Yelchin) and intentional (Jo Cox), but my great aunt Isabel passed away. I was quite close to her, and I feel guilty that I kept putting off visiting her in her final week (you keep assuming you have more time) until it was too late.
It's all been enough to trigger a full-blown existential crisis, complete with panic attacks, weeping spells and bouts of depression. If anyone has the answers to God, life and humanity's purpose, please let me know ASAP.
Me, basically.
So with that cheerful lead-in... The Musketeers? If you haven't already left this page in confusion/horror, then know that the simple act of watching an episode of television and writing about it afterwards has been therapeutic. So don't mind me and my emotional collapse – let's talk about the Musketeers!

Of all the guest stars they could have brought back from season one, I suppose James Callis as Émile Bonnaire was a good choice (though I would have preferred Fiona Glascott as Flea). He's an inherently funny actor, who's able to make even something as simple as walking around or making a facial expression hilarious. I'm not sure what's going on with his voice though: surely it's not always that deep and gravelly.
I'm also not sure why he's dressed like a blue leprechaun. 
His reappearance not-so-coincidentally coincides with the theft of the Queen of England's diamonds by a highwayman, and having ascertained that he's the culprit, the Musketeers are tasked with getting the jewels back.
Along the way, Aramis is waylaid by a rather strange little subplot. During the investigation he bumps into an old friend called Pauline (Laura Haddock!) who is engaged to a man called St Pierre (Paul McGann!).
After what feels like a slight retcon of Aramis's history – though it doesn't flat-out contradict anything – we learn that Aramis wasn't raised on an idyllic country estate alongside his first love Isabelle (later sister Helene) as I'd always assumed, but in a brothel where his mother worked. I suppose this kind of explains certain aspects of Aramis's personality, but more relevant for this subplot is that Pauline lived there too, and is now being blackmailed by someone who doesn't want her marrying Pierre.
As the other Musketeers search for the diamonds on the tail of a horse called Selene (I trust you've already seen the striking similarity between D'artagnan and a certain Disney Prince) and in a traditional Western shootout which hilariously involves Bonnaire cry out the arranged code-word far too late for it to have any relevance, Aramis tries to suss out Pauline's situation.
A couple of odd things stick out: the implication (but non-explanation) that Pauline is a little simple-minded, and an unexpected act of violence from Pierre that's never touched on again after he goes to beat a servant – but ultimately Aramis's deductive skills lead him to the blackmailer: this highly suspicious-looking groom:
You cast this man if you want a suspicious-looking groom.
It's at this point the A-plot decides to join him, for the last missing diamond is revealed to be Pauline's wedding ring.
The standoff is where things get interesting. Captain Athos gives Aramis (who is defending Pauline's right to keep the ring) a direct order. Aramis responds by not obeying. Weapons are drawn, and Porthos – unable to handle the upset of his entire universe – storms out. It's up to Pauline to break the stalemate by giving up the ring.

It's the best scene of the episode, as it's the first time (at least to my mind) we've seen genuine, uncomfortable discord between Athos/Aramis. Not even that time Aramis slept with the Queen led to this type of confrontation.
And then we get this exchange between Athos and Porthos: "Aramis is my penance." "Mine too." Aww.
That just leaves the denouement, in which Bonnaire is outed at court not only as the fence for the stolen diamonds, but the highwayman too, working in tandem with his latest wife, the Queen's lady-in-waiting (Sarah Smart! This is certainly an episode for familiar faces).
In King Louis and Queen Anne's only substantial scene, they convince Queen Henrietta to show clemency (okay it's mostly Louis – Anne is still being infuriatingly underused, but it's a good scene for Louis who's a lot more easy-going since his diagnosis).
Bonnaire and his wife scurry off into the sunset, while Pauline confronts the stable boy, stabs him to death, and then collapses into tears in her Blood Splattered Wedding Dress (yeah, it's a trope – who knew?) And then – it ends. Yeah, that's all we get from that: a confused bridegroom, a weeping bride-murderer and Aramis looking vaguely confused. I'm not entirely sure what we're meant to take away from this.
I checked IMDB and this is the last we see of her.
Miscellaneous Observations:
So Athos and Sylvia are an item now? Okay. I think it's a little too quick (despite Athos's reticence at the thought of commitment) but I really can't bring myself to complain about it. Sylvie is lovely and Mamie McCoy was pregnant.
I appreciated the continuity surrounding Bonnaire: that Porthos was especially surly toward him, that he apparently leapt overboard from the ship we last saw him on, and even (which I loved most of all) that he fondly remembers his first wife. As you'll recall, this show had a pretty bad track record when it came to female characters in the first three episodes, and Bonnaire's wife came to a tragic end – but just as the show recalled Adele at the start of the season, so too did Bonnaire spare a moment to remember Maria.
Constance doesn’t get much to do this episode, but I love that Aramis tells Pauline that he trusts her. I made this point ages ago, but none of the female "love interests" are simply love interests. They all have responsibilities of their own and relationships with men who are not their husbands/lovers.
It was a short scene, but a good one - and I wish their rapport was more like the one we see in this picture:
Sums them up really.
A tiny thread of plot lets us know that Feron and Grimauld are up to something – but I'm sure it'll be a while before we find out what it is.

6 comments:

  1. Hi, I know I'm new to your blog and have been flooding you with comments lately, but I've been thinking a lot the past few days about the beginning of this post and how you were feeling about your great aunt Isabel's passing, and how you even said "if anyone has answers let me know ASAP." If at all possible, try to read this comment only when you're okay with someone talking to you about your loss, and you have the opportunity to fully process it in an emotionally safe environment!

    I don't have the answers to everything (despite what my ego tells me), and I have nothing particularly unique to say that you might not have heard or already feel, but still, I wanted to answer.

    I don't know if it's just part of the nature of grief or something, but we always find reasons to feel guilty about something or other when we lose someone. And the thing I keep thinking, that I keep thinking about you in particular, is that whether the feelings of guilt are extremely well-founded or something you don't REALLY need to feel bad about, they're all a part of your experience of grief. You may not DESERVE to feel guilty, in that there's not necessarily real guilt on your part, but still...it's important, and okay, to just let yourself feel what you feel. And often that feeling is guilt. And often it's just pain without particular guilt. But even two months later, while you've had time to process, the feelings of guilt you expressed while writing this post are still in your memory, if not actively affecting you. And as a random stranger, I just want to throw out there that it's okay to feel that. It's okay to feel ALL the things you're feeling, and did feel.

    We like to organize the events of our lives and people's deaths in ways that make sense, narratively. And it would have made sense, narratively, to have gotten in to see her one last time and have a cathartic goodbye before her death. It would have been a meaningful experience, and it must be so painful to not have had that. But whether you believe in a life after death or not, there IS always time to take a moment, or an hour, or a day, and dedicate it to the kind of goodbye you'd like to have. Whether it's visiting a place that's meaningful to both of you, or just setting time to write to yourself/to her, or lighting a candle or whatever, or just sitting alone and purposefully thinking out a thought to her, that's still something in your power, that will still matter to you, and her. Different cultures and families and religions and people have different rituals for honoring the dead, and ultimately I think what they all come down to is setting aside that head space dedicated to feeling what you feel, and connecting/conveying those feelings to the person you love. It's an important thing to every human heart that's grieving. Nothing can take away the fact that this is a loss, and a loss that hit you hard and very personally. But there are ways that your body and mind can (and maybe already have started to) find their equilibrium and sense of peace again. (1/2)

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  2. (2/2) I think one of the things we don't talk about is that, even if you'd GOTTEN that Last Goodbye experience, you would still need to come back to a way to say goodbye and process again and again over the weeks and months and years. I don't know your great aunt Isabel, but I feel that while it would have been meaningful to both of you to have that last time together in mortality, it's just as meaningful to HER for you to have that moment now, or next week, or next year. I do believe that spirits are eternal, and in that case, on her side, it ultimately might not make a huge difference whether you got to see her before her death or if instead you have to have a special moment with her afterward. She's there for it. And, in a way, that's narratively beautiful, too, and something your mind and heart can organize in a way that makes sense.

    If you don't believe that spirits persist after death, then I think it's still okay to say that her personality and intentions still obviously have a radiating impact on this world after she left it. In that case, it still matters to you and honors the feelings and intentions she had during life to get your own special day or moment dedicated to her.

    Nothing can change the fact that, in addition to mourning the loss of someone you're very close to, you're mourning the loss of seeing her alive another time, that you might have had. I'm not trying to somehow act as if that loss isn't real, because it is, and I'm sure it's been painful. You may have already taken the time to have a mental or verbal goodbye, or conversation, or something, and still experienced suffering and pain. And you know? That's okay. One special moment doesn't undo the loss or trauma. But regular experiences, from yourself and others, affirming your right to feel what you're feeling do slowly build into a kind of healing, and balance, which combats those episodes of depression and panic and crises of self.

    It's been a couple months since this post, so I'm sure you're in a different point in the process than you were when you wrote this, but I still think it's worth hearing even if you already know it. I've also had experiences with panic and weepy attacks, for different reasons. Everyone's experience with it is unique, so no one can tell you the "right" way to handle it or recover from it, but there can still be comfort in the solidarity of knowing that you're not alone in it and someone else understands - or at least, understands their version of that experience. And as one of those people, the overwhelming thought and feeling I have is just...it's okay to not feel okay. It's okay if you DO feel okay even when you feel like you shouldn't. Your experience and your feelings are valid.

    (I AM religious and I DO have a lot of feelings and opinions and religious sources with material about God and Life and Purpose, but even though you threw out a line asking about those things...I dunno, I felt like the thoughts I expressed above were the more pertinent things to express.)

    I apologize if this comment is in any way upsetting or boundary-crossing, but I sincerely hope the best for you and am sitting here feeling strong empathy for you! If nothing else, know that a random internet person is rooting for you! :)

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    1. Wow, thank you for this detailed reply - I haven't checked my e-mail for about a week, so I've only just discovered it! I was (as you may have inferred) in a really bad place for a while, and having visited a grief councillor since then I've been able to figure out that I was conflating my stress over international news with my aunt's death, as well as the general anxiety we all have about age, illness and passing.

      As it happens, what you've said has a lot of resonance: one of my work colleagues gave me the same advice that I should just try to experience grief (including the guilt) without shoving it away, and the councillor suggested I could get some closure by visiting a place I went to with Isabel and say a personal goodbye there (I'm just waiting on sensible weather in order to do so!)

      I also have a religious upbringing, but I haven't been nursing it lately, and am taking some steps to get back in touch with my spiritual side. So it's all been quite a learning experience, and hopefully I can look back on it eventually and see as something I had to go through to gain further insight into myself/the world.

      In any cause, thanks very much for the kind words, as one of the things I've been telling myself is that what I went through is something that most people go through at some point of their their lives. It takes the edge off a little to know that, especially when it's confirmed by internet posters!

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  3. I don't understand what athos and porthos mean when they say aramis is their penance?

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    1. I'm not Catholic, but I'm under the impression that when you commit a sin (and confess) you have to do penance. It could be donating money to the poor, undergoing a pilgrimage, or just a few Hail Marys. Athos and Porthos are joking that Aramis is their penance (or "punishment") for all the sins they've committed during their lifetime.

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  4. Thank you for replying and clearing that up! :)

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