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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Musketeers: The Death of a Hero

This episode certainly had an ominous title, and I spent most of it terrified for Treville, who seems the most likely to become the show's Sacrificial Lion. But nope, turns out the dead hero was someone quite unexpected.
The opening montage tries to up the suspense with a voiceover by Feron outlining the stalker-like qualities of death, set over a montage of our heroes in what looks like mortal danger. Nope, instead the scenes turn out to be depictions of the Musketeers' various sexual kinks. Or maybe the director's. Seriously.

My question as to what personality is the dominant one between Feron and Grimauld is finally answered when it becomes apparent that Grimauld is calling the shots here. There's a definite threat in his voice when he has Feron forge a letter to draw out the Musketeers, though I'm still not sure exactly where his grudge against them comes from. (Is it because of what's happened in previous episodes, or does it predate that? Athos DID find him familiar when he introduced himself, though in what context isn't clear yet).
So while D'artagnan, Porthos and Aramis unknowingly head into an ambush, Athos enjoys some post-coital flirting with Sylvie. As soon as she steps outside, Grimauld turns up to assassinate Athos. Thankfully, Sylvie notices his arrival since a) it's broad daylight, b) for reasons that are still unclear, Grimauld introduced himself to her a few episodes back, and c) he somehow knew that Athos would be in the refugee camp at that precise hour.
"Hey, there goes that suspicious-looking guy who turns up everywhere."
Athos also recognizes him as the man "on the battlefield" which is an odd way of putting it since he's seen Grimauld TWICE after that in much more memorable circumstances – though not nearly as odd as Grimauld's ingenious plan being to murder Athos in cold blood, in the middle of the day, surrounded by witnesses. Okay, whatever.
After the fight spills out onto the street, Sylvie comes to the rescue and shoots Grimauld (thanks for the help, Parisian citizens!) though in true zombie-Batman style, Grimauld manages to disappear completely. Neither Athos nor Sylvie thinks to ask one of the many, many witnesses in the street which way he went. I swear, the show never used to be this sloppy.
Feron goes to visit Gaston in his (not entirely uncomfortable) prison cell, which surprised me a little as I thought Gaston was a one-off. Because what this show really needs is another regular villain – though I concede the show evened things up by the time the credits rolled.
In any case, the plan becomes clear: Gaston is broken out of prison so that when Louis dies of natural causes, leaving behind a Spanish Queen and a child heir, Feron can introduce Gaston as a far more suitable candidate for King of France, putting himself in a permanent position of power.
Feron drops Gaston off at the safehouse, though it's a bit of a mystery how he managed to miss Grimauld, who arrives no more than five seconds after Feron leaves, with the bullet still in his stomach. Gaston identifies him as "the man behind all this," consolidating him once and for all as the main villain of the season.
Athos and Treville exchange notes, realizing that the letter is a fraud and that Feron and Grimauld are in cahoots (which means the Red Guard can't be trusted either) and head out to rescue the others. However, King Louis has other plans for Aramis, and the Red Guard unknowingly intercepts them on their way to the ambush, requisitioning Aramis so that he might accompany the king on his pilgrimage.
With Grimauld's plan swiftly falling to pieces around him, he orders Feron to follow the king to the royal mausoleum and dispatch of him there. We've seen Feron's distaste with killing before, but now things have gone a step too far – even when he reluctantly agrees to Grimauld's wishes, it's obvious he's not going to go through with murdering his brother and committing high treason.
But what exactly is Grimauld's hold over Feron? I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm actually interested in their history together. Did Grimauld take advantage of Feron's physicality and subsequent drug addiction? It would have been a good development to have Feron cave to Grimauld's will because he was the only one who could supply him with opium. Which means that Grimauld is much more than just a lackey, but a Dragon with an Agenda – even if his motivation is still a little murky.
Wow, did the villains of this season finally get interesting??
While all this is going on, D'artagnan and Porthos have galloped straight into a Western, where they're promptly attacked by the mercenaries lying in wait. It proceeds about as you'd expect: loud gunfire, plenty of gallows humour, loud manly mantras, reminiscing together in the face of death, motivating themselves to stay alive – but it's nice to see these two interact, as it's a dynamic that isn't explored very often among the four Musketeers.
Athos and the garrison arrive too late to stop their cover from getting blown up, but they're completely fine – though hilariously, Athos is already staring mournfully off into the distance before they're found and dug out.
Louis is in a contemplative mood, but also a passive-aggressive one, subtly goading Aramis about his past sins. I'm still not sure how he figured out Aramis was the father of his son, especially since such a big deal was made of it last season, only for Louis to dismiss the whole thing, but he forces the truth out of Aramis and is suitably furious about it. 
For what it's worth, I think Aramis handles the whole thing pretty well: he reminds Louis of the shitty way he treated Anne, and calls her "the loneliest woman in Paris." Unfortunately he stops short of pointing out that without him, there would be no Dauphin, but perhaps that was pushing it.
Feron confronts Louis in the royal mausoleum before their father's tomb, and looks all set to follow through on the assassination when Louis shows him the tomb he's prepared for his brother. It's an odd declaration of love, but Feron is touched and promises to protect the Dauphin after Louis's death. 
I like this development, since it's a mix of true remorse and the promise of being the future Regent that causes Feron to change his mind – though he falls to the old cliché of telling his partner in crime that he's reneging on their multiple plots.
Not a great plan.
So that's it for Feron, though his final words "today is my day" suggest he knew it was coming, and made the conscious choice to confront Grimauld. And he fires a single shot to warn Aramis of the incoming attack.
The usual final-act action sequence commences, and Grimauld's men retreat once the rest of the Musketeers turn up.
So the hero of the episode's title was – Feron. Huh. I was a little surprised to lose Rupert Everett this early in the season (though I suppose we are over halfway through) but at least we're down one villain, and for the first time in a long time the Musketeers get a clean victory. Well, excepting Gaston's escape from prison. But the board is set up nicely for the final four episodes.
It ends on a note of "the Musketeers can be real a real bag of dicks when it comes to women, and how on earth is Porthos the only one without a love interest since he's the only one emotionally qualified to actually HAVE one" in which Athos keeps jerking Sylvie around, and Aramis tells Anne "you're not alone" before leaving her all alone, in tears.
Still, this was definitely one of the season's better offerings. Everyone got something interesting to do (even Louis!) and it was a great idea to have the Musketeers split up into three separate plotlines – it not only put focus on each individual, but provided some suspense when they each rode to one another's rescue. Which is another way of saying that there were a lot of nice character beats through his, rather than the plot (and subsequently the characters) being dominated by the villains' nefarious schemes.
Miscellaneous Observations:
We get to see mother-hen Constance, which is adorable, as well as a nice Athos/Constance moment when she tends to his wounds. Much like D'artagnan/Porthos, it's a dynamic that's not given a lot of attention.
This would surely be a good opportunity to have Queen Anne take the reins of power, but it's not going to happen, is it. She's definitely this show's most wasted character.
Yay, more scenes of Anne/Constance spending time together. It's a drought compared to last season, but at least they're still confidants.
I'm not sure why the Musketeers chose to save the King by galloping back through the graveyard filled with hordes of armed and firing mercenaries. Wasn't there a backdoor in the church?

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