- Before I get going with this week's rather serious storyline, I thought I'd warm up with a bit of light-hearted veg-spotting. It isn't really visible in the episode itself, but this promo shot makes it pretty clear:
In summary – VEGETABLES: even better at lurking than Grimaud is! And now, on with the show...
- "Please, Aramis, one more time." – No, despite what it sounds like, the Queen isn't trying to conceive Philippe of Orléans and create a full-on crossover with Versailles. Instead, Aramis and Queenie have been compensating for all the sex they're not allowed to have by trying to reshape the political landscape of Europe. This involves a lot of muttering in shadowy alcoves and sending messages to Queenie's brother, the King of Spain, but if they get their way, there'll soon be peace everywhere: peace in the valley, peace in the city, peace in the hallway, peace in the bedchambers and peace up against the wall and peace in the cupboard under the stairs, and basically just PEACE, baby, oh yeah, PEACE, PEACE, PEACE, GIVE IT TO ME NOW!! Well, it beats a cold shower, I suppose.
- Meanwhile, due to staff shortages, Treville is obliged to work as a nursemaid, giving the King his medicine and tucking him in and telling him bedtime stories, which leaves him no time at all for more vital duties of state such as keeping Aramis and the Queen 500 yards apart at all times. He'll regret this later, you mark my words.
- While Porthos and D'Artagnan hand over some captured Spanish generals to Marcheaux and his useless henchmuppets, Aramis goes on a jolly daytrip to some scenic ruins and uses his talented Spanish-speaking tongue (¡ay Dios mío!). But alas, it's a trap! Grimaud de-lurks and Aramis frantically reaches down his front, not to protect his nipples but to grab the secret message and burn it before... oops, too late.
- If you didn't already know Milady was going to appear in this episode, the title sequence is a bit of a giveaway. Hello Maimie! How nice to see you again.
- In a vague attempt at looking like a convincing political alternative rather than a charmless emo sociopath, Gaston has been to a fancy tailor and traded in his crimping iron for some high-grade curling tongs. While he's plotting with Grimaud, his big brother is wandering the palace gardens in a delirious daze, befriending invertebrates of a different kind.
"The physician gave him a new medicine for his pain," says Treville, explaining why the King's tripping balls with no mushroom soup in sight, but not explaining why his mind's been aptly revisiting the highlights of his fling with Milady. "What happens when he starts seeing the Cardinal?" asks Porthos. Good question. The King might start spoilering the kingdom for the next season of Doctor Who, and then... well, I predict a riot.
- Displaying an unexpected interest in interior decoration, Grimaud decides to enliven his latest hideout with an attractive wall-hanging in the shape of Aramis. Easy to install, interactive, looks good from every angle: every home should have one.
We all know Aramis confessed to a fondness for recreational tying-up last week, but Grimaud rather boringly means business. That means NO distracting chats about his mum (even though Aramis is nice about her) AND gratuitously burning Aramis's rosary (question: is this meant to be the cross the Queen gave him, even though it doesn't really look like the same one?).
- As Treville tucks the King back into bed, he finds a hanky with Milady's forget-me-not trademark on it. Did the King dig it out for reminiscence reasons, or did she pop in through the window when Treville was taking a toilet break? Nor is Treville happy when he finds out Queenie and Aramis have been playing Diplomacy behind his back (but be grateful, at least it wasn't The Game of
BabiesLife). Then he's obliged to have a meeting of awkwardness where the Muskeboys pretend they're just going to let Aramis die... yeah, nobody believes that for two seconds. And if that wasn't enough, he gets back to his office to find Milady lurking amid his scrolls of fanfiction. Darn it, Treville, you really ought to dust the back of your bookshelves more often...
- As a surprise to nobody, Milady's extended holiday in England has mainly involved marrying and murdering various aristocrats, like her own remake of Downton Abbey but with more stabbing. But now she needs cash and Treville needs an officially sanctioned contract killer on the books, so that's convenient, innit? However, she gets a bit antsy when she's told to strike Athos of her "dead-cert no-strings Ex-Sex" list because he has a New Life now. "Keep away from him," says Treville. "Great advice, Treville, I'll just totally ignore it, like everyone else does with EVERYTHING YOU EVER SAY," thinks Milady, in a harsh but accurate fashion.
- Down in the market square, Marcheaux's introducing the public hanging of the three Spanish generals and a random ginger chap and generally acting like the world's most tediously bloodthirsty gameshow host. The Muskeboys turn up and realize subtlety is no longer an option, so they resort to dragging the Spaniards away, yelling "PLEASE NOTE: THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE QUEEN, KTHX". Amid the ensuing riot, Athos pulls some excellent "400% DONE" faces, the random ginger chap turns out to be not-so-randomly D'Artagnan's cousin, and D'Artagnan takes him home to the garrison, possibly to avoid any awkwardness the next time he sees his auntie.
- While the Muskelads have a conflab with Constance about Grimaud's anti-Queenie campaign (it's okay, everyone, Constance has a plan!), Gaston's having a lace-collars-and-conspiracies bonding session with "my dear Lorraine", who is not a lady but the Duke of Lorraine, played by Gene Hunt's brother in a wig so peculiar that even the little Dauphin would have second thoughts about wearing it in public. While Grimaud's out, Aramis decides he can't hang around forever (GROAN) and cooks up an escape plan – first demand a little comfort before he dies, then while his guard wanders off to fetch
a suitable snugglebuddyfirewood, fling himself off the hook where he's been hung, then unpick his shackles with the all-new multi-purpose CruciFix-It Skeleton Key from ACME! Annoyingly, Grimaud gets back from his meeting in time to stop Aramis getting away, but can't just shoot him because of evil plot reasons. So it's back on the hook he goes...
- D'Artagnan finds out his cousin was done for stealing, but is unsure whether he's actually nasty or genuinely needy. In other words, is he weaselly or is he a Weasley? I note that his name is Espoir, which is French for "hope", so perhaps the question should be: is Hope lost? Anyway, tending to err on the side of niceness, the Muskeboys take Espoir with them to their rendezvous with Grimaud, rather than give him back to the Red Guards: in other words, they don't give up Hope, geddit? SYMBOLISM, folks: your clue to quality drama!
- For anyone who was wondering whether Sylvie and Constance had ever met, apparently they do know each other, which is nice. As part of her idea for a Pro-Queenie promotional campaign, Constance hands over supplies to the refugee camp on Queenie's behalf and offers to sort out educational handouts too, giving Sylvie access to the artisan print-shop of a hipster activist's dreams and granting all peasants equal access to aesthetically pleasing vintage typography. Hooray.
- Whoops, Milady has wandered into the garrison and started rummaging through Athos's glove compartment without permission. Little Brujon the cadet may have perfected the art of cheekbone-sharpening but doesn't know Athos has a wife and hasn't been trained in anything that could help him in a no-holds-barred battle against Milady's cleavage, so he resorts to swallowing very hard and generally looking like a baby deer trying to negociate a corporate takeover with a she-wolf. Unsurprisingly, he soon gives up Sylvie's whereabouts, and Milady duly turns up at the printers, claiming that she needs 800 urgent photocopies of her own magnificent frontage but actually looking for the lowdown on her love rival. Oh dear.
- D'Artagnan goes to set his cousin free in the woods like a lost bunny rabbit, but just as they're bidding farewell, he spots Grimaud's hideout. Bunnies will have to wait, it's action-packed rescue time! Porthos gives a henchman a groin piercing he'll never forget (ouch), Aramis tries to sacrifice himself nobly but his mates aren't having any of it, Grimaud runs away like the snivelling little cockroach he is, and D'Artagnan's cousin stops Athos from getting shot, showing he's a goodie after all and winning a random horse into the bargain.
- Poor Bambi Brujon can't bring himself to say "Oops, I left your wife in your room and she's been going through your stuff", so he makes do with apologizing to Athos for no reason and running away. Athos, of course, is so startled to find Milady in his private area that he drops his fruit and nearly hits the floor himself, possibly because all his blood has rushed to a specific area of his anatomy and thrown off his sense of balance. She now knows that he did come to find her at the end of last season and they are magnetically drawn into a reunion bout of tonsil hockey, but when she mentions Sylvie... well, despite the chemistry, a relationship that's always one barbed comment away from a nasty throttling is never going to win Healthy Romance of the Decade, is it?
- Athos runs off to find Sylvie but the Red Guards have arrested her. Yes, Grimaud and Marcheaux have cooked up a plan to blame her for printing incendiary Annamis fan-art and distributing it to the gossip-hungry masses!
By coincidence, Queenie's doling out cash in the slums today, and soon becomes the victim of a 17th-century Twitterstorm, involving a lot of yelling, some unconvincing
Photoshopcopperplate engravings, and no actual evidence whatsoever. Still, you've got to admire the peasantry (sort of) for throwing the Queen's money back in her face, rather than taking her cash then trash-talking her behind her back. They may be mind-meltingly gullible but at least they're not hypocrites.
- The fan-art that's shocking the nation is not only enough to get the King's out of his pyjamas and into another massive tantrum, it also gets Sylvie sentenced to a horrible public lashing. Athos and the Muskeboys rush handsomely into the fray, and we get poor Sylvie being brave and righteous, Marcheaux being irredeemable scum, Athos being all masterful yet touchingly tender, and Milady lurking in the crowd, being totally unhelpful and mainly peeved that Athos loves Sylvie more than her (well, duh, that'll be because Sylvie is lovely and gives a shit about other people, rather than being a lying liar who lies and doesn't give a toss about much except her own welfare).
- Apparently giving up on Athos-baiting as a hobby, at least for now, Milady takes Treville's cash, which means that now Treville has a secret Activate-Milady! button that he can push at an optimum dramatic moment when someone needs to die horribly. Personally, I'm hoping she'll pop out of Marcheaux's sock drawer like a murderous jack-in-the-box and make earrings out of his family jewels. Perhaps it wouldn't be stylish but it WOULD be satisfying...
- Constance and Athos take turns looking after poor Sylvie (awww!), the King decides to throw another tantrum and call Queenie a harlot (arsehole!), and Treville has some harsh words for his most wayward Muskeson, Aramis. "A soldier should never play at politics, Aramis." / "Isn't that what you're doing?" – oooh, BURN. Daddy Treville won't taking that one lying down, Aramis. Quick, get out now and try to think of a way to get this mess sorted out before the next episode...
- In conclusion: I partly enjoyed this episode, and partly spent it being grimly anxious about bad stuff happening to characters I like. I suppose that means it worked, but it was still a rather uncomfortable yet gripping watch. On a much shallower note, however, why is it that Athos gets more ridiculously handsome every week? Why? And HOW? I mean, is the BBC trying to make me explode before the series comes to an end? I really don't want to that happen – and yet, on the other hand, what a way to go. [deep sigh]
And now, just in case people are relying on me to tell them this stuff, a reminder of the upcoming Muskeschedule. Episode 9 is on Saturday 30th July at 8.30pm on BBC One, and episode 10 follows swiftly afterwards on Monday 1st August at 9pm. So there's just time for me to stock up on gin and Kleenex, before I see you here next week...