The Musketeers 2.05: A king bee with a head full of attitude
It's all for one and one-four February, as the Musketeers make a welcome comeback after a short rugby-related hiatus. Here are my thoughts on the aptly named The Return:
Dear BBC, thank you ever so much for the thoughtful Valentine's Day gift of Tom Burke in light bondage with water being tossed over him. I would apologize for unwrapping him a day early, but he wriggled rather a lot and most of the wrapping pretty much fell off by itself. Honestly.
No-longer-a-Captain Treville's dung-shovel brings all the boys to the yard, where he's preparing for a new project called Fifty Sheds of Hay. And they're like, "Where's Athos?", and he's like "IDK, pissed in a ditch somewhere?" and they're like, "Come on, you don't want to spend this whole episode shovelling sh... shed-filling horse poop, shouldn't we go and find him?" So they all pop over to Athos's place to open his mail and find out what's going on. Fortunately they don't tell Athos's bucket of man-pain that Athos is out fondling other buckets (low-class village buckets that ANYONE can drink from, even), which is just as well because news like that might have turned it a little pail...
Meanwhile, Porthos is still peeved about the lack of progress in his own subplot due to Treville being so virulently anti-spoilers. Having one character repeatedly say "TELL ME THE BIG SECRET THING" and another say "NO, I WILL NOT TELL YOU THE THING" is probably not the most subtle way to build dramatic tension, but I am still pretty keen to know what the big secret is. I assume Porthos's daddy was Not A Nice Man, but the show is full of Not Nice Men so it must be something REALLY appalling... mustn't it?
So yes, Athos has been dragged back to his old hometown, where he's having the worst hangover in his own sorry history and pulling some fabulously angry faces about it.
Nasty Baron Renard and his even nastier son are trying to take over the village, and the local peasants have decided that they can only resolve this by forming a Western reenactment society. They've already got an orchestra in the background doing the right sort of Ennio Morricone-style twangy music, but they need Athos to do a Clint Eastwood impersonation for them, stat. He doesn't want to, of course, but we all know he'll do the right thing eventually. But while we wait for that to happen, it gives the bad guys a great excuse to tie him up, kick him around, rip his clothes off and generally justify every penny of my annual TV licence. Cheers, guys! It's only a shame that the other Muskeboys turn up to help before Athos loses his shirt entirely...
Grumpily donning a swishy cloak-thingy that is the nearest he can find to a Clint Eastwood poncho, Athos rides off to have a good old scowl at the local Wife-Hanging Tree, followed by a sunkissed flashback that looks strangely like a Cadbury's Flake advert from the 80s. Fortunately his dream sequences have improved since last year, since he now has sensible hair in them, rather than the strangely bouffant blow-dry that made him look like a refugee from the cover of a cheesy romance novel.
WARNING: THIS PARAGRAPH CONTAINS NAUGHTY BITS. I feel I should pause here and comment on one particular aspect of the Athos/Milady love scene, which I shall delicately call "oral attentiveness to the inner thigh regions". What entertained me about this was not only that it happened, but that it follows close on the heels of the Aramis/Marguerite scene of last week, which clearly portrayed the aftermath of a similar scenario. (Go back and watch it again, paying particular attention to Marguerite's undie-free state, Aramis's physical position in relation to her, and most saucily of all, him apparently pulling something out of his mouth at the start of the scene. Am I right or am I right?) So yes, this is apparently the season of... well, implied lip service for ladies. So um... congratulations, BBC? Keep up the good work? Now, gentle viewers, go and have a cold shower if you need one and I'll see you after the next bullet point...
Athos decides to follow up his shiny happy flashback with a moody stomp around the burned-out shell of his house, which brings on a nastier, more bloodstained flashback. It also brings out his brother's ex Catherine, who is shacked up in the rustic herbal kitchen area, shooting bunny rabbits for fun and being bitter about Athos having ruined her love life. On the plus side, she's got some excellent highwaywoman/gunslinger outfits and a lot of dried flowers, so at least when she murders you in a fit of rage, she can probably send your family some lovely pot pourri as an apology present.
Treville checks the village's store of weaponry by comparing it to his own crotch and finding it wanting.
There's not enough there to frighten the birds, even taking Treville's trousers into account, but fortunately Athos turns up re-sassed and ready to take D'Artagnan back to his place, where he's got plenty of heavy-duty equipment just waiting to be grabbed. So what are you waiting for? Go get it, boys.
"A little battered but just about serviceable." / "Talking about yourself or that pistol?" - Is my brain going mushy, or was this Athos/D'Artagnan exchange the sweetest thing in the whole wide world? Or was that Athos's smile afterwards? Or D'Artagnan's reassuring pat/hug/clutchy thing? Aww, I'm such a sucker for the pair of them.
But just when bromance looks like it's saved the day, along comes another sad flashback to knock Athos back into the pit of darkness again. Will we ever find out whether Milady was telling the truth about Thomas attacking her? I'd previously assumed she must be lying, but there was something about Athos's pain this week that could be construed as his own guilt for not having believed her. Coupled with Catherine being an unsympathetic witness, it did make me very curious about where this is all heading.
Porthos and Aramis ride off to rescue the innkeeper's daughter before any grim gang-raping happens. They get there in time, of course, but even the set-up for this was very unpleasant indeed. "Centuries of inbreeding is making the aristocracy stupid." - yeah, thanks for that cheery political comment, Aramis. I dare you to repeat it when you're back in the palace next week.
Athos attempts to give the peasants an inspiring speech but his urge to mutter "Oh, just sort it out and leave me alone" doesn't cut the mustard. However, once he's stumbled on a decent plan – "let's all fight off the baddies and I'll give you my land" – Treville takes over and gives the doubting masses a rousing rhetorical blast that you might call The Full Picard. I'm surprised the villagers didn't invite Treville to stay and be their new chief shouter-at-people-in-a-convincing-manner. Or at least to direct their next amateur dramatics production, which requires pretty much the same skills.
"How exactly do we turn this bunch of misfits into a fighting force?" - I'm glad you asked that question, Porthos. I think you're gonna need a montage, along with a massive pile of furniture and a spot of well-choreographed thrusting. Sadly the budget won't stretch to proper musical numbers but I'm sure those peasants can hum a selection of highlights from Les Miserables (or failing that, Eye of the Tiger).
By the way, Aramis is having a much jollier time than he's had lately, what with no babies to angst over and no complicated love life to juggle. It's saying something when a bunch of baddies trying to shoot you like vermin counts as a relaxing week, innit?
It's unfortunate that Catherine missed Treville's thrust-training earlier, because when Athos tries to explain his not-very-clear plan, she grabs hold of the wrong end of the stick and thinks everything's going to be hers, hers, hers. Just as well it isn't because she's a peasant-hating snootypants who ends up ripping apart her own posh necklace because it doesn't match the massive chip on her shoulder.
Okay folks, time for the all-action finale. The bad guys charge on the barricades, the boys fling their weapons around, D'Artagnan invents the landmine (well, apparently they were already invented, who knew?) and Athos has to come out and go one-on-one against Baron Renard's horrible son and his impractical velvet breeches. Then Catherine swishes in and wins the Worst Time To Suddenly Decide We Have To Talk About Your Terrible Ex award, shooting the baron's son in the process. Evil gets vanquished (hoorah!), the innkeeper gets to be mayor of Pinon (double hoorah!) and the Musketeers have to help everyone put their furniture away (hoorah and does anyone remember whose coffee table this is?). On the minus side, Porthos is still rightfully peeved with Treville, and Catherine seems to be gunning for Milady in the literal sense. I bet she'll turn up suddenly later in the series, probably at a very inconvenient moment. If I were Milady, I'd make sure that all future royal rumpo sessions start with checking behind the curtains for snipers.
So everyone gathers to wave bye-bye to Athos and his filthy shirt of grey. Awww. And the valiant Musketeers ride home, leaving Athos to deal with a less violent but no less important quest, called Which Of The Three Thousand Taverns In Paris Did I Leave My Leather Jacket In? Good luck with that one, sweetie.
Overall: A slightly strange mixture of action, angst, tongue-in-cheek Western homage and unexpected grimness. Glorious times for Athos lovers, however, with Tom Burke subtly suggesting some real grit under the grime. I only hope he had as much fun doing the down-and-dirty stuff as I had watching him...
Next week: Stars, science and mystical masked men, plus all the palace posse who were on holiday this week. Sounds galaxy-shaking.