The Musketeers 2.06: Like a shadow on me all of the time
It's eclipse week on The Musketeers, so please put on your protective goggles, switch off that old Heroes DVD and turn around, bright eyes, because it's time for some thoughts on Through A Glass Darkly:
We find King Louis auditioning to be the 17th-century's answer to Professor Brian Cox, bringing popular science to the slightly bored masses while throwing in some tactless symbolism about the ladies in his life. Unsurprisingly, he hasn't realized that the earth doesn't actually revolve around him (although the baby Dauphin does grow up to be the Sun King, so points for historical appropriateness there). Milady is wearing a headdress that looks like she's headbutted a rococo chandelier, Aramis wishes to support the queen in her hour of need, possibly using the contents of his pants, and Athos decides it's too early for this shit and sneaks back home.
Everyone else dutifully troops off on a royal day-trip to watch an eclipse at the astronomer Marmion's place, because he's got a fancy camera obscura. He also has a groovy-looking orrery that doesn't look very scientifically plausible, a posh dressing gown and a bunch of henchblokes wearing plague masks for no real reason, so he's clearly something of a style-over-substance guy. While everyone else is grappling with their souvenir sunglasses, Rochefort sends a few redshirts Red Guards to case the joint, but they meet predictably swift demises at the hands of the Evil Beak Squad.
Surprise, gullible tourists! You're not here for an educational day trip after all, but to experience Marmion's attempt at an immersive performance art piece, based on his own man-pain! I suspect Marmion really wanted to try his own version of Derren Brown's Russian Roulette, but unfortunately, guns with spinnable chambers haven't been invented yet. He's therefore cobbled together a knock-off that's a bit like The Crystal Maze but with more stabbing. (Maybe he read the recent article in the Guardian that said it was time to bring it back?)
Athos turns up at Treville's place with a bottle of red and probably a DVD of Die Hard or Dirty Dancing. Treville interprets this as a gesture of support, and Athos keeps tactfully silent on the fact that he wouldn't have bothered if he wasn't partly Milady-dodging, and partly saving himself as a handy rescue device for later in the episode.
Aramis doesn't think everyone should have to suffer through Marmion's am-dram antics and gets himself shoved out of a window, oops. Even though he's Obviously Not Dead™, Porthos is justifiably upset (awww) and kicks up a big fuss. Marmion chooses to retaliate with some emergency shipping, tying Constance/D'Artagnan to encourage panic-fuelled snuggling, while sending his rather more left-field choice of pairing, Rochefort and Porthos, down to the Subplot Cellar for later. I imagine he's hoping for some bromantic bonding, but it seems unlikely.
By the way, Rachael commented that Rochefort and Porthos ought to be singing "I Want To Break Free" at this point, which means that the following piece of half-baked Photoshopping is all HER fault...
Okay folks, it's time to play Marmion's Game of Slight Tedium! (Yeah, he probably needs a better name for it than that. How about Marmopoly? Or Marmious Pursuit?) Round 1 is called Heads Or Tails Or Horrible Death. Understandably, the King isn't keen to go first, so Milady agrees to play instead, with an amusingly bored air. Much to Louis's annoyance, she is allowed to sashay out of the place and promptly heads for the hills, tossing her silly headdress into the bushes at the first chance she gets and thanking the fashion gods that she decided to wear her riding boots under her frock today.
Oh dear. Random Courtier Guy wants to play the game next, but doesn't realize he's a guest character and therefore may as well have the word "DISPOSABLE" written on his forehead in massive neon lettering. Farewell, foolish man. We'll always remember you as... well, cannon fodder.
Surprise not-very-surprise, Aramis wakes up on a conveniently positioned canopy and seems to take his near-death experience in his stride. Let's face it, it's probably not the first time he's woken up with an aching head, a few minor flesh wounds and a grim-looking bird on top of him, is it. (Quoth the raven: "Not again...")
Time for the Game of Marmion, round 2. Marmion sends the Queen, Dauphin and Marguerite to one room, and some random extras to another. Now, Louis, shall we kill the Characters Who Are In This Every Week or the People We Just Made Up? What do YOU think, viewers? Of course, the King can't see about the meta-ridiculousness of this decision, so he's terribly distraught and busy shipping himself with his own knees. Whoever he chooses, he'll have blood on his hands. Mind you, with those red socks on, it currently looks like he's got blood on his legs too, so at least it'll match.
Look out, garrison boys! Milady's here to rip off her own bodice and steal your KFC right out of your hands. And when she's done with your chicken, she'll be giving you orders and ransacking your wardrobe in search of this season's androgynous outlaw look. Even Athos can't help looking a bit impressed. Watch out, sweetie: she may be pretending that she needs help to get her leg over (a horse, that is), but I bet she's perfectly capable of doing it without you.
Meanwhile, down in the Subplot Cellar, Porthos is wishing he had another few inches, possibly for the first time in his life. If only he could reach the Random Sharp Object, he wouldn't have to listen to Rochefort's anecdotes about What I Did In My Five Gap Years In A Spanish Prison and his mostly delusional love life.
After what feels like an age, Louis finally makes the call: he chooses to kill.... the courtiers we don't give a toss about! Well, that comes as a surprise to precisely nobody. Except the courtiers, of course. Ouch.
Aramis finishes his unexpected afternoon of parkour and discovers that his love life and its consquences have all been conveniently locked in one room, all the better to create a tearful reunion with an entertaining veneer of extreme awkwardness. Marguerite is justifiably peeved that it's now her turn to get eclipsed, in favour of the glowing smile of Queenie. She must start figuring out what's been going on soon, surely? Or maybe Rochefort will have to draw her a map, with diagrams and little arrows on.
"Does the name Gerberoy mean anything to you?" - I don't know, Marmion, is it like a saveloy but made out of gerbils? Ah no, it's where all your family died due to the King's homeland security in-case-of-plague regulations. I suppose that explains where Marmion got his henchmen's masks from, but I do hope he washed them thoroughly before adding them to the staff uniform.
Down in the cellar, Porthos realizes The Only Way Is Dislocation (ITV's most painful reality show) and gets Rochefort to pull all the stops out... literally. OUCHARAMA. Fortunately the Muskeposse have arrived, and I was highly amused that Athos can recognize a Porthos yell from a distance. I'm now wondering whether there's a detectable difference between "Porthos stubbing his toe", "Porthos dislocating his arm", and "Porthos finding out Aramis has been fondling his melon in his absence".
Constance plays the "your dead family wouldn't want you to do this" card with Marmion. Funny how no one ever responds with "What do you mean? My wife was a murdering psychopath with a rap sheet as long as your arm and my kids regularly drowned puppies for fun. They'd have LOVED this!"
Come on Muskeboys, it's Aramis-is-still-alive time! No time for hugs, just a quirk of the eyebrow and a sarcastic quip will have to do the trick. Porthos, Aramis - I'm sure you can hug later if you want to. Possibly with tongues.
Bloody hell, Marmion's STILL trying to stretch his tedious game out with round 3, which is called Let's Shoot Constance Or Possibly D'Artagnan While Everyone Makes Tearstained Confessions Of Everlasting Lurve. Marmion's brother saves us all from our misery by taking the bullet himself. You'd think this'd put a stop to things, but nope. D'Artagnan has to play for time by suggesting an improvised double-or-quits finale called Shoot the King Or Let Everybody Go. Fortunately the Muskelads (and Muskemilady) turn up before the plan gets shot full of holes... or Louis does.
There can only be one smarmy blond villain in a black coat in this show and Marmion, baby, you're not it. I loved Rochefort's hilarious diva head-toss after he dispatches his rival. Nobody eclipses ME, sunshine.
"Are we merely the playthings of a power beyond understanding?" asked Marmion earlier in this episode. Well, the only power beyond understanding here belongs to Louis, and by heck, he's gonna play with it. In fact, he's such a drama king that he refuses to obey the standard rules of drama. Did he restore Treville's captaincy out of gratitude at being rescued? No. Was he grateful to Milady for alerting the authorities and coming back when she didn't have to? No. Is he going to give a hug of gratitude to anyone other than Rochefort? No. Frankly, if I'd been Milady in this situation, I'd have been tempted to revisit the symbolism from the start of the episode and moon him very vigorously.
Hmm, Athos seems to be finding his ex unexpectedly appealing today and appears a little concerned by it. Is it because she did a decent thing for once, or is it because she's dressed as a bloke? You might want to have some therapy before you answer that one, Athos sweetie.
Aww, Constance and Queenie are adorably reunited, and Constance is so delighted that she declares "Stuff everything, I'm going to snog D'Artagnan now and be really happy and none of you can stop me!", while ignoring the clanging bells of foreshadowing that are suddenly ringing in the BBC Drama Alert room. Meanwhile, everyone else stands around and watches the tonsil hockey (this was before widescreen TV was invented, so I guess you had to take whatever entertainment you could get), while Aramis and Queenie share a secret glance of "if other people can have extra-marital shenanigans, maybe we can too, yay!", and Louis clings to the baby and wishes people wouldn't confuse him with storylines that aren't all about him. Same old, same old, then.
Overall: Moments of fun and some nice character work, but rather bogged down by a not-very-interesting villain and too much "Why are you doing this evil thing?" / "Because fate/angst/the script/oh, I don't know/THIS SPACE FOR RENT" dialogue. The conclusion did leave us in an interesting place, however, so I'm keen to see where everyone will go next.
Next week: A posh lady is supposed to get married, Rochefort is nasty to Marguerite, Bonacieux is nasty to Constance, and whoever's been nasty to Treville will be answering to Porthos. It's all go, innit...