Unbuckle your swash, loosen your corsetry and pour yourself a large bowl of relaxing hallucinogenic soup, because season 2 of The Musketeers is drawing to a close. So for the last time this year, here are some thoughts on Trial and Punishment:
While Aramis is languishing handsomely in jail due to what the newspapers would probably call "historical sex allegations", Constance has her full misery make-up on and is heading for the chop. At least it's a fairly classy occasion: the executioner has polished the sword and hired the String Orchestra of Bleakness (S.O.B.) to provide some suitable background sounds. But hark, there's something big-eyed and appealing lurking under those bloodstained floorboards... no, it's not a mouse, it's D'Artagnan! Meanwhile, Athos has come dressed as Bloke Randomly Wearing A Face Mask For No Reason, and Treville has come as himself, but with an extra-large dose of Sod Off Rochefort. Hooray, we've got ourselves a rescue!
Everyone hides out in what appears to be Constance's old house, for some plot exposition and a spot of lunch.
Veg-spotters will be disappointed to hear that there were NO CARROTS this week, but several of my Twitter readers suggested that the carrots may have been hidden in the soup. I prefer this explanation to the alternative, which is that Constance was eating the reheated leftovers of trippy mushroom broth from earlier in the series, and that therefore the rest of this episode is happening only in Constance's fevered imagination. (I don't think this is true, but then again, it might explain the man-on-man kissing later...) Anyway, once it has been established how much trouble the Musketeers are actually in (clue: so much trouble it can probably be seen from space), they decide to head for Spain to help Porthos, taking along a secret weapon in the form of Action Constance, who is pretty much the same as Everyday Constance but with trousers on under her skirt.
Over at the palace, Queenie has no interest in the massive quantity of fruit that her ladies-in-waiting are carrying around and is much more interested in why Marguerite has turned into a quivering treacherous pseudo-zombie. At the same time, King Louis has little interest in listening to Anne's pleas of innocence, possibly because he's too worried about his tangled hair of angst becoming one with his dressing gown, and then goes into teeth-gnashing meltdown mode when Rochefort starts explaining how babies are made ("first, an Aramis shags your wife in a convent, then nine months later a baby is born. NOTE: THIS BABY IS NOT YOUR BABY. ITS DADDY IS AN ARAMIS. Any questions, Your Majesty?").
Porthos, meanwhile, is having a surprising amount of fun on his holidays in Spain (you can tell it's Spain because of the lone guitar twanging in the background). Porthos's idea of fun, in this case, consists mainly of picking off outrageously-accented fake Spaniards with the same sense of violent satisfaction you get from playing Whack-A-Mole.
Rochefort's attempts to cajole Aramis into a confession come to nothing, so it's time for some home-style courtroom drama. Aramis, do you swear on the Bible that you are truly the prettiest person ever to suffer nobly in flattering prison lighting and that you can also do swoonworthy righteous anger when circumstances demand it? Oh yes, you definitely do. Listening in from the gallery, King Louis has decided that his dressing gown of pain is no longer enough, and elects to don a Cardigan of Majestic Misery. Less majestic but infinitely more miserable, Marguerite gets dragged in to give evidence in Rochefort's most salt-into-wounds style: "Do you agree that your last relationship was a meaningless sham and that your ex found you less interesting than a one-year-old? WELL, DO YOU?" Aramis is duly pronounced guilty and is sent away "to await execution in a manner appropriate to your heinous crimes" Hmm, does that mean they're going to get one of his best friends to eye-roll him to death?
Porthos's game of Thwack the Spaniard is getting a bit out of hand, but his Muskefriends turn up in the nick of time, using their horse-drawn space-time wormhole to ride from Paris to Spain faster than it takes me to get to work in the morning. Action Constance gets to show her skill with a sword and a witty quip, and also manages not to trip over the skirt she's wearing over her trousers, so I'm impressed, even though Vargas isn't.
Alas, poor Marguerite decides to end it all with the leftover poison from last week, leaving Rochefort holding the baby, metaphorically at least (you don't expect him to actually touch a poopy nappy, do you?). He barely pauses to rip up her suicide note before swanning upstairs to regale Queenie with wistful tales of Fifty Shades of Spanish Torture. "Every day, Vargas and I would cross new thresholds of torment together. Do you know why it took so long for him to break me?" I don't know, Rochefort, was it because you are a kinky bastard who was getting off on it? Oh no, it was because you were thinking about that fourteen-year-old girl you used to tutor. Yeah, that isn't really any LESS pervy, is it? And if that wasn't bad enough, then he starts talking in great detail about what he's going to do to Aramis's body. Clue: it's nothing like what I'd choose to do....
Down in the dungeons, Aramis's actual body is flailing handsomely in its chains while his mouth is getting rather over-optimistic, making promises to "renounce all worldly temptations" if he ever escapes. God doesn't come to the rescue personally, but Milady does the job just as quickly and in a more stylish outfit. She's pretty surprised to find herself on the side of niceness too, although she does get in a sarcastic dig about the small matter of Aramis being Actually Guilty, hem hem.
Hooray, Aramis is home, so hugs all round! And not just hugs, since Athos makes the bold but welcome decision to opt for a spot of cheek-kissing. (Thanks to the miracle of the internet, you can watch it again and again if you so desire.) Alas, there are no tongues involved, but perhaps that's because Aramis has come out of a prison, not a cupboard.
"There'll be time for that later!" declares Treville, a man who probably has a lot of experience in post-rescue orgy planning. But before they can get on with saving the monarchy and all that, Athos and Milady have to have a Moment™, while a moody piano player tinkles in the distance.
"It rains a great deal in England. And the food is...pfffft." So what we've learned from this scene is that you won't catch Athos lying back and thinking of England. Good to know. Milady, however, wants a new life and has decided to give Athos a mildly ridiculous ultimatum: leave everything and move to England the day after tomorrow, or... umm... don't. There are other ways of maintaining a relationship, surely? But then again, Milady was never a woman for half-measures.
Rochefort suggests the King would feel so much better if he signed the Queen's death warrant. Louis immediately has a teenage-style hissy fit of the "BUT MUM ROCHEFORT, I DON'T WAAAANT TO!" variety and then stupidly agrees to sign the paper anyway, not noticing that it says "I hereby bequeath my entire porn and Pokemon collection to my BFF Rochefort and give him permission to strangle the Queen with a piece of tacky jewelry." The moral of this story is: Always read the small print, people.
Okay, palace-filling peasants: pretend it's a fire drill and go outside to mill around aimlessly! We need plenty of space for Action Constance and her Muskeboys (good name for a band) to have a major-league dust-up with the Red Guards on the big staircase. Meanwhile, Vargas looks on in vague amusement, Queen Anne hail-Marys her heart out and Rochefort begins a slow-motion walk towards the Queen's bedchamber, swinging his garotte as he goes.
It comes as a surprise to nobody that the King is the kind of guy who would come to his own execution and start quibbling about his preferred weapon for the job. Fortunately, Porthos hasn't come to stab OR shoot him, just to make Vargas explain the plot (tl;dr version: "Rochefort bad, Queenie good, can I go home now?").
Queenie is saved from a nasty Rochefate by the timely arrival of Aramis and Constance, hooray! Then everyone else turns up to have a go, because apparently it takes more than an anatomically unlikely skewering from Aramis to bring Rochefort down. In fact, I half-expected him to start yelling "It's just a flesh wound! I'll bite yer legs off!"
"Spain thanks you for your service", says Vargas, making it sound like Rochefort has failed to make the final of the Eurovision Song Contest, despite giving it 110% and whipping off his eyepatch in the time-honoured manner. And thus Rochefort dies as he lived: with maximum man-cleavage and everyone hating his guts. Serves him jolly well right.
Out in the royal gardens, some time must have passed because everyone's had a wash and the King's changed out of his pyjamas for the first time in several weeks. "I am immensely grateful to you all and I will definitely not change that opinion on a whim based on incredibly flimsy evidence in the next series, honest!" announces Louis. "Also, the similarity between me and this squealing demanding baby is undeniable!" Well, he's right about that one, but not for the reasons he thinks, so Aramis shouldn't stop awkwardly shuffling his feet just yet. Fortunately, the King's attention is now fully occupied by his sudden decision to stick it to Spain, which means appointing the re-Captained Treville as Minister for War. (Unlike in The Full Monty, when Treville served as Minister for WHOARR.)
And the Muskeboys? Well, they're heading for home when Aramis suddenly announces he's going to become a monk. His mates are about as unconvinced by this turn of events as I am. I blame those visits to the convent for giving him a skewed view of what the cloistered life is really like. Aramis sweetie, you do know it's not all gunfights, forgers and Molotov cocktails, don't you? You'll be bored silly and doodling rude pictures in the margins of manuscripts before a week is out, you mark my words. Still, his departure is a great excuse for more gratuitous man-hugs, so I can hardly complain.
Perhaps strangely, Aramis leaves before D'Artagnan and Constance's wedding. Since Athos is giving the bride away, this mean Porthos is presumably the bridesmaid, while all the other guests are handpicked from the anonymous mass of Musketeers Who Never Have Any Lines (although at least they get the occasional day out, which is nice). While the priest is forging ahead with the ceremony despite not knowing whether D'Artagnan has a first name or not, Athos suddenly remembers that his own wife is waiting for him in a lay-by on the way to Le Havre. Whoops. Just as he's trying to make a break for it, Treville turns up and promotes him to Captain, meaning he's now obliged to do sensible grown-up things like counting weapons, rather than drinking himself into oblivion and groping in enclosed spaces. Drat.
By the way, how long was Milady parked on that roadside? I've got visions of her scuttling behind a bush for relief because Welcome Break hasn't been invented yet.
Okay lads, it's the end of the season, so there are farewell presents for everyone! Porthos gets a sword from Treville, which he can use for stabbing the Spanish and threatening people who withhold vital plot points from him for weeks on end. D'Artagnan gets a honeymoon afternoon with Constance in what appears to be Treville's old bedroom, although rather disappointingly, he doesn't even bother to take his shirt off. And Athos gets a glove, which has been left behind by Milady in a muddy field. How thoughtful: we all remember how much he likes to angst over ladies' accessories. By the way, I concur with the view that Athos wasn't really planning to go to England, but did want a chance to persuade Milady to stay. Never mind, sweetie, you've still got Roger the horse. Even if you can't fit him into the Cardinal's secret closet...
So, all ready for war with Spain, boys? No, because there's no Aramis. Awwww. Can we go and tell him there's a war on, please, can we please? We must ask Daddy Treville first, but Daddy Treville says YES. So it's gleeful and gratuitous gallopiness to the rescue! Let's hope they make it to the monastery before the tonsuring begins, otherwise series 3 will mostly consist of Aramis refusing to take his hat off.
Overall: Thrills, spills, laughs, tears, swoons, gasps and general silly flailing. Everything I watch this show for, in other words. A worthy finale to a really enjoyable season. However, if I'm allowed one TEENSY quibble, it is as follows. The first episode of this season featured a guest appearance by a lady's naked bottom. Fair enough. But did a gentleman's bottom appear later in the series? No, it jolly well did not. So next year, in the interests of EQUALITY and FAIRNESS, we need to see a MAN'S BUM. The nation needs this. Make it happen, BBC. We're watching. CLOSELY.
Next week: By delightful coincidence, next Friday at 9pm, BBC One are showing something called Eurovision's Greatest Hits. Sadly, a certain 17th-century French boyband will not be taking part. Boo.
All that remains is for me to thank YOU, dear viewers! I've really enjoyed writing recaps again and am delighted that so many of you have enjoyed reading them. See you next series, and until then, you know where to find me...