So without further ado, here are some thoughts on Spoils of War:
- When faced with a horde of huge leather-clad men with massive weapons charging straight at you, there's nothing to do but roll around on the ground, dazed, panting and generally overemotional. But enough about me: by coincidence, Athos is doing exactly the same thing. Yes, we're four years into a war between Spain and France, and Porthos, Athos and D'Artagnan are not happy about the new concept of the series as a wacky sitcom where they flat-share a ditch and get regularly pummelled by hordes of marauding extras (possibly entitled Mud Behaving Badly).
- While Porthos and D'Artagnan write a bad review of the ditch for TripAdvisor, Athos grabs Roger the horse (yay Roger!) and gallops off to give the useless French general a sarcastic piece of his mind, a tactic that will henceforth be known as a Good Rogering™. The general's plan is to kill off the lead characters of a 10-part series in the first five minutes, proving that he knows nothing about the rules of quality drama. But at the back of his tent lurks Grimaud, the first of this season's lurky new bad guys, who wants the general to give him a hand. Or more precisely, a few fingers. ARGHHHH.
- Like the 17th century's answer to Tony Stark, only with somewhat skimpier armour (and absolutely NO nipple protection), D'Artagnan decides his plan of attack is ATTACK and gamely charges across the battlefield, with the apparent intention of stabbing one specific and unfortunate Spanish soldier in the bollocks.
Well, it's a tactic, I suppose. Meanwhile, there's an orgy of charging, grimacing and yelling, followed by BIG EXPLODINESS, big hugs and rescuing D'Artagnan from under a pile of men. A fairly typical Saturday night, then. There's also Porthos's first attempt at a new career as a wine critic: he's certainly got the spitting part down, but muttering the word "Spanish" is a bit restrained. "Blackberries and horse manure left to fester in an unsupportive bra of oak", that's more like it.
- Meanwhile, over a nearby hedge, a group of assorted children have formed a low-budget Musketeers re-enactment society. By astonishing coincidence, their babysitter is none other than Aramis, working this season's "monastic hipster" look and generally playing the part of a hairier and more handsome Julie Andrews. In fact, this could be a great idea for a musical. What do you reckon?
- On the battlefield, the French have left their smoke machine switched on, all the better for Grimaud to throw a few Grim Reaper poses with his trained crows (coming soon to a particularly gruesome episode of France's Got Talent). As well as startling a passing Athos with some unexpected death symbolism, Grimaud's other hobby is collecting rings from corpses, like a more bloodthirsty version of Bargain Hunt. I only fear that one day he may run out of fingers and will have to start shoving them on other appendages.
- And what's going on back in Paris? A massive drunken punch-up, apparently: meanie Red Guards versus baby Musketeer cadets (Musketeenies?), under the dissolute gaze of our second new baddie of the week, the Marquis de Feron, a.k.a. Rupert Everett, who doesn't so much chew the scenery as delicately savour opium-laced mouthfuls of it and then spit them disdainfully on the carpet. Fortunately, Minister "Daddy" Treville (yay!) and Action!Constance (double yay!) are on hand to sort out the mess, wipe the noses and generally be the only two people left in Paris with two cells of common sense to rub together.
- Oh dear, Grimaud's mob have nicked a load of gunpowder and now Aramis and the
Von Trappchildren are in danger. Worse luck, the abbot is an old hippie who won't leave the monastery and wants to fight the baddies using the Power of Love, despite Aramis's reminder that that's NOT a song from The Sound of Music. The abbot is correct, however, in his suspicion that Aramis is secretly more committed to the Church of St L'Oréal than he is to Catholicism, and when he remarks "Yet you tend your beard as another might a rose bush...", he also provides Aramis with a great cue for a song, to the tune of Edelweiss:
Beard advice, beard advice
Every day you should brush it
Comb it twice, style it nice
Slowly please, do not rush it
Moustache with twirls will get all the girls
All the girls and then some
Beard advice, beard advice
That's why I'm the most handsome...*
(* I know this is debatable, but this IS Aramis's point of view, after all...)
- Treville tries to lay down some truth bombs about the state of Paris to the council of ministers, but Feron, who even makes pronouncing "Treville" with an exaggerated rolling French R sound like a slap in the face, isn't having any of it. It's a bitch-off! And this one will run and run...
- As predicted, Shiny Happy Abbot over-optimistically opens the gates to Grimaud and gets a wild stab in the back for his trouble. Meanwhile, Aramis has to rip of some of his own clothes (hooray!) and help the cute kids get dressed to the tune of Grimaud doing a bit of general-torturing in the distance ("lay-odel ay-odel ay-EE-OWWWW!!!").
- Meanwhile, another small child that Aramis is responsible for is suffering horrors of a very different kind. "I'm afraid the king's mind is focused entirely on our son", says the Queen, with an exasperated glance at the little Dauphin's hideous spaniel wig.
His royal daddy has bought him gold-plated action figures and the world's cutest little horse that matches his hairdo, but hasn't managed to buy himself a clue in the last four years, worse luck.
- Young Luc gets away from the bad guys and accidentally bumps into the Musketeers, who are delighted at the chance for some casual heroism and even more delighted once they get into the cellar and find it's YAY ARAMIS REUNION TIME. Adorably massive hugs all round... but not from Porthos, who is still cheesed off that Aramis
dumped himjoined a monastery. Awww, boys. Porthos may also be a bit peeved that Aramis has a new squad in which he's definitely the tallest, albeit (probably) not the cutest.
- Somehow, Queenie resists the temptation of booting Feron's arse out of the open window and calling it an accident, which is a shame because it would save us from a season of his gruesome machinations. Luckily, she is more than capable of handling herself in a tea-table cat-fight: "Sometimes, you don't look like a bastard." Ha!
- Porthos the BFG makes friends with little Marie ("He's so tall and handsome as hell / You can kick his shin but he won't take it well..." – damn, that's not a song from The Sound of Music either, is it?) but he's still holding a BFG (Big Flipping Grudge) against Aramis. In comparison, Athos is positively chirpy, and greets Aramis's claim that he doesn't have a problem with celibacy with a hilariously understated cock of the head that surely means it's the best joke Athos has heard in four years, if not longer.
- Regular readers may recall that, at the end of the last series, I noted that season 2 included a gratuitous shot of a lady's bottom but NO gratuitous shot of a gentleman's bottom in the interests of equality. I'm therefore delighted that the BBC were clearly listening to me (hem hem), and so was Constance. Now she's cooked up a plan with young Clairmont the Muskecadet for getting their own back on the Red Guards, which involves setting fire to their clothes while they're in the bath and giving the neighbours a laugh at their shortcomings. Admittedly, if given the choice, I would prefer to gaze at the unclad extremities of the regular cast members (hem hem), but hey, gratuitous bums are gratuitous bums and we must be grateful for what we're given. "Not so cocky now, are we?" Constance yells as the red-faced Red Guards scuttle away, although that might have something to do with the cold weather in Paris at this time of year...
- Meanwhile, their captain Marcheaux gets a gratuitous shirtless scene and a punch in the face from Treville, followed by a telling-off from Feron along with some rather motherly "spit on a hankie to wipe the muck off your face" TLC. I'm not sure which one of these was most awkward for him.
- Hooray, time for Aramis to sneak the children and monks out of the monastery and then to single-handedly battle a horde of henchmen in a scene that really ought to have a musical accompaniment:
Climb every mountain
Fight every thug,
Find your inner bad-ass
And smash 'em in the mug...
For a minute it looks like young Luc's been shot but nope, he's saved by his homemade Musketeer cosplay. Phew. Let that be a lesson to all of us: fandom literally CAN save your life, kids.
- Grimaud brings back some Spanish chums for a spot of arms dealing but the Muskeboys are ready for him. The stirring background music gets cranked up to 11, and Porthos and Aramis re-bond while blowing gurning minions to kingdom come. "It's about to get hot!" yells Porthos, but it already has: what with all the fizzling fuses and suggestive spitting, it's hardly surprising when they both end up happily horizontal. Awww.
- It's time for the Muskelads to say so long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye to the monks and the kids, and for Porthos to say bye-bye to his new BFF Marie and the peculiar faceless dolly thing she insists on carrying around. Of course, Aramis is once again a-quiver with the excitement of Musketeering and tells God that it's not Him, it's him. "This is what you made me," says Aramis, just as Athos wanders in looking ridiculously handsome, and frankly, if God had made ME an Athos, I'd be much more inclined to be a believer.
- Setting up a hierarchy of nastiness for the season's bad guys, Grimaud turns out to be Feron's dealer and so seems to have plenty of potential for pulling the strings of power. Still, you can tell Feron's a classy villain because even his throes of agony are artistic, inspired in this case by Henry Wallis's painting The Death of Chatterton:
- So there's only just time for Porthos to have a second attempt at composing a wine review ("perfectly acceptable" may be short but hey, it's twice as long as his last one!) and for everyone to have a victory swig and a gaze at Paris's CGI skyline before heading for home. Everyone gets big hugs from Treville, and Constance gets to see a lovely half-naked man in her own house so doesn't have to cook up any more convoluted plans to get a glimpse of one in public. Convenient, eh? In fact the only person who's not pleased to see them is Feron, whose opening salvo of cattiness at the Musketeers is hilariously countered by a facial expression from Athos that's the very essence of "Oh really? Well, bring it on, baby."
- In conclusion (to the tune of My Favourite Things):
Dirt smeared on cheekbones and hot men in leather
Heroes that ride into action together
Hair porn and eye-rolls and wit that just zings
These are a few of my favourite things...
In other words, all the Musketeer ingredients I know and love are back, back, BACK. (Okay, there were no carrots, but they've got to save SOME thrills for later in the season, haven't they?) It's a glorious return and I can't wait to see what comes next. So see you here next week for episode 2!
In other news, in a pleasing piece of scheduling coincidence, the series Versailles starts on BBC Two this week. It's about sexiness and scheming in the court of Louis XIV of France, i.e. who the little Dauphin becomes when he grows up. I've no idea whether the show's any good, but it certainly sounds like little Louis has some strikingly similarities to his fictional bio-dad....