This episode was different from the two that came before. In a good way.
It began as the other two. Action packed and humorous, we meet Bonnaire (James Callis, clearly having the time of his life) who couldn’t be more different from Vadim whom we met last week. He is a coward; he is shallow; he cheats his partners; he uses women shamelessly.
As the episode progresses, Bonnaire's story is used to provide insight into the backstories of three of our main characters. The episode took a significantly dramatic turn as a result. Hodges took a bit of a risk making his story this dark and dramatic only three episodes in, but it worked. I found myself much more invested in these people as characters and less as fun eye candy.
Until now, Porthos has been relegated to being the comic relief with occasional flashes of insight. This week, however, we learned that he is the son of a freed slave, that he has been on his own since the age of five, and that he is self-taught. The fact that he has raised himself from the streets to become a member of such an elite regiment tells us so much about the person he is. It is also easy to infer why he treats the others as his brothers; they are most likely the first “family” he has ever had. As Bonnaire says, “quite a journey,” one I hope we get to see more of.
Once again, I must commend Adrian Hodges on his portrayal of women in this series. It is such a refreshing change to watch women, especially in period pieces, who are actually people with a brain and with a heart, even if the latter can be cold.
Milady is one of the intriguing characters I have watched in some time. As we learn the story of what happened between Athos and her, we discover that she has had a self-protective streak all along. Thomas (her brother-in-law!) discovered something about her that so frightened her, she killed him. Nearly hanged by her husband, she uses her sexuality to seduce her executioner and survive.
Similarly, the scene between Milady and the Cardinal showed us just who has the real power in this relationship. The Cardinal believes it is he; Milady allows him his delusion. Like any bully, he uses the power of language to try to keep her dependent, calling her “my creature” that he “picked out of the gutter.” She doesn’t rise to the bait. She is deferent without being obsequious, but she gets her way.
It is easy to see what Athos saw in her all those years ago. Of course, we don’t yet know if Milady was truly in love with him or if she was using him as she has done every other man with whom we have watched her interact. What matters is that Athos loved her desperately.
But, Athos has a streak of honor that he prioritized over his wife. He tells D’Artagnan that it was his duty to execute the woman he loves. Note the tense. He did not say “loved,” he said “love.” Athos’ feelings for Milady, whom he calls Anne, still run deep.
I found the scene between Athos and D’Artagnan to be moving. Yes, Athos is drunk, but I get the feeling that he is sharing feelings that he has never spoken out loud. What an interesting choice to share them with the one man who is not a musketeer and then to ask said man to keep the confidences to himself. Athos is not one to show his weaker side.
Arguably, Athos has suffered more than any of them. Now that he knows Milady is alive, the last five years are thrown into stark relief. All the drinking, all the brooding, all the self-flagellation have been for nothing. She’s been alive all the time.
It is clear that the prayer Aramis gives over Maria Bonnaire’s grave is spot on. All three of the characters we learned more about have suffered; all three continue to do so. The dramatic turn of this episode worked. Three and a half out or four destroyed portraits that may have given the game away.
So often in shows where the men and women are action oriented, they go through what must be painful experiences and never grimace. Not here. While there is a fair amount of people falling distances and getting hit, clearly there is always an element of pain. Sometimes it is used for comic effect, but it always works. I appreciated the fact that Porthos was injured and didn’t immediately feel better.
Returning once again to the theme of Hodges’ treatment of women, Maria Bonnaire was fabulous. I wish we could have spent more time with her. The one weak moment was the scene between Milady and Constance. It felt a bit rushed and shoehorned in.
It’s a throw-away line, but we learn that the Musketeers did not exist when Bonnaire was a child. This means they are a relatively recently created regiment.
The other detail that really worked in all this was the fact that Athos and Porthos come from opposite ends of the class spectrum. Porthos is from the street; Athos is the Comte de la Fere, a son of the nobility. Aramis grilling Athos on the number of servants needed to run the chateau felt pointed to me. Foreshadowing?
We’ll skip over the fact that Athos’ chateau was so close and that Milady knew he would there. We’ll also skip over the fact that D’Artagnan nearly discovered who Athos’s connection to Milady on three separate occasions. That reveal, I am sure, will be something to see. The biggest stretch was the pristine white button, still at the base of that tree five years later.
In the language of flowers, a forget-me-not signifies true love and memories. It is also a very pretty little bloom:
Several years ago, I spent a weekend in Bristol learning everything I could about the slave trade. I was appalled at how widespread it was and the truth behind the ships. But, as Bonnaire says, it was legal and it was a business in which men made fortunes. An excerpt from the piece I wrote about my weekend:
What really struck me, however, was how guilty the city of Bristol feels about its involvement in this part of English history. Everything I read had a tone of apology and there was a lot of finger pointing at the main perpetrators. However, these were the same men who built the schools, the almshouses, the library, and the theatre. Because of them, England’s banking industry took off and the insurance industry was invented. I am in no way condoning slavery. I just find it interesting that the good that these men did no longer counts - just the fact that they were slavers.
Aramis: “Anyone can tell a woman she’s beautiful. Making her believe it… is where the genius lies.”
Cardinal: “Even assassins should have a holiday now and then.”
Meunier: “How do I know you won’t betray me?”
Athos: “I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.”
Bonnaire: “Yes, but the real world isn’t driven by romantic notions of freedom, is it? It’s driven by commerce. And, I’m a trader.”
Athos: “It was my duty. It was my duty to uphold the law! My duty to condemn the woman I love to death. I’ve clung to the belief that I had no choice. Five years learning how to live in a world without her. What do I do now?”
ChrisB is a freelance writer who spends more time than she ought in front of a television screen or with a book in her hand.
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