Aramis is the lover. Throughout the first part of this series, we have only seen the lighter side of this man. He often smiles; he’s a flirt; he likes to sleep with women whom he should probably leave well enough alone. There is much more to this musketeer and what happens forces Aramis to look closely at those values he holds most dear — friendship, loyalty, and trust. What happens when all of those values may have been betrayed?
The story itself is relatively simple. The Duke of Savoy has come to sign a treaty and his arrival stirs up memories of a night in which twenty of Aramis’ friends and colleagues were killed. The plot is a basic mystery plot, but it works as we watch Aramis struggle with his strongly held beliefs.
What keeps Aramis, and us, guessing is that, ultimately, there is no villain. Treville did what he did because he was under orders to do so (all that honor again) and the Cardinal did what he did to protect France. This series is brilliant at putting its characters into life’s gray areas. Having Treville and the Cardinal join forces, again, is a masterful story choice.
Another wonderful choice was the juxtaposition of the various fights. We watch Louis and his nephew play at sword fighting. Louis is obviously bad at it, although he is too egotistical to allow a child to beat him. Cut to the “duel” between Savoy and Athos. Both are brilliant swordsmen and both are fighting for real. This fight was the best choreographed to date and the winner was not a foregone conclusion.
Similarly, the scene where Aramis finally confronts Treville was moving. We understand his rage and his frustration and, while we might gasp at the idea of Aramis hitting a superior officer, completely understand why he does so. Moments later, Marsac hits Aramis, knocking him cold, so that he may go kill Treville. It is as if Marsac literally knocked some sense into his friend. As soon as he recovers, Aramis rushes off to save Treville’s life.
The fact that Treville was, in fact, responsible for what happened worked. “I was just following orders” is not an explanation that ever goes down well with those of us who do not need to do so on a daily basis. Yet, for these men who live their lives under a strict chain of command, as well as strict code of honor and love of country, it is all they need to hear. Brilliant subversion of the expected story.
Speaking of which, once again, the women shine and subvert our expectations of a costume drama. When we see the Duchess for the first time, she comes across as a typical woman of the time. Luckier than most as she seems to genuinely care about her husband, but modest, self-effacing, and compliant. Turns out, she is "not the average Duchess then." She is a spy who has no compunction about riding a horse in disguise and throwing an elbow with the best of them.
It’s not just to each other than these men feel loyalty. Constance is, understandably, miffed when D’Artagnan lies to her. Rather than have a big fight about it, she allows him to come to the realization that he owes her the same loyalty he owes Aramis. As he promises to never lie to her again, I was struck by the fact that the romance, while fun, is not important right now. It is the friendship between these two.
The one thing about this episode that annoyed me a great deal was Marsac attacking Constance. I’m not sure why all dramas now feel as though they need a rape or a near-rape scene, but it is becoming pervasive. Even worse, D’Artagnan needs to rescue her. I would have forgiven the scene if Constance had not had to be saved by a man, but the whole incident left me irritated. I have praised this show’s portrayal of women to anyone who will listen. Now, I will need to temper that praise and it irks me.
Other than the scene with Constance, I loved this one. Three out of four royal spies.
Today’s History Lesson:
The Duchy of Savoy was an independent republic from 1416 to 1714. It’s historical lands are now part of France, Italy, and Switzerland, which will give you an idea of where it was located. The French lands are now in the Western Alps.
Why would such a tiny county be so important to France? As always, it was military objectives. France and Spain, as you might have guessed from watching this show, were at war on and off for centuries. One of the territories over which they constantly fought was what is now northern Italy. Savoy was important to France as it provided access to these lands and it was important to Spain as it provided a buffer.
In 1630, the Duke was Victor Amadeus I, whose mother was Spanish. He was married to Christine Marie, who was Louis’ sister.
Five years ago was an important time for many of our heroes. Last week, we learned that Athos condemned Milady at that time. This week, it was the massacre that happened five years ago. I am not sure, but I’m beginning to think that the three have been together that amount of time.
Milady was noticeably absent.
For the second time in as many episodes, D’Artagnan is trusted by a musketeer to keep a secret. Luckily, he is good at it.
Who should the three musketeers be loyal to? The man who was once one of theirs, or the young man who is currently hanging out with them? Brilliant little scene in which that question is asked, but not completely answered. Yet another of those gray areas that work so well.
D’Artagnan: “If this gets me hanged, I’m going to take it very personally.”
Cardinal: “I am the grand deceiver, and you are the bluff, honest man of action. I’m familiar with the roles we play, Captain.”
Marsac: “This is not your business. You’re not even a Musketeer.”
D’Artagnan: “Apparently, neither are you.”
Athos: “You are mistaken. What motive could a Musketeer possibly have for wanting to kill the Duke of Savoy?”
Aramis: "We're soldiers, Captain. We follow our orders, no matter where they lead, even to death."
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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