This was an episode of contrasts: old friends vs. new friends; Catholics vs. Protestants; a life of honor vs. a life of crime; gentlemen vs. thieves and beggars. All of these contrasts were wrapped up in a full-blown procedural that gave us more of Porthos’ backstory.
Porthos is an interesting character and his backstory sounds amazing. Unfortunately, we have still only had glimpses of it. He has chosen his birthday as he is unsure when he was born; he spent years in the Court of Miracles with Charon, but gave it up to be a Musketeer; he fell in love with a woman whom he left to pursue his dream.
Unfortunately, this is all we know. I would have preferred that we got more detail about what happened. What was the catalyst that sent Porthos on his journey to becoming a musketeer? Who taught him to read and write? What is it in his character that makes him both gamble and drink to such a degree? Why did he choose du Vallon as his surname? What is it about being a gentleman that so attracts him to the concept?
Much is made in this series of being a gentleman. A man who claims this title is expected to live his life with honor, following strict rules of behavior. Men of nobility, such as Emile and Jean de Mauvoisin, are assumed to be gentlemen. Men like Porthos have to assume the mantle and then never stray from that path.
Interestingly, it is the gentlemen who tend to be the true criminals, the men who forsake their honor to increase their wealth or their power. The primary example is the Cardinal, yet Emile is another. He gave up his faith to curry favor; he murdered his own son to further his aims; he partnered with the head of the Court of Miracles, certainly not a gentleman. At the end, however, Emile does the honorable thing and commits suicide rather than go to prison. It tells us all we need to know about this code that Treville not only allows him to do so, he helps him do it.
Last week, the show explored the theme of loyalty and friendship. It did so again this week, throwing poverty and race into the mix. Only, not really. Charon and Porthos have a complicated history, one at which we can only guess. Both strong men, Porthos has become a musketeer while Charon has become the king of the Court of Miracles, literally sitting on a throne.
I thought it was a very interesting choice to make Charon a black man, especially as we know that Porthos’ mother was a black slave. It was a perfect opportunity for the writers to explore the issue of race during this time; it was never addressed. Charon rules over the slums, yet we didn’t really see the true poverty and despair of his people.
Charon’s motivation for saving Porthos is never completely explained. It felt to me as though as though a large part of it was for Charon to show off: you may have become a musketeer, but I am the king and I am sleeping with your ex. As a result, I never felt that Porthos was truly torn between his past and his present.
In fact, in the most intimate scene between these two men, Porthos admits that the loved the thrill, the danger, and the brotherhood of being a thief. He gave it all up, however, for a “brotherhood with honor.” Which, brings me full circle to what this episode was lacking. Why did he give it all up? Inquiring minds want to know.
I liked this episode, but felt that it could have been so much more. Two and a half out of four melons that explode fabulously.
Today’s History Lesson:
The Huguenots were members of the Protestant Church during the 16th and 17th centuries. As Europe was overwhelmingly Catholic during this time, the Huguenots were persecuted and reviled. Many of them fled France and Spain to England, which was Protestant by 1630.
Le Cour des Miracles (Court of Miracles) were the slums of Paris. Populated primarily by those who had come to Paris from the countryside to find work, it was known as the worst part of the city. The people who lived here developed their own culture and social hierarchy. The origin of the name, the fact that beggars would miraculously heal as they approached their home, is true. The Court of Miracles also shows up in Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.
Nuremberg Eggs were small clocks, worn around the neck or pinned to clothing that came into fashion at the beginning of the sixteenth century. They were the first watches.
Milady, Constance, and Queen Anne were absent from this episode. Our weekly dose of strong women was provided by Flea, a woman who certainly knows her own mind. I was very glad she was not killed. Once again, however, the woman with whom a musketeer is in love is involved with someone else. I’m beginning to think that there are no single women in 1630 France.
The opening shot of Porthos’ eye was very Lost reminiscent.
The structure of this episode was so procedural it became humorous. Like any episode of Law and Order or CSI, we had the following beats:
- A murder, with an obviously innocent suspect;
- The residents of the Court of Miracles banging pans, the 1630 equivalent of kids shouting, “5-0!”
- Examining the scene where the body is found and determining that, due to a lack of blood, the murder occurred elsewhere;
- The pathologist, a scientist above all else, who provides the detectives with information;
- A scene in which the Captain (!!) gives orders to those detectives;
- Notification to the next of kin during which, if you have watched as many procedurals as I have, you realize instantly who the guilty party is;
- Asking the next of kin to examine the rooms of the victim and whether the victim had any enemies who would wish him dead;
- A piece of evidence that led to the big moment, in this case, a key that unlocked the door where the gunpowder was hidden;
- The term “illegal search” was actually used;
- The denouement where our detectives figure out who is responsible and listen to the guilty party’s confession.
Treville: “I know many born gentlemen who could not hold a candle to Porthos.”
King Louis: “What do you think, Cardinal? About this whole…” Takes a beat, “melancholy business.”
I love the King’s glee at his little pun.
Aramis: “Religion without art is so much less seductive.”
Aramis: “There are three of us, Pastor.”
Ferrand: “Then you are outnumbered. I have God on my side.”
D’Artagnan: “Oh, I do hope he’s good with a sword.”
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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