The Musketeers: The Challenge

“All I know is that D’Artagnan has it in him to be a fine Musketeer. Perhaps the greatest of us all.”

This was an episode soaked in testosterone, filled with fighting, shagging, friendship, and broken hearts. In fact, it kicks off with two men measuring their… well, you know the metaphor.

This episode was a intriguing look at what it means to be a man. Every plot line revolved around a man asserting himself and choosing the kind of man he will be.

The Cardinal and Treville finally face off, and, as the story begins, we get back-to-back scenes that makes it perfectly clear what these difference are as the two men address their respective regiments. Treville is a man of honor. This fight is not about money; it is not about him; it is about the honor of the regiment. The Cardinal, on the other hand, makes it all about the money and all about him.

The Cardinal will do anything to advance his cause, including cheat. Treville risks the wrath of this men and does the honorable thing by sacrificing himself to Labarge. To both of these men, winning is everything. To Treville, however, it is more important to win with honor than to win by subterfuge. He has certainly passed that belief along to his men.

The friendship between Aramis and Porthos, on the other hand, is clearly one of mutual respect and love, not competition. Aramis is the better shot; Porthos is the better fighter. Together, they go “fishing for a patroness” and, again, we see the differences between two men. Aramis is smooth. He is able to easily seduce a woman, sleep with her, take her money, and move on without a second thought. Porthos, on the other hand, could never be considered smooth. His seduction of Alice made me laugh out loud, especially when she turns the tables and seduces him.

This is the first time we have seen Porthos with a woman and it is a wonderful character study, As Porthos gets to know Alice, he falls so hard for her that he considers marrying her. Porthos is a man who knows himself; he knows that he could never lead a quiet life. So, he allows Alice the honor of leaving him.

Porthos, unable to admit that he is hurt, makes a joke about needing to stay with Aramis. His friend, on the other hand, knows exactly what is going on, but lets it pass. He respectfully calls Alice by name and walks away with his hand on Porthos’ shoulder. These two are true friends.

Jacques makes the unpleasant discovery that he is a cuckold, the ultimate threat to one’s manhood. The choice that he makes upon this discovery tells us everything we need to know about this man. He does not call D’Artagnan out; he does not even throw him out of his house. What he does is threaten the one person in this triangle who is weaker than he, Constance. That is the tactic of a bully.

I was afraid that the writers were going to split up D’Artagnan and Constance as soon as they brought them together; I hate it when I’m right. The scene in the street was simply lovely and I had a moment’s hope, but considering the position Jacques put her in, Constance had no choice. The final shot of her crying behind the curtain broke my heart.

Athos choice in this episode was an honorable one as well. Rather than train for himself, he takes the time to train D’Artagnan, telling him exactly what his weaknesses are and forcing D’Artagnan to grow up a bit. D’Artagnan is smart enough to learn the lesson, but it is clear that he sees Athos as something more, something greater than he is right now. After he receives his commission, D’Artagnan hugs Aramis and Porthos as friends. He does not take such a liberty with Athos.

This was, finally, D’Artagnan’s episode. He spent a lot of it sulking, sparring verbally and physically with Athos, and fighting with Constance. As the episode unfolds, however, everything he goes through is a metaphorical adolescence. He has left home for good; he has had his heart broken; he has proven himself worthy and is now a musketeer. Our boy is all grown up and, when he received his commission, I am not ashamed to admit that I welled up.

Another episode that I just loved. Three and a half out of four solid gold candle snuffers that lead on to greater things.

Today’s History Lesson:

A regional intendant was the 17th century equivalent of a civil servant. An emissary of the king, the intendant was used to supervise and enforce the king’s wishes in the provinces. He had a great deal of authority as he was responsible for finances (most importantly, collecting taxes) and policing justice.

The livre was the French unit of currency from 781 to 1795. While it is difficult to assess what the amounts are in today’s money, we can extrapolate from what people during 1630 were paid. A skilled laborer was paid approximately 2 livres a day, so let’s assume the Musketeers are making approximately that amount. The sum of 30 to enter the competition would be equivalent to a half month’s wages. The 2,000 bet between the king and the Cardinal would be an extraordinary amount of money.

Gascony is, indeed, “full of sheep and hedges,” but it is a beautiful area in the southwest of France. A part of France since 1453, historically it was inhabited by the Basque who spoke a different language and had different customs from the rest of France. Gascony is still known for its beautiful farms and seaside villages. It is also known for two of the greatest treats on God’s green earth: foie gras and Armagnac.


Salut:

Vinnie Jones, while formidable, was playing Vinnie Jones. Having said that, all credit to this show for attracting some wonderful guest actors during its run so far.

I love pearls. The necklace that Alice is wearing when she finally discards her widow’s black made me swoon.

As the herald announced Treville and Labarge, did anyone else flash to Paul Bettany in A Knight’s Tale? Just me, then?

Touché:

Porthos: “Well, the done thing just means following someone else’s ideas.”

Cardinal: “No control. No pity. No remorse. No more humanity than a jackal. You’re exactly what I need.”

Porthos: “Becoming a Musketeer was the best thing that ever happened to me. Until I met you.”
Alice: “Flattery will get you everywhere. Another life is possible. If you want it.”

D’Artagnan: “You shine so brightly in my eyes, it puts every other woman in the shade.”
Constance: “Good answer.”
Isn’t it just!

King Louis: “I admire loyalty, more than any other virtue. I hereby commission you into my regiment of Musketeers.”

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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