llywela: peacock in front of Cardiff Castle Keep (Castell Caerdydd)
[personal profile] llywela
Louvre Palace

Meanwhile at the palace:


Louis XIII, king of France and Navarre, is building a model ship. In fairness to him, I must observe that it is a very beautiful model ship, but nonetheless, this is still the sovereign of the nation, playing with toys rather than, you know, ruling.

LOUIS: Notice the intricacy of the rigging, Cardinal.
RICHELIEU: Your Majesty's attention to detail is remarkable.

The Cardinal, let us note, is pacing about the room studying paperwork while the king plays; once again, the contrast between 'person doing work' and 'person not involved in that work' is very clearly drawn, visually.

And yet, a moment later we see that Louis is not completely insulated from the politics of the realm, and does have both ideas and opinions about how the country should be run. He just doesn't get the deciding vote, as a rule, because the Cardinal knows exactly how to manage him.

LOUIS: Pity it's a Dutch and not a French flag flying from the mast. A great nation deserves a great navy.
RICHELIEU: The cost would be unfathomable. Our neighbours spend vast fortunes supplying their needy little colonies.
LOUIS: Colonies which supply them with sugar, tobacco…gold. The navy's a sound investment, one might think.
RICHELIEU: There's always the awkward detail of Your Majesty's treaty with Spain.
LOUIS: Still, it's very tiresome to be instructed to do things, especially by Spain. I am not a child, I am a king myself. This Bonnaire – I suppose we shall have to punish him.

And that links us very neatly back to the primary episode plot once more. We never stray far from it, but I enjoy the differing angles we are given: the high level politicking here versus what's happening with the foot soldiers on the ground. Here we learn the background behind the musketeers' mission to apprehend Bonnaire: a complaint from Spain regarding his activities around the Americas.

RICHELIEU: The Spanish say he has broken your treaty and plans to establish his own colonies in the name of France.
LOUIS: Well, that's very wicked of him. We must respond appropriately.

It isn't the same level of double-speak and verbal fencing we saw earlier, in Richelieu's conversation with Milady, but there is nonetheless a fair degree of double-speak and verbal fencing going on here, both parties dancing around the political line. Watch the Cardinal's face through this conversation, the gamut of micro-expressions Capaldi brings into play as he sounds the king out, never quite showing his cards and never quite saying what he means, while Louis, for his part, gives every impression of being more interested in his ship than the political matter at hand…yet behind that appearance of childlike innocence and behind that strict political mask, it is clear that neither one is entirely on board with current policy, Louis because it frustrates his dreams of regal glory and Richelieu because it hamstrings potential opportunities for profit and expansion. Neither one would actually come out and say, 'let's break the treaty with Spain and have done with it', because the political ramifications of openly taking such action would be tremendous, but Richelieu is very definitely on the lookout for any hint he can take as permission to covertly finesse the line, as it were.


LOUIS: Explorers really are the most terrible bores. 'I've discovered this', 'I've named that'. No doubt Bonnaire's cut from the same cloth.
RICHELIEU: No doubt.
LOUIS: Still, I suppose one might call him a patriot.
RICHELIEU: Well, that certainly isn't the word the Spanish ambassador used.
LOUIS: Did I ever tell you about my scheme to model the Spanish Armada?
RICHELIEU: A notable Spanish adventure that ended in catastrophe.
LOUIS: Precisely, Cardinal. Precisely. But it would be nice, one day, to decorate my ships with the French colours.
RICHELIEU: May I say, sire, you never fail to surprise me.

So Richelieu has the hint he was looking for.

De la Fère Manor

Post-surgery, Porthos has been moved to a couch and is sleeping it off, a warm cloak carefully draped over him by one of his comrades. Probably Aramis, since he's been doing all the caretaking so far.

Athos stands watching him sleep for a moment, the absolute picture of misery. Then he goes marching off through the house, double door after double door thrown open before him until he reaches what was once a bedroom…and drifts off into a flashback.


Flashback

Milady de Winter before she was Milady de Winter reclines oh-so prettily before the window, waxing lyrical about the beauty of the room and the forget-me-knots she has picked, promising to press one as a memento of a perfect day for the young Comte de la Fère, who in this flashback is not yet the Athos we know.


The forget-me-knot remains Milady's sigil, and present day Athos, we remember, carries a pressed forget-me-knot in the locket he wears about his neck; no doubt this is the same memento Milady promised here to make for him.

MILADY: Athos, swear that nothing will ever come between us.
ATHOS: I swear.

Oh, that's a fateful promise, for we already know that something did come between them, something huge, which drove both from the idyll they once shared and sent them spiralling into the lives they now lead, the one living in obscurity as a musketeer and the other living in the shadows as an assassin.

Also, we learn here that Athos was already called Athos back then, in his old life, rather than Athos being a nickname he took to conceal his identity when he joined the Musketeers, as it is in the source material. Show apparently didn't trust the audience to grasp the idea of nicknames and assumed identities, so over-simplified by using the name Athos for his pre-Musketeer life as well as his present – as, indeed, it also does for the other two Inseparables, as well. I already grumbled back in episode one about Aramis's lack of a real name in the show, while Porthos is a grumble for another episode; all three are pseudonyms in the novels, rather than their actual names.

Anyway, the younger Milady and the younger Athos snog and get jiggy on the table…


Present

…and present-day Athos stands and stares in misery into the room where he was once so happy, overwhelmed by memories that can now bring only pain. He believes Milady is dead, we remember, and has freely claimed responsibility for her death. This episode will unfold that story for us in full.

Later

Back in the main room, Porthos is more or less awake but very groggy still, taking the edge off with a bit more of that rum bouillon and listening to Bonnaire chuntering on about his travels and his plans to retire to a Caribbean island.

BONNAIRE: I'll farm tobacco there and I'll retire, fat and oversexed.
D'ARTAGNAN: Farming's no Utopia, Bonnaire. It's all hard graft, I can assure you.

In episode two, Athos described d'Artagnan as a 'farm boy' - although 'gentleman farmer' would probably be more accurate - so this serves as a reminder of his background, that he grew up on a farm in Lupiac, Gascony, which makes me wonder again when and why he decided to stay in Paris and moonlight with the Musketeers instead of returning to his family home after his father's death. There has never been a scene in which d'Artagnan clearly states his desire to become a soldier instead of returning to his farm, or explains how and why he came to make that decision, and I do feel that such a scene would really strengthen his story.

Bonnaire laughs that labour is cheap in the colonies, but he doesn't say how cheap and no one yet makes the obvious connection. Perhaps they should, there have been a few oblique hints now, but none of them know anything much about the colonies, they've never been there, and he's so jolly and amiable, they are prepared to take his word for it, here in this relaxed, sleepy setting, where he might almost be talking about another world entirely.

BONNAIRE: I'll manage the whole thing from my porch, with one beauty sitting on my lap and another mopping my brow.
ARAMIS: Sounds like paradise.
BONNAIRE: There are opportunities for men like you in the colonies. You could be rich. You should join me. All of you.
PORTHOS: Maybe I'll take you up on that.


It's really interesting, given Porthos's more usual 'I could never give up soldiering' stance, to hear him admitting in this early episode that he might perhaps be persuaded to join Bonnaire on his ventures overseas. Would he ever go through with it, at the end of the day? Probably not – definitely not once the truth comes out – but he's looking sick and in pain just now, and Bonnaire paints a very pretty picture, salesman that he is. Only natural to be tempted. Got to admire Bonnaire's tactics here, trying to win his guards over to his side, or to at least make them a bit more kindly disposed to him; he can't hope to actually persuade them to abandon their duty for his sake, but if he can persuade them to like him, he might just earn a little support in his trials ahead.

Athos reappears at this point, bringing with him his own personal cloud of gloom, which kills the relaxed mood stone dead.

ATHOS: How are you?
PORTHOS: Fine and fit.

Because of course he isn't going to admit any weakness, when they are in the middle of a mission. Athos turns to Aramis for confirmation, in his guise of team doctor.

ATHOS: Can he travel tomorrow?
ARAMIS: If he must.
ATHOS: Then we leave in the morning.

Terse and to the point, it comes across as mission focus, but his primary reason for wanting to hurry away as quickly as possible is not duty but his own desire to get the hell away from this house. On a different day, in a different refuge, he might not push quite so hard, but here and now his self-control is hanging on by a thread and he is desperate not to break down in front of everyone, intensely private man that he is. He only came here at all because Porthos's life was at risk, and for his own sake he needs to get away again the moment it is safe to do so.

Bonnaire once again demonstrates his lack of tact, cheerfully supposing that Athos won't mind spending the night in his old house at all, since it must bring back all kinds of memories, and if looks could kill, Bonnaire would be laid out cold on the spot from the look Athos turns upon him, because yes, the house does bring back all kinds of memories – but those memories are painful rather than pleasant.

Should his friends perhaps be more aware of and concerned about his growing discomfort over being in his old family home? Perhaps, but Porthos is wounded and Aramis occupied with caring for him, and both have had five years experience of Athos and his melancholy: they know that he once loved a woman and that she died, and they also know that in five years of friendship he has never once been willing to tell them any more than that, so it's not really surprising that neither one presses him on the subject now. They know enough to have some idea of why he'd be uncomfortable being in his old home, full of sad memories, and they know him well enough to know that he will not want to talk about it, while he is doing a pretty good job of keeping a tight lid on his feelings in public, so that the true depth of his distress is not obvious. So it makes sense that it is d'Artagnan, who doesn't know him as well and has no other concerns to preoccupy him here, who takes the most notice of his deteriorating mood and keeps a close eye on him accordingly.

Bedroom

Athos pays a visit to what was once the master bedroom, remembering happier days…

Flashback

The young Athos and Milady are in that bed together, blissfully post-coital: young and in love. Tom Burke's turn for a scantily-clad bedroom scene – that just leaves Howard Charles to complete the set!


Present

…stone-faced, Athos turns and walks out of the room – not gonna sleep in that bed again.

Morning

D'Artagnan is up and about and pulling on his boots, while Aramis dozes under his hat in a nearby corner, Bonnaire curled up on the floor in front of the unlit fire. I'm surprised they trusted him enough to let themselves sleep, surely someone should have been keeping watch in case he made a run for it – unless they have been taking turns, with d'Artagnan on last watch, which is why he's awake now.

On the sofa, Porthos is just waking, cloak falling away as he sits, shirt beneath stained with blood still; didn't pack a spare, clearly. At least someone thought to put it back on for him. Properly awake for the first time since his surgery, he raises a hand to his jaw, only now feeling the bruise.


PORTHOS: Did someone punch me?
D'ARTAGNAN: Don't be ridiculous.

Poor Porthos: first his friends punch him unconscious and then they lie to him about it!

D'Artagnan wanders off to fetch some water and finds Athos lurking in a dark room decorated with family portraits. Has he slept at all, we wonder?


Athos is staring in abject misery at one picture in particular, that of a woman whose face we don't see, as the canvas has been torn – a plot device to prevent d'Artagnan recognising Milady and realising her connection to Athos so early in the series. That will be a revelation for a later date. Viewers, however, know who the woman is at once, aided and abetted by the posy of forget-me-knots in her hand.

Athos blames the damage on vandals when d'Artagnan asks and the youngster doesn't question this, moving on to the other portraits in the room. One is clearly a very young Athos, but the other…

ATHOS: Thomas, my younger brother. Everyone's favourite.
D'ARTAGNAN: What happened to him?
ATHOS: He's dead.

Master storyteller, Athos: he really knows how to stop questions in their tracks. Also, look at that: see how easy it was for little brother Thomas to be given a proper first name! So how come Athos only gets a nickname? This will be an ongoing bugbear. Also, just that one brief sentence about Thomas being everyone's favourite tells us so much about the de la Fère family dynamics and the state of Athos's self-esteem.

While d'Artagnan stammers an apology, Athos is staring out of the window at a lone tree in a nearby field, remembering:

Flashback

Out in a field, a priest raises a crucifix to his lips, like a benediction. Remi the blacksmith is there, looking troubled. Milady de Winter, dressed all in white, stands with a posy of forget-me-knots in her hand – but not the happy, relaxed Milady of the earlier flashbacks, here she is cold and defiant…


Present

Overwhelmed by his memories, Athos walks away, leaving d'Artagnan curious.

Other room

Bonnaire is up and about and working on his papers – planning his next trip, he tells the curious Porthos, to ensure that the load is evenly balanced. He has never yet said what kind of cargo he ships around the world, and no one has asked, but the possibilities are endless and all cargoes need to be handled with care on long voyages, so there are no alarm bells going off yet. A few hints, but not enough clues to make the terrible truth obvious. Porthos, who has spent the most time with Bonnaire, has taken enough of a shine to the man to be interested in his work.

PORTHOS: I, er, wouldn't mind taking a look. I like teaching myself new things.
BONNAIRE: Ah! So, you're an autodidact?
PORTHOS: …
BONNAIRE: It means self-taught man. Like myself, actually.

I really like this little character detail they snuck in there about Porthos liking to teach himself new things. It helps explain how he got from the streets of Paris to where he is now.

Bonnaire, though, is a clever, careful man and is quick to hide his plans before Porthos can see them, claiming that his eyes are tired and he needs a rest – definitely fishy, but he is saved from any further questions by Aramis yelling for d'Artagnan from outside. Porthos goes to the window to take a look. Someone is coming.


Outside

Aramis chuckles when he sees who is coming and hands his spy glass to d'Artagnan for him to see. Meunier was d'Artagnan''s guess, but no. Maria Bonnaire has tracked them down.

As Bonnaire sees his wife through the window and hurries out, d'Artagnan levels his pistol at the woman as she approaches – earning himself a bit of a reproachful glare from Aramis, who seems to feel this is unchivalrous, but d'Artagnan is unrepentant. Once bitten, twice shy.


Aramis doesn't point a weapon at Maria, but he does make a point of shouldering his arquebus, all faux-casual to be sure she's seen it, as he calls for her to stop where she is.

Bonnaire charges out of the house at that moment yelling for them not to shoot his wife, closely followed by Porthos, who is weak and in pain but has his gun in his hand and, like d'Artagnan, levels it at the newcomer.

Maria doesn't look much of a threat at present, making a big show of lolling around on her horse as if injured.

MARIA: I came for you, Emile as I swore I would.
ARAMIS: You've had a wasted journey.
BONNAIRE: Can't you see she's injured?
MARIA: I was attacked on the road. Two men dressed all in black.

Now, the musketeers know they've had two Men in Black on their tail so it sounds plausibly legit…

D'Artagnan lowers his gun and steps forward to help her down…whereupon she pulls a gun on him.

MARIA: Patronise me one more time and you'll lose your head. Drop your weapon.

Bonnaire is delighted, crowing that she even fooled him. D'Artagnan, furious with himself, throws down his gun and Aramis, glaring at him again, lowers his, while Porthos, all hunched up around his wounded shoulder, also disarms.

Bonnaire is quick to jump onto the horse behind his wife, both of them triumphant with the success of her ruse.

MARIA: I was Emile's scout in Brazil. There's nothing I can't find if I want to.
BONNAIRE: And she chose to find me. True love is a beautiful thing.

With that, Maria fires into the ground at their feet and swiftly rides away.

Aramis promptly raises his arquebus again, but he doesn't really have anything to shoot at –they need Bonnaire alive, and even if he did have a shot at Maria, he's not about to shoot a woman. Or the horse. They will just have to retrieve the prisoner some other way.

A few minutes later

The musketeer crew ready their horses with all haste – including Porthos, stubbornly determined to stay with them for the pursuit.

ARAMIS: You're not ready for this yet.
PORTHOS: Try to stop me!
ARAMIS: Don't make us knock you out again.
PORTHOS: I knew I'd been punched!

Bless his indignation. Athos now comes sprinting around the corner. Where's he been all this time? Already in a bad mood, he wastes no energy whatsoever on mollycoddling his injured friend.

ATHOS: Go inside, Porthos. You're no use in this condition.

Ouch! Poor Porthos. It's true that he's not physically up to the pursuit, but that could have been phrased more gently! Still, it brings an end to his stubbornness and he can only stand and watch, feeling useless, as the other three ride off without him.


Woods

Maria and Bonnaire ride through the forest, highly pleased with themselves.

Some distance behind but closing in, two musketeers and an apprentice are in hot pursuit.

Also in the forest are the two Men in Black, no longer content to simply follow and watch, now that Bonnaire is escaping. They lie in wait until the escapees are close, then one of them steps out onto the path with pistol raised…

Man in Black#1 shoots Maria as soon as she's in range. Dammit, and another guest female character bites the dust, that's three out of three in as many episodes: Adele, Suzette and now Maria. It stands out more because there are so few women in the show anyway.

Show, Show, I love you, but please stop killing off all the women!

Bonnaire is horrified as his beloved wife tumbles from the horse, dead. Ahead of him, Man in Black#1 is re-loading his pistol. Behind, the musketeers are closing in fast – and another gunshot now rings out, Man in Black#2 sniping at them from further back in the trees and missing.

Bonnaire's finely developed sense of self-preservation takes over. Whispering to Maria's corpse to forgive him, he shuffles forward on the horse to take the reins and goes plunging off the track to splash across the stream and away.

D'Artagnan takes it upon himself to give chase, leaving Athos and Aramis to deal with the Men in Black – one lurking among the trees still and the other standing in the middle of the path, re-loaded pistol at the ready. Aramis goes for his arquebus, and I notice that Aramis is taking more and more of a lead on this mission, whether because Athos is becoming more and more withdrawn or simply because he happens to be in front!

ARAMIS: Hold your fire! We're the King's men!


He gets shot at for his trouble, but it's another miss, despite the close range; Man in Black#1 not the greatest shot then, must have got lucky with Maria. Having missed, and now finding himself staring down the barrel of an arquebus, he turns tail and runs.

Aramis jumps down from his horse, shouting this time for the man to stop or he'll be shot. The man keeps running. Having given him every chance to surrender, Aramis shoots him down. Best shot in the regiment.

Elsewhere in the forest

Bonnaire gallops away as fast as his horse will carry him. D'Artagnan pursues at a more leisurely pace.

Forest path

In his guise as first aider of the team, Aramis checks Maria for any signs of life, just in case, but no, she is very dead. Then he goes to Man in Black#1, who is still alive, just about.

Where did the other one go? Shouldn't Man in Black#2 be lurking in the trees to cause menace still? Or has he fled when he saw his comrade shot down? Shouldn't one of the musketeers check?

Athos hovers, pistol at the ready in case of further trouble, as Man in Black#1 chokes out his last words in Spanish. Aramis responds in the same tongue, trying to get more information out of him, but it is too late: the man is dead, leaving the musketeers to wonder why Spain would send agents after Bonnaire.


The show never explains how Aramis comes to speak Spanish so fluently, and I know that in real world terms they were simply making the most of a Chilean actor whose first language is Spanish, but in-universe there is no explanation ever given. Fandom, therefore, likes to come up with explanations of its own, which is always a fun game, and there are plenty of reasons a person might be fluent in more than one language – perhaps his mother was Spanish, perhaps he grew up on the border, etc – but it always bugs me when reading The Musketeers fanfiction that so many writers follow one another into the trope of continually referring to Aramis by the epithet 'the Spaniard', which he isn't. The actor is Chilean, but while the character might speak Spanish and may possibly have Spanish heritage, he describes himself as a Frenchman, and he should know.

Also, between the sharpshooting, first aid, and bilingualism, Aramis certainly possesses the most versatile skillset of all the Musketeers!

Elsewhere in the forest

Bonnaire continues to gallop. D'Artagnan continues his pursuit.

De la Fère manor

Left alone to fret and feel useless, Porthos paces about, frustrated and in pain. His eyes fall on Bonnaire's document case, left behind in the rush of his flight. Porthos wanders over to take a look.

In the forest

Bonnaire's horse has come to a dead stop and refuses to move, no matter how much he cajoles. D'Artagnan trots up behind him, smugly satisfied.

D'ARTAGNAN: It's a classic mistake. A horse can gallop two miles at most. If you'd have kept doing a nice, even canter, you might have escaped.
BONNAIRE: Yes, I suppose if I was a farm boy, I'd know that sort of thing.


And d'Artagnan just smiles and nods and pulls out his gun. Gotcha. Yeah, whatever his reasons for hanging out with the Musketeers un-commissioned, eternally unexplained, he really is a natural at this. Also, I always enjoy it when his background on the farm is remembered and made use of. All four guys have their areas of especial expertise.

D'ARTAGNAN: Now get down. You can walk back. Give that horse a rest.

De la Fère manor

Back at the manor, a horrified Porthos is engrossed in Bonnaire's papers when the others return.


As soon as Bonnaire enters the room, Porthos hurls the papers aside and throws himself at the man in blind fury, sending him crashing to the ground with a single punch. Built like an ox and fuelled by rage, it takes both d'Artagnan and Athos to hold him back, while Aramis winces and cringes nearby.


ARAMIS: There goes my needlework.

Having torn his stitches, Porthos is finally subdued, but remains incensed, barely able to put his rage into words as he points to Bonnaire's papers. Aramis, looking uneasy, like he's beginning to guess what's wrong, takes a look, since d'Artagnan and Athos are both hanging onto Porthos still for fear of what he might do to Bonnaire if they let go, because, you know, whatever the provocation, they really can't allow a fellow musketeer to murder an unarmed prisoner!

PORTHOS: That's Bonnaire's cargo. Men, women, children. It's a slave ship.

He can barely choke the words out. This is the moment the plot twists, the comedy façade dropping away to reveal the horrible truth behind that charming, affable exterior.

BONNAIRE: The drawings make it look far worse than it really is.
PORTHOS: Look at this one. People packed on the deck like fish at the market. I envied him. Boasting about his plans to farm tobacco. Boasted that labour is cheap out there. It isn't cheap labour, is it, Bonnaire? Its stolen labour, stolen lives.

This is intensely personal for Porthos, the son of a freed slave who died in squalor, leaving him alone in the world – we needed that backstory earlier to give us the drama and emotion of this moment now. An issue-led plotline, perhaps, and told through a modern lens, but nonetheless relevant for that, especially since the ancestry of Alexandre Dumas himself resonates through this storyline, deliberately so. The issue is used here to further inform Porthos's character in particular, but also those of his friends, as they react to his distress and its cause, and in their faces we see sympathy, concern, shock, outrage, disgust, plus also a hint of racial guilt and uncertainty what to do or say about it.

And now there are three men struggling to hold Porthos back. He really is very strong. The scene-to-scene continuity becomes a bit dodgy here, as d'Artagnan at his right shoulder suddenly turns into Aramis, turns back into d'Artagnan again, but I appreciate the tiny background detail of Aramis trying hard to take a look at the torn stitches at the same time as restraining him.


BONNAIRE: I am not a prejudiced man. This is business. Strictly business.
PORTHOS: The business of misery and suffering.
ATHOS: It's our duty to protect him.
PORTHOS: And turn a blind eye to his crimes?
ATHOS: Slavery is cruel and disgusting, but…it's not a crime.

Oh, the look of betrayal on Porthos's face there is heartbreaking. Athos is actually very sympathetic here, this is the gentlest he's been since all this trouble began, but he's back in Leader of the Gang mode, focused on the mission, focused on the law. Legality and duty are important to Athos, the belt and braces that hold him together, so it makes sense that he'd call on them in his attempt at reasoning with Porthos, trying to focus his mind back on the mission. Athos believes absolutely in doing one's duty even when it hurts…but it isn't a strategy that can offer any comfort to Porthos here.

I'd like to add for the record here that statements regarding the legality of slavery are usually talking about the laws of the lands and people who do the enslaving, rather than the laws of the lands and people that have been invaded and enslaved. That has been universally true throughout history.

For Porthos, this is deeply personal, and for him the devastating moral implications override all other considerations, finding himself face to face with a slave trader, this single representative of a worldwide industry. What can his duty to this one morally depraved wretch matter compared with the suffering of thousands? And yet what would vengeance on this one man do to alleviate that suffering? He is close to tears here.


PORTHOS: I heard stories about those ships as a child. Oh, hellish stories. Know why they're shackled? Hmm? To stop 'em jumping overboard. Yeah, cause that's better than watching your friends, your family, your children die of starvation and sickness and hopelessness.
ARAMIS: You'll get your justice, Porthos. The King will see to that.

Aramis and Athos really are like chalk and cheese, in almost everything. Where Athos tried to reason with Porthos to get him back on-mission, because duty is what keeps Athos himself going when his personal sorrows threaten to overwhelm him, Aramis instead goes for the heart by offering the reassurance he knows Porthos wants and needs, even though it's not a promise he can actually guarantee; he's placing a lot of faith in the king and in the justice system here, which is not necessarily well-founded even if Bonnaire is due to stand trial for breach of the Spanish treaty, but it's what Porthos needs to hear so Aramis gives it to him. Head versus heart: that's the difference between Athos and Aramis in a nutshell.

In the grounds

It's later, and Bonnaire is digging a grave for his wife. All this must be taking a fair bit of time, and Athos was keen to escape the house as quickly as possible! Best laid plans.

While Bonnaire digs, and fair play to James Callis, you can see his churning emotions as he digs, Portho is guarding him, calmer now but not about to let go of this any time soon, bristling with disgust and outrage and bitterness. He knows Athos is right, they have to continue to protect this man and exacting vengeance on him won't change the worldwide slave trade or do a damn thing to help its victims, but that knowledge sticks horribly in the craw, so he is clinging now to Aramis's assurance that this one slave trader at least will be punished when they reach Paris. And in the meantime, we get this frank exchange between a slave trader, full of the justifications that allow him to spin a profit and still think of himself as not that bad really, and the son of a freed slave, passionate in the cause of freedom but ultimately helpless to act:


PORTHOS: So, what's it like, buying people? I suppose you have a shopping list.
BONNAIRE: Actually, I do. Makes the whole process a lot easier.
PORTHOS: I'll bet.
BONNAIRE: It isn't a choice between freedom and slavery. It's the choice between one life as a slave and another. If I don't buy 'em, someone else will. And, believe you me, I'm offering by far the better life.
PORTHOS: Men are born free. No-one has the right to make slaves of them.
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. That's all. I deal in commodities.
PORTHOS: A man is not a commodity.
BONNAIRE: Oh, in Africa, he is.

It's a powerful exchange, both actors giving it their all. Probably just as well they are interrupted at this point by d'Artagnan and Aramis, bringing Maria's body for burial, respectfully wrapped in a sheet.

Bonnaire tearfully laments his lost love, while Porthos accuses him of crocodile tears, pointing out that he left her to die, when push came to shove. Bonnaire is of the opinion that it's what she'd have wanted, that he owed it to her courage to try to escape, since she was killed trying to rescue him, and Porthos is disgusted all over again, no doubt wondering why he ever liked this man. He turns his back on the funeral, a gesture that speaks volumes.

Maria is laid to rest and Bonnaire weeps for her, while Aramis at his side folds his hands respectfully and raises his eyes to heaven, to remind us that he is the devout one, despite all appearances. The prayer he offers here is both for Maria and for all Bonnaire's victims, aimed more at Porthos than at Bonnaire, who had requested it.

ARAMIS: Nothing that suffers can pass without merit in the sight of God. Amen.


Back in the house

Left alone while everyone else is at the funeral, Athos takes the opportunity to indulge in drink, because, you know, this is his house so he knows where the wine is kept. His emotional walls have been sky-high since all this began, but they are crumbling fast now; he was already struggling with the memories of his supposedly dead wife, so the funeral being held outside for another man's dead wife is pretty much the final straw that breaks the camel's back, so to speak. No wonder he can't bring himself to attend.

His rigid self-control is overwhelmed at last and Athos crumbles into tears over the bed he once shared with his wife, grieving for the life they once shared and the future together he once believed in.


Field

Later, Athos stands alone under a solitary tree in the middle of a field, where he finds a white button lying in the dirt at his feet.


After five years, it's still just lying there, that easy to spot? I'm not sure I buy that. Anyway, it triggers more flashbacks:

Flashback

The young Comte de la Fère sits atop his horse, watching from a short distance away as Milady, dressed all in white, stands beneath that same tree atop a cart while a priest talks to her, presumably giving the last rites. Milady holds a posy of forget-me-knots in her hand.

The priest raises his crucifix to his lips. The hangman approaches – it is Remi the blacksmith.

Milady hands her posy to the priest as Remi ties her hands behind her back. Milady is stone-faced. Watching, Athos is grim. This is how it all ended. This was the end of their love story.


As Remi binds Milady, a button falls from her cuff.

The noose is fitted. Remi looks to the young Athos for final orders. Athos nods. Remi pulls the cart away. The rope becomes taut – this, we now realise, explains the scar about her throat that she keeps covered always. Rope burn from being hanged.

Athos, locket clutched tight in his hand, rides away, unable to watch his wife die.

No commentary on the flashbacks, for now, because we've not yet been given any context with which to make sense of them. That will come.

Present

In the here and now, d'Artagnan has come looking for Athos, wondering what he is up to, and finds him still standing under that tree, on the spot where he believes his wife died on his order.


Athos is clearly distressed now, the rigid control he's maintained throughout has cracked and he can't get it back.

There's someone he needs to see in the village, he says, and staggers off, more than a little drunk. D'Artagnan wants to go with him and points out that he hasn't been himself since they arrived, but instead of being drawn on the subject Athos employs diversionary tactics. He hasn't forgotten the mission, but is handing over responsibility for completing it – and for duty-conscious Athos, that's huge.

ATHOS: Keep an eye on Porthos. Don't leave him alone with Bonnaire.
D'ATAGNAN: At least tell me where you're going.
ATHOS: Just get back on the road as soon as you can. Get Bonnaire to Paris.


I like how carefully d'Artagnan doesn't mention that they already have left Porthos alone with Bonnaire, while retrieving Maria's body! Also, from being desperate to get away from his old house, Athos is now telling the others to leave without him. That's quite the turnaround. No wonder d'Artagnan is worried...and it is notable that d'Artagnan is the only one of the group to have had one-on-one scenes with Athos in the episode, those private interactions both the reason d'Artagnan is the only one to notice just what a bad state he's in and also important for building a genuine bond between the two, which has been mostly implied up till now, since Plot kept them apart for most of the first two episodes. This is an important episode for building that relationship, which evens out the group dynamic.

Village

Geese honk and villagers bustle about their business – at least until Athos gallops past looking fierce and determined, whereupon every peasant he passes pauses in their activity to duck their heads respectfully.

He doesn't even acknowledge them. This is probably entirely in keeping with how nobles would treat their peasantry, not to mention a by-product of his total absorption in his own problems, but it isn't the most pleasant aspect of his personality, this blind spot he has regarding the common folk of his estate, of which we will see more in season two.

De la Fère Manor

While Athos is about his business, everyone else is packing up for the journey back to Paris, rather later than they'd originally intended. Aramis has reclaimed his sash, I notice, conspicuously lacking in blood stains despite having been used as a bandage until actual bandages became available!

Bonnaire is mutinous at the prospect of having to leave his wagon behind, since it contains gifts for the king intended to soften him up in hopes of avoiding punishment, but he gets nowhere with the remaining musketeers, who are no longer willing to indulge him. No, the wagon was slowing them down, so the wagon is being left behind, the focus now on getting to Paris as quickly as possible.

BONNAIRE: What do you think [the king] is going to do to me when he finds out that I don't have a gift for him?
ARAMIS: Quite ugly things, I'd imagine.

Deadpan and very pointed: Aramis is a past master at using his humour to threaten, as well as to entertain, and Porthos chuckles, appreciating how squarely his friend is in his corner. He is uneasy about leaving without Athos, however, and d'Artagnan agrees, but with Athos having taken a step back from the mission, Aramis has stepped up into the leadership role and insists they continue, mission-focused now that there is no longer any medical crisis to prioritise. His general take on the matter seems to be that Athos is a notoriously private man who would not appreciate interference in his personal concerns, so they should respect his wishes and leave him alone until and unless he asks for help – and since as far as Aramis knows, Athos has simply been reminded of his lost love, rather than anything more serious, it's a reasonable enough stance to take.

ARAMIS: You should trust Athos to handle his own affairs. We're leaving, now.

Village

Athos reaches the smithy and ventures inside in search of Remi, the erstwhile hangman. All is quiet inside, however, and Remi does not look up as he enters.

Absorbed in his own misery, Athos does not at first notice anything wrong, and indeed doesn't bother with even the most basic of pleasantries with this man he hasn't seen or spoken to in at least five years, instead launching straight into the questions he needs to ask with no explanatory preamble whatsoever. He knows Remi will know what he is talking about.

ATHOS: Was it quick? Did she suffer much?

But Remi doesn't answer, and Athos now steps close enough to realise why…

Remi is dead, his throat slit, and only on this viewing did I realise that he's sitting with the knife in his hand in an attempt to suggest suicide. Athos is dismayed, and it isn't clear at this point whether he realises Remi has been murdered or believes the man took his own life; the latter seems to be implied by his guilty, dismayed reaction:

ATHOS: I never should have involved you in this.


Exactly what Athos should never have involved Remi in, we are soon to find out, since up till now there has been no explanation offered for the (attempted) execution of Milady, which is one of the few plot points to come straight from the original novel, albeit in slightly altered form. We know only that they were married and in love, and that Athos then had her hung by Remi, but did not stick around long enough to watch her die, and that he has been tormented by the memory of it ever since, more so now than ever, having returned to the scene for the first time. The unspoiled viewer at this point has so many questions about what happened and why.

I also have questions about how recently Remi died. It looks like it only just happened, since the village smithy would normally be a hubbub of activity, which means a dead blacksmith is going to be discovered pretty damn quickly, which means he can't have been dead more than a few minutes, so the killer might be caught if pursued at once. But Athos seems here to assume the guy killed himself and probably thinks it's his fault, triggering it just by riding through the village and reminding the man of their shared past, or something, so no hunt for any killer now ensues.

Instead, Athos stumbles back out of the smithy looking shell-shocked, but shows no sign of raising the alarm or calling anyone to, you know, deal with the corpse. I guess the villagers are just going to have to stumble on the scene of the crime for themselves, and draw what conclusions they can from it.

On to Part Three

Profile

llywela: (Default)
llywela

July 2017

S M T W T F S
       1
2345 678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031     

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Jul. 28th, 2017 12:51 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios