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The one with all the quality h/c! This is the third of the four Musketeers recap/reviews I managed to complete before the project came to a halt when Life stepped in. Maybe one day I'll manage the rest!

"A man is not a commodity."



Harbour

We open with a pretty establishing shot of a ship in harbour, rocking gently on the waves.

A tall man with the air and dress of a buccaneer steps jauntily ashore and makes his way through the docks, tipping his hat to any female he passes. This is Emile Bonnaire, played by guest star James Callis of Battlestar Galactica fame, and he will be our primary guest character for the episode. He is accompanied by light, humorous music, setting him up as a comedic character we perhaps shouldn't take too seriously, but this is only partly true and leads to some tonal dissonance going forward, as this highly entertaining character is attached to a very serious storyline.

We see a handful of men noticing and recognising Bonnaire, hefting clubs meaningfully as they set off in pursuit, and behind those men…d'Artagnan. I was about to declare this the first episode not to open on d'Artagnan, but there he is.

Inn

Bonnaire enters an inn, pauses a moment on the threshold to take in the scene, and then shouts out:

BONNAIRE: Drinks for the whole house!

Well, that's one way to make an entrance. He heads inside accompanied by cheers from the patrons of the establishment, a flamboyant peacock of a man, strutting proudly, making sure everyone knows he is there.

D'Artagnan now enters the bar in his wake, glancing nonchalantly around to make note of Athos and Porthos sitting together in a booth nearby before sauntering across to sit with Aramis at another table again. No acknowledgement between any of them, no sign that they know one another. This is a mission, and they don't want to tip off the mark. Yet.

Bonnaire is making himself comfortable, flirting with the bar wench who brings him a drink as he sheds coats and baggage. Athos and Porthos start whispering to each other now, like schoolboys in the back row hoping the teacher won't notice.

ATHOS: A man who likes to draw attention to himself.
PORTHOS: Think he knows he's being watched?
ATHOS: And not just by us.



Bonnaire certainly seems completely oblivious as he makes a big show of giving an exotic feather to the nameless bar wench.

BONNAIRE: The tail feather of an Amazonian macaw, quite the loveliest bird in the jungle, yet not half so lovely as you. It matches your eyes perfectly.

We'll just ignore the corny flirting to note that between the ship and the Amazonian macaw feather, we've established that Bonnaire is a traveller. Nearby, d'Artagnan can't quite believe what he is seeing.

D'ARTAGNAN: Seduced by a feather, really?
ARAMIS: Anyone can tell a woman she's beautiful. Making her believe it is where the genius lies.


Yeah, it figures that Aramis the libertine would appreciate Bonnaire's style, although he primarily seems amused by the man.

While d'Artagnan and Aramis are exchanging notes on Bonnaire's seduction technique, Athos and Porthos are busy identifying the goons around the bar who are also watching Bonnaire. They count at least three, plus two uniformed gentlemen just walking in, who they can't quite place: not goons like the others, but definitely interested parties. Let us call them the Men in Black.

Bonnaire continues to flirt, the assorted goons get ready to make their move, and then…

MARIA: Emile!

Bonnaire's whole demeanour changes, like a guilty little boy all of a sudden, as a woman comes charging through the bar toward him. D'Artagnan is alarmed and makes to intervene, but Aramis pulls him back.


ARAMIS: I want to see how this plays out.

The woman launches herself at the bar wench, it's a proper cat fight. No prizes for guessing who she is. Yep, this is Bonnaire's wife, Maria. At length she gets the bar wench pinned down with a knife to her throat, but her ire is mainly aimed at Bonnaire, who has recovered his composure.

MARIA: I'll kill you!
BONNAIRE: Darling, calm yourself, I beg you. It's far too early in the morning.

The goons now begin to make their move, just to add to the general chaos. Bonnaire promptly shoots one in the knee under the table, not as unprepared for the attack as it seemed, and Maria swings around to wield her knife menacingly at the attacker, threatening death to anyone who touches her husband.

A second goon begins his charge, but is tripped by d'Artagnan and then pinned beneath the foot of Aramis, who now stands and draws his pistol, ready to enter the fray. Goon#2 takes the hint and flees. Porthos takes out Goon#3 with one heavy blow and, with the opposition now subdued, the Musketeers close in on Bonnaire – much to the alarm of Maria.

MARIA: You can stay away too.
ARAMIS: A moment ago you wanted to kill him.
MARIA: I have the right. You don't.

I'm…not sure they ever explain why Maria is so angry with her husband here; it can't just be because he was flirting with the bar wench. Her anger isn't explained because it isn't relevant to the plot, it's simply used to shape her introduction and our perception of the character as a spitfire; although Maria herself is fab, she is primarily a plot device. She rushes at Aramis with her knife, but he disarms her with ease and hands her over to d'Artagnan…who fails to keep hold of her.


D'ARTAGNAN: She just bit me!

Porthos guffaws while Bonnaire tries to brazen it out.

BONNAIRE: Gentlemen, thank you. Thank you. I can't thank you enough. Lucky for me you were here.
ATHOS: Not entirely. Emile Bonnaire, I am Athos of the King's Musketeers. You are under arrest. We're taking you to Paris to appear before the King.

Okay, I'm going to ask this again now, because it really has not been made clear. If this is an official Musketeer mission, why is d'Artagnan involved? He isn't a musketeer. Is he classed as a cadet, included on missions as part of his training? Or is he just tagging along unofficially for the fun of it? Come on, Show, explain!

Yeah, I know they never will, it's just a pet gripe of mine this first season.

Even as they disarm him, Bonnaire is still trying to talk his way out of trouble, insisting that he can't possibly go to Paris because he has business to attend. Athos blandly counters that his business is just going to have to wait. D'Artagnan then wonders what they should do about Maria, who acidly points out that she has a name, and Bonnaire, beaming, proudly explains that she is his wife. Aramis again seems amused – being a bit of a showman himself, he appreciates Bonnaire's style.

Porthos finishes divesting Bonnaire of his weapons, while the two Men in Black now approach to remind Bonnaire, in thick Spanish accents, not to leave his baggage behind, handing him his document case. They don't introduce themselves, and the musketeers don't ask any questions, but Bonnaire seems chastened by their presence.

Porthos takes the case. Bonnaire is still trying to think of a way out of this.

BONNAIRE: Oh, um, grant me one last favour before we go. A few moments alone with my wife.
D'ARTAGNAN: You must think we're stupid.

More comedy background music as the three musketeers only shrug, as if they think the request not as unreasonable as all that.


D'ARTAGNAN: Terribly sorry, apparently we are.
ATHOS: I must have your guarantee that you won't try to escape, monsieur.
BONNAIRE: You have my word on it, as a gentleman.

ROLL CREDITS


Inn

And then it's later, and the musketeers are hanging around waiting for Bonnaire and his wife to finish doing what they are doing.

Lurking on an upper landing in what looks suspiciously like the inn d'Artagnan stayed at when he first arrived in Paris, even though this is meant to be another city entirely (Show does love to re-use its sets and locations), Porthos notes that Bonnaire's 'admirers' have all gone, for now, just to bring us all up to speed. Athos asks his friend what he thinks they wanted, and I'm interested in the emphasis he places here, the point he makes of asking for Porthos's judgement of the situation.

PORTHOS: Probably owed them money. All traders are slippery as eels.

Bonnaire, then, is a trader. Figures.

From behind the door they are guarding, there is a lot of noise, which certainly sounds like extremely vigorous sex; the two musketeers pull faces at each other about it, like teenagers…


Bedroom

…but we soon see that Bonnaire is in fact noisily faking the sex, while Maria picks the lock into the next room. Quite the couple, these two, and although they don't get much on-screen time together, I do appreciate how much they seem to genuinely admire and adore one another, working together here as a well-oiled team.

Door open, Maria tells Bonnaire to escape through the window, explaining that their associate Thibault will be waiting near the main entrance. Maria has organised everything, it seems. She's quite a woman.


They take the time for a passionate kiss.

Street

Bonnaire makes his escape through a window that looks suspiciously similar to the one d'Artagnan jumped out of after being accused of murder in episode one. Set re-use at its finest. Bonnaire's escape is rather more measured, however, climbing down a handily placed veranda instead of jumping and falling.

There is a cart waiting nearby. Friend Thibault helps Bonnaire into it, silent, because the actor isn't paid to speak, and they drive away.

Tucked under a blanket out of sight, Bonnaire is smugly satisfied that he has made a successful escape…until he looks up to speak to Thibault.

His face drops. Porthos is sitting up front, holding a gun on the unlucky Thibault, chuckling.


PORTHOS: I'd sit up here if I were you. I'm sure your friend won't mind.

Got to say, I'm impressed at how fast Porthos got out here ahead of Bonnaire when we just saw him up on the landing.

As Thibault jumps down and runs away, we see that Athos and d'Artagnan are following the cart on horseback. Athos got to his horse fast, as well, so I'm going to guess that d'Artagnan had it ready and waiting. Bonnaire, resigned to his fate, clambers out to sit up front with Porthos, and we see now that Aramis is leading the procession.

ARAMIS: Everything shipshape with the wife?

Bonnaire can only sigh, knowing he has been outplayed. They stitched him up like a kipper.

Louvre Palace, Richelieu's office

Milady is touching base with the Cardinal, reporting that two envoys from the Spanish court have arrived in Le Havre in pursuit of the explorer Bonnaire. These will be our Men in Black, clearly. Richelieu, scarcely deigning to give her his attention as he fusses around with his papers, already knows this, but it is useful information for viewers, filling in a few details on what we've already seen. Richelieu also knows that Bonnaire is under protective custody and on his way to Paris, and Milady adds that he is being brought by the musketeer Athos and his friends. It's like a game of one-upmanship to see who knows the most already, neither one actually needs the other to tell them anything here.

Milady now has a favour to ask.

MILADY: Will you be requiring my services in the near future? I have some personal matters to attend to.
RICHELIEU: Any notion of a personal life ended the day I picked you out of the gutter and made you my creature.

Ouch. Also, interesting backstory information, leaving us to wonder where she was and what she was doing when he found her. We know that Milady has been in Richelieu's service for five years at this point, she told us that in episode two, but what brought these two together in the first place? Richelieu picked her out of the gutter, he says, but what was she doing when he found her? What was it about her that caught his eye as a talent worth sponsoring? And just how desperate was she at the time – was it a match made in heaven, the meeting of two like minds, or more a matter of coercion? How much of a choice was she given about launching her current career as a spy and assassin? How much of a choice does she have about continuing said career – could she walk away, if she wished? Would she walk away, given the chance? She seems to enjoy her work, and we've been told she is well compensated for it, but we don't get much insight into how her mind works.

Here and now, having drummed home the point that he owns her, Richelieu now relents.

RICHELIEU: But, of course, even assassins should have a holiday now and then. This personal matter – it wouldn't have anything to do with Athos?
MILADY: In a manner of speaking.
RICHELIEU: As of this moment, he's involved in the King's business. I trust you have no plans to interfere.
MILADY: I wouldn't dream of it.


We know from episode one that Richelieu knows Milady has a connection to Athos, but doesn't know what that connection is, so it amuses me to wonder if he's curious but can't allow himself to ask, because revealing that curiosity would give her power over him and he can't allow that. It must burn that he doesn't know, and can't find out because the person he would send on such a fact-finding mission is Milady herself. Unless he has other sources, of course.

I could watch these two dancing around each other all night, they have such a fascinating dynamic, bound together yet never quite trusting one another, always guarded, always testing the boundaries of their relationship, pushing and probing, verbal fencing and double speak all the way.

RICHELIEU: One thing I have learned in politics is never to let personal issues cloud my judgment. You would do well to imitate my example.
MILADY: You know I try to imitate you in everything.

Never lets personal issues cloud his judgement, my foot. The corpse of Adele Bessette might have a thing or two to say about that! Milady doesn't believe it any more than I do, but she goes through the motions of feigning obedient admiration anyway, just for form.

Country Road

The comedy music is back, encouraging us not to take Bonnaire too seriously, as we re-join the protective custody procession en route to Paris from Le Havre. Porthos is driving Bonnaire's cart still, and his horse, let us note, has been collected and is tethered to the back of the cart, which is a detail I appreciate, since I specifically looked for it when I saw Porthos driving while the other three ride.


Sitting up front with Porthos, Bonnaire waxes lyrical about his admiration of men of a military disposition and how his father raised him on tales of the great heroism of the Musketeers, clearly a man who believes in buttering up his adversaries if he can't defeat them outright, but Porthos calls him right the hell out on his bullshit:

PORTHOS: Who was he, Nostradamus? The regiment didn't even exist then.

Ha. Bonnaire remains unruffled, however, and keeps talking, which seems to be his favourite thing to do.

BONNAIRE: I was going to be a soldier once myself, but life…life had a different plan for me. All the things I've done, the places I've been. My friend, you would scarcely believe the stories I can tell…

He promptly proceeds to start telling some of those stories, clearly enjoying having a captive audience, even if that audience is only one man – Aramis has vanished, while d'Artagnan and Athos are dropping further and further back to escape the non-stop chatter.

D'ARTAGNAN: You know, we could probably walk to Paris quicker than this. Ditch that wagon and we might make progress.
ATHOS: Bonnaire hopes his exotic gifts will soften the King's mood.
D'ARTAGNAN: Do you think he's right?
ATHOS: It costs us nothing to humour him.

This is the closest to a good mood we've seen Athos yet! It's also the first time we've really seen Athos and d'Artagnan just hanging out chatting like friends, and we've needed see them interact like this to build and sell a relationship that's been primarily implied up till now. Episode one lay the foundations by giving them a significant moment or two, but the only actual conversation they had in that episode was d'Artagnan accusing Athos of murdering his father. Then d'Artagnan spent most of episode two undercover, and while we saw Athos deeply concerned for his safety, there was very little actual interaction between them, and that wholly mission-focused. So it's about time we saw them interacting on a more casual basis like this, if we are to buy into their friendship as we should.

Bonnaire is still trying to win Porthos over, offering him a drink.

BONNAIRE: A calabash. Grows all over West Africa. I'm guessing your ancestry owes something to those regions.
PORTHOS: Maybe.
BONNAIRE: Did they come to France as slaves?
PORTHOS: My mother. Moved to Paris when she was freed.
BONNAIRE: I've known many freed slaves who prospered.
PORTHOS: Yeah? Well, she didn't. I was fending for myself since the age of five.


I'm just going to note for the record here that we have now been told that Bonnaire has been in both Africa and the Americas, this information slipping out very subtly, in idle conversation, and we also know that he is a trader, plus he even brings up the subject of slaves himself here in a very casual, matter-of-fact way, so perhaps the later revelation of his involvement in the slave trade shouldn't really come as a surprise to anyone who is paying attention…but it is easy to overlook the clues, if you aren't looking for them, which the musketeers aren't.

Also, it's an effective use of the outsider character to tease out some backstory on one of the regulars, which we needed to hear to begin to understand the character and where he comes from. Porthos is the musketeer we've probably seen the least of so far, so it's about time we started getting to know him a bit better. We see here that Porthos is reluctant to speak of his heritage and his past, especially to this stranger, but when the thick-skinned Bonnaire fails to take the hint and just carries on chatting, amiable and nonchalant and interested, Porthos succumbs to his charm and responds by volunteering some intriguing background information.

Let us also note for the record that the backstory given for Porthos here departs sharply from that of his more well-to-do and eternally aspirational book counterpart, his history and heritage in the show deliberately shaped as homage to The Three Musketeers author Alexandre Dumas, a biracial man who was the grandson of a freed slave. Dumas, however, had a comfortable upbringing compared to that implied by Porthos here, an orphan left to fend for himself on the streets of Paris at a very tender age. It's a miracle he survived, never mind made it to where he is now. Bonnaire is certainly impressed – or at least pretends to be, since he is determined to keep sweet with his guards.

BONNAIRE: Still, you: from the streets of Paris to the King's elite regiment? Quite a journey!
PORTHOS: I took to soldiering, unlike you.

I like what this tells us about Porthos, such a simple statement that allies with both the backstory given here and what we already know of his loyal, steadfast personality to tell us so much about him, about how he clawed his way out of the gutter by joining the army and working his way up, finding there a cause to fight for and a brotherhood to belong to. This backstory also lends some context to a throwaway remark he made in episode two, when Aramis was wittering on about never having been unpopular before, while Porthos quietly noted that he has. Yeah, the street kid son of an freed slave would have seen a lot of prejudice in his time.

But that's the end of the cosy get-to-know-you chat, as Aramis now comes galloping up to the group shouting that they are being followed. He's been scouting, then – no doubt necessary, with someone like Bonnaire in custody, known to have many enemies. The two Men in Black from the inn are about a mile behind, Aramis explains as he catches up, and Athos wonders what they are waiting for.

Derelict Farm

Okay, the place might not be derelict, but it looks it. The little procession pulls in off the road, Athos explaining for the benefit of viewers that they hope to lose the tail by getting off the road for a while. But as they dismount and tie up the horses, Aramis's spidey-senses are tingling, his sharp ears catching a sound that wasn't made by them. Athos sees the look on his face and realises something is up, while Bonnaire, lacking a soldier's instincts, wonders what's going on. Porthos gets him down from the wagon while everyone draws their swords, ready for a fight.


ARAMIS: Come out and state your business!
ATHOS: That was very formal.
ARAMIS: I like to be polite.

Ha. Like I said, Athos seems to be in a good mood; it's the first time we've really seen him relaxed enough to tease one of his friends, since he spent most of episode one on death row and episode two fretting about d'Artagnan's safety undercover. Alas, this good humour will not last – indeed, this is the last we will see of it for the remainder of the episode, as a mad axeman now jumps out of cover and rushes at Aramis from behind, rather too close for comfort. While d'Artagnan yells a warning, Athos shoots the man dead, and that's the cue for a whole gang of attackers to charge from their hiding places. Ambush!

Big action sequence: fighting, shooting, usual drill. While they fight, I'm going to take a moment to wonder how long these guys had been hiding out in hopes Bonnaire and his escort might choose to stop at this precise location along the road. I mean, how could they have known for sure? I wonder how long they'd have waited in their hiding places if the party hadn't stopped here.

Our Heroes are, of course, highly trained soldiers, while their opponents, although they have vastly superior numbers, are little more than a rabble. Athos, Aramis and d'Artagnan do most of the fighting, and I like that three episodes in we're beginning to become familiar with their distinctive individual fighting styles. Athos, for instance, is a highly polished swordsman with a very economical style, calm and cool-headed, always one step ahead of his opponents, never a movement wasted, while Aramis pairs good form with a much more flamboyant style, fast, flashy and agile, often fighting with one hand on his hip – if he doesn't have another weapon in it, that is. D'Artagnan, meanwhile, is very scrappy, just flings himself into the fray, making up for his lack of experience with lots of energy and enthusiasm allied to a solid grounding and natural expertise. Porthos, meanwhile, can handle a sword as well as the next man but in general he's more of a brawler than a duellist, although we don't get to see much of his fighting style here as he hangs back to guard Bonnaire, since the mission is to get him to Paris in one piece, and only allows himself to be drawn into the fray when directly attacked.


The fight continues. Aramis gets whacked across the back with a heavy chain, which looks painful, but other than that Our Heroes more than hold their own against vastly superior numbers, although it probably helps that the opposition is primarily armed with clubs rather than swords or guns. Bonnaire has no fight in him at all, we see here, leaving Porthos to fight on his behalf, even when his sword has been snapped in half. I hope he has a spare back at the garrison.

Then disaster strikes. As Porthos stabs one assailant with the remains of his sword, another hits him in the back with an axe and he goes down, hard.

Aramis sees Porthos down and comes running, swiftly despatching the axeman before rushing to his friend. Athos and d'Artagnan continue to fight, but Aramis is all about the first aid now, quickly unbuckling his belt so he can use his sash as a bandage. I'm going to guess he either has a spare sash to bring into service after this one is ruined, since he is rarely seen without it for the next three seasons, or he has an excellent laundry service that specialises in removing blood stains! Possibly the same laundry service that manages to repair Porthos's leather doublet, which he will continue to wear even though it should be completely ruined, between the blood and the gaping hole.


At this point, a rather more well-to-do man emerges from a barn to call a halt to the fight, thus saving the lives of the ragtag attackers still standing, since they were never going to win, even with only one musketeer and one musketeer wannabe still fighting. This is Paul Meunier, and his argument, he declares, is not with the Musketeers but with Bonnaire. So, I guess, he was content to let his own hired underlings get cut to pieces, because who cares about peasant thugs, but when he saw a musketeer go down he figured he'd better step in, or something.

BONNAIRE: Gentlemen, allow me to introduce my business partner, Paul Meunier.
ARAMIS: On the face of it, I'd say your partnership isn't going well.

Ooh, check out the look Bonnaire and Aramis exchange there, one unrepentant sass-master acknowledging another.

MEUNIER: I funded Emile's expeditions for eight years, and yet I discover his ship has arrived, my cargo is nowhere to be found, and he's made no contact with me.

Bonnaire blames the Musketeers for this, pointing out that he was forced to travel to Paris without warning, and again I wonder how Meunier not only traced them to this random location along the road, but got there ahead of them to lay in waiting, with enough time beforehand to hire a sizeable squadron of local thugs. I suppose the wagon was going slowly enough for him to get ahead, but he'd have to have taken a long way around to avoid being seen, since we know the Musketeers were keeping watch and scouting along the road…

Meunier doesn't explain, he simply demands that Bonnaire be handed over to him, but Athos is at his most imperious here, coolly authoritative, and is having none of it.

ATHOS: I sympathise with your grievances, monsieur. No doubt your partner is a cheat and a swindler. However, it is our duty to deliver him safely to Paris, so you must wait and seek justice there.
MEUNIER: I'm not leaving without him.
ATHOS: That is unfortunate, because neither are we.
BONNAIRE: I don't suppose I have a say in this, do I?

No, no he does not. Aramis has been crouched over Porthos all this time, but now, deciding that this is taking too long, he steps in to end the standoff, levelling his pistol at Meunier and demanding that he tell his men to lay down their weapons. I thought they already had, but whatever.


With a pistol aimed right between his eyes, Meunier gives in and gives the order.

A few minutes later

Meunier prepares to leave, his men already scuttling away with their tails between their legs. Quite a few of them were cut down during the fight, but no one seems concerned about them, so I'm guessing they're dead already and nobody much cares. If any are wounded and in need of medical care, again nobody much seems to care.

In the background, we can see Aramis working on Porthos still, the only casualty who counts, while Athos talks to Meunier.

ATHOS: I will inform the cardinal of your claims against Bonnaire.
MEUNIER: How do I know you won't betray me?
ATHOS: I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that.


One does not impugn the honour of a musketeer!

We learn here that the two Men in Black Aramis saw on the road are not working for Meunier, who points out that he isn't the only one with an account to settle with Bonnaire. So if they aren't working for Meunier, that means they are still out there and still tailing the gang…

A few minutes later again

Meunier has gone and Porthos is conscious still but not happy about it, in a lot of pain and worried he might lose his arm.


Aramis, very neatly established in this sequence as the designated first aider of the team, is rather more worried that his friend might lose his life; hence the urgency with which he ended the stalemate. I like how clearly the show makes the visual distinction here between the medic and the bystanders: while Athos, d'Artagnan and Bonnaire are all very still, standing around watching, awaiting the outcome like so many spare parts – or in Bonnaire's case, not quite bearing to watch; he seems very squeamish for a seasoned explorer – Aramis is a study in motion, rapid and controlled movements, back and fore between Porthos and the wagon, collecting whatever he needs to tend the patient, his activity conveying the urgency of the situation very effectively.

ATHOS: That bad?
ARAMIS: It requires needlework, and soon.
ATHOS: Will he make it to Paris?
ARAMIS: He won't make it to the next village unless I get a chance to sew up that wound.

Watch the two of them in this exchange: Aramis intent on his patient and nothing else, his whole focus on saving Porthos's life, while Athos remains detached, weighing the injury against the bigger picture, the mission they have yet to complete. Friendship and duty have come into conflict here; Porthos is a dear friend to both, yet their reactions are very different, according to their different personalities and priorities – and, as we will learn, emotional issues. Although there is no rank among the musketeers, Athos by default tends to be the leader of the group, so it's kind of his job to keep his eyes on the bigger picture and make the tough calls; we saw Aramis step into that role in episode one, when Athos was out of commission, but he seems more than happy to cede the position when Athos is around, leaving himself free to take an alternate perspective, which here is that of the medic. And I guess the reverse is also true: because Aramis is looking after Porthos, Athos is free to weigh up all the other priorities they have to consider…but although we don't know it yet, he also has the beginnings of personal concerns to cloud his judgement here.

D'Artagnan stands nearby, caught between the two; he isn't a musketeer, has no official status, it isn't his decision to make, but he's concerned and wants to help, tries to be practical and offer sensible suggestions, a facet of his character I always appreciate.

D'ARTAGNAN: Do you think we should leave the road and look for shelter?
ATHOS: Not here. We will ride on for a few miles and then find somewhere.

Leave the road? Find somewhere? Look for shelter? They are already off the road, standing right next to a large, empty building – if all they need is shelter while Porthos's wound is tended, why not use that?

Oh yes: plot.

ARAMIS: Porthos isn't fit to ride anywhere.
ATHOS: Get him on the cart.
ARAMIS: Didn't you hear what I said? If we don't operate soon, he'll die.
ATHOS: We'll wait till it's dark.


ARAMIS: What's the matter with you? Don't you care about Porthos?

Ooh, conflict! It's the first time in the show we've seen any of the Inseparables at odds, and perhaps we might have predicted that it would be moody Athos and mercurial Aramis who'd come into conflict first, polar opposites that they are, rather than the measured, steadfast Porthos. Athos has just completely shut down in the heat of the crisis, ice-cold and aloof, almost callous in his pragmatism, all his thought processes pointing inward and showing no outward sign of concern whatsoever, which is what prompts Aramis's accusation, because Aramis here is all fear and urgency, heart very much worn on his sleeve. Usually so easy-going, this is the closest we've seen him come to real anger yet, and this is what it took to prompt that reaction: a threat to Porthos. Within the unholy trinity that is the Inseparables, Aramis and Porthos are the two who are the two, primarily aligned with one another, and have been from the start. So here Aramis is doing everything in his power to save his best friend's life, while his other friend, who should be helping, who he'd expected to care as much as he does, seems to be actively obstructing his efforts, and he can't understand why because Athos isn't talking, isn't giving anything away. But his heartfelt plea and wide eyed appeal breaks through that detached façade where perhaps nothing else might have done, and Athos gives in.

ATHOS: All right. I know somewhere nearby.
D'ARTAGNAN: Why didn't you mention it before?


He didn't mention it before because it's the last place in the world he ever wanted to revisit, and their proximity to it, the inner conflict between its eminent suitability as a port of refuge in this crisis and his deep antipathy to the very thought of seeing it again, is, it will soon become clear, a big part of the reason Athos has frozen up here, locking down his emotions a little too completely, until Aramis managed to break through, for Porthos's sake. Riding past on the mission was one thing, but the moment he realised they might need to actually go there was the moment Athos shut down, if only his comrades knew to realise it.

Village

The locals stop and stare as the procession winds its way past the forge, where a woman calls to the blacksmith Remi to come and see.

Athos is leading the way, stiff and uncomfortable, not looking at anyone they pass. Behind him Bonnaire is now driving the wagon himself, apparently no longer considered a flight risk, at least for the moment. Aramis and d'Artagnan are riding behind; Porthos, of course, is in the wagon, out of sight.

Blacksmith Remi does not look thrilled to see any of them and quickly ducks back out of sight. The assorted villagers whisper and gossip – Athos has been recognised.

I'm going to note for the record here that Porthos clearly has made it to the next village, which Aramis didn't think he would, but Aramis wouldn't have known how far they were from the nearest village or how long the journey might take – for all he knew, they had hours of riding ahead of them before they found somewhere suitable, which is why he didn't want to take the risk of moving Porthos. Athos, on the other hand, is intimately familiar with this part of the world, which is how he knew they were close enough to make it here. He just really, really, really did not want to come here, and thus resisted the idea as long as he could.

The procession reaches a run-down manor house, silent and still.


Athos stops and gazes at it in silent anguish for a moment before continuing. This is the last place in the entire world he ever wanted to return to.

De la Fère Manor

The house is derelict and dark as Athos flings open the doors and is followed inside by Aramis, half-carrying half-dragging the wounded Porthos, and d'Artagnan, who has taken charge of Bonnaire since everyone else is otherwise occupied. Probably a good thing they brought d'Artagnan, really, even though he isn't actually a musketeer and has no official business being there. And no, I am never letting go of his lack of official status, because said status is never explained.

Athos leads the way through to some kind of sitting room, the furniture covered up with dust sheets. Aramis and d'Artagnan get Porthos settled on a couch, and I'm just going to note here for the record that Aramis is no longer wearing his sash, which is clearly meant to have been used to bind up Porthos's shoulder, except that the bandage Porthos is wearing is completely the wrong colour, grey rather than blue.

Athos opens the shutters to shed some light on the scene and Bonnaire appraises the real estate, wheeler dealer that he is, always on the lookout for an opportunity.

BONNAIRE: I tell you something. If this place is for sale, I might be interested.
ATHOS: It's not.
BONNAIRE: No, you're right. It is a bit dark.

With Aramis poking at his wound again, in full blown medic mode and 100% focused, Porthos is in pain and hoping for something to take the edge off. Athos, grimly stoic now they are here, repressing his emotions like whoa, suggests wine. Bonnaire reckons he has something better.

BONNAIRE: A bottle of rum bouillon. Colonists makes it out of sugar molasses. So potent, they call it kill-devil.
PORTHOS: We'd best get acquainted.


Bonnaire comes across as a lovable rogue, so far, on the whole: a crook, a swindler and a coward, to be sure, but also charismatic and funny, generous enough to offer help to his guards in their hour of need. He is also, however, a man who can never be trusted, even when he makes overtures of friendship, a man whose primary goal is to help himself wherever possible, even at the expense of others. He's friendly and helpful here because he has no reason not to be, because he has nothing to lose and everything to gain by keeping the Musketeers on-side, but he'd sell them out in a heartbeat if he thought it in his best interests to do so. Being a man with no stomach for a fight, his charm and affability are the greatest defensive weapons he has. He encourages his opponents to underestimate him, he encourages them to like him, and he encourages them to, if not trust him, then certainly to lower their guard around him, all the while biding his time for the opportune moment to make his move. He's the most developed antagonist character the show has had yet, and James Callis is excellent in the role, dominating every scene he is in, always acting and reacting even in the background. He is tremendous fun to watch.

On the other hand, I do find it slightly troubling that an unrepentant slave trader is treated as a fun comedy figure, presented as charismatic and likeable rather than a more clear-cut villain. It does make the point that not all villains are the obvious moustache-twirling type, that likeable people can do terrible things and often aren't suspected because they seem so pleasant, it just bothers me that Bonnaire's come-uppance is ultimately treated as a joke, in comparison to other antagonist figures whose crimes are arguably lesser.

Anyway. It is left for d'Artagnan to ask the most pertinent question here, turning to Athos:

D'ARTAGNAN: So how did you know about this place?
ATHOS: I own it.

It's a mic drop moment. Athos walks out of the room, leaving the others to stare after him in shock.

This, we will learn, is the first time Athos has been in this house since his life imploded five years ago. Being here again is very, very hard for him; this is just the beginning of his gradual emotional meltdown.

Later

Aramis unfurls a roll of 17th century surgical instruments; he really is the designated first aider of the team, carrying that lot around in case of need. He's also stripped down to his shirt sleeves ahead of the operation, while Athos has returned and has apparently been explaining himself, at least a little, which I would love to have actually seen. Aramis seems fascinated by what he has learnt and what it means – we already knew from episode one that Porthos and Aramis only had the sketchiest information about the cause of Athos's melancholy, but here we realise just how little of his past he has ever confided in even his closest friends, keeping his true identity a closely guarded secret all the years they've known one another.


ARAMIS: You were the Comte de la Fère, a son of the nobility? How many servants did it take to run this place?
ATHOS: No more than 20, including my valet and housekeeper.
ARAMIS: Quite modest, then.
ATHOS: Servants make me uncomfortable.

Aramis is teasing, as usual; his curiosity and gentle raillery here implies that he does not come from anything approaching such lofty stock, and such of his backstory as is ever drawn out (which is to say not much) does confirm this.

Also: hey look, we just got at least part of Athos's real name! In a show that isn't big on giving its characters full names, it's a start…

Also, also: Athos is so well-spoken, with such an innately autocratic manner, his friends must surely have suspected he was well-born, even if they didn't realise quite how well-born. He's so inherently noble, he takes his nobility completely for granted, even while trying to remove himself from the privilege of his birth. Here, the emotional pressure he's under isn't obvious, he's repressing like mad – but he can't keep it up indefinitely.

Porthos has been laid out face down on the table, naked to the waist. Not as much blood as we might expect, given what we've been told about the severity of the wound, but then again Aramis has been working hard to stop or at least slow the bleeding this whole time and probably only just peeled the bandage away.

BONNAIRE: Look, if you…if you don't mind I'll just go wait outside. The sight of blood makes me feel a bit faint.

Is it an excuse to escape or is he genuinely queasy? Given what we know of him so far, probably both! D'Artagnan is having none of it, however; he may not be an official Musketeer, but he's a natural for the job, and is certainly very useful to have around on this mission, with Porthos wounded, Aramis fully occupied caring for him, and Athos increasingly preoccupied with his own issues. How did they ever manage without him?


Bonnaire gives in and stays put, looking nauseous, and I wonder how he ever found the stomach for his around the globe travels.

ARAMIS: You must be skilled at this yourself.
BONNAIRE: Better with sail than skin.
PORTHOS: Fine needlework, Aramis does. Should have been a seamstress.

Aramis smiles and, since Porthos's bare back is already on display, shows off some past examples of his handiwork for the still queasy-looking Bonnaire – and d'Artagnan moves closer to take a look, as well, still getting to know his new friends as he is.

ARAMIS: Two inches deep, that blade went, but you wouldn't know, would you? This one I trussed up during a skirmish we had in Poitiers. Stitching that's fine enough for the Queen's chemise.
D'ARTAGNAN: I agree. But perhaps you should save this tour for another time.
ARAMIS: If you could prepare the patient…

That was to Athos, who knows what to do. They have done this before. Athos steps closer, calls Porthos to get his attention – then punches him hard, knocking him out cold.


BONNAIRE: Dear God. What kind of brutes are you?
ATHOS: It's the best way with Porthos. We've learned from experience.


Hee, the way he says it, and Aramis's little nod, speaks volumes – there's a story there! But we don't get to hear it. Aramis bends over his patient and starts stitching.

On to Part Two

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