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This is the last of the four recap/reviews I managed to put together for The Musketeers before Life intervened - and who knows how long it might be before I manage any more, so at least this is a strong episode to end on, for now.

1x04 The Good Soldier

Louvre Palace Gardens

A hot, heavy sun hangs high in the sky above the Louvre Palace gardens. Flags fly. Footmen stand around holding the dogs. All is silent. All is still. King Louis and Queen Anne sit in state in a handy portable pavilion, which at least keeps the sun off their heads, while a full retinue of attendants, including palace guard and musketeers, stand to attention in the blazing sun.

If it's a baking hot summer's day here, and the show started in late winter/early spring with snow on the ground, it is clear that some months have now passed since d'Artagnan first came to Paris.

LOUIS: We are not accustomed to waiting.
RICHELIEU: After five years, what's a few more minutes, Your Majesty?

Five is the magic number, in this show. We already know that Athos and Milady's marriage imploded five years ago, sending him running to the Musketeers and her into the Cardinal's service. This episode also calls back to events five years ago. We were told in episode one that this season is set in 1630, so 1625, it seems, was also a busy year for these guys!

Louis rolls his eyes, bored out of his skull. Queen Anne sighs. In the distance, a peacock caws. The sun continues to beat down. Everyone continues to wait.

Nearby, three musketeers and a musketeer wannabe are standing to attention, modelling those ceremonial capes they like to wear draped over one shoulder only, serving absolutely no practical function whatsoever.

At least, the three musketeers are modelling their uniform capes. D'Artagnan, since he isn't a musketeer yet, is wearing his own cape, which covers both shoulders and therefore looks far more functional, if a bit warm for such a hot day.

So d'Artagnan even gets to go on parade at the palace with the Musketeers, despite not actually being a musketeer? Come on, Show: explain how he gets to join all their missions without official status!

…okay, I'm going to stop banging on about the lack of explanation now and just presume he's an official cadet awaiting commission, even if we have never been officially told as such, nor ever heard him actually express his desire to join. These things really shouldn't be left for us to just assume.

PORTHOS: Heat. Flies. Boredom. I do so love parades. You know, I'm thinking about fainting, just for something to do.

Heh. Athos is amused. Rather than rise to the bait, however, he glances past Porthos to Aramis, who we might more usually expect to be the one snarking away to ease the boredom, but instead he is staring off into the middle distance, silent and withdrawn. Four episodes in, we already know that quiet in Aramis is not a good sign. Aramis goes quiet when he's upset about something; you couldn't pay him to shut up under normal circumstances, so the difference is immediately apparent.

ATHOS: What's wrong with him?
PORTHOS: Have you forgotten about the massacre at Savoy?
D'ARTAGNAN: What massacre?

D'Artagnan here is the audience stand-in, ignorant of the past secrets of the musketeers but eager to learn more. What massacre, when? Why has it come up now? We will find out soon enough. For now, Aramis pointedly ignores all the whispering. It's possible he doesn't even hear it, but I don't think he's so withdrawn that he isn't listening, he just doesn't want to talk about it.

I'm going to take a look at the timeline here, because at first glance it seems like awkward exposition, Athos having to be reminded of this incident and its significance, but we learn later in this episode that the massacre at Savoy happened five years ago (because five is the magic number) and took place at Easter – Good Friday, to be precise, which in 1625 fell on 28th March in the real world, which more or less ties in with the snowy scene we see in flashbacks in this episode. Milady's murder of Thomas de la Fère and her subsequent hanging, which sent Athos reeling to the Musketeers, also took place five years ago, therefore also happened in 1625…but Athos's flashbacks in episode three looked to be taking place in late spring or summer, which means the Savoy massacre happened some months before Athos joined the Musketeers. So it makes sense that he doesn't realise what's bothering Aramis here: he wasn't with the regiment at the time and therefore only knows of the event by hearsay, having been told about it after the fact, and since it doesn't form part of his personal experience and he was most likely in a dreadful state himself when he arrived, given his own recent trauma, the full meaning of whatever he was told about it may not have registered, which is why he doesn't automatically make the connection now.

Porthos, though, seems to know all about it and is immediately aware of why Aramis is unsettled here, with the Duke of Savoy about to arrive in Paris for the first time since the massacre, stirring up all kinds of bad memories. At first glance, this seems to suggest that Porthos was already with the regiment when the massacre happened and lived through the aftermath, which makes Athos the last of the three to join up. But on the other hand, if Porthos were already with the regiment when the massacre happened, he'd have known the men who died as his comrades and brothers-in-arms, and we never get that sense from this episode, which consistently gives the impression that he never knew them at all. So was he with the regiment but still too new at the time of the massacre to have formed friendships with the men who died? Did he join the regiment in the immediate aftermath, befriending Aramis as he recovered? Or did he join much later, and knows Aramis is troubled by the Duke's visit now just because they've already talked about it? We can't know for sure. The one thing that does seem certain is that Aramis is the longest-serving musketeer of the three.

Elsewhere in the palace grounds

A tile smashes to the floor as a masked intruder rappels down from the cloister roof and scurries away before he can be seen.

Seriously, how bad is security at the palace that just anyone can make it into the grounds if they please? This is three episodes in a row now!

Back with the king and his retinue

LOUIS: It's just like the Duke to be late. He's always paraded himself as my equal, when Savoy is little more than a pimple on France's chin.
RICHELIEU: A strategically important pimple, Sire, the vital defence against Spanish influence on our border.
LOUIS: I'm aware of that, Cardinal. So is the Duke, otherwise he wouldn't keep us standing around all day.

Ha. I love the mutinous way he mutters this complaint. Louis, of course, is almost the only person present who is not standing around! He and the Queen get to sit while everyone else stands to attention.

Also, let us note for the record that this is the first time we have seen Richelieu and Aramis physically present in the same scene, although they still don't interact at all here. We know that Richelieu knows his mistress had an affair with a musketeer named Aramis, and murdered her for it – a crime, which, sadly, will forever remain unpunished – but does he know which musketeer is Aramis? Does he care? Apparently not, on the evidence available so far!

Chatelet Prison

In a private cell at the Chatelet sits a dusty little man with a long grizzled beard and the general air of a lifer. This is Cluzet and he has been in this cell for – guess what? It's the magic number again – five years and counting. Hearing guns being fired as a salute of welcome, he turns to his unnamed jailer, who to me will always be Spider from Coronation Street, to ask what's going on.

JAILER: Oh, it's just some Duke or other who's visiting the King.
CLUZET: What Duke? Savoy? Is it Savoy?

Yes indeed, it is Savoy. This episode is all about Savoy, both the man, the place, and the event.

Louvre Palace Gardens

The Duke of Savoy's carriage rolls onto the driveway at last, and a wave of relief rolls around the royal party – even Treville, who is otherwise wearing doing his very best graven image impression, permits himself the most minutest of relaxations.

Concealed in a bush nearby, the masked intruder watches the carriage pass by. As the King and Queen step down from their pavilion to meet their guests, flanked by Treville and Richelieu, he readies a gun with shot and powder. But who is his target?

The Duke and Duchess of Savoy step from the carriage

LOUIS: Victor, I trust your journey was comfortable?
DUKE: Dreadful. Your French roads are full of potholes.
DUCHESS: But it was worth every bump and bruise to see you again.
LOUIS: I have missed you, sister, more than I can say.

It's a concise little exchange that immediately tells us so much about these characters and their dynamics. We meet several of Louis's siblings and half-siblings over the three seasons of the show, and Christine, Duchess of Savoy, stands head and shoulders above them all – metaphorically speaking, of course, since in person she's a tiny wee thing, but in a family full of spoiled, shrill, childish individuals, Christine's graciousness and diplomacy really does stand out.

Her husband, on the other hand, seems determined to give as much offence as he can get away with – which, given the strategic importance of his principality, is quite a bit – and remains consistently surly and abrasive throughout.

DUKE: Cardinal Richelieu. I've seen healthier-looking corpses. You spend too much time at your desk.
RICHELIEU: Well, I assure you I'm quite robust.
DUKE: I rejoice in your good health. You know Gontard, my First Minister?

There's a dagger concealed behind every word there; these two characters really, really hate each other.

While these not-so-pleasantries are taking place, the masked intruder raises his rifle into firing position – and d'Artagnan notices a movement among the bushes, scrunches up his eyes trying to see if there is something there or not…

…the intruder fires and chaos ensues.

As luck would have it, he's a suck shot, taking out an unfortunate random attendant rather than any of the dignitaries present, and with so many people milling about, it is impossible for anyone to know who he was actually aiming for.

So, there's a lot of screaming and shouting, Treville bellowing for the King and Queen to be taken to safety, always his first concern, while Our Heroes leap into action, pistols at the ready as they sprint off in pursuit of the would-be assassin. And dammit, Athos isn't even wearing his hat, but still manages to throw it away in all the excitement. This is No Time for Hats has become a trope in the fandom for a reason!

D'Artagnan is the fastest, heading straight for the spot where he noticed that movement.

Aramis is close behind, but slows himself down tripping over the box border; not Cabrera's most graceful moment ever.

The assassin, of course, has already fled, so the three musketeers and their cadet push past the high hedge into the formal gardens beyond, spreading out to search. Athos goes one way…

…and Porthos goes another…

…while d'Artagnan is so competent, such a natural at this, so completely and utterly part of the team now, it's easy to forget he isn't actually a musketeer yet.

Aramis, meanwhile, finds the intruder's rope left dangling from the cloister roof and ventures into the cloister to investigate. The place seems completely deserted…

…but Aramis doesn't trust that appearance of emptiness. Spidey-senses are in overdrive. There's no sign of anyone, but…

He is abruptly grabbed from behind with a knife to the throat.

ASSASSIN: Hello, old friend. Don't make me kill you.

Murder threats, not the greatest way to greet someone you call 'old friend'!

It takes a moment for recognition to sink in, what with the mask and the knife-at-throat and attempted assassination, and whatnot, plus the fact that this is someone Aramis never expected to see again and certainly not in these circumstances. He gets there eventually, though.

ARAMIS: …Marsac?

And then he's moving again, freeing himself and disarming the other man with ease, professional detachment suddenly replaced by a very personal fury. It is Aramis's turn to relive traumatic memories this week.

ARAMIS: First a deserter and now an assassin?
MARSAC: You don't understand. It was the Duke of Savoy that led the attack and killed our friends five years ago.

Plot twist the first – but not the last!

Information about what happened at Savoy five years ago is being eked out slowly but surely, building up to a picture that isn't complete yet, but the clues are starting to fall into place. So what do we know so far? There was a massacre at Savoy five years ago, Aramis is connected to it, and the Duke of Savoy has just come to Paris for the first time since it happened, his arrival the trigger for everything else that happens in this episode. And now there's this man, Marsac – a deserter, Aramis tells us here, someone who is also connected to the massacre and seems to know more about it than Aramis does, pointing the finger squarely at the Duke of Savoy, which is a pretty huge accusation to make.

The mention of slaughtered friends hits Aramis like a ton of bricks, so much so that he throws the knife away and has to turn his back on the would-be assassin while he attempts to process and recover his composure – but then he spins back, drawing his pistol in the same movement and aiming it right between the other man's eyes, ice-cold now, almost shaking with intensity. Whatever did or didn't happen five years ago, however disturbing those memories might be, attempted assassination of a visiting dignitary falls squarely into the 'cool motive, still murder' category, so it is his duty to arrest the would-be assassin, no matter the history between them, however hard it is to process the maelstrom of emotions suddenly stirred up here.

ARAMIS: Put your weapon on the ground.
MARSAC: We were friends, Aramis.

Marsac gives in and throws his sword aside, and Aramis kicks it away. So far so professional, and yet.

Porthos is nearby and closing in – another moment and he'll be on them, the arrest will be official, and Marsac will go straight to the gallows. He pleads with Aramis to listen to him. They were once friends and both are connected to the massacre at Savoy; that bond might be five years past, but it's still a bond, and Marsac's accusation against the Duke has raised all kinds of question marks over what really happened five years ago – so can Aramis just hand this old friend over for execution without at least attempting to find out more? Duty requires that he should, and we spent episode three exploring Athos's dedication to duty at any cost, but Aramis…Aramis is not Athos.

He makes a spontaneous decision, hauls Marsac to his feet and shoves him against a pillar out of sight – just in time to avoid being seen by Porthos and Athos scurrying past.

Neither one seems to notice the rope dangling from the roof right there, so both lose points for their frankly lousy powers of observation.

Marsac is grateful. Aramis is absolutely furious – partly with himself for overstepping the bounds of his duty, but mostly with Marsac, for reasons that go far beyond simply putting him in this position. He vents his fury with a vicious blow to the stomach and then gets right into Marsac's face, and I'm going to give kudos to Santiago Cabrera here because he is sometimes criticised for not being the most overtly emotive actor, but he is excellent throughout this episode and really sells Aramis's turmoil in this moment, again almost shaking with intensity.

ARAMIS: That's for leaving me alone in the forest with twenty dead musketeers!


Louvre Palace

With the Fab Four busily hunting the wannabe assassin, Treville ushers the remainder of the royal party into the palace, and I sincerely hope someone remembers to go back later and pick up the corpse of that unfortunate attendant. For now, Marsac's assassination attempt has everyone rattled, and the Duke of Savoy is a man who both takes and gives offence easily, therefore obviously he is taking this as an excuse to drama queen all over the shop.

DUKE: So, you talk of peace while you plot to murder me?
LOUIS: Such accusations are wild and dangerous.
RICHELIEU: And wholly untrue.
GONTARD: We only have your word for that, and we all know the Cardinal's promises are written in water.
DUKE: Perhaps our cousins, the Spanish, will be more welcoming.
TREVILLE: My men are searching for the assassin. At least delay any rash action until we know his motives.

I was going to talk a bit here about characterisation – Louis at his most measured, demonstrating that he can be calm and rational in a pinch, and Treville so stolid and phlegmatic in the face of the crisis, while the Duke consistently rubs everyone's noses in the Spanish option to ensure they kowtow to his every whim – but instead I'm going to be shallow and comment on how much I like the ceremonial breastplate Treville is wearing here, bearing the fleur-de-lis emblem of the Musketeers (we've seen it previously hanging in his office, in a nifty little touch of continuity). I think it's the first time we've seen him wearing that emblem, as he never wears the pauldron that serves more generally as the uniform of the Musketeers.

DUCHESS: Captain Treville is right – we must wait for the facts.
DUKE: Spoken like a true daughter of France.
DUCHESS: I am the Duchess of Savoy and your loving wife before I'm anything.
DUKE: Forgive me, my love. I spoke in anger.

This exchange is an interesting insight into the dynamic between the Duke and Duchess, how quick he is to accuse her and how determinedly she stands up to and placates him, indicative of the fine line she must always tread between loyalty to husband and brother, Savoy and France. This episode is all about divided loyalties, and how each individual balances and prioritises them. Christine has had, like, two lines so far, but already comes across loud and clear as a natural diplomat – while Queen Anne, as we have seen in previous episodes, is a born peacemaker, and now takes her husband's hand as a show of unity.

ANNE: The shot might have hit any one of us. At such a time, we should remember what unites us. We are family, after all.

Bless her gentle heart. Damn, but now I want a show that's just the sisterhood of Queen Anne and Duchess Christine, using their diplomacy and good sense to cut a swathe through the nonsense of the men in their lives!

The Duke remains prickly, and given that he was just welcomed to town with a shooting his mistrust is actually completely understandable, but Marsac's failed assassination attempt has also in a sense played right into his hands, giving him leverage for political gain. It puts him in a position where he is able to claim that he doesn't want to be an enemy of France in the same breath as threatening to turn to Spain for protection, knowing full well that the French will do just about anything to keep Spanish influence out of Savoy. The Cardinal is quick to call his bluff.

RICHELIEU: Allow the Spanish into your country, and your independence will be lost for ever.

The Duke is not convinced, or at least claims to be unconvinced. While Christine wears an expression of weary despair behind his back where he can't see it, he declares that until the truth behind the assassination attempt is determined, they must postpone the signing of the treaty that was his reason for coming to Paris in the first place. He sweeps off to the rooms prepared for him, leaving his hosts to seethe in his wake.

LOUIS: If we had our way, we would kick the Duke's pompous arse all the way back to his tiny and ridiculous principality.
RICHELIEU: France needs Savoy, and he knows it. It would be a disaster for us if his country were to fall into the hands of the Spanish.

Okay, so the political stakes have been well and truly established now, the backdrop against which the story of what happened in Savoy five years ago must unfold, with the central conflict of the story also clear, since Marsac has accused the Duke of the slaughter of twenty musketeers, but any attempt to call him to account for that crime would have devastating diplomatic repercussions. How can justice be achieved in these circumstances? This alone would be a thorny issue for Our Heroes to wrestle with for the remainder of the episode – but still more twists lie ahead.

Elsewhere in the palace

Halfway to the guest quarters – and I'm going to presume they already know the way, since they've ducked the attendants who were guiding them – the Duke and Gontard decide to hold a covert and somewhat subversive conversation right there on the staircase, where anyone might hear them. Master spies, these are not.

DUKE: This outrage could work to our advantage. Find out if there's any truth to the rumour that Cluzet languishes in a French prison.
GONTARD: The matter is already in hand, Your Grace.
DUKE: Perhaps Richelieu thinks I have forgotten my Chancellor, but he is very wrong. If France had anything to do with Cluzet's disappearance, the Cardinal can whistle for his treaty.

The plot thickens. I would at least admire the Duke's loyalty to Cluzet if I didn't suspect it's the principle rather than the man that he actually cares about!


Aramis, meanwhile, is still unpicking the events of five years ago with Marsac, prepared to give this supposed old friend the benefit of a few minutes doubt, at the very least, while he tries to decide what to do. And let's take a moment to admire the beautiful location cinematography.

MARSAC: Have you never asked yourself what really happened that night? All these years, we thought it was the Spanish that butchered our friends – it was the Duke.
ARAMIS: How do you know? The raiding party were all masked.
MARSAC: I've made it my life's work to find out the truth.

Okay, I have questions here about exactly how Marsac knows what everyone else has been thinking all these years, since he deserted after the massacre and hasn't been back since. I daresay he has his sources for the official verdict, though. I would ask why he went straight to assassination as the solution, instead of taking his suspicions to the appropriate authorities – after all, the first port of call in a grievance regarding dead musketeers should be the regimental captain, surely – but of course, as a deserter, he can't risk coming forward because his life would be forfeit. Plus, as we will learn, Marsac has no interest in seeking actual justice for the musketeers who died. He went straight to assassination as the solution because his primary interest is in revenge, for his own sake.

Marsac is calm now, he seems to be finding comfort in being able to talk about this, sharing his suspicions with the only other person in the world who might understand, but Aramis, in contrast, remains highly agitated, because by attempting to take the law into his own hands, Marsac has placed him in an untenable position which is only made worse by this emotive appeal to their dead comrades. Duty has come into direct conflict with his loyalty to his friends – not just Marsac, but the friends slaughtered in Savoy five years ago, unable to seek justice on their own account. Marsac's focus might be on vengeance for what he has lost personally, but for Aramis this is always about justice for the dead. They were his friends, his comrades – and we saw when Porthos was injured in episode three that when push comes to shove, Aramis will prioritise friendship above duty. What he will choose to do now hangs in the balance…

…and then he turns around to find d'Artagnan standing behind him wearing a shocked expression, pistol at the ready, and just like that everything is suddenly so much worse.

D'ARTAGNAN: Care to tell me what's going on?
ARAMIS: Marsac's an old friend.
D'ARTAGNAN: An old friend? An old friend who just tried to kill the Duke of Savoy.

Heh. The royals might equivocate, but d'Artagnan isn't in much doubt as to the intended target! Aramis is squarely caught in the middle now, and will remain in that position for the remainder of the episode, torn between conflicting loyalties. He knows what he should do, he knows what his duty is – but he can't let Marsac's claims go unheard. Now the accusation has been made, he needs to know more.

ARAMIS: Hear him out. Marsac was one of the best soldiers in the regiment.
D'ARTAGNAN: He's a musketeer?
ARAMIS: He was.
MARSAC: We were brothers once. For the sake of our old friendship, let me prove what I know!

While d'Artagnan flounders incredulously, Aramis remains agitated, conflicting priorities and allegiances jostling for precedence. At length he decides that what he really needs is time to think, time to sort all this out, but to buy that time he needs d'Artagnan's cooperation.

ARAMIS: I need you to keep quiet about this for now.
D'ARTAGNAN: Have you gone mad?
ARAMIS: Possibly, but I owe him my life.

I really enjoy the way this episode applies layer after layer of obligations and then explores the push-pull between them, both the internal conflict this causes within an individual, and also the way the differing priorities and objectives of the various characters clash and conflict – with Aramis caught in the middle throughout. It's again excellent use of a random episode plot as a vehicle to explore a significant event in a character's past and how that reflects upon his present choices. Where last week we saw that duty lies at the core of everything Athos is and does, and also saw exactly what that means and costs when the head and the heart come into conflict, here a similar dilemma sees Aramis making very different choices. Head over heart for Athos, but heart over head for Aramis; pretty much every decision he ever makes is emotionally charged, he almost never manages to take a step back and apply cold, hard rationality to any situation in which his heart is truly engaged. So friendship – and a perceived debt – has won out over duty here, for now.

But in the process, he's managed to place d'Artagnan in exactly the same untenable position that Marsac placed Aramis himself in. So now d'Artagnan is also torn between conflicting loyalties and has a choice to make. Duty dictates that the would-be assassin is handed over immediately for trial and execution…but it is hard to tow such a hard line when a friend is pleading for help. Which loyalty comes first: duty or friendship, comrade or country?

D'Artagnan, of course, isn't actually a musketeer yet, but he wants to be, and this could easily blow his chances, if it comes out. Not to mention that aiding and abetting an attempted assassin could be classed as treason! But d'Artagnan is another who tends to prioritise the heart over the head, especially at this early stage of the show.

D'ARTAGNAN: If this gets me hanged, I'm going to take it very personally.


Louvre Palace – Richelieu's reception room

Meanwhile at the palace, Treville storms into Richelieu's reception room, all thunder and fury. The arrival of the Duke and all the memories he stirs up is disturbing for the Captain, as well.

TREVILLE: This is your doing!
RICHELIEU: Why would I seek the Duke's death?
TREVILLE: I want your word this is not another of your deadly games! I know how your mind works, your endless tricks and deceptions.
RICHELIEU: Oh, yes, yes, yes. I am the grand deceiver, and you are the bluff, honest man of action. I'm familiar with the roles we play, Captain.
TREVILLE: I assure you I am not playing.

I love the self-awareness and pseudo-meta of Richelieu's breakdown of the contrast between himself and the captain. I don't think we've ever seen Treville this worked up; Savoy is a very unsettling subject for more musketeers than just the one, and once we know the full story of what happened five years ago, it is easy to understand why Treville is immediately suspicious that the Cardinal might be up to something here. In fact, we don't need to know the full story of five years ago to understand Treville's suspicions. The Cardinal has form.

RICHELIEU: Need I remind you that we are tied together by decisions we both took in Savoy five years ago?
TREVILLE: There's not been one night since then I haven't thought of it.

The plot thickens again. This episode is the first to give us any real insight into Treville beyond his basic characterisation that was just summed up so neatly by the Cardinal. This episode adds whole layers of new dimensions to the character, and once we know the truth of Savoy to lend context to his actions and reactions, it is clear that he is as angry at himself as at Richelieu in this scene, projecting onto his opponent all the disgust he feels for his own involvement in the affair, fuelled by five years of remorse. Treville is most likely the only musketeer in the main cast other than Aramis who was with the regiment at the time and therefore knew the men who died personally. They were his men, under his command, his responsibility, and his guilt over what happened to them comes across loud and clear, beneath that stern exterior of his. There's not been one night since then I haven't thought of it.

Richelieu, meanwhile, remains phlegmatic, ruthless pragmatist that he is.

RICHELIEU: You're very sensitive for a man in the business of killing.
TREVILLE: Death in battle is one thing, but your world of back-alley stabbings and murder disgusts me.
RICHELIEU: Not everything I do is pleasant, but it's all necessary.

This, too, is important character insight, a tiny glimpse into what makes the Cardinal tick. This is how he sleeps at night, despite the things he's done. He tells himself it was necessary, 'for the good of the realm', and allows that to justify the choices he makes.

RICHELIEU: Now, with the greatest of respect for your exquisite delicacy of feeling, may we please return to the real issue here? Is there any possibility that the Duke has discovered the fate of our mutual friend, Cluzet?

Treville says no, but we viewers know that the Duke does suspect Cluzet to be imprisoned in Paris, even if he doesn't actually know for sure. And here again we see how different the priorities of the various characters can be, according to their respective situations. Aramis would say that the real issue is finding out why his comrades were murdered, because that's what matters to him, but to Richelieu, whose plotting and scheming, we will learn, helped bring it about, the deaths of those soldiers is a minor detail in the grander scheme of international intrigue, because he is playing for much higher stakes. Everyone has a perspective that is valid to him.

Richelieu suggests moving Cluzet to a different prison while the Duke is in Paris, but Treville counters that a transfer would only attract attention and Richelieu concedes the point. The relationship between these two is fascinating, such a study in contrasts, disliking one another intensely and yet nominally at least on the same side, working together as often as they are at odds. They have the same goals here: to protect the best interests of the nation and, to that end, to prevent the truth of the Savoy massacre from ever coming out.

RICHELIEU: But as an extra precaution, I want your men to be watching the Duke at all times.
TREVILLE: Won't he object?
RICHELIEU: There's just been an attempt on his life – he can hardly protest at our efforts to protect him.

Bonacieux House

Oh dear. D'Artagnan and Aramis have decided to stash Marsac in d'Artagnan's room at Constance's house for safekeeping, since they can hardly take him to the garrison in the circumstances, and this is definitely a d'Artagnan plan, it's got his name written all over it.

Aramis has got Marsac tied to him, wrist to wrist, to prevent him escaping – oh for a set of handcuffs, eh – but conceals the rope with his cloak to prevent Constance seeing it as they lie through their teeth that Marsac is a cabinet-maker in need of a place to stay for a few days.

So they want Constance to help them, but aren't willing to tell her the truth and let her make an informed decision. Poor form, boys, very poor form. They would no doubt argue that she's better off not knowing the truth, what with Marsac being a fugitive from justice and all, but really they are protecting themselves from having to deal with the consequences of telling her the truth. I'll have more to say about this later.

Constance is bustling about the place as they talk, she's got far better things to do than deal with these idiots all day, so she decides that if they are willing to vouch for him Marsac can have d'Artagnan's room for a few days. Where d'Artagnan sleeps is his own concern, clearly.

That decided, she bustles out of the room and Marsac watches her go with typical male horndog appreciation, which d'Artagnan does not appreciate; he's having major 'what have I got myself into?' regret already.

D'ARTAGNAN: She's married. And a friend.
MARSAC: I was merely admiring from a distance.
D'ARTAGNAN: Make it as far away as possible.

Now, I would applaud d'Artagnan for being protective of his friend, except that a) it comes across more like marking his territory, and she isn't his to get territorial about, and b) she wouldn't need protecting if he hadn't brought a fugitive into her house and lied to her about it!

Another theme of the episode is choices and consequences. In this story, everyone has to make choices, and every decision made has a consequence. D'Artagnan chose to help Aramis by bringing a fugitive to this house, and exposing Constance to Marsac is just one of the consequences of that choice.

Upstairs, a few minutes later

With d'Artagnan having made himself scarce – probably talking to Constance, to reassert their bond in an attempt to quell his misgivings – Aramis sees about tying Marsac to the bed to ensure he doesn't escape.

MARSAC: Where would I go if I escaped?
ARAMIS: I don't know. That's why we're not letting you loose.

With the audience gone and the adrenaline rush of the assassination attempt and subsequent flight over, Marsac now seems tired and defeated, while Aramis is very subdued, unwilling to trust this long-lost friend, at least not yet, but also gentle and sympathetic, now that the first shock and anger have passed. All credit to both actors, they really sell the bond between these two characters as old friends driven apart by the same traumatic experience that now unites them.

ARAMIS: I've thought of you many times, wondered how you were living.
MARSAC: Precariously. A musket for hire, with thieves for company and one eye on the door. I'm weary of it.

And he does seem genuinely weary. Marsac is a difficult character, painted in a very negative light throughout this episode. He makes a lot of highly questionable, if not downright objectionable decisions, and absolutely everyone despises him except Aramis, who remembers the man he used to be. But he is also right. He's right about the massacre. He's right about the Duke. And he is shown to be a man at absolute rock bottom, a man who suffered a breakdown following an extremely traumatic experience and has never recovered – not that a 17th century army would accept PTSD as a valid excuse for desertion. Aramis can't quite look him in the eye as he quietly explains the state of play.

ARAMIS: Your name is held in contempt amongst your old comrades. You're a coward and a deserter. For that alone, you're under sentence of death.
MARSAC: No-one has the right to judge me! You alone know what really happened. Treachery can't go unpunished, Aramis. The lives of our dead friends must be avenged.

Street outside the Bonacieux house

As they leave the house together, d'Artagnan wastes no time in asking Aramis what the heck actually happened in Savoy, and, you know, at this point he definitely has the right to know, having gone to such lengths to help without even knowing what it's all about. Aramis, for his part, seems willing enough to talk about it now, or at least realises that an explanation is owed, although he remains visibly subdued.

ARAMIS: We were camping near the French border. It was a training exercise. We had no reason to be on our guard. We were attacked in the night, most of our men killed as they slept. Marsac and I knew we were going to die, but we fought side by side, regardless, like soldiers.

This is the reason the Savoy massacre is such a big deal. A soldier might accept the possibility of death in combat as an occupational hazard, but the soldiers who died in Savoy weren't on a mission and did not die honourably in battle. They were murdered, attacked by stealth as they slept, given no warning, no opportunity to defend themselves, and the dishonourable nature of that attack is the reason the Duke can be painted as an antagonist in this episode, even though, as we will learn, from his point of view his actions were entirely justified. Exactly how it all came about is the dirty little secret at the heart of this episode.

D'ARTAGNAN: How did you survive?
ARAMIS: I was wounded. Marsac dragged me to safety in the woods. He didn't go back to fight. He hid in the trees, watching the massacre. When I woke up the next morning, I found him sitting amongst the bodies, overcome with shame and remorse. He felt he should have died too.

It's a lot of fairly clumsily scripted exposition to have to deliver, but I like how they keep the action moving through this exchange: the two characters wandering across the street to a nearby well to get some water and cool off, which is a nice natural little detail to throw in, while Aramis also flips a coin in his hand over and over as he speaks, like a nervous tick to keep his hands busy, a distraction from the memories being dredged up, and then takes his hat off as if in homage to the dead.

ARAMIS: He ripped off his uniform and rode away. I should have stopped and told him that he hadn't done anything wrong, that throwing his own life away would achieve nothing. He just saved my life, and I let him ruin his own. But in his own eyes, he is a coward and a deserter…not in mine.

And that's interesting because Aramis is able to tell d'Artagnan here that he doesn't see Marsac as a coward and deserter, but he wasn't able to say that to Marsac himself, to whom he instead confirmed that the world at large and Musketeer regiment in particular do in fact see him as a coward and deserter.

Okay, there's a lot to unpick from all this – and kudos to Luke Pasqualino, by the way, who has almost nothing to say in this scene but conveys plenty with his very expressive eyes and face, so sincere and sympathetic. These two haven't had a lot of direct interaction since episode one, when Aramis took d'Artagnan under his wing as they investigated the link between his father's death and the framing of Athos; here, with Aramis the one in turmoil and d'Artagnan now doing him a favour, they are on a much more equal footing.

So first of all, we've now got actual details of the massacre: a squad of musketeers on a training exercise, attacked and murdered as they slept; twenty musketeers died, with Aramis and Marsac the only survivors. From the description Aramis gives here, it seems Marsac simply snapped from the trauma of watching his comrades butchered – and even in cases of severe shellshock, desertion from the army was still punishable by death for about three centuries after this story is set, hence his castigation as a cowardly deserter, although today he'd probably be diagnosed with PTSD and treated accordingly.

It has to have been just as traumatic an experience for Aramis, who also saw his comrades slaughtered around him and then was left alone with their corpses when Marsac fled, and it is already clear that he has very complex, contradictory feelings about the whole affair. He became withdrawn just at being reminded of the incident by the Duke of Savoy's arrival, before there was ever any suggestion of the Duke's involvement in the massacre. We saw earlier his anger toward Marsac for abandoning him with the corpses of their friends, but we've also seen that he couldn't sustain that anger, that he feels an obligation toward Marsac for saving his life…yet it will later become clear that Marsac didn't just leave him alone and wounded in the forest, he left him alone and wounded in the snow, and we aren't told what happened next. It would have been bitterly cold and the flashbacks we see later in this episode indicate a pretty severe concussion, at the very least, so if he was too wounded to make it out of the forest to raise the alarm under his own steam, he's damn lucky he didn't die of exposure before he was found.

So he chooses to focus on Marsac saving his life from the attackers, rather than Marsac then leaving him for dead in the snow, and was angry with Marsac for abandoning him with the bodies of their friends, yet expresses understanding of the emotional breakdown that drove him to it. Complex and contradictory feelings, indeed. We also see here that Aramis blames himself for not preventing Marsac's desertion, even though the flashbacks we see later show that he was in no fit state to stop anyone from doing anything – he says here 'when I woke up', but what he actually means is 'when I came round'. Add to that the suspicion raised that the man responsible for the attack is now in Paris as a feted guest…yeah, this episode is an emotional minefield for Aramis. No wonder he's in such a state.

Musketeer garrison

And then it's later, and all the musketeers (and their affiliated musketeer wannabe) have reconvened back at the garrison. Treville marches through the armoury into his office at the head of the Fab Four, and on a side note, let's take a moment to appreciate this episode for the additional insight it gives us into the layout of the Musketeer garrison, with Treville's office linking through to the armoury.

Treville is absolutely steaming, and not just because he hates it when the regiment is made to look bad in public.

TREVILLE: How in God's name did he escape?
ATHOS: We lost him in the grounds.
ARAMIS: He just, er, got away.

I love the contrast there between the measured reply from Athos, a man with nothing to hide, and the awkward reply from Aramis, who has everything to hide – for a man who spends so much of his time on the show keeping secrets, he is a shockingly bad liar.

D'Artagnan isn't much better, and Treville turns on him next, demanding to know why he also failed to spot the would-be assassin. D'Artagnan stammers that he slipped on wet grass, like that's an excuse that's going to wash – and in the background we see Athos side-eyeing him furiously, realising that something is up.

Treville doesn't notice the obvious lie, but he is absolutely scathing about the feeble excuse.

TREVILLE: There's a killer on the loose, and the security of the nation hangs by a thread, but at least little d'Artagnan didn't get a nasty bruise.

Why is he picking on d'Artagnan rather than the others, who are actually under his command? Also, that's quite a verbal kicking d'Artagnan is taking there, from the man he presumably hopes will sponsor his commission, all in the interest of keeping Aramis's secret for him. He's trying hard to be a good friend, and I do love that about him.

Treville places Athos and Porthos on guard duty, starting first thing in the morning.

TREVILLE: As long as the Duke is in France, his safety is now your responsibility.
And be vigilant. The assassin is still out there somewhere.

Except that he isn't, of course, he's currently well and truly secured, but Treville doesn't know that.

Garrison yard

The Fab Four head back down to the yard – Aramis and d'Artagnan both moving quickly to get away from the other two, who are having none of it.

ATHOS: You're hiding something.

It was d'Artagnan he side-eyed up in Treville's office, but this is aimed at Aramis. Athos knows his friends very well. When Aramis tries to bluff his way out of it, Athos turns on d'Artagnan…who folds like a cheap suit.

D'ARTAGNAN: If you don't tell him, I will.

So d'Artagnan is prepared to lie to Constance, but not to Athos? Okay. Also, that secret didn't last long, did it!

Bonacieux House

And then everyone is back at Constance's house, the truth is out to the whole gang, and Constance is absolutely furious about being lied to. See how pointless that lie was? It lasted all of five minutes!

CONSTANCE: You brought a wanted man into my house? A deserter?
ATHOS: Deserter and assassin.
PORTHOS: I'm guessing they didn't mention that part.
MARSAC: Failed assassin, technically.
CONSTANCE: Oh, you can keep quiet. I don't want to know. But I trusted you.

That was to d'Artagnan, the one who befriended her and brought all these musketeers into her life in the first place, and who lives with her, and whose idea it almost certainly was to hide Marsac in her house, because Constance is d'Artagnan's solution to just about every problem he encounters.

Aramis leaps to his defence at once, since d'Artagnan was only trying to help him, and Aramis is nothing if not loyal to his friends – that's half his trouble in this episode; he's trying to be loyal in too many directions at the same time and it isn't possible.

ARAMIS: D'Artagnan's not to blame. He behaved with honour.
CONSTANCE: Honourable people don't lie to their friends.
MARSAC: Apologies for the deception. I'll leave immediately.

Yeah, nice try. Aramis promptly stops him, because Marsac can't be allowed to just disappear off wherever he pleases.

CONSTANCE: You can stay. But you can pack your things.

That, again, was to d'Artagnan, her parting statement as she storms out of the room.

D'Artagnan protests that it isn't fair, which he probably should have thought about before he lied to her – for a friend, perhaps, but he made his choices, just as Aramis made his, and both have to wear the consequences…although having said that, Aramis never actually does face any consequences for harbouring a deserter and attempted assassin. That little detail gets quietly overlooked amid everything else that's going on. Aramis is consistently the most reckless and insubordinate of all the musketeers, and he always gets away with it!

Porthos chuckles at d'Artagnan's discomfiture, while Aramis tries to assure him that Constance will forgive him when she calms down, and d'Artagnan gloomily wonders how much time that will take. Porthos teases that it might take a decade or two, maybe, and he's in a surprisingly light-hearted mood considering what's going on; inappropriate humour is usually more Aramis's style, but Aramis isn't finding anything funny today. Athos, meanwhile, can't quite believe how easily they've all been distracted from the rather more critical matter at hand.

ATHOS: Have you both completely lost your minds?
MARSAC: Perhaps Athos doesn't care about twenty dead musketeers.
ATHOS: Insulting the man who holds your life in his hands? I see you are a fool as well as a coward.

Athos takes a very hard line with Marsac from the start, and their interaction seems to confirm my calculation that Athos joined the Musketeers sometime after the Savoy massacre; it seems very clear that they have never met before, and they loathe one another on sight. To Athos, without any prior acquaintance to call on his sympathies, this man is simply a deserter and attempted assassin who deserves the punishment owed him, regardless of what he went through at Savoy and regardless of his former friendship with Aramis.

Porthos is harder to read, as he has remained mostly in the background of the episode so far, and beyond reminding Athos about the massacre has seemed completely emotionally disconnected from the whole affair. Tellingly, he also does not appear to have any prior acquaintance with Marsac, which suggests to me that he too was not with the regiment at the time of the massacre. If he had been, the two would know one another of old, and that would play into their interaction now.

That emotional disconnect is a shame, really, because I think it would strengthen Porthos's role in the episode enormously if it was clear that he had been with the regiment at the time, and had been friends with Marsac before his desertion, giving us an alternate perspective on the whole affair. Because while Aramis clearly feels a continuing bond with Marsac due to their shared experience of the massacre, something no one else can understand, Porthos, if he'd been with the regiment at the time but hadn't been on that particular training exercise, would approach it from the perspective of those involved in the aftermath, the rescue team that presumably went looking for the massacred troop, which would give us another angle on Marsac's desertion that is never mentioned in the episode: the fact that he directly endangered Aramis's life by leaving him wounded in the snow, a point that is never raised here since Aramis chooses instead to remember Marsac saving his life during the attack. Drawing on that angle would have added an extra dimension both to the story and to Porthos's place in it, and since Porthos is underwritten in the episode he would benefit enormously from being given more of a personal connection to the plot. His close friendship with Aramis could and perhaps should have been used to give him more of a stake in ongoing events, in much the same way that their friendship was used to keep Aramis connected to Porthos's story in episode three, but it simply isn't drawn on at all here, and the characterisation of Porthos feels thin as a result.

Anyway, Marsac reacts angrily to Athos's jibe and leaps to his feet, which sends Athos leaping to his feet to meet him, and Aramis has to get between them and smooth things over, eternally caught in the middle as he is in this episode.

ARAMIS: Just hear him out. If you're not satisfied, I'll do whatever you suggest.

This statement is directed at Athos, but he is looking at Marsac as he says it, watching his reaction closely, almost apologetically, while Marsac seems startled to hear his old friend handing responsibility for him over to a stranger, having presumably hoped to be able to talk Aramis into letting him go. Persuading Athos will not be as easy.

MARSAC: There's somebody you should speak to first.

On to Part Two


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