You Can Leave Your Hat On: the BBC Musketeer Edition Part II

There are going to be three of these now. I’m not sorry.

This is an extra special Musketeer Media Monday month – I’m reviewing the whole Season 1 of The Musketeers (2014) across three blog posts. Check out Part I: Looks Good in Leather.

bbc-three-musketeers-2014promoI’ve come to the conclusion that the BBC series The Musketeers (2014) is largely about the hats. I’m actually fighting the urge to write Musketeer hat fanfic right now.

Seriously, the hats are important. They use their hats as umbrellas, when it rains on them. It rains on them a lot. I don’t know if that’s a Prague thing or if the directors are all very enthusiastic about wet Musketeers.

Each of the Musketeers has a special relationship with his hat. Athos uses his largely for slouching and hiding his feelings, and on one very memorable occasion, faked his own death for half an episode simply by pushing his hat a little further down his face. Aramis’ hat has a long enough brim that he regularly uses it to keep smoke and powder out of his eyes when shooting his musket. Porthos’ hat is larger and fancier than anyone else’s, just like his pretty armour.

D’Artagnan has no hat. That pretty much sums up his relationship to the rest of the Musketeers. He wants to be them, because they are older and better at everything, and they all have really great hats. He is occasionally allowed to borrow hats for comedy and espionage purposes, but otherwise… no hats for you, kid!

Sometimes, the hats are metaphorical.

There are spoilers in these episode reviews. The better the episode, the more spoilery I get. Read with caution, or just watch the show already.

bbcaramis464. The Good Soldier

Just as the previous episode was all about Athos, his hat and his ex wife, plus Porthos, his hat, and that slave trader he’s not friends with any more, this episode focuses mainly on the hat of Aramis, and the fact that D’Artagnan still doesn’t have a hat of his own.

Other shows pass around the Idiot Ball, so characters can take turns being stupid enough to fuel the plot. In the BBC Musketeers, there is the Angst Hat. In this episode, the Angst Hat is worn by Aramis, who falls into a pit of despair about a five-years-ago massacre, a dangerous Duke and the horrible (if highly unlikely) possibility that Captain Treville might be a traitor, while everyone else walks around with a faint air of embarrassment that he’s taking the plot more seriously than they are.

Best bits:

King Louis’ most excellent sister, who combines motherhood and diplomacy with high-octane spy skillz.

The Duke of Savoy randomly picking Athos to duel with him to prove a point, only to have Athos turn Terminator on him. Terminator in a floppy shirt.

King Louis fencing his his adorable nephew, whose middle name is Amadeus. He takes far too much pleasure in beating him.

D’Artagnan’s prison warden disguise (which makes him look a bit like the Disney Robin Hood dressed as a stork) and the Cardinal’s double take when he recognises him beneath the silly hat and realises the Musketeers have got there first and solved his problem for him. Ditto for the second, more meaningful look the Cardinal exchanges with D’Artagnan on his way out. Capaldspressions for the win!

Spoilery Stuff:

This was the episode that made me wish I had kept a head-punching tally from the start.

I know this is an Aramis episode, but for me the most interesting character development is between D’Artagnan and Constance. He and Aramis lie to her in order to keep Malzac, a disgraced former Musketeer under house arrest in her house. Constance is understandably pissed off when she finds out the truth, forcing D’Artagnan to realise what he has done – prioritising his friendship and loyalty for Aramis over the friendship and loyalty he owes her.

Constance’s self-declared state as a respectable married woman means that their flirtation has always been couched in terms of friendship, but this is the episode when D’Artagnan actually realises what that means – somewhere along the way, despite all the espionage kisses, they have become friends. And she’s not going to put up with being treated as a less important friend than his precious Musketeers.

What makes me adore Constance, is that when the whole thing with Marzac blows up in their faces, she doesn’t hesitate to use D’Artagnan’s guilt-ridden hero complex as leverage to get what she has wanted from him all along. Shooting and fencing lessons!

A kiss on the hand might be quite continental, but muskets are a girl’s best friend.

constance

5. The Homecoming

Porthos wears the Angst Hat again! Though he also smiles a lot more in this episode – a bit of angst suits him. Note: he is on the run from the law for most of this episode, and he achieves this by being in disguise, AKA not wearing his hat and Musketeer armour. It is far more effective than the ‘pretend to be dead by pushing hat slightly down on face’ method that is later employed by Athos. Just saying.

After a dramatic beginning, which flashes back and forward between Porthos’ drunken birthday party and him waking up the next morning in a straw-strewn street with a corpse he can’t remember killing, the rest of the episode is unfortunately a bit flat.

bbcporthosBest bits:

More Porthos backstory, and the Court of Miracles. (It sounds like a Neil Gaiman novel, doesn’t it?) Sadly the episode doesn’t make the most of that lovely idea, with a disaffected and charmless king of thieves. However, we do get…

Flea, ex-girlfriend of Porthos, with her ‘queen of thieves’ crazy hair and feathered gowns. A great character who almost but not quite makes up for the entire lack of Constance, Milady and Queen Anne.
And of course, Porthos shooting a melon off Aramis’ head at the beginning, especially because of the expressions on the faces of Athos and D’Artagnan while he’s doing it.

ATHOS: He’s never made the shot sober…

Guest of the week who I actually recognised is Anton Lesser, the actor who plays Falco in the excellent BBC Radio adaptations of the Lindsey Davis novels. The King of Thieves is also played by one of the actors who ripped holes out of the TARDIS in the last season of Doctor Who which might have something to do with me never being able to trust his character.

D’Artagnan and the other Musketeers do their best to play detective and prove Porthos’ innocence. This mostly revolves around trying a stolen key in random locks, shooting doors open, and asking awkward questions based on wild guesswork. Their incompetence is a bit charming, but don’t give up your day job, lads.

musketeers_66. The Exiles

Aramis wears the Angst Hat again this week – he gets to share it with King Louis, and they both wear it well. This is the Marie de Medici episode, and Tara Fitzgerald does a fantastic turn as the scheming, dangerous and exiled-for-a-good-reason mother of the king. Second guest star of the ep is Amy Nuttall (Ethel from Downton) whose baby might have a better claim to the throne than Louis himself.

Constance is back with a vengeance in this episode, not just for her ‘girls know about babies’ superpowers (minimal) but also showing off her natural talent for espionage and her newly honed sword skills.

I didn’t really “get” Santiago Cabrera’s Aramis until this episode, after which I subscribed entirely to his newsletter.

Best bits:

Marie de Medici’s batshit crazy wardrobe including giant Cersei Lannister hair and her own special take on Parisian fashions.

Everything else about Marie de Medici.

Cardinal Capaldieu, who has some of his most spectacular scenes dealing quietly but menacingly with the poisoned viper that is the former queen of France.

Capaldieu and Treville rolling eyes at each other as Marie manipulates her son.

Louis throwing a major wobbly when the Cardinal won’t let him go out to play. “It’s so boring to be king!”

Athos observing the barrels of good brandy and Aramis not realising at first that he means as a possible source of explosive fuel. “Now is not the time, Athos!”

All of Constance’s scenes, from her quiet broodiness about babies to her fiery plans to fight everyone to a standstill. Not to mention agreeing to go undercover in the scary conspirator’s den as a wet nurse, despite not actually being able to provide milk for a baby.

SPOILERY STUFF:

My favourite part of the episode has the Musketeers charging into the building where the baby and Constance are in danger, systematically taking out all of the bad guys, Die Hard style… and then in the last room, Aramis ends up holding the baby while Constance uses his sword to fight off a villain.

Everything about this scene, from Aramis checking she’s okay and then LETTING HER GET ON WITH IT WHILE HE KEEPS THE BABY SECURE, makes me utterly joyous.

ARAMIS: Have you got this?
CONSTANCE: Absolutely.

Constance is great. The Musketeers barely deserve her, on a good day.

The only thing that would make this episode better is if Milady shared a scene with Marie de Medici.

The-Musketeers-BBC-image-the-musketeers-bbc-36774428-1000-6677. A Rebellious Woman

From here to the end of the season, it only gets better and better. This episode starts out like a ‘mystery of the week’ featuring the intellectual salon run by the beautiful Comtesse Ninon de Larroque, who dares to educate under-privileged women – and ends up on trial for witchcraft, thanks to the machinations of the Cardinal, and of Rome.

And the Angst Hat goes to… Athos, who is not only drawn into a reluctant flirtation with Ninon, but also has to deal with a new Milady confrontation, for the first time since she burned his house down.

The Cardinal regularly steals not only the episode, but also the oxygen in the room, and the Angst Hat right off Athos’ head. In the midst of his nastiest machination yet, he falls victim to an assassination attempt forcing our Musketeers to save his life more than once (including the application of a stinky emetic after he is dramatically poisoned in public).

Bonus side-angst can be found in the tensions between Aramis and Queen Anne when she shows a flicker of jealousy at his kindness towards Ninon. Not that she’s into him at all.

athos rebelliousBEST BITS:

Too many to count! Annabelle Wallis has a great guest part as Ninon, the haughty and seductive feminist who flirts up a storm with the mildly surprised Athos – apparently she’s the only woman in Paris who hasn’t got the memo that he is emotionally unavailable.

(Sadly for Ninon, Athos’ idea of a hot date is to take you to the morgue and question you about the death of your close friend. Sorry about that, he doesn’t get out much.)

The duel in the salon, with Athos and Aramis armed only with books as they fight off the Cardinal’s guard.

Constance’s best line yet: “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard, even by Musketeer standards.”

Milady happily carrying on her own intrigue under the nose of Athos, avoiding his attention by use of strategic fans and pillars… culminating in the scene in the courtroom where she presents false evidence against Ninon. Athos recognises her voice, then completely loses his shit.

Aramis, just Aramis. He chats up the ladies at the salon with a bid for feminist cookies, offers Ninon spiritual comfort when Athos is being too sulky to be useful, leaps into action to give the Cardinal medical attention when he is poisoned, and even manages a touch more flirtation with the Queen. Aramis has got it going on.

Even when Porthos is given almost nothing to do in an episode, he still gets a few good lines which are made completely great thanks to his snarky, eye-rolling inflection. Like “Why are we running?” as they hurry to rescue the Cardinal again, and “Why does God get all the credit?” after they save the day.

Some gorgeous Milady scenes, especially when she visits Ninon in her cell to extract a confession, and later when she visits the Cardinal on his deathbed to loom over him in her pretty dress and Eau De Smug.

Even now, only Athos and Milady know the full extent of their connection – D’Artagnan knows about Athos’ history with his wife and what Milady looks like, but he’s conveniently not in the courtroom to put the pieces together. Aramis and Porthos are bemused at the usually cool Athos blowing his stack at a random woman, not even knowing he has an evil wife. On top of all this, we discover that even the Cardinal doesn’t know what the deal is between those two.

Though, he’s starting to get an inkling.

King Louis is off in his own adorably selfish world, mostly making jokes about broomsticks and fantasising about how pretty Ninon is, much to the tolerant weariness of his wife. Then he gets a glorious bit where he thinks the Cardinal might die and hurls himself on him, begging not to be left alone. Aww.

Queen Anne will notice if you give away that pretty cross she rewarded you with to some other attractive lady. Oh yes she will, Aramis. And yet somehow you get away with it.

SUPER SPOILERY STUFF:

While most of the attention of the episode is understandably on Ninon, Athos, Milady and the Cardinal, there’s a smaller and subtler story going on, told mostly through undercurrents. Constance is friends with two young women who regularly visit Ninon’s salons, but she doesn’t attend herself. She tries to convince young proteges Fleur to settle for the life her father wants for her, only to have her own life thrown in her face – she is married to a husband she hates, who is she to give advice? Later, when Constance intervenes with Fleur’s father over another marriage of convenience with an older man, it is the witty and educated Ninon whom Fleur credits with changing his mind – and Constance doesn’t reveal herself, because Ninon is Fleur’s hero.

D’Artagnan notices all this, and when he tries to let Constance know that he at least appreciates how awesome she is, it turns accidentally into a declaration of love… oops. But also, hooray!

In an episode that’s all about how so many women of this era are prevented from speaking and learning and living a full life, the final scenes between both D’Artagnan/Constance and Athos/Ninon tell us that respect is sexy. Respect, and leather. And hats. And Musketeers standing sadly in the rain. But mostly respect.

It rains a lot in Prague, I don’t know if anyone’s noticed that?

musketeer hats

More BBC Musketeer reviews to come later in the month. Musketeer Media Monday is brought to you by the Musketeer Space project, and the supporters of my Patreon page. Previous installments include Musketeers in an Exciting Adventure With Airships (2011) and Musketeers Are All For Love (1993). The first part of the BBC Musketeers review can be found here: Looks Good in Leather (2014), and the third part can be found here: It’s Raining Musketeers (2014). Thanks for reading.