This review contains spoilers.
2.10 Trial And Punishment
So this is it, the end of series 2. It’s been a fair old journey with some excellent highs and fortunately not many lows (not to mention far too many interruptions – damn you sport and charity!). The series finale often seems to linger, perhaps unfairly, as the one remembered by most and considered a yard stick for the run as a whole. In that respect, Trial And Punishment (written by Simon Allen and directed by Nicholas Renton), is a fitting end to what has been a really strong season.
Perhaps the most vivid image from last week’s preview was of a haunted Constance being led to the executioner. It was with some surprise then, that this opened the episode, as it seemed perfect fodder to be included in a tense final act. However, the vigour and the ‘you ain’t seen nothing yet’ manner in which it was accomplished perfectly set the tone and pace for what was to come. It also effectively destroyed any preconceptions I had with regard to the plotting, which was refreshing because with my palate cleansed, I was able to enjoy the episode all the more for it.
But let’s get to straight to it. How Rochefort’s narrative was to be wrapped up was always going to be a critical factor in determining just how successful a season this was. Fortunately the show runners didn’t let us down as Rochefort met an end that was entirely befitting the villain he had become. Warren has played Rochefort so well that his death will once again create a problem for the show, and set the bar even higher for whomever they get to replace the signature villain role in the next season. I particularly liked that, despite his destructive machinations and traitorous ways, the murders and the physical and mental torture, his rage was ultimately about unrequited love. Warren’s nuanced yet fittingly psychotic performance really sold this and in so doing he crept out from Capaldi’s shadow and made the principal antagonist role his own. Most importantly, the show refrained from the pantomime villains approach – and the show benefitted immensely from it. It’s difficult to directly compare Warren and Capaldi as the characters they played were very different beasts – but the fact that we can dare compare anybody to Capaldi’s brilliant Richelieu is yet another feather in Warren’s cap.
Rochefort’s final scenes were undoubtedly a highlight, indeed the whole sequence from the Musketeers entering the palace then the alternation between the slow walking Rochefort – garrotte in hand – to his fight with Aramis and his final confrontation with the Musketeers was exceptionally well choreographed and thought-out. It had weight, style and drama and is in my opinion one of the best sequences of the series, if not the show as a whole. Which, when you think about it, is exactly what you want in a series’ final minutes. This also showed the level of confidence that Adrian Hodges and the show-makers now have, and the seeming ease in which they are consistently hitting the right notes. If there was but one example of how the show has grown from the first season, look no further than here.
It wasn’t just Warren who was on his game, everybody had moments to savour. The work done this season to bring out and develop the supporting characters has really paid off, especially so in the case of Ryan Gage’s King Louis. Despite his childishness and immaturity, Gage shines whilst showing Louis’ inner turmoil, which turns surprisingly into pity when eventually the truth becomes the lie. It was also pleasing to see that Charlotte Salt’s Marguerite wasn’t pushed into the background whilst all the other narratives were reaching their conclusion. Supporting she might have been, but her impact and performance were nonetheless pivotal and accomplished. It’s just a pity we won’t see her next season.
It was a little disappointing that Milady didn’t get a bigger part to play, although her decision to move to England will undoubtedly crop up next season. It’s always been difficult to tell when Milady’s been telling the truth and as she herself says, there is very little reason left for Athos to trust her. It’s been through glimpses of her time as mistress to the King and her small moments of peace that there’s a hint that maybe a quiet life with Athos in England is what she’s after. We can’t forget, after all, that she was waiting for him. However, McCoy’s filled her Milady with such duplicitous behaviour that it still remains difficult to decide if there’s not some other angle that she’s playing. In many ways I hope so, for as I said in last week’s review, the domestication of Milady would be a clear neutering of one of the shows biggest strengths.
We can’t of course forget the Musketeers themselves, and here they are at the heroic best. I can’t help feeling that in another episode Porthos’ stalking and killing of the Spanish agents would have had a little more room to breathe. Here it felt rushed and a little clumsy compared to the thought gone into other aspects of the episode. However the moment when all four Musketeers are reunited is touching, likewise the final scenes with Rochefort, with both bringing a sense of unity and chemistry that is so vital to the show as a whole. I’m not sure where I want the Musketeers to go from here (fewer trips back in history that’s for sure) but perhaps a better look at the relationships within the quartet would be a more fulfilling element to explore, as unified they may be but the overall character of the team still feels a little unknown even this far into the show.
Trial And Punishment had two roles to perform – to conclude this season and prepare us for the next one. As such it was no surprise that with the main plot wrapped up we had another ten minutes that were perhaps a portent of what may lie ahead in the season to come. It started well, with Aramis’ resignation and intent to join the monastery not only tying closely with the source material but also had sufficient WTFness even for me to consider if the show was about to make a significant change. As such, I was slightly disappointed that an ‘out’ was given only moments later. Similarly Constance and d’Artagnan’s marriage felt a little uninspiring and tacked on considering the hardships and knocks that relationship has received. I was surprised that this wasn’t kept as a fitting finale for an episode in the next season. Both Pasqualino and Tamla Kari were somewhat short changed here. And then there’s that missed meeting between Athos and Milady. We all knew it wasn’t going to end well for them, but it was enough that both characters showed their hands, plus who’d have thought that by the end of this series we would have been sad to see it end this way. Considering the events surrounding the end of the first run, such a change merits a hearty round of applause for the writers who made the unthinkable appear desirable (and is also a great example of when plots are thought out by the season as opposed to by the episode!).
There was a promise that this season would push the Musketeers to darker places and this was certainly true. However, next season with the threat of war, the mood may change again and bring with it some exciting possibilities. Think Musketeers behind enemy lines, Musketeers making daring raids, Musketeers defending against incredible odds – it could certainly make for a different pace and type of show. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
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