The Musketeers series 2 episode 6 review: Through A Glass, Darkly

The Musketeers takes a rare dip in what has been a very strong series with this week's episode, Through A Glass Darkly...

This review contains spoilers.

2.6 Through A Glass, Darkly.

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The Musketeers enters its home stretch with Through A Glass Darkly. If I had to compare it to any previous episode, it bears the most resemblance to The Good Traitor in that both are filled with multiple side plots and overarching story development whilst centring on a single antagonist. However, whereas The Good Traitor included equally substantial side plots, Through A Glass Darkly focuses too much on what unfortunately is a weak and at times nonsensical bad guy. That’s not to say that this week’s instalment doesn’t have its moments – it certainly does, but not enough when compared to the rest of this series’ offerings.

This week’s plot sees the Musketeers escort the King and his entourage to see Leo Gregory’s Marmion, a renowned astronomer, who has invited the King to witness the eclipse from his observatory (an old converted fort). It doesn’t take long before it all goes horribly wrong and the King finds himself at the mercy of Marmion whilst his wife, child and courtiers are all locked away waiting for chance (through Marmion) to determine their fate.

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Brushing aside the obvious Two-Face – Marmion similarities (coin-flipping, pathological addiction to chance, fate, and revenge) when we get to Marmion’s justifications, he actually cuts a sympathetic figure. Not only that, but forcing a king to take account of his actions, be they conscious acts or simple ignorance is an interesting angle to take. It’s here though that Through A Glass Darkly starts to falter. What does Marmion actually want?

Revenge, it seems. But that doesn’t figure with his seemingly irrational adherence to the rules of a game that he invented. How irrational? Well, he lets someone go – who just happens to be Milady – which ultimately seals his own fate. If you want to go really deep, you could argue that this proves his own point, but let’s not go all the way down that rabbit hole. To see how this doesn’t make sense, let’s go back over his reasoning and personal history. This is a man who, because of the actions of the King, had to decide who of his family lived or died. Then having survived this, he became a renowned astronomer (how he did this from humble origins it’s hard to tell) and then waited until there was a point that he could legitimately invite the King and trap him (not including trying to convince other people that this was a good idea). Then what does he do with the King – talk to him until it’s too late to do anything else.

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It’s disappointing that although it appeared that The Musketeers had cracked the TV show curse of repeating the same story time and again by focusing on several interlinking storylines and good character development, Marmion and the episode in general hark back to more pedestrian and legacy story telling. If Marmion really wanted his way, then he could have lined everyone up, flipped a coin for each and every one one of them, incapacitated or even killed the King and left having achieved his purpose. Now that, would have been a different episode. It’s doubtful whether The Musketeers would ever go that far, but there’s nothing stopping it from being bolder in its approach, as it has been several times this season.

There is another point here and one that’s been the subject of previous rants in these reviews. In The Musketeers, main characters don’t die. The critical dramatic points within this episode: the possible deaths of Aramis, the King, the Dauphin and the Queen. Do any of these characters die? Of course not. Do we think there’s even a possibility of them dying? Absolutely not. It’s another legacy TV curse, because if we know the main cast aren’t going to croak then it’s open season on the rest. See a new character that has a couple of lines? If there’s danger, then they’re dead.

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Uncertainly and danger could be created in many other ways, by having characters die who have an impact on the main cast, for example. Game Of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire even Lost or Arrow all did/do this to great effect. The talking points on those shows have always been the shock deaths or their impact on major characters – it drives the drama, heightens the excitement and demands attention. I’ve always felt you need that in shows where there’s peril, because otherwise, what’s the point? Through A Glass Darkly was ultimately undermined by this false peril, but it’s not just the problem of this episode, but the series as a whole.

There were some redeeming features. Ryan Gage yet again played the King with an appropriate degree of humility bordering on cowardice that belies his position whilst maintaining that jagged edge of unpredictability. His continual dislike for the Musketeers and his adoration for Rochefort will undoubtedly be played off in the long game, but for now he’s created a perfectly dislikeable King whose blindness in regards to Rochefort will be a shortcoming we all look forward to seeing.    

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Milady’s fate was also surprising, for despite her calculations, even the King’s unpredictability got the better of her. Feel sorry for her yet? No, me neither, and I can only think that the last few episodes have been about seeing another side of her character and trying to create sympathy. Now this isn’t a bad thing, she remains one of the strongest of the group – certainly the most interesting – and her change in fortune opens up yet more opportunities, after all she now has nothing to lose. Out of favour and dumped out of court, but we all know that it won’t be long before she tries something else, and then we might see a Milady renewed. There’s also a little matter of Catherine and those pistols from last week…

Perhaps the big news was that D’Artagnan and Constance are back together. Their relationship was handled particularly well in the first season, and this carried across into series two, but here it seemed that the reunion was a little forced and out of the blue. Next week will see the unfortunate consequences of such a public display, and as long as they pay due diligence to the ramifications of their actions, then it’s possible the writers could continue for their relationship to be an example of how not to kowtow before a more clichéd period romance. 

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Through A Glass Darkly is the weakest of the run to date, but only in the context of what has been a quality series so far. It was still enjoyable and in places, excellent. Certainly the plots hinted at in the very beginning are now starting to grind into place. It’s just a pity that this episode had very little of its own to add.

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