This review contains spoilers.
3.6 Death Of A Hero
Now this is more like it. After two largely disappointing weeks, Death Of A Hero catapults itself to be the clear best of the season to date. We have been promised a darker season and although we shouldn’t get caught in the usual trap of equating ‘being dark’ with an automatic stamp of quality (yes Arrow seasons 3 & 4 we’re looking at you!), the show was in desperate need of adding some peril and tension to what is at times a pedestrian adventure for the heroes. This week we finally got to see the Musketeers in something that reasonably equates to danger with some good old fashioned ‘they couldn’t have survived that’ thrown in for good measure. We also got some stand-out moments from the most unexpected of characters. So all round a pretty good week.
Directed by Nicholas Renton, who’s had an impressive resume of TV classics over the past few decades, the well-conceived opening perfectly set the mood – especially with Feron’s menacing voice-over, which ultimately provided the perfect bookend for the episode. Seeing the Musketeers in moments of joy was always going to herald a fall, but it’s in moments like these when you realise just how short-changed Porthos is. Athos has Sylvie, d’Artagnan has Constance, Aramis has the rest of France and Prothos has, well, you see what I mean?
It was also good to launch straight into action with the Grimauld/Athos duel being well staged and as vicious and brutal as you would expect. It was slightly disappointing that the Grimauld reveal was a little too throwaway considering the effort to keep his identity hidden from the Musketeers, but the duel itself more than made up for it.
We also saw a change in the relationship between Feron and Grimauld, which made for an interesting dynamic – just who was the organ grinder and who feared whom? In the end Grimauld comes out on top, with an ever-increasing edge of desperation that should only add to his ferociousness. Although maybe we should refer to him as super Grimauld from now on as bullets seem to be either of the soft variety when they hit him or they seem to find that very small piece of metal on his jacket to deflect. Amazing.
Feron’s death was of course a surprise. With this season going for not one ‘big bad’ we should have suspected that a death was in the offing, but I wasn’t expecting it to be him. He’d grown on me, even when the episodes themselves weren’t great he was at least very entertaining to watch and his departure will need to be filled, although I can’t help thinking that both Grimauld and Marcheaux don’t have the depth of character to replace that level of ‘interesting’, although the menace will of course remain. I particularly liked the fact that he died perceived as a hero – it just increases the frustration on the Musketeers, not only does the man responsible for their troubles gets a thoroughly underserved send-off but also that the King buys so completely into the lies and scheming.
Speaking of the King, that was the other nice surprise as Ryan Gage’s Louis has grown into a real character rather than just the comic relief. Seeing what he’s doing this season makes me think that he’s been underused on the previous two. His confrontation with Aramis was well done, and I give much credit to the writers not going down the hanging path with Aramis, because the King’s wish to have him completely removed from the Queen’s and the Dauphin’s life is far crueller and shows the King to have a far more mature approach than we’ve seen previously.
Then we come to the Musketeers themselves. Okay, I still don’t buy that any of them is going to die – however at least it felt like there was a real threat against them. The great interaction between Porthos and d’Artagnan juxtaposed against the burning gunpowder was a special moment which we’ve had far too few this season. In fact, that whole sequence epitomises what The Musketeers should be – a few men against the odds, fighting tyranny and corruption and that’s when the show is at its best.
You still get a sense that all the pieces aren’t quite in place yet for the show’s finale – still no Milady for example, and surely there’s more tragedy awaiting the Musketeers ahead. However, it’s all largely irrelevant as long as the journey getting to the end is as exciting and as well-produced as this.