This review contains spoilers.
3.9 The Prize
Well – that was pretty good wasn’t it.
As the series and show starts to wrap up, no matter what’s come before, no matter the quality of acting, direction or writing there’s always going to be one simple question – will it stick the landing? As it looks like Episodes 9 and 10 are to be almost a two-parter, I would say that The Prize lines up very nicely for that final approach.
This week it’s all about two deaths. Okay, so there’s lots of other stuff that happens in the middle, but ultimately that’ll be forgotten and all we will remember is that King Louis dies at the start and Treville succumbs at the end. Both deaths are substantial and ever so slightly shocking even though we knew that Louis already had his card marked. However, having their deaths in this, the penultimate episode, was just the kind of motivation and emotional high stakes that the season needed to peak for the finale. Certainly the death of Treville creates a level of despair and intimacy that will undoubtedly make the last episode all that much more poignant and exciting.
That’s not to say that Ryan Gage’s death should be ignored. It was superb in its understated manner, a start contrast to how we’ve viewed his character over the past three seasons. However, in many ways it rightfully reflected the person he had more recently become. Moreover, Louis was a consistently entertaining character either be it a buffoon or a betrayed husband and Gage acquitted himself well throughout.
Treville’s death was a little overblown but probably no more than the character deserved. This was a man you couldn’t put down quietly and was by far Hugo Speer’s best episode. Much like Louis, Treville had changed substantially over this season – never wanting to be a politician and yet he so often found success where others failed. At the end I like that the writers reverted him to type, single handedly taking on *ahem* 4 people. Perhaps it wasn’t the most dramatic or satisfying death but one still of impact and resonance. His death has left me wondering though what’s going to happen to Milady – I’m hoping that whole side plot of his employing Milady to be his assassin isn’t going to be left out – surely there must be more to come?
The other star of the show was Queen Anne, although was anyone else secretly pleased that after all that denying of Aramis and pledging herself to the King, Louis still changed his mind at the last minute and choose Treville. Dowling’s performance has often been more background than foreground and so it was nice to see her shine, although I felt her petulance both at the reading of the will and the pardoning of Gaston betrayed a selfishness that didn’t sit right with the stoic loner that she’s often portrayed. In some ways it seems very similar to Treville, we just didn’t get sufficient time with these characters so such changes and development at times seemed sudden and disjointed – however, considering my criticisms of past seasons that these characters enjoyed too much screen time at the expense of the Musketeers, it’s obviously a difficult balance to achieve.
And what of the Musketeers? Well, as to often is the case when the story is more political in nature, they seem to become mere spectators as others get the lion’s share of the limelight. I also thought the treatment of Aramis was just slightly strange. I couldn’t quite buy why everyone thought it was a good idea that he wasn’t involved in protecting his own son. Surely no one would fight harder to protect him. However, I did think his stinging, ‘one for all’ was well timed and reminded us that these guys are supposed to be the best of friends through thick or thin. Looking back over the season I think we’ve lost some of that camaraderie – these four still remain very much individuals and not necessarily the team of fictional legends that you might have hoped them to be.
Grimauld for one, was a disappointment this week. He’s become a pale imitation of his former self. As he’s been brought out into the light, his mystery has evaporated. Don’t get me wrong, he’s obviously still capable of intense violence but his determination has almost become a one note tune – where once his frenzy and darkness were his scariest characteristics, now he comes across as something little more than a criminal who’s good with a sword and has lots of money. Oh yes… let’s focus on that for a moment. Grimauld paid for Gaston’s and the Duke of Lorraine’s army. So if he can do that, if he has access to so many resources, then surely there are easier ways to get revenge. At no point did I ever get the feeling that Grimauld was that rich, and it for me changes the character and it becomes poorer for it (no pun intended).
Finally, Stokoe’s Marcheaux deserves a shout-out this week. The disbandment of the Red Guard was almost lost amongst the other machinations but the simplicity to the Captain’s character is a nice foil to all the other political sheningans going on.
So it’s well done, pats on backs and tea and medals all round as we go into the last ever episode…