Synopsis of The Musketeers 2.02 “An Ordinary Man” from my cable TV provider: King Louis demands to experience the life of his carefree subjects, but his night of fun quickly ends when he and D’Artagnan are mistaken for commoners and kidnapped by the notorious criminal Lemaitre who intends to sell them to Spain as slaves. The Life of King Henry the Fifth is my favorite of Shakespeare’s historical dramas. I’ve seen the 1989 Kenneth Branagh film twice, and my favorite scene is act IV, scene 1 — the scene in which King Henry walks amongst his troops as if he is a common soldier so he can gauge the dispositions of his men and their views of his war on France. I first saw the film when I was in my 20s, and that scene reinforced my own political beliefs as I agreed with the soldiers in their discussion with Henry. I heard Henry’s rebuttal to the soldiers’ views as empty rhetoric, and I thought Shakespeare was clearly promoting the common people’s perspective (which is probably what the groundlings in Shakespeare’s time assumed as well). I watched the film again last fall, but it was in a classroom situation, and I was too distracted to focus fully on that scene. Perhaps it was Branagh’s directorial choices that made Younger Me believe the scene advocated the common people’s view — or perhaps I was merely projecting my own ideology onto the scene. In any case, when I now read the lines on the page (or screen), I no longer get the definite sense that Shakespeare was advocating the view of the common people. Instead, it seems Shakespeare was trying to present both views as impartially as he could — though the soldiers succumb to Henry’s “reasonable argument,” which makes it seem like Henry’s view prevailed. However, interpreting the text as Shakespeare arguing for the rights of the gentry can be dismissed by assuming Shakespeare knew that his finances were tied more to pleasing the gentry then they were to pleasing the groundlings. Nevertheless, I still have a great interest in that scene in which King Hal walks among the common men as he feigns a lower station. Thus, I was initially curious about The Musketeers episode “An Ordinary Man” (BBC America; Saturday, January 24) in which King Louis XIII chose to walk among the people as a commoner. However, unlike Shakespeare’s King Hal wanting to gauge the attitudes of his people, King Louis of The Musketeers merely wanted to go slumming. He wanted to hit the tavern, make out with some wenches, play a few hands of poker with a couple of ruffians, and finish off the evening by getting into a bar fight. Thus, we get King Louis the Buffoon telling Athos, Porthos, and D’Artagnan, “Tonight I would enjoy the same freedom as the most carefree peasant” before then pointing out “My . . . uhm . . . my tunic’s come undone. (After a few seconds of hesitation and uncertainty, D’Artagnan then re-fastens the tunic for the buffoon who believes the peasants in his kingdom are carefree and that they engage in “freedoms” that he, as king, can never have.) Later, in the tavern when Louis is saying stupid shit, Porthos says to Athos, “We should show ’im what it’s really like to be poor in Paris.” Indeed, that might have been a very engaging episode that I would have thoroughly enjoyed. However, it’s not that I didn’t enjoy the episode as it was; it’s just that King Louis as a prancing and posturing little bitch is something I prefer to take in small doses from episode to episode rather than overdose on his buffoonery in a single episode. Of course, he sort of gets what he deserves when — after escaping the tavern fight with the help of D’Artagnan — Louis exclaims, “That was wonderful. The life of a commoner is so exciting!” just before he’s clubbed over the head from behind by thugs who don’t know he’s their king and who plan to sell him and D’Artagnan as slaves to serve aboard Spanish ships. Of course, in the end, Athos and Porthos rescue Louis and D’Artagnan. Oh, wait! I hope I didn’t just reveal a major spoiler there by telling you Louis and D’Artagnan emerge from their predicament alive! It could be that some people were actually fooled by last week’s previews that implied Louis was going to die in this episode. Well, if you fell for those previews, I’m sorry I spoiled this episode’s ending for you. I’ll make it up to you in a few weeks. I promise. Rather than having a surprise ending, the value of this current episode is in the deception and political intrigue that takes place during the course of the story as we move towards the obvious resolution of Louis’s abduction — and I won’t spoil those various subplots for you except to say that they mostly make up for the overdose of Louis that we have been served in this episode — and some of them involve the re-appearance of Athos’s estranged wife, Milady de Winter. So, I’ll end this review by quoting a few of King Hal’s prose lines* from Shakespeare’s Henry V: I think the king is but a man, as I am: the violet smells to him as it doth to me: the element shows to him as it doth to me; all his senses have but human conditions: his ceremonies laid by, in his nakedness he appears but a man; and though his affections are higher mounted than ours, yet, when they stoop, they stoop with the like wing. Therefore when he sees reason of fears, as we do, his fears, out of doubt, be of the same relish as ours are. . . . *While a noble character’s lines in Shakespeare’s plays are traditionally written in verse, these lines are in prose because King Hal is playing the role of a common man and so must speak as a common man. The Musketeers 2.02 “An Ordinary Man”Thom's Rating3.5Overall ScoreReader Rating: (0 Votes)Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... 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