In my reviews, I stated that “The Return” (2.05) and “Through a Glass Darkly” (2.06) were my favorite episodes of the series because they were about social obligations between classes within a society. I now need to add the season finale, “Trial and Punishment” (2.10), to my list of favorite episodes of The Musketeers. It does not contain any meditations on the theme of social obligations, but it is clearly the most emotionally riveting episode of the series. While watching the episode, I experienced actual anxiety about the fates of all the recurring characters save for the following five: Aramis, Athos, D’Artagnan, and Porthos (because they are the four primary characters from Dumas’s novels and so they should be “safe”), and Rochefort (because Marc Warren just joined the cast this season as Rochefort, so his salary for next season should not be at a level that would be a burden on the budget). All the other characters were potential casualties because the need to maintain a cost-effective budget when a series is extended for another season often requires some actors being released to offset pay increases in the contracts of other actors. Over the years, I’ve heard fans of television series complain about how deaths of beloved characters did not make sense. However, the elimination of characters from a series is often a business decision rather than a creative one. Thus, with the opening scene in “Trial and Punishment,” it certainly seemed that Constance’s head was going to cut from her body due to a business decision about Tamla Kari’s salary needing to be cut from the budget. However, Constance’s death would have also have worked as a creative decision by providing for a darkening of D’Artagnan’s character into next season. As I noted in my review of “The Accused” (2.09): [T]he previews of the season finale make it seem as if Constance is definitely on her way out; D’Artagnan is going to have to act very quickly to save her. Fortunately for Constance, D’Artagnan did act very quickly to save her—so Tamla Kari will be returning next season after all. However, the anxiety I experienced regarding Constance’s fate in that opening scene continued throughout the episode in nearly every scene. That level of anxiety is something TV shows and movies have been unable to evoke in me for several years now. I still get choked up with a powerful sense of the sublime with some films that I will write about in my Spontaneous Quixote column, but anxiety from watching a movie or TV series is something I haven’t felt in a long time. In fact, television series have not evoked emotional responses in me for a very long time. In my first Spontaneous Quixote column, I included a mini-review of episode 3.09 of Arrow (“The Climb”). My review focused on the anxiety I felt as I watched the episode—and how that anxiety enhanced the viewing experience by allowing me to feel emotions similar to what the main character was supposed to be feeling within the story. However, in that instance, the events in the story were not the cause of my anxiety. The cause was external to the episode and my viewing of it. It was simply that my externalized anxiety allowed me to “feel” the story I was watching. In this case, however, the plights of the characters in The Musketeers caused my anxiety; the cause was internal to the episode—and that is a remarkable feat for a show to have achieved with me. “Trial and Punishment” evoked my anxiety through four facets of the production working together to achieve excellence: the directing, the writing, the acting, and the sound engineering. Yes, the sound engineering! During one of the scenes inside the Louvre, I heard the crowing of one or more peacocks in the distance. At first I thought, “Wow, they created greater verisimilitude by adding a crowing peacock to the sound mix.” If you have ever toured a European palace, you might have noticed the numerous ducks, geese, swans, and peacocks that often roam the grounds. Thus, I thought the sound of the crowing peacock was added to create a greater sense of authenticity. However, I later realized the palace in the Czech Republic where The Musketeers is filmed probably has peacocks on the grounds—and one or more of those peacocks just happened to be crowing during the filming of that scene. Nevertheless, the sound of the peacock early in the episode drew me further into the “reality” of the story’s situation to enhance the anxiety I already felt after Constance was nearly beheaded. As for excellence in acting, all of the principle players performed their roles with a great deal of emotional intensity—further evoking parallel responses in me. However, Santiago Cabrera (who plays Aramis) was particularly great in the scene in which Rochefort brings Aramis before a tribunal and accuses him of treason: Rochefort: You are accused of seducing the queen at the convent in Bourbon-les-Eaux, and of fathering her child. Do you swear to give us the truth of this sordid encounter? Aramis: (placing his hand on a Bible) I do. Rochefort: To lie after swearing such a sacred oath is to damn your immortal soul for eternity. Do you understand? Aramis: I understand that God is with us now . . . in this room. We will all be judged for what is in our hearts. Both of Rochefort’s accusations are true, but Aramis denies them despite the oath he swore on the Bible—not because his religious convictions are weak; rather, he denies them despite his religious convictions being extraordinarily strong. He then counter-accuses Rochefort of being a spy for Spain—adding that Rochefort does not intend to allow the queen to live regardless of what Aramis would say before the tribunal (all of which is also true). Rochefort then brings Lady Marguerite before the tribunal to testify against Aramis. During Marguerite’s testimony, Aramis remains silent while intimate details of his relationships to the queen and dauphin are made public. Other actors in similar scenes might simply stand like statues while they waited to deliver their eventual lines; however, Cabrera conveyed a great deal more about Aramis through slight periorbital twitches. Involuntary periorbital spasms can occur during heightened negative emotions—such as anger, fear, or sorrow—so by performing these tiny twitches of his periorbital muscles, Cabrera quietly conveys Aramis’s emotional reaction to the testimony in an amazingly understated manner. Everyone is able to blink voluntarily, of course—to contract and expand their periorbital muscles in addition to closing and opening their eyelids. However, I do not know if everyone can voluntarily twitch those small muscles just under their eyes. I can cause mine to twitch, so perhaps everyone else can as well. Nevertheless, even if everyone is capable of doing it, most actors would not have thought to make those voluntary periorbital twitches in this scene. Cabrera’s decision to act through slight muscle spasms created more emotional intensity in the trial than would have been present if he had chosen to create a more overt emotional response with his face. However, this trial scene was not only worth noting for Cabrera’s outstanding performance, it also reveals the excellence in writing and research the series has been achieving. In past reviews, I have had fun pointing out the historical inaccuracies in the series regarding such elements as the date of Cardinal Richelieu’s death and the date of the dauphin’s birth (if we are to assume the child Aramis fathered with the queen is supposed to become King Louis XIV). To be fair, though, Alexandre Dumas took “poetic license” with historical events in his novels—and the writers and producers on The Musketeers seem to know exactly what they are doing with their own manipulation and use of history. They have actually researched the material in order to add layers to the overall story they are telling. For instance, Aramis denying his sexual relationship with the queen after swearing an oath on the Bible then connects to two later scenes in this episode. Together, those three “religious faith” scenes connect the character in the television series to the historical Henri d’Aramitz (or just Aramitz) upon whom Dumas based the fictitious Aramis of his novels. After lying to the tribunal despite his oath on the Bible, Aramis later prays to God when he is chained to the wall of his prison cell: “God, if you spare her and by some miracle I’m allowed to live, I vow to devote all my remaining days to your Grace; I will renounce all worldly temptations; I will . . . even my duty. I’m not worth of your mercy. (Sounds of the prison gate opening as Aramis expects to be led to his execution.) My soul is prepared.” God then seems to answer Aramis’s prayer as Milady de Winter suddenly appears, kills the guard, unlocks the gate, and quips, “God works in mysterious ways, does he not?” Despite giving a false statement to the tribunal after swearing an oath on the Bible, God seems to have at least answered half of Aramis’s prayer. At least he will survive. Now he must be off to save the queen. However, saving the queen will lead to the problem I foresaw in my review of the previous episode: “there is no way the series can return next season with a ‘status quo’ interaction between the characters.” However, my belief that the resolution of this season meant a complete disruption of the status quo for next season was based on an incorrect assumption. I assumed that when the network renewed The Musketeers for a third season Marc Warren would return. Obviously, the way to re-set the rest of the characters to their proper places would be if Rochefort was not only exposed and discredited, but if he was done away with completely—a task that D’Artagnan was willing to complete as payback for Rochefort’s treatment of Constance (I also thought when Rochefort eventually died in another season or two that it would be Aramis who would kill him). Thus, with Rochefort dead (we even see the corpse, so it isn’t a case of “we thought he was dead”) and exposed as a spy for Spain, the queen is safe—which means God has answered the entirety of Aramis’s prayer, which further means Aramis must resign his commission and assume his family’s abbacy—which thus connects the character to the historical figure on which he is based. The paternal grandfather of Henri Aramitz was the abbé (abbot) of his community. When the grandfather died, Aramitz’s father, Charles d’Aramitz, resigned from the musketeers to take over the abbacy. Then, when the father died in 1648, Aramitz resigned his own commission in the musketeers to become the abbé. Thus, by resigning his commission at the conclusion of this season-ending episode, the fictional Aramis is fulfilling his historical fate. In keeping his prayed promise to God, Aramis may have made up for the lie he told under oath—though it was a lie he told with love and honor in his heart, so both Aramis and God may not have considered it a “sin.” His actions thus connects the fictitious Aramis to the historical Aramitz as he essentially walks into the sunset (actually, if you look at the shadows in the above image, you can see that he is actually walking at about a 22-degree angle into the sunset). It’s clear that most of the season’s conclusion was set up as a resolution of the entire series in case it had not been renewed. However, since it has been renewed, the old gang is going to have to be brought together again. Fortunately, France suddenly declaring war on Spain (another historical inaccuracy) is just the perfect catalyst. Knowing they will need their comrade in arms, Athos, D’Artagnan, and Porthos ride off to retrieve Aramis from his abbacy. The entire episode from beginning to end was an extremely satisfying conclusion to a mostly brilliant season. I’m going to miss watching this series each week, and I am already looking forward to next year. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.