The Musketeers: 1:07 A Rebellious Woman
In an echo of suffragette Emily Davison of throwing herself under George V’s horse, this week’s episode starts with a young lady trying to jump onto the King's carriage to hand a petition to the queen only to end up crushed by the horse and carriage. This leads into a story about the age of enlightenment and women’s education, with Richelieu arguing that the petition for wider female education that the young lady was carrying is an attack on church and state. The petition was from the Contessa De Laroque (Annabelle Wallis) who is trying to improve the education of the women of Paris. Tied up in Richelieu's plotting are whispers from Rome suggesting he may be the next Pope.
The Musketeers are drawn into this plot involving missing girls and a papal emissary (Cardinal Sestini, played sublimely by John Lynch) trying to dictate French foreign policy and Milady De Winters infiltration of the Contessa’s inner circle spreading rumours of impropriety. As this is 1630 France not 2014, instead of trolling women fighting for female equality, Richelieu throws out the medieval line regularly used to put down strong females with a mind of their own, witchcraft. A charge even he doesn’t really believe in, but which is politically expedient. Like men trying to keep women down he does so from a position of power and of fear.
With some verbal sparring and eloquent playful flirting between the Contessa and Athos, which starts to reveal more of his character and personality which rounds him out even more. The script also draws out more of the contradictions reflected in Aramis' character, the soldier who preaches love. There is also a suggestion that the marriage of Constance Bonacieux isn’t the happy bed of roses she pretends it to be, and D’Artagnan declares his love for her to add further complication to her life. The allegory and parallels with contemporary issues of feminism can’t be ignored, and so the writers tackle them head on, and through the show trial use the words of the characters to robustly defend female rights and the right of every woman to be her own person. With Milady De Winter providing false evidence to condemn the Contessa, with Athos failing to stop her, the trial is brought to a premature end by Richelieu's poisoning.
Unless the Musketeers find his prisoner then the Contessa will die. With Capaldi on fire as Richelieu in the trial and Tom Burke shining this week as the tormented Athos, wrestling with his past, and his dealings with the Contessa. Both Santiago Cabrera and Alexandra Dowling subtly and delicately play the slow burning romance between Aramis and the Queen, which is referenced in a blink and you’d miss it moment. With the prisoner revealed to be the Sestini, whose ashes get sent back to Rome, and the Contessa agreeing a deal with Richelieu to leave Paris, Richelieu once again wins in style. Yet again the female characters drive the narrative, with the scene in prison between Milady and the Contessa - a juxtaposition of good and evil as Milady in black and the Contessa in white argue their ground. My only complaint with characterisation of the Musketeers has been that the drawing out, and rounding of the individual musketeers has taken an age, and we’re nearly at the end of the first season without fully knowing their individual personalities.