“All for One and One for All”

Season Three

Four years have passed and we’re thrown straight into the war. Athos is leading a charge in Spoils of War. He’s knocked down and the Spanish begin their attack, but his brothers Porthos and D’Artagnan defend their commander until he is up. Frustratingly, the general insists that the field must be taken, even though the French have no artillery to support them (“Go out there and die for [the king]” is not the most sound military advice). D’Artagnan remains reckless and leads another charge. They blow up the Spanish’s powder and win the day. But the three intend to discover what happened to their promised re-supply.

During the course of their investigation, they come across Aramis, now a monk at a nearby monastery, watching over children. This season’s new villain, Grimaud brings the weapons (stolen from the French army) to the monastery. One of Aramis’s charges, Luc, is quite brave and helpful, eagerly soaking up any stories Aramis tells of his companions. Aramis works with his brothers again and discovers that God made him to be a Musketeer, not a monk. He joins them as they ride back to Paris.

Meanwhile, in Paris, things are not as they left. The only musketeers at the garrison are cadets and they have to put up with the Red Guard, under the leadership of Captain Marchaux and taking orders from Marquis Ferron, the Governor of Paris (why we’ve never seen him before if he’s the governor, and Louis’s bastard half-brother [same father, different mothers, thus does not show on official family trees], I’m not sure. ‘Tis a plot hole). Constance, known now as Madame D’Artagnan runs the garrison while Treville continues to advise the king. Louis and Anne have grown distant; Louis only cares for his son, who is now five years old. Marchaux despises Constance, calling her an unnatural woman. Treville does manage to punch the man in the face (to our cheers).

Grimaud works with Ferron and he’s content to stay in Paris now that the musketeers have returned. The three elder musketeers report to Treville, who has them reassigned to Paris to keep order; D’Artagnan has gone ahead to the garrison to surprise his wife.

He gets thrown in prison in The Hunger, defying Marchaux when the man accuses refugees of stealing grain. Hundreds have fled to Paris for protection when the war ravages their land. One of their leaders is Sylvie, who encounters Athos when he discovers her pamphlets on equality for all (which equals to sedition at that time). He ends up working with her as the musketeers attempt to discover what happened to the grain (she even gets a few fight scenes). Treville argues for justice; there has been no evidence found against the refugees; though it turns out that the villainous trio of Marchaux, Grimaud, and Ferron are working together to frame them. Our heroes win out the day; Athos and Sylvie even kiss, starting a new relationship.

third season musketeers
Our four favorite musketeers are back

Brothers in Arms brings Louis’s younger brother, Gaston, the Duke of Orleans (this is historically factual), into play. Treville and Anne notice that the king is not acting like himself. Louis wants to build bridges with another family member who wanted to overthrow him (remember how well that worked last time, trying to forgive his mother). Louis does reveal to Treville (with Ferron overhearing) that he has the white plague; this will be his last summer. That is why he is spending all the time he can with his son. He swears his Minister to secrecy; just after Treville has admonished Athos that they should tell each other everything. The Queen does not even know.

Constance maintains her friendship with Queen Anne, though when the queen asks when the garrison will be treated to a child now that D’Artagnan is home, Constance shares her worries about bringing a babe into this chaotic world. Athos has to learn his place as Captain of the Musketeers, according to Treville. He should not be riding out constantly with his friends: I argue that he’s more effective that way and Athos is not one to abandon his brothers. He’s a Captain just returned from war, where his position was at the head of the charge, not sitting back and devising strategy. D’Artagnan is coming along nicely, tutoring the cadets and passing on the wisdom of “head over heart.”

Gaston manages to insult a group of veterans. Due to being the king’s brother, Gaston faces no recriminations while Louis doesn’t mind arresting the veterans. Gaston was carrying letters between him and the Duke of Lorraine (a cousin), raising an army against Louis. Of course Gaston doesn’t want those lying about, but he’s not the loyal family member that Louis desires. Tensions rise between the veterans and the royal family, with the Musketeers stuck in the middle. Porthos and Treville attempt to talk peace, but are held hostage. Porthos is disgusted that “I left a good clean war for this,” meaning the machinations going on in Paris. The Red Guard are given permission to fire on the veterans, only after Athos has had a chance to rescue Treville and Porthos. Of course, thanks to Grimaud, the attempt fails and an all out battle ensues. The Musketeers and veterans join forces against the Red Guard, aided by Constance and the cadets, and Sylvie and the refugees arriving. Treville punches Marchaux again. In the end, Ferron throws Gaston in the Bastille once he reads the letters.

An old face, Emile Bonaire reappears in The Queen’s Diamonds [it’s been a while since I’ve watched season three and I forgot the plot line for this one when I saw the title and thought it was similar to 2011’s movie]. Louis’s sister, Henrietta Marie is married to King Charles I of England (I doubted this was true, but looked it up and yes, it is), and has traveled to France for help from her brother; Cromwell has taken over London [I can give you a rant on Cromwell, if you’d like]. She was to meet with a Dutch financier and use her crown jewels as collateral to raise an army against the uprising. But her diamonds are stolen. By Bonaire. When the Musketeers catch up to him, he’s already sold them, so now they must track down the buyers and get them back. D’Artagnan is instrumental in retrieving the first set of stones, using his knowledge as a farmer to approach a horse that’s causing the other men difficulty. There’s a firefight to retrieve the second batch.

There’s a small side story involving Aramis and an old friend, Pauline. Turns out, Aramis grew up in a brothel before his father retrieved him. Pauline grew up in the same brothel and they were childhood friends. Pauline is due to be married to a wealthy noble, but she’s being blackmailed about her past by a servant. She ultimately kills the servant because she will not tell her future husband the truth. She has a break down right before the wedding (and we’re not entirely sure what happens to her). The story crosses over with the main plot when the last diamond is to be used as her wedding ring. The gems are returned to their owner and Bonaire will double the English queen’s money, if she lets him remain with his new wife, her lady in waiting. They’re free, but they can never return to England.

A prison escape occurs the same day as the dauphin’s birthday in To Play the King. This is all Ferron’s planning; while the court is occupied with the birthday celebration, Grimaud will sneak in and rob the gold vault underneath the palace, accessed by the prison, hence why the prisoners needed to be out of their cells. The Musketeers are sent to round up the escapees. Grimaud blackmails one prisoner, a former locksmith, to get him to build a new key in order to get into the vault.

Unfortunately, one crazy prisoner was in the mix, who thinks he’s the actual king (played by Stephen Walters, who is Angus Mhor in Outlander). D’Artagnan takes pity on him when he discovers the man was a soldier, caught in a siege that addled his mind. The young Musketeer takes the man to a convent to heal. The king remains mercurial; he wants his subjects, starting with Ferron, to swear fealty to his son. But he’s embarrassed when Ferron’s weakness (his spine pains him and makes walking difficult) causes the older man to fall to the floor. His adversary, Treville and Athos help him up and even little Louis comes to his aid. Anne leaves when Louis makes his remark. At the same time, the prisoner D’Artagnan took pity on is very dangerous, killing the nuns, and continues to the palace, coming upon the queen. Anne plays along for a while, but just as the prisoner begins to suspect her, D’Artagnan and the others come to her rescue. Louis is pleased she’s not dead, but that’s as far as his grace extends.

Treville still suspects that Ferron wishes to overthrow Louis, but he cannot tell the king, or Ferron will spread word of Louis’s illness across the continent. The Minister does overhear Ferron and Grimaud plotting that they need Gaston and Grimaud will ensure that the Aramis, Porthos, Athos, and D’Artagnan will not stand in their way again.

Death of a Hero starts ominously, Ferron talking about the day you die, and you don’t see it coming, narrating over the opening shots. Aramis is blindfolded, Athos faces a pistol, and a knife is held to D’Artagnan’s throat. So we fear that at least one of our heroes will not survive. Yet, they are safe for the moment. The pistol held at Athos belongs to Sylvie and they spend a rather interesting morning together (who knew the former Comte could be kinky?) Aramis is doing trick shots with Porthos, and Constance is shaving D’Artagnan. Ferron forges Treville’s signature, telling Grimaud that this will the Musketeers’ day to die; he has issued orders for Aramis, Porthos, and D’Artagnan to meet a messenger from the front. Grimaud handles Athos, finding him at Sylvie’s and brutally attacks him (none of the other refugees can bother to help Athos). Sylvie fires two shots at Grimaud and thinks he’s dead. When she returns with Athos, he’s gone. Athos fears for his brothers and calls Treville to the garrison. They ride out after their friends.

Porthos and D’Artagnan are ambushed on their trip. Grimaud comes along to blow up the building they’re hiding in. The two musketeers discuss that they don’t want to die yet. D’Artagnan still wants children (um, you should really have a talk with your wife, get both of yourselves on the same page). Porthos still wants a wife and child. “We refuse to die!” they resolve. And the roof caves in, trapping them. That is the state that Athos and Treville and the cadets find them. Athos frantically searches, until he fears that his brothers are dead. Porthos manages to come to, grasping D’Artagnan’s hand, echoing their earlier statement, calling attention to them. They’re rescued and now must go for Aramis.

In the meantime, Louis has decided to go on a pilgrimage to his father’s grave on the anniversary of his death. He’ll go with one guard, Aramis. Grimaud, when he finds out that Aramis is not with Porthos and D’Artagnan, orders Ferron to kill him, and the king. Ferron has already helped Gaston escape the Bastille. Ferron lies in wait, but cannot bring himself to kill his younger brother, especially after Louis places his trust in him to look after the dauphin and shows Ferron that he will be buried next to their father and acknowledged as family. Later, Louis confronts Aramis about the truth of his affair with the queen. Louis knows. He threatens to hang the musketeer (not helped along by Aramis telling the king that his wife was lonely; Aramis darling, while that may be true, don’t say that to the king). Outside, Grimaud confronts Ferron. Ferron stands up to the villain and is rewarded with being stabbed. He fires a shot in the air to warn Louis and Aramis of danger. A fight breaks out, Louis even helping shoot one guy. When he discovers his brother, Louis declares him a hero, worthy of a full state funeral. It comes out to the musketeers that Louis is dying, and Aramis warns the queen.

Fool’s Gold has our heroes pursuing Grimaud for his crimes. They come across a camp of women, displaced by the war. The four men wrangle an agreement to use the camp as a base for their search Another man in currently staying there, Bastian (played by Harry Melling, Dudley Dursely from Harry Potter), claiming to be an injured solider. The four musketeers soon discover that he’s not a soldier, he’s a deserter and worse, a convict. He and his men are searching the camp for loot they had stolen. Athos doggedly continues on the search for Grimaud, locating a cabin in the woods. The leader of the camp locks him in; she had acted as a mother to Grimaud when the man’s own mother tried to drown him since he was the result of rape. The mother still lives and is in the camp, Juliette. Athos escapes, but the woman poisons him. He stumbles upon the search party and is plagued with horrible nightmares as he fights the effect of the poison, layered on top of the hideous wounds he received from Grimaud two days before.

Back at the palace, Anne tries to make inroads with Louis, now possessing the knowledge that he is dying. She asks to be named Regent. Louis refuses at first, keeping their son from her; he cannot forgive her for her adultery (double standard; what do you call Milady de Winter? Treville even points this out). Anne does persuade Louis to name her Regent; she wishes to still be friends with him. They accept they never truly loved each other, but their marriage was a political alliance.

Porthos meets a young, pregnant widow at the camp, Elodie. While his brothers face off against Bastian and his friends (bar one who agrees to defend the women; he never wanted hurt them and is repulsed by the others’ actions), Porthos helps Elodie deliver her daughter. He offers to stay at the camp for a while, to help, but Elodie insists that France needs him.

Sadly, all of the work Anne had been doing with Louis is undone in Prisoners of War. Anne had secretly been negotiating with Spain through Aramis; not even Treville nor Athos knew. Grimaud captures Aramis and his plan is to discredit Anne; turn the people against her. Anne firmly tells the musketeers “I have been a French queen longer than I was ever a Spanish princess.” “Spain” (actually Grimaud) has asked for the release of Spanish prisoners in exchange for Aramis. The Musketeers have the unhappy duty of getting the prisoners from Marchaux and the Red Guards just as Marchaux is ready to hang them in front of a crowd. D’Artagnan releases his cousin, at the young man’s pleading (I didn’t want to trust him, and it’s a bit out of place for him to show up out of the blue). Of course, the musketeers (assisted by D’Artagnan’s cousin) rescue their friend and Grimaud frustratingly escapes again.

Treville and Constance try to counteract the bad publicity by having the queen support Sylvie’s education of the poor. She can spread her message farther with the use of a printing press. But it’s turned against her when someone (Grimaud) uses her seal to print scandalous drawings of the queen. And, to make it even better, Milady is back in town. Treville wants to hire her services as an assassin for the crown. He warns her against seeing Athos. She doesn’t listen, visiting Athos’s Captain’s quarters. One of the naive cadets unfortunately reveals that Athos is involved with Sylvie. Athos is not pleased to see his former wife (I would think it’s safe to assume they could be regarded as separated by now), despite a kiss. He fears she’s moved against Sylvie. Marchaux in fact arrests Sylvie and plans to whip her for her transgressions, even trying to get the woman to turn on Constance. Milady is hidden in the crowd when Athos arrives and releases Sylvie, shouting “to hell with the law!” A turn on his reaction to Milady’s deception; it was his duty to execute her for killing his brother. Athos tends to Sylvie and Milady agrees to Treville’s offer. At the end, Louis is angry at Anne and Treville is furious at Aramis for his actions and secrecy in the negotiation process.

The Prize startlingly begins with Louis’s death. One moment, he’s recovering from a simple sparring match with Treville, the next he’s coughing blood and dying in Queen Anne’s arms. Treville puts a plan into immediate action; Athos is to hide the dauphin, now king, in Paris, and tell no one; not even his brothers, especially not Aramis. “Civil war is coming to Paris and that child is the prize.” Gaston and Lorraine have an army stationed outside the city. Anne is furious when she discovers her son missing, not helped when the council reveals that Louis named Treville Regent at the last minute. The excuse used it that with the country at war, it’s better to have a solider at the head.
Treville does have another plan; he needs to separate Gaston and Lorraine. Step one is to convince the queen to pardon Gaston so he can enter the city under the ruse of seeing his brother laid to rest. Treville offers Gaston money so he won’t try for the crown. While Gaston is at the palace, they stage the dauphin leaving and Treville rides with Porthos to visit Lorrain and work that angle.

Athos asks Constance and Sylvie for help. The women disguise the prince and hide out with him at the abandoned tavern the veterans had used [episode 3, Brothers in Arms]. Louis, not exactly understanding all that is happening; sneaks out. He’s quickly recovered, but now they must hide in Bonacieux’s old house. Anne approaches Constance, begging to see her son. Constance compromises, but Marchaux and Grimaud are notified that the dauphin is in Paris and suspect Constance. Marchaux tries to take the dauphin when Constance meets Anne at a chapel, but Aramis is luckily to the rescue. He’s unhappy that Athos kept the information from him and Athos begins to suspect that Aramis has a point; secrecy will destroy their brotherhood. D’Artagnan is eager to help his wife. He takes charge of the child, hiding at the laundry that Constance had used when the boy was an infant. They almost escape Grimaud, but the man is clever and stabs D’Artagnan through the floor, revealing the pair.

Everything comes to a head at Lorraine’s camp. Treville has managed to work out a treaty with the Duke, granting him the independence he wants and warning the man that Gaston cannot be trusted. Lorraine knows his cousin and knows that Treville is correct; he even tells Gaston when the young man shows up that he was “a tiresome and vindictive child,” and he “has not changed.” He does not stand for Grimaud abducting the dauphin and a fight breaks out. Grimaud stabs Lorraine several times. Gaston escapes. Treville grabs the boy and manages to pass him off to Porthos to escape, after taking one bullet. He turns, ready to face his last stand and is shot another time. Grimaud, in full view of Aramis and Athos, shoots their leader a final time. Grimaud escapes again and the musketeers are left to mourn their fallen leader. My tears echo theirs.

The show concludes with We Are the Garrison [and if you note, when a character dies, their actor’s name does not appear in the opening credits]. The Musketeers bury their leader, the four bearing his coffin, and mourn his death at a tavern. Athos is so grief-stricken that he cannot even drink. Constance suggests that Sylvie tell Athos some good news, but the woman says that the time is not right. Constance and Brujon return to the garrison for more wine. The rest of the musketeers toast their former captain. Bombs are thrown into the tavern. Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and D’Artagnan are the only four to emerge a few minutes later, in time to see an explosion from the direction of the garrison. D’Artagnan heads their race back, worried for his wife. The garrison is on fire; Porthos tries to hold D’Artagnan back, but the younger man breaks free and rushes in to save his wife. Another explosion tosses the other three back. Porthos is ready to rush in and save their comrade, but Athos tells him D’Artagnan is gone. They start finding some survivors and Sylvie arrives with refugees. As Athos is about to start grieving for their loss, D’Artagnan emerges, carrying Constance. He tells his friends that Brujon is still inside. We fear Constance is dead for a few minutes, D’Artagnan begging Aramis to save her, sobbing “she’s a Musketeer” (I was crying; I still cry every time I see this episode, despite knowing how everything turns out), but she coughs and opens her eyes.

Grimaud reports to Marchaux that only D’Artagnan died in the explosion (he left before seeing the man reemerge). They take Sylvie and send a note to Athos. D’Artagnan is their advantage. When they arrive at the refugee camp, Grimaud sends Porthos and Aramis away to be executed and threatens Sylvie. Athos tells Grimaud that Sylvie does not fear death. Girmaud’s dagger moves lower, pointing to the woman’s belly. A nod confirms; Sylvie is pregnant. D’Artagnan jumps onto the guards just as they’re about to shoot Aramis and Porthos. Aramis sends two shots up, so the Grimaud will think they’re dead, but they come out swinging. D’Artagnan lands some hits on Grimaud, stabbing his shoulder and leg. Then D’Artagnan turns and fights Marchaux. He’s incredibly vicious, but the coward deserves it. Marchaux’s dead, but Grimaud slinks off (will that man die already!)

Athos is terrified and elated at the news that he is to be a father. The child will have the best uncles, who will teach a boy to fight. “And if it’s a girl?” “Then we’ll teach her to fight off the boys.” Good answer! Athos thanks Porthos for his plan; he saved both Sylvie and their child. Later, Athos recommends to Queen Anne that Porthos be promoted. Anne inquires whether Athos is willing to take Treville’s place as Minister. Athos instead suggests Aramis. Anne will consider it. She informs the musketeer captain that a celebration will be held the next day, and all citizens of Paris are invited.

Elodie has shown up; the war found the women’s camp. Porthos has her stay with Constance for the time being. Constance comes across Grimaud in the cellar of the old tavern, though she doesn’t realize who it is. She offers to help him, but he’s gone when she turns around. The next day at the ceremony, Elodie recognizes him in the crowd, entering Notre Dame. Aramis takes charge of the queen and dauphin. Porthos, Constance, and Sylvie get everyone out of the cathedral, and D’Artagnan and Athos go after Grimaud. They pull the fuses on the kegs of gunpowder and chase after the fugitive. He and D’Artagnan trade blows for a moment, Grimaud landing a cut on D’Artagnan’s face. Then Athos insists that he faces the villain alone. D’Artagnan orders his mentor, “I will not raise your child.” Athos and Grimaud each stab the other, and Grimaud doesn’t give up until Athos holds him under water. Their enemy is finally defeated.

The ceremony continues, Athos wrapped in his cloak so his wounds can’t be seen. Anne disbands the musketeers, and reforms them to be protectors of all Paris citizens. The depleted garrison will be recruited from the city. The crowd cheers. As they all leave, Anne promotes Porthos to general; he will return to the front to continue the war. Louis adorably asks Aramis if the man is his new servant (I think this is the only thing the boy says the entire series). Anne begs him to consider becoming her Minister. Athos advises Aramis later to take the position; he’ll be able to watch over his son. While he won’t be known as the boy’s father, wasn’t Treville a father to them all in a way? Anne secretly contracts Milady. Her first target: Gaston.

At the garrison, the Musketeers promote Brujon to a full musketeer and gift him his pauldron. he will accompany Porthos to the front. Porthos has married Elodie so she’ll be provided for in case he dies, and suggests Marie Cessette as a name for the baby (his mother’s name). (I cry this entire ending). Porthos instructs D’Artagnan to only take the best candidates. D’Artagnan is puzzled; that’s the captain’s duty. Athos is taking a leave of absence. “You will return?” the young man almost pleads with his mentor. “Then we will continue this later.” Athos leaves a hat for his pupil (the lad finally gets a hat! And it looks good!) In the end, Aramis does take the position as Minister. Anne is pleased, considering she sneaks a kiss with him in the garden. I adore Athos’s closing quote (I am going to make a pretty art piece to hang on my wall sometime soon).

“What lies ahead of us, I wonder?”

“Really doesn’t matter.”

“Doesn’t matter?”

“Not if we face every challenge the way we always have. With great passion, hearts that stay true to all they hold dear. Courage, no matter how many enemies lie in wait for us. Father, that daylight will always follow the dark.”

“And love?”

“Above all else.”

s3 constanceThe costumes are great this season; they’ve evolved. The Musketeers’ are more militaristic; they have extra padding – you really see it with D’Artagnan. Athos in particular has longer hair (I like it). Constance’s new gowns are awesome, far more practical, bordering on masculine.

I still feel a bit jipped by this last season; there could have been so many more stories (and this is why fanfiction is wonderful!). We could have seen more of Constance and D’Artagnan together, D’Artagnan coming to grips with what his wife has been doing. s3 d'art coupleThere are some pleasant scenes, like the beginning of Death of Hero, when Constance brushes hay out of D’Artagnan’s hair. As for the other relationships: I like that everyone gets a happy ending, but I’m still not quite happy with the sudden pairings. It took two seasons for D’Artagnan and Constance to get together and Aramis and the Queen were in love with each other almost the entire show. Suddenly, Athos has a new girlfriend, with vastly different politics. She’s for equality and he serves the king. Yes, I am glad he is happy; he deserves it. But it still feels sudden. I can see how Porthos and Elodie work; but she was only in three episodes total. How coincidental that Porthos wishes for a wife and child and one appears for him. Again, I’m glad he’s happy and he deserves it, but I don’t see a relationship built. How well will it work out when he returns home?

As with Richelieu, I have a little bit of sympathy for Ferron (not much). In a way, he’s trying to do what’s best for France. He doesn’t want to kill Louis. He’ll certainly take advantage of his death. And he obviously dislikes the Musketeers, which does not endear him to me. Marchaux is a coward and a bully, content hiding behind stronger players (and as D’Artagnan points out; he’s an able-bodied solider who is not at the front). And being cruel to Constance makes me want to punch him, or have Treville punch him harder. And Grimaud is just evil. He delights in pain – and won’t freaking die!

So, what is your favorite version of The Three Musketeers? Do you like the 70’s version with Michael York and Christopher Lee? Who’s your favorite musketeer? [Mine is typically D’Artagnan, influence by Chris O’Donnell’s portrayal, but I adore Athos from The Musketeers]. Let me know!

Since I have spent the past watching various Three Musketeers and reading their fanfiction, my brain has been in Paris. I am still in a bit of shock that Notre Dame burned; it hits a little harder. I am fascinated by medieval architecture and the cathedral is a prime example of the Gothic style. The history of the building that may have been lost.  The citizens of Paris are in my thoughts.

Okay, happier thoughts:

Fanfic Recommendations:

Gaelicspirit, most notably The Details and Broken Places

Richefic, especially All for One which takes place over the entirety of season one

Tea, Coffee and Sibling Rivalry by Forest Archer; the kitten chapter had me laughing until I had to stop for air

Up Next: We move into Arthurian legend (a favorite of mine), starting with Tristan and Isolde

Rochefort is Even Worse Than Richelieu

Season Two

The second season opens with Cardinal Richelieu’s funeral (this was due to Peter Capaldi being cast as the Twelfth Doctor and having to leave the show) in Keep Your Friends Close. At the same time, Anne is giving birth to her child. The four Musketeers are riding to collect a man with vital information for the king. Unfortunately, that man is the Comte de Rochefort (played by Marc Warren, who does appear in one episode of Doctor Who), and I hate him from just about the first minute. He’s about to be hanged and when the Musketeers endeavor to help him, he ruthlessly kills one of his captors, who had let him go when ordered. Athos does punch him in the face later (Huzzah!). A prince, or dauphin as known in France, is born to King Louis and Queen Anne. Louis wishes for Treville to take the Cardinal’s place on his council, but Treville declines, stating he is more of a soldier. Louis is not pleased.

Enter Rochefort, who is an old friend of Anne. He tutored her prior to her marriage to Louis. And he’s just escaped a Spanish prison; he is a hero in Louis’s eye. His information for the king – General DeFrois is also in a Spanish prison; Rochefort advocates a rescue. There is tension with Spanish Ambassador Perades and we find out that Rochefort is secretly a Spanish agent. He plans to kill the Musketeers; their loyalty to the king is legendary and Rochefort intends to get close to both the king and the queen. In the meantime, Queen Anne has asked Constance to join her household as a confidante (remember, in several other versions of The Three Musketeers, Constance is one of Queen Anne’s ladies in waiting).

Rochefort accompanies the four musketeers. They escape the ambush he had planned; D’Artagnan has also gone ahead. (Santiago’s Chilean descent comes into play when Aramis speaks fluent Spanish) He swims beneath the prison and encounters the general’s sister. The rest of the plan continues as expected, though the musketeers continue to thwart Rochefort and they are still alive to return to Paris. Further threads are started for the season; Rochefort intends to drive a wedge between the king and queen. Constance and D’Artagnan still struggle with their feelings for each other and how they can live their lives. Constance has several valid points; if she leaves her husband for D’Artagnan, she’ll be surrounded by scandal. Any children would be illegitimate; and if D’Artagnan falls in battle there would be few paths for Constance. Aramis finds out that the Cardinal knew about him and Adele and Richelieu had the young woman killed for it. And General Defrois and Captain Treville may have information regarding Porthos’s father.

An Ordinary Man makes me angry at points. The king decides he wants to know what it’s like to be a normal person. The Musketeers sensibly try to talk him out of it; but he is king, so they must go along. Louis continues to behave like a child and he and D’Artagnan end up abducted by a criminal gang. Anne is frantic; their son’s christening is the next day and the king is expected to be present. Her faithful musketeers manage to solve the puzzle, while Milady shows up again and helps D’Artagnan and Louis escape. She enchants Louis, who pardons her, while he blames the musketeers for the whole debacle in the first place.

The Good Traitor deals with a Spanish General who wishes to defect to France, due to persecution in Spain for being a Moor (dark skinned and Muslim). He has a secret formula for white powder, but does not have the cipher key. He will give it to France in exchange for help rescuing his daughter. Events are not as simple as that. In one attempt, Porthos is injured and taken. The daughter tries to tell Porthos that he does not belong in France; eventually his friends will turn on him for his skin. Porthos firmly states that he is French. The musketeers and general try another gamble; resulting in the general’s death, on his own terms and his daughter safely away. Louis is once again disappointed in the musketeers and turns to Rochefort. Rochefort has also been making inroads with the queen, banking on their old friendship and after the events of the previous episode, now holds letters in her hand allying Anne with her brother, the king of Spain, for protection for her son, in case anything would happen to the king.

The subplot for the episode involves a feverish dauphin. Constance questions Doctor Lemay’s methods, such a bleeding. She ends up secreting the infant out of the palace and to a local laundry house where the steam can ease his breathing. The kings orders her executed for kidnapping the crown prince, but a moment later, when her actions are declared to have saved the babe, she is spared. She gains Doctor Lemay’s trust, but also Rochefort as an enemy. Louis has also taken Milady as a mistress – leading to an embarrassing scene where the queen enters to inform the king that his son is missing, only to find him finishing an evening with Milady.

Emilie also tends to rile me up. A young woman, Emilie, who is called Joan of Arc reborn, has dreams telling her that France must invade Spain; for Spain is the devil. She’s got a peasant army and tensions are such that Spanish citizens in Paris are being attacked and killed. Anne cannot stand by and watch her countrymen killed. If the king will not grant Emilie an audience, she will try to talk sense into the woman herself. Constance accompanies Anne to the camp. The peasants are not pleased to see the Spanish woman. Emilie’s mother goes so far as to suggest killing the queen, so Louis can marry a proper French woman. Aramis defends the queen, calling his loyalty to Emilie into question (he had come to the camp claiming he had defected from the musketeers in order to seek enlightenment, and get close to Emilie to determine what sort of threat she poses. He too insists that he is French, despite his Spanish look).

Turns out, Emilie’s mother had been drugging her food for years and was trying to ride the wave of popularity they were experiencing. When Emilie was young, she had suffered fits and had been stoned by villagers. Aramis is clued in to the true nature of Emilie’s vision when Constance had some of Emilie’s soup and suffers similar horrifying dreams. Athos helps Emilie through the withdrawal (Aramis states the man has experience). They are right, it was drugs, not God. The peasants turn on her and when her mother tries to rally them again, she is killed by a stone. It’s not a fun episode, the musketeers don’t really win and in the end, Louis relieves Treville of command, for helping Emilie instead of killing her. (Milady even tried to stand up for Treville; and gets told to leave that sort of thing to men).

Athos is returned to Pinon against his will The Return. His tenants are facing harassment from a neighboring baron and entreat Athos to help them. He has no desire to be in Pinon again and does not wish to be the Comte de la Fere any longer. Baron Renard cannot believe the notion of nobility no longer wishing to be noble. But he and his son Edmond will treat Athos like dirt in order to get his land. Athos’s musketeer brothers, and Treville come to find him and stay to train the villagers to defend their home. Also in Pinon is Catherine; a childhood friend of Athos’s and Thomas’s fiancée before his death. Her main desire is to be restored to her “rightful” place. It’s plain to see she had hoped to marry Athos before he married Milady and even hopes now to marry and gain a new title. But Athos gives the land to all the people. During his final duel with Edmond, Catherine holds a pistol to Athos and asks Edmond if he will offer her better terms and seems intent on killing Athos (she’s also mad that Milady is still alive). When Edmond moves with a knife in his hand, the gun goes off, killing him. Athos thanks his friends for helping him see his duty to his people. He still has no desire to return to Pinon and with it no longer being his land, he has no need.

Through the Glass Darkly is a dark episode. An astronomer, Marmion has invited the king and his court to view the eclipse. Athos chooses to remain at the garrison instead of accompanying the court and watching Milady flirt with Louis. As the eclipse strikes, Marmion begins his real plan; taking everyone hostage. Aramis argues compassion for the women and the dauphin. Marmion pushes the musketeer out a window. Porthos, Rochefort, and the other men try to make a stand; Marmion has Porthos and Rochefort taken to the dungeon. Now, they must work together in order to escape. Louis must play Marmion’s game, calling a coin toss to decide fate; Marmion arguing that it’s simple chance. Louis will not call at first, but Milady is willing to make a gamble with her life. She calls correctly and is free to go. She rides back to the garrison and retrieves Athos, Treville, and the rest of the musketeers.

An awning luckily caught Aramis, so though he’s a bit battered, he climbs the wall of the building and makes his way back in. Marmion has sent Anne and Marguerite, the dauphin’s governess (and Aramis’s current lover…so he can be close to his son) along with the babe to one room; the rest of the courtiers are sent to another. Constance and D’Artagnan are tied together to witness Marmion with Louis. Marmion forces Louis to choose blindly which room a killer will be sent into. Louis ends up calling for the courtiers’ death; Aramis rescues Anne, Marguerite, and the baby. He meets up with the rest of the musketeers. They hear a loud moan, as Athos puts it, “that was either a wounded boar or Porthos.” Porthos had Rochefort dislocate his shoulder so they could escape, and pop it back in.

Back in the main room, Marmion tosses the coin for Constance’s fate. Louis calls wrong. D’Artagnan begs for himself to be killed instead. Marmion’s brother steps in front of the shot (they were the only two survivors of a plague town that starved to death during quarantine). Now Marmion’s sights turn to the king. Heads the king dies, tails they all go free. The coin lands head’s up; D’Artagnan is to execute the king. He and Constance instead work together with the rope tied between them to knock down the guards and the rest of the musketeers flood in to the rescue. Rochefort hunts down Marmion and kills him. Louis calls him a hero; he’s furious at D’Artagnan for the gamble and dismisses Milady for deserting him. Anne is pleased to see Constance, sorry that she had put her friend in so much danger. Constance will gladly bear it for the queen. She does run back down the hill to hug and kiss D’Artagnan. “I don’t care what people think; I don’t care what they say. This is my life and I want to spend the rest of it with you.” Their friends smile.

i don't care what people say

In A Marriage of Inconvenience the king begins to withdraw from his court and council, even the queen. He fears everyone is out to kill him, but Rochefort. To Louis, Rochefort is the one loyal friend he has and thus makes him First Minister. Rochefort blackmails Marguerite for information on Aramis, especially once he sees the jeweled cross the musketeer wears. Louis’s cousin is due to marry for a Swedish alliance, the musketeers escorting her, but assassination attempts plague her. Rochefort berates the musketeers at every turn and grants Treville the “honor” of retrieving the princess’s wedding present from the king, a portrait. Milady witnesses who shoots Treville. Aramis and Lemay, who has asked Constance along, work together to save the captain’s life (they all refer to him as captain even though he was technically demoted). Athos and Porthos investigate the gift and discover that the sketches don’t match the princess they are guarding.

Turns out, the princess is actually a professional assassin, alongside her lover, Francesco. They were hired by Rochefort to eliminate council members who stood against him. Milady is the one to wrangle to information out of Sophie. But Sophie has given D’Artagnan a gift; she killed Bonacieux when he walked in on her. She had noticed that Bonacieux struck Constance when Constance told the man she wished to be with D’Artagnan. Bonacieux dies from his wounds before D’Artagnan’s eyes, cursing the young man that he will never be happy. D’Artagnan has the unpleasant task of informing Constance of her husband’s death.

Porthos’s search for his father comes to fruition in The Prodigal Father. Treville, after gaining some strength back from his nasty wound, finally reveals to Porthos that his father was an old friend of his and Defrois, the Marquis de Belgard (Liam Cunningham plays the older man, a veteran of other BBC shows and Game of Thrones, among other credits). Belgard claims that Treville’s treachery ruined his life. He was the former captain of the royal bodyguard for Louis’s father. When Henry IV was assassinated, Belgard was the scapegoat. He retired from public life. Belgard also tells Porthos that his mother, Marie Cesette was the love of his life. She was a servant originally, but they fell in love and married in secret. His father disapproved and Treville was in league with him, kidnapping Marie and Porthos and abandoning them to the Court of Miracles. Treville told Belgard they were dead and Belgard puts the seed of doubt in Porthos’s mind regarding Treville’s making him a musketeer. Belgard remarried and has a daughter, Eleanor, with a horrible husband. They fight with Porthos.

In the background, they sell young girls into prostitution. Aramis, who had accompanied Porthos to Belgard’s estate, had seen two of them. One is dead now and the second is terrified. Aramis follows the girl to a house in Paris and informs Athos and Treville. Athos, D’Artagnan, and Aramis later investigate Eleanor’s famous entertainments, a tableau of innocence. They rescue the girls and head to Belgard’s. Porthos has confronted Treville on the truth of the matter with his father. Treville admits that he had taken Porthos and his mother to the Court. Porthos walks out.

Everything comes to a head when Athos, Aramis, and D’Artagnan arrive; Belgard pleads ignorance of Eleanor’s machinations, asking Porthos to defend him. But Porthos has questions for Belgard. He knows the portrait Belgard showed him of his “mother” is a fake; even though he was young, he remembers his mother’s face. Belgard must have just bought a portrait of any black woman. Belgard, Porthos, and Treville end up in a three-way stand-off. Treville reveals that Belgard was the one behind leaving Porthos in the Court; he had not wanted to be disinherited by his father and had threatened to kill the child and his mother. Treville had gone back to look for Porthos, but they were gone. And Treville is a man of honor; he would never commission anyone into the musketeers who did not deserve it. When Belgard pulls a gun on Treville again, Porthos shoots it out of his hand. The prostitution ring is broken up, Porthos rejoins his brothers and can now look at Treville with respect again.

Meanwhile, Constance has refused to move on from her husband, telling D’Artagnan they have no right to take advantage of the circumstances. She needs time. D’Artagnan warns her that he may not be there anymore when she finally makes up her mind. At the palace, Lemay approaches her, offering her marriage. He finds her a unique woman and believes they could make each other happy (he obviously is not aware of her affection of D’Artagnan). Anne talks some sense into Constance; Anne was born into a life of duty and privilege; she has never been free. But Constance is free. The young woman changes out of her black dress and rushes to the garrison. She admits her love to D’Artagnan, who asks her to shut up during her rambling and kiss him. (Fans cheer!) When she returns to the palace she discovers Rochefort attacking the queen. Rochefort confronted Anne about the jeweled cross Aramis wears. It had originally been a gift from Rochefort to Anne when he was her tutor. If Anne admits she loves Rochefort, he will forgive her. Anne slaps him, declaring him a monster. When Rochefort tries to force her, she scratches his eye with a hairpin (enter Constance). Rochefort is furious and declares that the king will hear of Anne’s adultery, shouting down the hall of treason.

Now we’re building for the finale. The Accused picks up right where the last episode ended. Constance fetches the musketeers to escort the queen to see the king, she quietly informs Aramis that Rochefort knows of the affair. The Red Guards and Rochefort stop Anne from seeing Louis; he is trying to turn Louis against Anne. Rochefort has Marguerite remove the dauphin from Anne and places Anne under arrest in her rooms. Athos forces Aramis to admit to their friends and Treville of what transpired at the convent. Well, Athos is the one to voice that Aramis slept with the queen. Aramis does say that the dauphin is his son. Treville is furious. They must come up with a plan. Milady approaches them; she has discovered that Rochefort is a Spanish agent. The stakes are now higher. Athos and Milady sneak in to find documents proving Rochefort’s guilt (after being waylaid by Catherine seeking revenge; Athos still cannot kill Milady). The couple shares a rather passionate kiss as they are hiding. They’re broken apart by Marguerite’s scream; the king has been poisoned.

Earlier, when the king was complaining of a headache, Doctor Lemay prescribed a drug to added to his wine; Rochefort switched the bottles. While Athos is following Milady, the other musketeers get Anne out of the palace, Constance staying behind to buy them some time. So, when Lemay is brought before the king, Rochefort brings Constance as well, claiming her a traitor. The king wearily orders them executed. Anne is safe at a convent (not sure if it’s the same as last time, different Mother Superior), but insists on returning to Paris once she hears of the king. Athos was unable to find documents incriminating Rochefort, but he has the idea to forge one. Porthos will make contact with the Spanish spy master Vargas and bring him to Paris to claim Rochefort as his. The rest of the musketeers return to Paris with the queen. They are caught upon arrival, Anne returned to her rooms under arrest and Aramis arrested for treason. Lemay is executed and Constance is forced to watch; she faces the same the next dawn. D’Artagnan rushes to see her, and is beaten for his troubles while Constance calls out “D’Artagnan, I love you!”

Trial and Punishment opens with the musketeers rescuing Constance from the gallows. She joins the men to help Porthos bring in Vargas. Treville bluntly tells the Spaniard that King Phillip would not want to see his sister die, which will happen if they do not stop Rochefort. Louis still wants to pardon Anne, but he sits and listens to Aramis’s testimony. Aramis tries to turn the trial on Rochefort, but Marguerite is brought out to speak against him and the queen. She plainly states “the dauphin is Aramis’s son.” She is appalled by what she has done; she drinks poison later, leaving the little baby wailing. Milady is the only one available to get Aramis out of prison, so he’s able to meet up with his brothers. Rochefort bullies the king into sighing Anne’s execution order and stalks off to completerochefort vs anne the deed. He empties the palace aside from his guards and enters the queen’s chambers with a garrote. Aramis and Constance go for the queen, Porthos and Treville take Vargas to the king, while Athos and D’Artagnan provide cover fire. Anne takes her sentence with dignity, but just as Rochefort lays the chain across her neck, Aramis enters and shoots the villain. Sadly, he’s not dead, and starts a sword fight with the musketeer. Constance gets a lucky hit with a pistol, but Aramis keeps her back. He stabs the double agent in the shoulder with a sword (it’s kind of grim, especially when Rochefort pulls it out). Vargas and the other musketeers face Rochefort. It’s over. But Rochefort still fights. D’Artagnan steps forward to ferociously take out Rochefort for trying to kill Constance. He suffers a slow death and admits that none of his actions were for Spain.

The day is wrapped up outside in the sun; Louis reunites with his wife and son. He apologizes to the musketeers, particularly Aramis; Rochefort had his head so turned around. Louis once again asks Treville to join his council, as War Minister. Spain has crossed the line. Treville accepts the post. He later makes Athos the new musketeer captain. Athos is now torn once again between love and duty; Milady has asked him to accompany her to England, where they can make a new start. He ultimately chooses duty, but I’m not sure if he per say chooses it, or that’s what he’s left with; he tries to see Milady at their meeting spot, but she is gone by the time he gets there. Aramis leaves his brothers; he made a promise to God that if he and Anne were spared, he would devote his life to God. Treville gifts Porthos with his sword to see him through the war. D’Artagnan gets a happy ending; he finally marries Constance, Athos is the one to give her away, but they have a short honeymoon due to impending war with Spain. The three ride out to find Aramis, knowing he would want to be beside his brothers.

Rochefort is more of a straight villain than Richelieu. I spent the entire season hating him (which might have been the point). He hired a prostitute to dress like Anne so he could play out his fantasies…that’s just, wrong. So wrong. I applaud Anne for keeping her wits about her when Rochefort came to her. I was glad that the Musketeers dispatched Rochefort; they all got their hits at him. I’m frustrated the entire time the Musketeers try to get ahead and Rochefort is there to turn its on its head, and paint them subpar to the king. I want to yell at Louis that the Musketeers are loyal, not Rochefort. Still don’t have a high opinion of Louis.

The stakes are higher this season. Just when things seem about to work out for our characters, something gets thrown in the way. Porthos discovers his father…and he’s a jerk. Porthos is angry at Treville…but Treville had his best interests at heart (this is a good thing). So much gets thrown in front of D’Artagnan and Constance being together; they eek out being happy; Constance chooses D’Artagnan, then her husband slaps her and orders her home. He dies. But she feels guilty. The young couple gets married! And war breaks out. Athos and Milady go back and forth; and honestly, I don’t think those two are good for each other. I think it’s great that Milady is a strong character, a woman who gets things done. But she’s like a spider with Athos in her web. The Catherine subplot really wasn’t needed. Yes, it makes sense that there were other people affected by Thomas’s death; but there was absolutely no reason for Catherine to appear in The Accused. I like Athos for the tortured good character that he is, but I also want to wrap him up in a hug. I adore Queen Anne; a compassionate ruler. She goes to keep peace, even when the group hates the country of her birth. And I think she deserves to be loved and Aramis is devoted to her. But it’s dangerous being attracted to the queen. On the one hand, Aramis should not have slept with her, considering her position. On the other hand, hey, at least the country now has an heir.

I want to say that brotherhood holds out at the end, but Aramis leaves them and war is on its way. Well, we’ll just have to see what season three brings.

Next Time: The exciting conclusion to The Musketeers story.

“Now, that’s the way to make an entrance”

Season One

We have finally arrived to the show I’ve been looking forward to re-watching for weeks, biding my time! It’s more historically accurate than some other shows *coughRobinHoodcough* but there are times they take some liberties. It’s the entertainment business, gotta let it slide. I adore the characterization in this production; gives the fanwriters lots of brotherly love moments to play with. The action is superb, the costumes are grand (properly worn in leather, which may not be completely period accurate, but it looks cool).

The show ran for three seasons, only ten episodes each season, since it ran in the summer, between the main programs. Aramis’s Santiago Cabrera was previously in BBC’s Merlin series as Lancelot (we’ll be getting to that series shortly), and Alexandra Dowling, who plays Queen Anne, was also in one episode of Merlin. Ryan Gage plays King Louis, though he’ll show up later as Alfrid in the Hobbit trilogy. The first season features Peter Capaldi as Cardinal Richelieu; Capaldi would go on to be the Twelfth Doctor in Doctor Who.

The series is set in Paris, 1630. We’re first introduced in Friends and Enemies to Alexandre D’Artagnan and his son, Charles when they stop at an inn on their way to Paris. Masked riders stop as well and end up killing Alexandre while Charles was taking care of the horses. Charles gets the name “Athos” from his dying father and sets out on revenge. Meanwhile, in Paris, each Musketeer starts their day. One man (Athos) has bottles strewn across his floor and uses a bucket of water, covered in ice, to dunk his head into in order to properly wake up. Another (Porthos) is playing cards against a Red Guard. They get into a duel and Porthos mockingly defends himself with a fork. And another man (Aramis) is in bed with a beautiful woman. Turns out, she’s the mistress of Cardinal Richelieu (this Cardinal doesn’t really claim to be pious). Richelieu returns early and so Aramis must jump out the window to escape. Adelle kicks his pistol under her bed for the time being. Aramis lands in front of his friends and they report to Captain Treville at the musketeers’ garrison. He has a new mission for them, another regiment of musketeers have gone missing. However, it’s much more than that when the Cardinal and the king get involved. King Louis had sent letters with the musketeers of sensitive nature to the Spanish. And now, the Spanish envoy is missing.

Catching up with D’Artagnan, he has stopped at a lodging house where he meets a beautiful dark-haired woman, and her pompous male accompaniment. The woman joins D’Artagnan in bed, where he discovers scars on her neck. The cocky young man offers to kill the man who caused them. Come morning, the lady is gone, though there is a bloody knife left in the pillow. When D’Artagnan investigates a scream, the man from the previous night is found dead. Bloody knife in his hand, everyone blames D’Artagnan and he has to jump out a window in order to escape (must be a trend amongst musketeers). He runs through a market and comes across a young woman, whom he asks to kiss him as a diversion. She takes offense afterwards and sends him on his way. He passes out at her feet. Next, he wakes with her over him. She had taken him back to her home. D’Artagnan thanks her for her assistance, but he must find Athos. She is familiar with the musketeer and introduces herself as Madame Bonacieux – Constance.

dart duel athos

The three musketeers are at the garrison when D’Artagnan strides in, loudly challenging Athos to a duel. He doesn’t listen when Athos insists he did not murder the boy’s father. Young D’Artagnan holds his own well against Athos. The duel pauses, but he starts again against all three, until Constance calls a halt. Treville next arrives with guards for Athos’s arrest. Even at the trial, Athos insists he is innocent; he did not murder anyone at an inn, nor did he attack a carriage. But the witnesses have his name. Louis, at Richelieu’s urging, makes an example of Athos and orders his execution. Aramis and Porthos pick up D’Artagnan to help clear Athos’s name, and to find proper justice for Alexandre D’Artagnan.

For brevity’s sake – they do solve the case. We find out that Milady, the woman from the inn, was the one who killed the man, apparently the Spanish envoy. She has Louis’s letters and reports to Richelieu. Louis demonstrates how desperate he is for the Cardinal’s advice, agreeing to disband the Musketeers if it will make the older man happy (that does not happen…yet). The true culprit? A band of Richelieu’s guards who went a bit too far. The musketeers, including D’Artagnan attack and D’Artagnan faces the man. At Aramis’s call, he does stop from killing the man, but when a knife is pulled, he acts defensively and stabs the man. All three arrive at the prison in order to stop Athos’s execution. Richelieu takes Adelle to the country; Milady had discovered that the pistol in her room belonged to Aramis, so he has her shot with the pistol, while she screams “I love Aramis” until the end.

D’Artagnan’s next adventure, Sleight of Hand has him going undercover to prison in order to discover a suspected terrorist’s plan. By this point, Athos has started to take an interest in D’Artagnan; he argues against sending the boy in, not because he doubts his skills, but because he doesn’t want the young man to die. Constance Bonacieux has also become fond of the young Gascon. When she visits the garrison with her husband, she confronts the three older musketeers and slaps Aramis for betraying their friend. Aramis is fine with the young woman slapping him. They get a chance to see their friend when they accompany to queen to pardon a few prisoners. Vadim, the terrorist, uses the queen’s visit in order to escape, taking her hostage for a moment. D’Artagnan accompanies him and does talk the other man out of killing the queen. During the ensuing firefight, Aramis covers the queen from bullet fire. Queen Anne is deeply impressed with the musketeer’s bravery and rewards him later by gifting a jeweled cross of hers to Aramis.

Vadim, however knows that D’Artagnan is in league with the musketeers. He ties the boy to kegs of gunpowder in tunnels beneath the palace. Our hero has fifteen minutes to get free. He just scrapes by, but when he goes to leave the room, the door ignites other lines. He gets a bit of distance between him and the blast, but is still thrown off his feet, as are the other musketeers. (After Aramis recklessly jumps on a grenade in order to save the queen; he’s lucky it was a dud). D’Artagnan confronts Vadim and mortally wounds him. We also start seeing a connection between Milady and blue forget-me-nots.

Commodities brings Athos’s past to light. It starts with the musketeers having to escort a trader, Emile Bonaire to the king; Spain claims he is violating their trade agreement with France. Emile is the first to call attention to Porthos being black (this is an homage to Alexandre Dumas’s father being a half-black Frenchman). Porthos admits that his mother was a slave who died when he was five. The musketeers are ambushed and Porthos suffers a deep wound from an axe. At first, Athos wants to ride on, but Aramis (the medic of the group) angrily states that Porthos will not survive that long; he needs stitching which cannot be done in their present position. Athos eventually admits he knows a place. They ride to an estate, Athos begins opening doors and shutters. When D’Artagnan inquires how Athos knew of the place, the older man confesses that he owns it. He was once the Comte de la Fere, nobility.

Porthos, after being expertly stitched by Aramis’s fine needlework, discovers that Emile is more than a simple trader. He is a slaver. The cheap labor he brags about in the colonies are slaves. Emile tries to argue that it’s simply business. Athos regrettably has to point out that while slaving is disgusting, it is not a crime.

Poor Athos (this is why he is a favorite character, a wooby that we want to hug and put to rights) is haunted by memories of the house and his former life. He had a younger brother, Thomas, who died, and was apparently the family favorite. He cries at his old bed, wine spreading on the cover. He later throws a wine bottle at his portrait. He remembers his wife pressing forget-me-nots into a locket. Yes, his wife is Milady (whom we know is still alive). He sends the rest of his companions on to Paris. Athos falls asleep, then wakes to smoke, discovering a fire set in his old bedroom. He turns and Milady is standing there with a torch. She’s surprised to see him there and he’s looking at a ghost. She hits him with the torch; she’s there to erase the past, destroy it completely. She’s more than willing to kill Athos. Athos brings up that she murdered his brother. Her retort is that she did it to save her love with Athos; Thomas was a fool and a hypocrite; he deserved to die. Athos begs for Milady to kill him. But she finds that he still wears the locket she gave him. D’Artagnan (having disobeyed orders) has returned and calls for Athos. Milady flees and D’Artagnan races in to save his friend. Athos brokenly divulges that he had had his wife taken from the house and hanged. But she’s not really dead.

“It was my duty! It was my duty to uphold the law, my duty to condemn the woman I love to death. I clung to the belief that I had no choice. Five years learning to live in a world without her.”

The episode ends with Bonaire and the Cardinal becoming business partners, but the musketeers get the last laugh. They set Bonaire up to be trapped by the Spanish.

The Good Solider exposes a secret of Aramis’s past. As assassin breaks up a meeting between the king and the Duke of Savoy (who is married to Louis’s sister). Louis and Richelieu are trying to persuade Savoy to sign a peace treaty with France. Hints are dropped about a massacre in Savory five years prior, of which Aramis is a survivor. Aramis discovers the would-be assassin to be his old friend Marsac. Marsac was a musketeer alongside Aramis, until he deserted after the massacre at Savoy. Marsac claims he knows the truth and blames Captain Treville. Aramis’s friends don’t believe Marsac, but for Aramis’s sake, investigate the claims. In the meantime, they hide Marsac at Bonacieux’s. Constance is not pleased to discover that she was harboring a criminal, angrily telling D’Artagnan to leave. Later, D’Artagnan promises to never lie again. Constance doesn’t want protection, she wants to be treated like an equal. When Marsac goes after Constance, D’Artagnan punches him. He once again apologizes to Constance. In return, she wants something that her husband can never find out about: she wants D’Artagnan to teach her to shoot, and sword fight, complaining “why do men have all the fun?” (this is why we like Constance)

constance shoot

The four confront Treville, but he will not admit anything. He has several angry discussions with the Cardinal, one of which Aramis overhears. Treville does not out his man to Richelieu and wearily admits to Aramis that he did hand over the musketeers’ orders, but knew nothing about a massacre until afterwards. Aramis is furious, punching his commanding officer and threatening to go to the authorities. When Marsac finds out, he punches Aramis and leaves with the intention to kill Treville. Aramis catches up to him and tries to talk his old friend down, but when Marsac starts firing, Aramis has to fire back. He hits his friend. “Better to die a Musketeer than live like a god,” Marsac states with his last breath. Treville and Aramis bury their comrade at the end of the episode.

The Duke is trying to discover whether France has been hiding his old councilor for the past five years. He thinks he has evidence, but when he goes to visit the prison, the musketeers have arrived first and switched prisoners. Humiliated, the Duke is forced to sign the peace treaty. As Treville admitted to Aramis and Marsac, the massacre was ultimately on the king’s orders; protecting their most important spy in Savoy, his sister. The Duke’s councilor, a Spanish loyalist, began to suspect her, so the musketeers were used to make the Duke believe there was an assassination attempt while the councilor was abducted. Louis even hints to Anne that there may always be an accident that kills the older Duke, putting his son in charge (and more liable to be sympathetic to French influence).

We discover more of Porthos’s background in The Homecoming. In the aftermath of his birthday celebration, where he shoots a melon off Aramis’s head, while drunk, Porthos wakes in the street, next to a body, with no memory of what happened. Red Guards assume he is the culprit and arrest him. The judge shows no leniency, calling Porthos a mongrel and orders him executed. He’s rescued, but not by the musketeers. Masked men take him to the Court of Miracles (it was brought up in Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame). Turns out, Porthos grew up in the Court. His old friend, Charon is king now. And his old friend, Flea is still there and now hooked up with Charon. (That doesn’t stop her from sleeping with Porthos; those two had been an item, but she won’t leave the Court).

The other musketeers investigate the young man’s death, connecting it with a plot to destroy the Court. The boy’s father was intent on regaining the wealth of the family, bought the land and with the denizens gone, would be able to collect rent once new houses had been built. And, Charon was his inside man, arranging powder kegs and allowing outsiders, disguised, to enter and blow the place up. (The man signs a confession, then shoots himself rather than be arrested.) Porthos eventually recalls the evening’s events and Charon’s part and confronts his friend. Flea takes a bullet to the shoulder for protecting Porthos, and Porthos and Charon fight. Aramis, Athos, and D’Artagnan have come to their friend’s rescue and Aramis ends up stabbing Charon when he tries to stab Porthos in the back. While Porthos misses Flea, he is happier as a Musketeer and has a new family.

In The Exiles, we once again hit upon the idea of King Louis having a secret twin. As Father Duval [who is played by the real life father of Tom Burke, who plays Athos] tells Cardinal Richelieu, Marie de Medici (yes, from the House of de Medici) had gone into labor before being able to return to Paris. A secret son was born before the rest of the council arrived; the boy was deformed and so whisked away when it was apparent a sibling was arriving. Philippe went on to live a quiet life, cared for by Father Duval. A young nurse was hired and she eventually fell in love with Philippe. They married and had a child. When they went walking about as a family, the villagers beat Philippe to death for his deformity. All the musketeers know is that Aramis and D’Artagnan were ordered to retrieve the mother and child and deliver them to Richelieu. But another group of men kidnap the baby.

Marie de Medici presents herself to her son, despite having been ordered to stay away after a coup she had set up to overthrow him (not quite what happened historically, but French history is not my strong suit). Louis can’t decide how to handle affairs. “Decapitating one’s mother is rarely popular with the people, sire, it always looks a touch ungrateful,” Richelieu informs Louis. She is sent away with a musketeer escort and then ambushed. This brings her to the palace (she has an unusual fashion style, for the period. I’ve noticed the heroes tend to be more accurate while the villains have a bit of a modern flair).

Aramis and D’Artagnan manage to locate the infant and D’Artagnan has the brilliant idea to send Constance in as a nurse maid, and get them information. They’re surprised when Marie de Medici shows up and Agnes, Philippe’s wife, informs them that she is Philippe’s mother. Constance keeps her cool until Marie leaves. The musketeers then sweep in, though Constance holds her own with a sword against one of the guards, to Aramis’s surprise. Treville still orders that Agnes and her baby, Henri must be taken to the Cardinal, though he states he will conveniently be busy with paperwork for a time. Aramis whisks Agnes and Henri away, intent on getting them to Spain. His friends follow him, Athos snarking about keeping the plan suicidal. They throw barrels of fine brandy into a fire to provide a distraction from Marie’s guards. Aramis takes a bundle across the bridge, but drops it in the water.

Richelieu informs Marie that her plans have failed. She will not be able to overthrow Louis and put Henri on the throne, thus ensuring another regency for her. She walks away with tears, though I’m not sure if she’s more upset about her plans falling apart or the loss of her grandson. The Cardinal kills Father Duvall and destroys the documents so there can be no further questions of Louis’s legitimacy.

Never fear, the episode ends happy; the bundle had not really been Henri. The musketeers and Constance meet Agnes and reunite mother and son. Aramis insists they leave France (funny enough, there is a sign to Avalon in the background of the shot), there are too many threats to the small family.

Early feminism gets a voice in The Rebellious Woman. The name Comtess Ninon de la Roque is brought up when a young woman is killed by the royal carriage, attempting to deliver a petition to the queen. Ninon educates women of all stations, teaching them scholarly pursuits, in the face of men saying it was a danger to fragile female minds. The Cardinal orders Milady to find evidence against Ninon, suggesting that Ninon’s interests in girls is not entirely wholesome. “How like a man,” Milady retorts (okay, I’ll cheer for her for that bit). The Cardinal wants her money to fund the country.

The musketeers visit Ninon and she’s attracted to Athos; there’s a battle of wits and he persuades her to allow a search of her rooms. The missing girl is not found, but Athos agrees to dinner with the woman. Neither of them are interested in marriage; Ninon will not be bound to a man, and Athos is opposed to the idea after the disastrous results of Milady. Their pleasant evening is interrupted when Aramis declares trouble at Ninon’s; the Red Guard are ransacking her library and have found several missing girls in a hidden room.

At the same time, Father Luca Sustini [the actor was also in BBC’s Merlin, there is a joke filtering about the various fandoms that BBC reuses actors and sets] has arrived to visit Richelieu from Rome. He gifts the Cardinal with a saint bone and informs his colleague that there is talk of who the next Pope may be; there are those who would support Richelieu’s bid for the position. When the subject of Ninon arises, Sustini declares her a witch for her progressive ideas and poisoning the minds of other girls. He urges Richelieu to be decisive; Rome will be watching with great interest.

Milady speaks out against Ninon at her trial, lying. Athos is furious; loudly declaring that she cannot be trusted. The court finds Ninon guilty and orders to be executed. The queen arrives with word from the king that Ninon will not be killed; unless she confesses by her own hand. Yet when Richelieu falls ill during the proceedings right after Ninon declares she’s looking at the Devil when she looks at him, Sustini loudly proclaims her a witch. Aramis rushes to save the Cardinal’s life. Milady continues with the plan, blackmailing Ninon that her friends will suffer the same fate unless Ninon confesses.

Preparations are made for a pyre while the musketeers search for the true culprit of the Cardinal’s poisoning. They trace it back to Sustini and arrive back at the monastery in time to save the Cardinal from being stabbed. Richelieu suspected it was Sustini, it’s an old papal trick to poison relics. He much rather keep his position and influence in France than become Pope. His vision is clearer now; no person, no nation, no god, will stand in his way. With his brush with death, he’s less liable to send someone else to theirs. Athos frees Ninon, but the woman must leave Paris. Her wealth will be taken by the crown, but she will receive a small stipend to live on. The Comtess de la Roque is officially dead. Ninon will still promote female education, but far from the Cardinal’s ear. Athos and Ninon share a tender moment, Ninon urging Athos to be careful of the dark-haired woman; she has the Cardinal’s protection. She could have loved a man like Athos, pity they’re neither the marrying kind. And the episode ends with a tender moment between D’Artagnan and Constance, admitting their love and kissing…and leading to other activities.

I enjoy the ending of The Challenge; it goes back to the simple dichotomy of Red Guards vs. Musketeers. After the musketeers escort a dangerous criminal back to Paris for the Red Guards to claim, LaBarge (played by Vinnie Jones, whose credits include King Gareth in Galavant, the bad guy in the first episode of rebooted MacGyver, and the Juggernaut in X-Men) kills the captain of the Red Guards. Richelieu and Treville start arguing over which is the better regiment in front of the king; Louis takes their wager and sets up a challenge; the winner will definitively prove which group is superior.

Treville announces to his musketeers there is a 30 livre entry fee, to create a winner’s purse (and cover the wagered amount). Aramis and Porthos must find patronesses. D’Artagnan hasn’t been receiving funds from his farm and turns out, it was one of the ones destroyed when LaBarge was working as a cruel tax collector in Gascony. Constance tries to help, but D’Artagnan eventually receives the needed money from Milady. She’s trying to play an angle with the Cardinal, claiming that D’Artagnan is a key in destroying the musketeers.

Richelieu begins stacking the deck in his favor. He has Bonacieux spy on D’Artagnan. Bonacieux catches the young Gascon in an affair with his wife and threatens Constance with D’Artagnan’s death if she doesn’t break it off with the boy. Constance does as she’s commanded and utterly breaks D’Artagnan’s heart; and her own. She silently sobs after D’Artagnan leaves, her husband watching in the next room. Richelieu also commissions LaBarge as the new captain of his guards, guaranteeing the musketeer champion will lose. Treville finds out what Richelieu is up to and declares himself the champion for the musketeers. Athos is furious on D’Artagnan’s behalf; the lad has it in him to become the greatest musketeer and Treville just took his best chance of being noticed by the king and winning a commission.

The day of the contest, when LaBarge steps out, the musketeers realize what Treville had done. The fight between LaBarge and Treville is intense; Treville lands a hit. LaBarge retaliates by stepping on Treville’s shoulder. Treville’s musketeers loyally come to his defense and a short fight breaks out between them and the guards. The king calls a halt. He will allow Treville to choose another champion since LaBarge broke the rules. Treville names D’Artagnan. Heeding Athos’s lessons of keeping a level head, D’Artagnan faces LaBarge. D’Artagnan fights with a ferocity and ultimately defeats the large man. Louis orders him to kneel and commissions him into his musketeers; his friends give him his own pauldron (it’s what they use as uniforms instead of blue tunics, though blue capes are a part of the uniform). D’Artagnan doesn’t get the purse; the king declares that the wagered money will go to the treasury since the rules were in fact broken.

D’Artagnan’s first mission as a full musketeer is to guard the queen as she bathes in a lake known to increase fertility in Knight Takes Queen. While Anne is away, Louis flirts with visiting Charlotte Melandorff. She comes with a large dowry (which would help the treasury) and her sisters have bore sons to their own husbands. Louis whines to Richelieu that he wishes Anne was dead, so he could marry Charlotte; it would be better for France. Anne must be barren since there have never been any children. Thus, the musketeers’ quiet mission becomes a lot more interesting. One of Anne’s maids is killed while borrowing her robe. She is spirited away by the musketeers, a whole troop of men on their tail. Porthos and D’Artagnan are ordered by Athos to return to Paris for reinforcements; Athos and Aramis will take the queen to the safety of a nearby convent.

Adding intrigue, one of the sisters knows Aramis. She was his intended from years pervious; he had gotten her pregnant and he was due to marry her. But the babe was lost and she left him, entering the convent. When she reveals herself to Aramis, she claims that she did it as a favor for Aramis; they would have never been a good match, she felt. By entering the convent, she allowed him a life of adventure and freedom. Sadly, the young woman is killed when two of the mercenaries (who, for some reason are Irish. Not sure I quite understand why they had to be Irish) enter the convent. Anne, already attracted to Aramis, comforts him in his grief, in her bed. Mother Superior is awesome really; ready to help defend her convent, loading pistols for Athos while he and Aramis keep the mercenaries at bay. Aramis’s parents at one time wanted him to become a priest; he found he was better at dispatching people to hell.

Unfortunately, when Porthos and D’Artagnan arrive at the garrison, the rest of the musketeers are away on a hunt with the king and his guests. They are left with an injured Treville, the young stable boy, an old solider with one eye, and the cook. Richelieu is furious at Milady when he discovers that the man she hired to kill the queen did not succeed. He orders her to fix her mistake. She manages to pin the crime on Charlotte’s father, with sketchy evidence. Porthos, D’Artagnan, and Treville take their misfits and manage to mount a rescue attempt, arriving just when Athos and Aramis are out of bullets. When searching the mercenaries’ things afterwards, they discover the mark of a woman who is in lead with the Cardinal; Milady’s blue forget-me-nots. They begin to suspect that the Cardinal was truly behind the attempt on the queen’s life. Louis is quite pleased when his wife returns (he really is childlike; siding with whoever can hold his attention).

The first season ends with Musketeers Don’t Die Easily. All the plots are coming to a head. athos and miladyAthos drunkenly confronts his wife, threatening to kill her. His friends stop him, D’Artagnan coming forward when Milady pleads for the young man to save her, like he promised. Athos shoots D’Artagnan – in the side. Milady tries to persuade D’Artagnan to leave the musketeers and join the Cardinal. Richelieu has charged Milady with silencing Athos and his friends for good. Treville shows up to tell D’Artagnan that Athos will not serve with the boy; Treville has chosen his best swordsman, D’Artagnan must leave. D’Artagnan promises Milady he will does as she asks; he will kill Athos.

When D’Artagnan arrives at the garrison, he joins Athos, Porthos, and Aramis in Treville’s office. Turns out, this is all a ploy to catch Milady. They plan out their next step, to “kill” Athos. They make sure Milady is watching and do it in public. Aramis and Porthos shout insults at D’Artagnan after they spill blood on Athos. D’Artagnan goes to Richelieu, telling him that Treville is in possession of evidence against the Cardinal for the attempt on Queen Anne’s life. Aramis and Porthos will trade the letter for D’Artagnan. Richelieu arranges the exchange. Porthos confronts Cardinal about the attempted murder. Richelieu admits “I alone can make the decisions no one else can stomach.” One woman’s death is worth sacrificing to prevent civil war when the king dies without an heir. Richelieu snatches the letter. It is blank. Anne appears, alongside Treville; they heard everything. Richelieu begs mercy; everything he has done has been in the best interest of France. Only because she believes he is true in that sentiment, does Anne spare Richelieu (I believe him as well; the only reason he went after Anne was because his king wished it. It suited his own purposes as well, but Richelieu is ultimately loyal to France, putting its best interests first. This is what makes him a more complex villain that other adaptations give him credit for). Queen Anne’s influence now though with the king is higher than ever.

Richelieu gives up Milady to the musketeers; she is of no further use to the Cardinal. But Milady has her own insurance for her plans; she arranges for Constance to be abducted. When the musketeers confront her, she tells them where to be to retrieve the young woman. It is undoubtedly a trap. But they prepare. As the bonus feature states, it is their finest hour. Gun shots, explosions, and sword fights, the four of them take on dozens of bandits. D’Artagnan ferociously takes on the man holding Constance. Constance try to flee, but is caught by Milady. The four stride over to her, knowing she won’t kill Constance despite her threat. Athos steps towards his wife and Constance breaks free, flinging herself into D’Artagnan’s arms. Athos faces his wife. She begs for death; but he cannot. He orders her out of Paris. He departs, dropping the locket.

All seems right, but a servant comes running to Constance that Monsieur Bonacieux has tried to kill himself. Constance cannot leave her husband now, so D’Artagnan’s heart is broken again. The Cardinal is called before the king and queen and a small audience. Louis had “never expected this, after so long.” Anne is pregnant. Athos and Aramis exchange a look. The Cardinal later oversees a tender moment between Aramis and Anne; the musketeer promises to look over her son.

Fraternity, brotherhood; a huge theme of these Musketeers. Fans have deemed them the “Inseparables,” it’s always those four going on the most dangerous missions, those four appearing before Richelieu or the royal couple (yes, as some fans have pointed out, a bit like the Golden Trio in Harry Potter, “why is it always you three?”). And I am a huge fan of brotherly love, that friends can choose each other as family [I could go into a whole Supernatural spiel, but I shan’t at this moment. Maybe later in ‘Random Fandom.’] At the end of this season, while the Musketeers do not have glory, or money, or love; they do have honor.

My impressions of these characters after one season; Treville is honorable. Louis is whiny. I like Anne, even though she slept with Aramis; she is a kind woman. It is plain that her marriage with Louis is strained; I feel she only wanted a little bit of love for once in her life. Aramis could have stopped her, but was not in a place emotionally to be able to do that. Porthos is the most loyal friend someone could ask for. D’Artagnan is working on curbing his recklessness, but he’s young. Athos will make sure he doesn’t get himself killed. Athos is a tragic character who wants to see justice done. And I can respect Richelieu as a villain.

Next Time: Season Two

The Life of a Fangirl

This is the start of a new…series, I guess you could say; I’m calling them ‘Random Fandom Thoughts.’  These I’ll post when something comes up.

I am a proud, self-professed fangirl.  As you can tell, I like watching movies and TV shows.  I love the stories, the development.  As many fans end up doing, I fall in love with the characters and grow to admire many of the actors and actresses.  I read fanfiction on almost a daily basis.  And my brain will have several fandoms swirling around at the same time.  For instance, I am currently watching BBC’s The Musketeers, mainly for the next part in my review series, but I also adore the show.  Thus, I am going back to some of my favorite fanfictions.  And I’m watching Supernatural again from the beginning.  I just finished reading some awesome fanfictions for it.  And I’ve just seen How to Train Your Dragon 3: The Hidden World, so I’ve gone back to some fictions there and at this moment listening to the soundtrack (and the other two while I drive).  Makes for some interesting thoughts at times!

But this is what makes me happy.  It’s how I unwind and relax.  (Seriously, if I could get paid for watching shows and exploring the fanworld, I’d be happy).

Onto the news of the hour (aka, why I decided I needed to share)

The beloved trio behind Supernatural announced yesterday that next season, number 15, will be the last.

A stab of sorrow that first moment I heard.  I have come to love this show.  The fandom.  The family.  I came to the show late; between seasons ten and eleven.  (I managed to finish the first nine seasons in a little over a month, once I got hooked by the end of season one).  Then I found out about Jared’s Always Keep Fighting campaign.  That won my loyalty and devotion.  And finding out how supportive the fandom is, of the stars, and of each other.  I love all the brotherly moments.  How Sam and Dean will (and have) died for each other.  They rib each other, but will hug…when the world is ending.  I have grown to yell at the TV or computer screen when the boys do something stupid (they’ll fix it, eventually).  I have sobbed as they and other major characters have died (I have not forgiven them for killing Charlie).

But I have not shed tears yet over the announcement.  Honestly, I was a bit shocked that a fifteenth season was announced.  The actors have families; they have children.  And they’ve commented about having to spend time away from them.  And we, as loving and caring fans, feel bad.  We love Jared and Jensen, and Misha, and all the rest.  But we wouldn’t love them if they weren’t such nice family men.  Yes, if there was one show I wish could go on forever, it’s Supernatural.  But I know it can’t.

So, I wish the boys luck in their futures, but I also eagerly await the twists, turns, and surprises of another season.  And I am sure that I will at least take an interest in future projects of theirs.  And really, the fandom will never die.  We’ll re-watch the show over and over (example, me).  We’ll re-read and create new fanfictions.  (I mean, Harry Potter fans wrote new stories before Cursed Child or Fantastic Beasts came out.  Star Wars was going strong on fanfiction with new stories daily before the newest trilogy was in the works).  “Family don’t  end in blood,” and I’m sure the fans…the family will still connect with each other.

Though, I willingly admit, I guarantee I will be a sobbing mess come season fifteen.  I will have pillow and tissues at the ready.

 

Feel free to comments your thoughts.  Who is your favorite?  Sam?  Dean?  Cas?  Luci?  Favorite season?  Favorite case?

“But the Sun Rollin’ High, Through the Sapphire Sky”

The Lion King

One of the top grossing animated films of all time, it won Best Original Score and Best Original Song for Can You Feel the Love Tonight at the Academy Awards; and was scored by legend Hans Zimmer (he’d later score Pirates of the Caribbean) and lyrics were by Tim Rice (who has worked with Andrew Lloyd Webber) and songs by Elton John [I most strongly connect Elton John to this movie, even though I’m sure I listened to his music growing up.] It ranks pretty high on my list of Disney favorites. The artistry is beautiful, the songs are fun, it’s a complex story (inspired by Shakespeare’s Hamlet [I am a bad English major and not terribly familiar with Hamlet; I saw one updated version performed by David Tenannt]) and a wonderful cast of voice actors. Highlights include James Earl Jones (most iconic as Darth Vader) as Mufasa, Jeremy Irons (a marvelous thespian who plays Henry IV in BBC’s Hollow Crown productions) appropriate for the Shakespearean role of Scar. Jonathan Taylor Thomas (from Home Improvement) is young Simba; adult Simba is voiced by Matthew Broderick. Whoopi Goldberg (I mainly know her from this film and Sister Act and didn’t realize she was a stand-up comedian until I was a teenager) is one of the hyenas, and Broadway star Nathan Lane (he would later team up with Matthew Broderick for The Producers film) is Timon.

the-lion-king-original
(Too many pictures to choose from!)

The opening of The Lion King is iconic; I think most people know the movie from that scene alone. Young Simba is presented to the animal kingdom (Emma Swan jokes about the scene in Season 3 of Once Upon a Time) as we learn “there’s more to see/than ever be seen/more to do/than ever be done” and are all connected to the great Circle of Life. All of the animals bow to the little prince, a sunbeam highlighting the scene. We next meet Scar, the king’s younger brother who was next in line for the throne, until Simba was born. He doesn’t hide his disdain and refusal to show for the presentation. Unfortunately, Mufasa doesn’t know what to do with his troublesome kinsman and Scar is free to plot. An image that come back a few times in the movie is Rafiki’s drawing of Simba in his tree.

A few years pass and Simba wakes his father early (with a typical argument between the parents on whose son he is at that time of morning) so Mufasa can show him the kingdom. “Everything the light touches,” Mufasa explains, is their kingdom. The Outlands are beyond their borders and young Simba must never go there. Mufasa further prepares his son that the time will come when Mufasa will no longer be king, it will be Simba’s turn, and cautions that there is more to being a king than doing whatever one wants. There is a balance to life that the king must watch over. Of course, this lesson is interrupted by a brief pouncing practice, much to Zazu’s chagrin (another song, The Morning Report, was added in the Special Edition and appears on the corresponding soundtrack).

Mufasa must attend to royal duties so Simba visits his “weird” uncle and the meddling Scar puts the idea purposefully in young Simba’s head to explore the forbidden Elephant Graveyard. Of course, who should accompany Simba on his adventure is his best friend, Nala. Zazu lets slip that the two are betrothed (a human custom) and will one day be married (they protest now…just wait). As children are wont to do, Simba focuses on the fun of being “free to do it all my way” and merrily describes his rule and why I Just Can’t Wait to Be King. “Everywhere you look/I’m standing spotlight!”

The Elephant Graveyard is not as fun as Simba planned; after his claim to “laugh in the face of danger!”they run into three hyenas, Shanzi, Banzai, and Ed. Luckily, Mufasa arrives and scares off the three hyenas before they really hurt Simba or Nala. Mufasa is understandably very disappointed in his son and reiterates his earlier lesson that one day he will die, though he’ll look on from the stars above. A king is brave when he has to be and despite Simba’s thought that his dad isn’t scared of anything, Mufasa admits he was scared of losing Simba. There is a lovely wrestling match, putting worries aside.
Pals

That evening, Scar visits the hyenas, and confesses that he sent Simba and Nala to thescar be prepared Graveyard for the hyenas to “take care of.” He’s “surrounded by idiots” who can’t even do their job. What needs to happen is that Mufasa needs to die; without daddy dearest around, Simba will be simple prey. And then “in justice deliciously squared,” without those two in the way, Scar can assume the throne “I’ll be king undisputed/respected, saluted/and seen for the wonder I am!” and promises the hyenas a new life. A lot of the imagery from Be Prepared is influenced by Nazi propaganda: most explicitly, their march. Be Prepared is a fantastic villain song as well and Jeremy Irons is deliciously hammy [Jim Cummings (voice of Ed) had to finish the song for Jeremy Irons when the latter threw out his voice].

Scar promises Simba a surprise for he and his father the next day and leaves the cub in a gorge. The “surprise” is a wildebeest stampede (a scene equal to any action scene today and full of drama and tension). Scar acts suitably worried and runs alongside Mufasa as Zazu flies ahead to find Simba. But once Mufasa enters the gorge, Scar prowls around the top, knocking Zazu out to prevent the royal majordomo from getting further help. Mufasa finds his son and tosses him to safety, but is carried away by the pressing wildebeests. He jumps to the cliff a moment later and begs his brother for help. Scar sinks his claws into his brother’s legs and murmurs “Long live the king!” before flinging him into the mass. Simba witnesses his father’s fall and in the dusty aftermath, searches for him. He finds Mufasa’s still body (I cry every time, even as an adult) and pleads that “we’ve got to go.” The young cub realizes his dad is dead and tears streak his fur and he curls next to his protector one last time. Scar emerges and reinforces Simba’s thoughts that if it hadn’t been for him, his father would still be alive. He then directs his grief-shocked nephew to “run away and never return.” A moment later, he commands the hyena trio to “kill him.” Simba willingly falls into a bramble bush at the bottom of a cliff and gets away. After Banzai falls in, neither Shenzi nor Ed want to come out looking like “cactus butt,” and they determine if Simba was ever to return, they’d kill him then, shouting the warning to the departing cub. Scar, “with heavy heart” assumes the throne and “ushers in a new era” of living alongside hyenas. Rafiki wipes away the drawing of Simba in sorrow.

death_of_mufasa
(Sorry if it makes you tear up, but it’s such a poignant moment)

Buzzards float about a stretched out Simba; he’s providentially rescued by a warthog and meerkat, Pumba and Timon. At first, Timon suggests leaving him since he’s a lion, but Pumba ponders that he could grow up to be on their side. Timon’s advice to the depressed cub once he awakens is to put his past behind him; “when the world turns it back on you, you turn your back on da world.” They’re outcasts too and they teach him about Hakuna Matata, their “no worry” lifestyle, and how to eat bugs [that grossed me out as a kid. And yeah, Disney, we knew you meant “farted” even as kids. That was actually our favorite part of the song to sing-along to.]

There’s a fun montage showing the progression of time as the new trio crosses a bridge, repeating “Hakuna Matata.” All grown-up now, Timon, Pumba, and Simba discuss what “stars” truly are. Timon claims they’re “fireflies that got stuck up in that big bluish-black thing.” Pumba is scientifically correct stating they are balls of gas burning billions of miles away. And Simba shares what his father told him about the kings of the past looking down on them. He’s laughed at by Timon and Pumba and leaves to ponder the tragedy of his life. His scent drifts in the breeze to old Rafiki, who recognizes it and joyfully realizes Simba is alive. “It is time,” the monkey declares, now drawing a mane on Simba.

simba and nalaThe following morning, Timon and Pumba are out searching for grubs, singing The Lion Sleeps Tonight [this is how I know that song, despite it being older than the movie]. Pumba wanders off, to be chased by a grown lioness. Simba to the rescue! Until he’s pinned in a very familiar manner and recognizes a grown up Nala. Nala is understandably surprised to discover that Simba is alive and urges him to return with her to the Pride Lands and claim his throne. Simba decides that he and Nala need to have a talk, alone. Timon bemoans the two old friends’ romantic Can You Feel the Love Tonight [probably my second favorite Disney love song.  Elton John’s solo version is the only “pop” version of Disney songs that I liked growing up]. As an adult, some of their actions take on more meaning, like the looks between them while Nala is lying down. But I still think it’s sweet; they’re simple gestures between two beings that care about each other. And Simba looks a lot like his dad at times. Yet, at the end, the couple continues to argue over Simba’s return. He refuses; he can’t face his past. Nala wonders “why won’t he be the king I know he is/the king I see inside?” She tells him she’s disappointed that he’s not the same Simba she remembers. Simba in turns accuses her of sounding like his father. “Good, at least one of us does.” They fight further; Simba refuses to tell her the truth of why he ran away, deeming that to tell her now and return to the Pride Lands won’t change anything, and stalks off. He shouts his despair to the stars, reproving his father, “You said you’d always be there for me!” Quieter, “but you’re not. And it’s all my fault.”

A little chant echoes on the wind. Rafiki is dancing in a tree and comes down to impart wisdom on Simba. Simba can’t answer his question, “who are you?” Rafiki knows; he’s Mufasa’s boy. When Simba says that Mufasa has been dead for a while, Rafiki states “wrong again! He’s alive! And I’ll show him to you!” The crazy monkey leads Simba through vines and trees and roots [How to Train Your Dragon 2 has a scene that echoes this one] to a pool. Rafiki urges Simba to “look harder” at his reflection. The lion sees Mufasa, as Rafiki states, “he lives in you” (becomes a song title in the sequel). Mufasa’s bass voice rumbles and the clouds part, forming his silhouette. Mufasa chides his son that he has forgotten him; by forgetting who Simba truly is, he has forgotten Mufasa. Simba must take his place in the circle of life; he is Mufasa’s son and the one true king. He fades away, urging Simba to “remember.” Simba begs his father, “please, don’t leave me,” still the scared lion cub. Rafiki picks up the lesson and a whack from his stick knocks some sense into Simba, that while change is not easy, it is good. One can either run from their past, or learn from it. Hans Zimmer’s theme plays over a wonderful superimposed shot of Simba running back to the Pride Lands. Nala, Timon, and Pumba soon catch up and agree to help Simba reclaim his home. When he cautions that it will be dangerous, Nala echoes his childish claim “I laugh in the face of danger!” Timon and Pumba act as live bait, dressing in drag and doing the hula, a little bit of comedic relief before we delve into the drama.

We witness the devastation that Scar’s rule had wrought. The land is barren and we find out from Sarabi, Mufasa’s widow that the herds have moved on. She advises that they leave Pride Rock. Scar refuses. “Then you have sentenced us to death!” “I am the king,” he replies, “I can do whatever I want!” He swipes at the lioness, but Simba leaps to her defense. Both she and Scar first assume he’s Mufasa. Sarabi is pleased to see her grown son; Scar is annoyed to discover that the hyena trio failed at their mission. Simba growls at his uncle, “give me one good reason why I shouldn’t rip you apart.” Scar states that the hyenas think he’s king, but then sinisterly turns the conversation back on Simba, dragging up how Mufasa died, pressuring Simba to admit that he killed his father. “Murderer!” he instantly declares and further pushes, all the while circling his nephew, stating that it was Simba’s fault, even if it was an accident. A very confused Simba slips on the edge of Pride Rock, lightning from the gathering storm lighting a fire beneath. Scar recalls a similar scene, and digs his claws into Simba’s paws the same way he had Mufasa’s. He whispers his little secret: “I killed Mufasa!” Simba leaps onto Scar, now declaring him the murderer. A paw on Scar’s throat compels Scar to admit the truth out loud. The hyenas are on Simba and lionesses attack the hyenas.

War breaks out (with a brief comedic interlude with monkey kung-fu and a bit about “Mr. Pig.” I still don’t get that reference, but I thought it was hilarious as a kid). Scar attempts to slink away, but Simba is on him, growling that Scar doesn’t deserve to live. Scar pleads that the hyenas are the real enemy (Ed, Banazi, and Shenzi can hear this) and Simba decides he won’t be like Scar; he won’t kill him. Instead, he instructs him to “run away and never return.” Scar plays dirty and swipes ash into Simba’s eyes. There is a violent showdown between the two before Simba flips Scar over and down to a ledge below. Scar thinks he’s in the clear when the hyenas come to him, but they turn on him since he claimed they were the enemy. Shadows play on the rock behind, not giving us a direct view at what happens. It rains harder, putting out the fire and washing away the stain of Scar. To music that gives me goosebumps, Simba at first hesitates to approach the edge of Pride Rock; he had run and hidden from this responsibility, scared he was unsuited, but one last echo of “Remember” from Mufasa and Simba proudly takes his place at the edge of Pride Rock and releases a mighty roar. It’s echoed by the lionesses and greenry springs into the Pride Lands.

simba roar

The movie ends with a triumphant reprise of Circle of Life, which continues with the presentation of Simba and Nala’s cub.

There was a direct-to-video sequel, The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride (a play on both a lion belonging to a “pride,” and his daughter being his pride, and maybe even Simba’s own pride and how it affects his own decisions…though that’s a little deep for the movie and not as evident) that came out four years after the original. A tale about Simba and Nala’s daughter, Kiara. Her story mimics her father’s at time, having to go out and experience life on her own before she understands what her father taught her. There are elements of Romeo and Juliet in the plot; two warring families, their children falling in love. Except, the couple does not die at the end! Some of the songs are good and overall a good story; I consider it one of Disney’s better sequels (especially compared to most of their other animated sequels). In addition to a cartoon series in the 90s, Timon and Pumba’s story, Lion King 11/2 came out in 2004; there are funny parts, but it definitely doesn’t live up to the original. Now on Disney Junior, there is a new cartoon series about Simba’s son (I see plot hole regarding the sequel), called Lion Guard.

The original film was transformed into a Broadway production in 1997, and is still running (meaning it recently celebrated its twentieth anniversary…wow). It was nominated for Best Musical and Best Original Score at the Tony’s and did win in several other categories. Next summer, a live-action/CGI adaptation is due out, with an all-star cast; most notably, James Earl Jones will reprise his role as Mufasa (no teaser out yet, but I am excited to see it).

Overall, this is a great family film. It’s about family, responsibility; the characters are deliciously complex and I feel it has stood the test of time. Even though I have seen the movie several times, I still get apprehensive during the stampede and Scar and Simba’s showdown, and sad at Mufasa’s death. Timon and Pumba were my favorite characters as a kid, because they were funny. Now, I enjoy Scar as a villain, and I wish we could have seen more of Mufasa since he is a very wise king and very loving of his son. I can feel a connection to Simba as a young adult facing responsibilities. The artwork is phenomenal; the emotions they are able to put into the faces and still have them look like lion’s; just look at Simba’s face right before he roars at the end. Re-watching the movie has awakened my love of the film; it ranks towards the top of my list.

As always, I welcome questions or comments. Do you like any of the pop versions of Disney songs?

Next Time: Pocahontas

“You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like Me!”

Aladdin

What I remember most of this movie is the great soundtrack and Robin Williams’ humor; Genie is probably my favorite character from the movie. The movie is based off of the compilation The Book of One Thousand and One Nights and set somewhere vaguely Middle-East (I kept thinking Persia while watching the film). Nevertheless, it is nice to see something other than a European fairytale. The overarching theme of the film is “it’s what is inside that counts,” looking for the “diamond in the ruff.”

We’re first introduced to the villain of the film, Jafar, as he uses a petty crook (who just killed someone, it sounds like), to enter “the Cave of Wonders,” in search of a mysterious lamp. The cave opening, a talking sand tiger, warns that the only one who can enter is “one whose worth lies far within.” Which is apparently not the crook, because he’s eaten. Jafar’s stooge is a talking parrot, Iago (voiced by Gilbert Godfrey) who alternates between calm and agitated.

Aladdin is not our typical Disney hero. He’s an orphaned “street rat” that steals on a daily basis to survive, staying One Jump ahead of the guards. We also get glimpses at a different culture; the sword eater, fire walker, and more. The characters are also dressed differently; Aladdin does not have a shirt, the women’s midriffs are showing. Once Aladdin has won his prize, he feasts with his monkey friend, Abu. Yet, when he sees two small children searching for scraps, he shares what little he has. They hear a parade and investigate, finding another suitor has arrived for the princess. The children get in the way and the snooty prince attempts to whip them, but Aladdin once again steps in. He’s insulted by the condescending man, though gets the dig in about a horse having two rear-ends (that bit goes over kids heads). When he and Abu reach their “home,” there’s a brief reprise of Aladdin wishing one day to live in the palace, where all of their problems will be solved.

[Fun fact: Aladdin’s voice actor, Scott Weinger played Steve, DJ Tanner’s boyfriend, in Full House; there’s even a joke in the episode where the cast goes to Disneyland.]

For one resident of the palace, it’s a cage. The princess Jasmine desires freedom outside the palace walls. She’s never had friends; everything has been taken care of for her. She hates the law that states she must marry a prince by her birthday (in three days’ time) and has sent away every suitor. Bluntly put, she does not want to be a princess. That evening, she runs away and come morning, wanders the marketplace, catching Aladdin’s eye. He jumps to her rescue while she stumbles over the notion of “paying.” They run into, and away from the guards and Jasmine keeps up with Aladdin; demonstrating she trusts him. Amongst their talk, the couple finds out that they both feel trapped by their lives and station. The pair is eventually caught and Aladdin is taken to the palace dungeon, despite Jasmine’s protests and revelation that she is the princess.

aladdin cast

The Sultan is a bit childish at times and is regularly hypnotized by Jafar so the royal vizier can get his way. Jafar covets the title of Sultan and will use his sorcery to gain it. He cons the Sultan into giving up his blue diamond [yes, diamonds come in almost every shade of the rainbow, including blue] so he can “divine” the proper suitor for Jasmine. Instead, Jafar uses it to conjure who the Cave meant could enter. He sees Aladdin and plots a way to get the boy. When confronted by Jasmine for his treatment of Aladdin, he tells her that the street rat was beheaded for kidnapping her. Jasmine is devastated.

That evening, Jafar disguises himself as an old, crippled prisoner and convinces Aladdin to help him retrieve the lamp from the Cave of Wonders, promising the boy the rest of the treasure. Aladdin is allowed to enter the Cave and he and Abu meet Carpet, a helpful magic carpet who leads them past the glittering heaps of gold to the lamp. Abu is tempted by a forbidden gem and just as Aladdin has the lamp in his grasp, Abu grabs the gem, causing the whole Cave to start collapsing. They manage to reach the opening (in an early CG sequence that reminds me a bit of a video game [not that I’ve played many], nevertheless, very thrilling), but Jafar insists on the lamp first and before turning back to help Aladdin, he pulls out a dagger (why are bad guy daggers always crooked? Do they not pay the extra for quality craftsmanship?). Abu saves Aladdin, but they are swallowed up by the Cave.

Abu was also a sneaky monkey and stole back the lamp. Aladdin takes a closer look at the lamp and rubs at some smudging. Out pops Genie! Aladdin is his new master and is allowed three wishes. Genie elucidates Aladdin to the possibilities, telling the lad that he’s never had a Friend Like Me (my favorite song of the movie) and highlighting Robin Williams’ comedic range. What kid didn’t wish they had a genie after that? Aladdin demonstrates that while poor, he is not stupid and tricks Genie into getting them out of the cave, without using any of his wishes. He even asks Genie what he would wish for and Genie reveals that while he has “phenomenal mystical powers,” he’s bound to the lamp and his master. He’d wish for freedom, but only his master can do so. Aladdin promises he’ll reserve his third wish for that and his first proper wish is to become a prince, so he can see Jasmine again, stating that she’s smart, fun, and beautiful (glad they added the “smart” and “fun” qualities). (Sebastian is briefly glimpsed as Genie ponders the wish)

Back in Agrabah (a fictional city), Jasmine has told her father of Jafar executing Aladdin and the Sultan reprimands his vizier. Jasmine also states that one benefit to being forced to marry; “when I am queen, I will have the power to get rid of you.” Jafar is even more desperate to become Sultan and Iago suggests that Jafar marries Jasmine to gain the throne and afterwards, they drop Jasmine and her father off a cliff. The pair manically laughs. Jafar returns to the throne room and attempts to hypnotize the Sultan to obey his plan. The Sultan breaks at one point, declaring Jafar too old, but Jafar continues to pressure. His spell is broken a second time by a loud commotion.

Prince Ali has arrived. Genie (disguised as…a whole bunch of people throughout the song, even mimicking parade announcers) extols his virtues, claiming he’s generous, strong as ten men, and his servants are all “lousy with loyalty.” People who never spared Aladdin a thought or viewed him as worthless, now view Ali as attractive and worthy of respect. The Sultan’s excited by Ali’s arrival and is eager to introduce his daughter to a fine, upstanding gentleman like Ali, claiming he is “an excellent judge of character” [and we all say “Not!]. Of course, Aladdin has to act like every other arrogant suitor Jasmine has seen when he asks permission to court her. She dismisses him, stating “I am not a prize to be won!” Genie urges Al to “tell the truth” on who he really is, but Al (Genie’s nickname for Aladdin) feels like Jasmine wouldn’t have time for him if he wasn’t a prince. Aladdin flies up to see Jasmine again and when he fumbles around, he reminds Jasmine of someone she met in the marketplace. Ali scoffs, but when Jasmine tells him off again, he agrees that she “should be free to make her own choice,” and offers to leave. Startling everyone when he steps off the balcony, we are relieved to find out Carpet caught him. He offers the princess a ride, holding out his hand and once again asking “do you trust me?”

a whole new world

The couple takes a romantic flight, Aladdin showing the princess A Whole New World [I know both parts to this song, not really caring to differentiate when learning as a child. Further fun note: Jasmine’s singing voice is the same as Mulan’s, Lea Salonga, who has played Kim in Miss Saigon, and both Éponine and Fantine in Les Misérables]. The pair is thrilled at the prospect that their new world holds, “no one to tell us no/or where to go/or say we’re only dreaming.” It’s a “thrilling place, for you and me.” They fly by the Sphinx in Egypt (and are the reason the nose is broken), through Greece, and end in China. Jasmine tricks Ali into admitting he was the one she met in the marketplace, but he still doesn’t reveal that he’s not a prince. When he drops Jasmine back off at her balcony, Carpet helps them share their first kiss.

But Jafar has gotten his way with the Sultan, and Jasmine is told she will marry the vizier. At the same time, Aladdin is captured, chained, and dropped off a cliff into the sea. His hand manages to rub the lamp, sending Genie out and Aladdin’s second wish is used to save his life. Genie was happy to do it; he’s getting fond of Al. Aladdin confronts Jafar and smashes his staff, releasing the Sultan from its spell. Jafar uses sorcery to disappear, but has realized that Prince Ali (or Abooboo, as he refers to him) is Aladdin and has the lamp. Iago gets the lamp the next day, after Genie and Al have had a fight. Jasmine has chosen Ali to marry and Aladdin wants to keep Genie around just in case, and won’t be able to free him. Without the Genie, he’s just Aladdin and the only reason anyone thinks he’s worth anything is because of Genie.

With the lamp in his possession, Jafar quickly uses his first wish to become Sultan. But Jasmine and her father refuse to bow to him. So be it, they will cower before a sorcerer, Jafar’s second wish is to become the most powerful sorcerer in the world. Jafar mocks Aladdin when he comes to rescue the former Sultan and princess and reveals who he really is to Jasmine, before sending him to a snowy mountaintop. Aladdin survives and once again flies back to Agrabah to put things to right.

Jafar has changed everything around; Jasmine’s pet tiger, Raja is now a kitten, the former Sultan is a puppet and Iago is shoving crackers in his mouth (the Sultan had previously fed Iago lots of crackers, but it was done in kindness), and Jasmine now wears red and is chained, feeding Jafar. Jafar still wants to marry her and at first she refuses. Jafar attempts to use his third wish to force her to love him, but that is against the rules (as is bringing back someone from the dead and killing someone). When she catches sight of Aladdin sneaking into the palace, she turns the charm on and seduces Jafar as a distraction. The lad is caught and calls Jafar a “cowardly snake” for not fighting him himself. Jafar’s answer is to turn into a giant snake (and you wonder why so many kids don’t like snakes) and traps Jasmine in a giant hourglass of sand. Aladdin tricks Jafar into using his third wish to become a genie. Meaning, that while Jafar will gain immense power, he will also be trapped in his own lamp. With Jafar gone, Aladdin can smash the glass and all of Jafar’s magic is undone.

The couple face the truth, that Aladdin is not a prince, but Jasmine still loves him. As the Sultan says, “am I Sultan, or am I Sultan;” he has the power to change the law and allows his daughter to choose whomever she’d like to marry. She of course chooses Aladdin. Al uses his last wish to set Genie free and he flies off to explore the world, donning a Goofy hat.

There was a cartoon series and two direct-to-video sequels. Neither sequel lives up to the original film; the quality more in line with the series, though the third movie does include Aladdin and Jasmine finally getting married and Aladdin meeting his long-thought-dead father (voiced by John Rhys-Davis, and Lumiere’s Jerry Orbach is back as the villain). There is a Broadway production currently running and a live-action adaptation due out next year. The teaser doesn’t reveal much, so I’m not sure how excited I am to see the movie yet.

Aladdin truly is a hero, protecting those weaker than him and never asking for anything in return. He’s impressed by Jasmine’s spunk, as well as her beauty. He bodily puts himself in harm’s way to save the world from Jafar. Jasmine is the first princess that has pointed out that being a princess is not always fun and is not entirely glamorous. I did go as Jasmine one year for Halloween; my mother made my costume and my older brother was Peter Pan.  The  couple are good role models, loving each other for what’s on the inside.

Questions? Comments? What’s your favorite Disney love song?

Next Time: The Lion King

Flameo

Book Three: Fire

The first episode, Awakening, catches us up on the aftermath of Crossroads of Destiny. Katara did indeed save Aang. The young heroes were able to join with Hakoda and they took over a Fire Nation ship. Their invasion plans are modified slightly since the Earth King in is hiding, traveling the world as a peasant; they’ll gather together their ragtag team of friends and allies.

While the heroes hide out in the Fire Nation, Zuko’s princely title is restored. Lo and Lee announce to a crowd that their clever and beautiful princess Azula found her brother in Ba Sing Se and together, they took down the city and the Avatar fell. And the Earth Kingdom fell. After three years, the Fire Nation’s prince has returned. There are cheers from the crowd. But Zuko soon discovers that while he desired his father’s love and affection and believed that redemption of his honor lay with him, in conforming to what was expected of him, he lost himself. He visits Iroh in prison and begs advice, but his uncle is silent; this is still Zuko’s journey and one he must travel himself.

The Headband is silly for the most part, but does establish that not everyone in the Fire Nation is evil. Just like not everyone in the Earth Kingdom is good. A whole nation cannot be condemned. The heroes help out a Fire Nation village in The Painted Lady, Katara declaring sharply to her brother that she “will never, ever, turn my back on people who need me!”

Sokka’s Master brings to the forefront Sokka’s dejection that he is not as powerful as the benders. They urge him to find a master and Piando, the greatest swordsman in the Fire Nation agrees to teach him, even after secretly knowing that the young man is Water Tribe. Sokka gains confidence and an ally.

Bonding
The Fire Nation teens bonding over causing destruction at a party; because that’s how they get their kicks.

The Beach exhibits that even the scary and villainous Fire Nation young people are still teenagers. We learn a lot more about their dynamics. Ty Lee ran off to the circus to prevent becoming part of a matched set with six identical sisters. Mai’s mother was demanding and she was forced to stay quiet and well-behaved as a child (following the old adage that children are to remain seen, not heard). Zuko reveals that he’s angry at himself, confused about right and wrong. Azula gives a tiny insight, claiming that she does not care that her own mother thought she was a monster. Azula’s military tactics are so ingrained in her that she exercises them at the volleyball-type game (after Zuko dramatically removes his robe and doves appear out of nowhere and there are screaming girls).

The Avatar and the Fire Lord explains more fully the connection between Aang and Zuko. Zuko’s paternal great-grandfather was of course Fire Lord Sozin, while his maternal great-grandfather was Avatar Roku and they incidentally were best friends. Until Sozin’s ambition drove them to separate paths. He wanted to share the Fire Nation’s prosperity with the world and expand his realm into an empire. Roku showed Sozin mercy due to their friendship and Sozin even helped Roku stop a volcano, yet he still left him to die. Iroh finally speaks to his nephew, explaining that Zuko needed to learn this history to understand the battle within himself between good and evil. He has it within him to cleanse the sins of previous generations and restore balance; just like Aang as the Avatar.

The Runaway broadens the relationship between Katara and Toph. Toph bucks at Katara’s motherly nature, since she ran away from parents who were constantly telling her what she could and couldn’t do and never listening in return. And Katara sees a child, someone to care about. We also get insight from Sokka as to a reason for this; she stepped up when their mother died at a young age and by this time, doesn’t know anything different. Both Sokka and Katara deserve a hug after Sokka’s statement that he doesn’t remember his mother’s face, because Katara has filled that spot for so long. The episode ends with Katara helping Toph write a letter to her parents.

Katara is again in the spotlight in The Puppetmaster, when the four young heroes cross paths with Hama, the last waterbender from the Southern Tribe, in a small Fire Nation village. Except she’s bitter and exacts revenge for her treatment by kidnapping villagers during the full moon, when she has the power to bloodbend (using waterbending to bend the water or blood within a body). Katara eagerly takes lessons from Hama at first, except she’s scared and questions the morality of bloodbending, but when Hama makes Aang and Sokka fight each other, she has no choice but to use bloodbending to stop Hama. She sobs to Sokka and Aang afterwards.

Nightmares and Daydreams gets odd at the end; when Aang hallusicantes from sleep deprivation, Momo and Appa can talk. To help, the other three make a soft bed for him, encouraging him that he’s ready for the showdown; he’s been training since the day he met Katara and Sokka. On the other side of the war; we get a glimpse of Zuko’s life as an accepted prince. Servants waiting for his every whim, adoring fans, an affectionate girlfriend; yet when he finds out that there is another war meeting that he did not know about, his old insecurities come back. However, his father halts the meeting and sends for him. He was at the Fire Lord’s right hand, the “perfect prince,” but Zuko wasn’t himself.

The Gaang
Their new looks

The Day of Black Sun arrives. The heroes change back into their old clothes and here we can see the changes months of traveling have wrought; they’re leaner, they’re older. Katara wears her hair different, looser. Sokka’s hair has grown in and he looks more like a warrior. Aang shaves his head and wears a partially revealing top. Toph dons armor. They’re reunited with old allies and during their last break before battle, the teens’ bid each other a farewell. Aang gives Katara a quick kiss and sets off for the palace. Yet, when he arrives, the palace is empty; no Fire Lord in sight.

The Fire Nation was prepared for the invasion, a callback to Azula’s infiltration into Ba Sing Se as a Kyoshi Warrior. Hakoda is injured during their invasion and Sokka takes over as the leader. It’s Sokka who figures out that the Fire Lord would be in a secret bunker near the capital, not hiding on a remote island. He takes Toph and Aang, while Katara remains with Hakoda to continue healing him. Azula is still a few steps ahead and is waiting for them with Dai Li agents, distracting them from the Fire Lord. Even without being able to firebend, she eludes their attacks. Just when they’re ready to ignore her and find the Fire Lord, she taunts Sokka with information about Suki. Sokka demands answers, not willing to let another woman he cares for die, draining the last of their time. When they rejoin the rest of the invasion force, the Fire Nation has resumed their attacks, forcing Hakoda to instruct Katara and Sokka to escape with Aang; they are their best chance in the long run; Aang has to be free in order to keep hope alive. Bato makes the decision that the young members flee on Appa; the older ones will accept capture.

Zuko’s path has him change back into traveling clothes, removing the image of a prince. He vows to set things right. The first step: finally confronting Ozai.

“I’m not taking orders from you anymore.”
“You will obey me, or this defiant breath will be your last.”
“Think again! I am going to speak my mind, and you are going to listen. For so long, all I wanted was for you to love me, to accept me. I thought it was my honor that I wanted. But really, I was just trying to please you. You, my father, who banished me just for talking out of turn. My father, who challenged me, a thirteen-year-old boy to an Agni Kai. How can you possibly justify a duel with a child?”
“It was to teach you respect.”
“It was cruel! And it was wrong.”
“Then you’ve learned nothing.”
“No, I’ve learned everything! And, I’ve had to learn it on my own.”

Zuko quietly informs the Fire Lord that if the world doesn’t want to destroy itself, it needs peace and kindness, and openly acknowledging Iroh’s influence. He’s going to free him, then join the Avatar to bring down Ozai. When Ozai questions why he doesn’t just kill him himself, Zuko replies that the task is the Avatar’s destiny; he will discover his own.

Zuko_confronting_Ozai

Ozai has one final taunt: information about Zuko’s mother. Ozai admits that he was willing to kill Zuko years ago, but Ursa proposed another plan in order to protect Zuko. A plan in which she committed vicious treason. She was banished as consequence. Ozai growls that Zuko will not be so lucky, the fading eclipse granting Ozai the ability to shoot lighting, which Zuko deflects and disappearing in the aftermath. When Zuko arrives at his uncle’s prison cell, he finds that Iroh has already escaped.

The final shot is Zuko following Appa in his war balloon.

They end up at the Western Air Temple, which is built upside down underneath a cliff. For Zuko, it’s come full circle; the Western Air Temple was where he started his search for the Avatar a week after he was scarred and banished. Now, he approaches the core four heroes, offering to teach Aang firebending. They do not trust him at first, for good reasons. Well, Toph, is willing to give him a chance, but she startles him and he accidentally burns her feet. When they go to confront him, Combustion Man (an assassin Zuko had hired to cover the fact that Aang survived Ba Sing Se) attacks and Zuko fights against him. This convinces Sokka. Zuko’s apology to Toph, speaking of the danger of firebending, convinces Aang. Katara goes along with the rest of the group, but threatens Zuko in private later. They both know he’s struggled with right and wrong in the past and she will not hesitate to permanently end Zuko’s destiny if he turns again. A glimpse that these characters are not children any longer. They’re involved in a war and hard calls will have to be made.

I love Firebending Masters; it shows more background into how bending was developed in different nations. We’ve already learned at the North Pole that the first waterbenders learned the push and pull motions from the moon. Toph tells of how the badger moles were the original Earthbenders, using it as she does, as an extension of themselves since they too are blind. Aang says that the original airbenders learned from the sky bisons.

Ran_and_Shaw
The original masters

Zuko and Aang must learn from the original firebending masters because Zuko’s change in sides has affected his firebending. Dragons are the original firebenders but they were hunted to extinction in the past hundred years; Iroh reportedly killed the last dragon. However, an ancient civilization has ruins near to the temple, so the two young men hope to discover some sort of knowledge. The ancient civilization is actually still secretly alive and lead the Fire Nation Prince and Avatar to the spirits Ran and Cha to judge whether they are worthy. Ran and Cha are a pair of red and blue dragons. Iroh had not killed them; they had judged him and found him worthy of firebending knowledge; he lied to protect them. Aang and Zuko are shown visions of the true nature of firebending; fire is life, not just destruction. Aang gains the confidence to try firebending again (after burning Katara in season one) and Zuko has found a new source for his inner fire, a drive to bring peace rather than typical rage.

After their return, Sokka is desperate to rescue his father and other warriors. The invasion was his mistake and thus his job to fix. “I need to regain my honor,” Sokka tells Zuko. So the two sneak off to Boiling Rock prison. Once there, they find Suki, but no Hakoda. They gain a few minor tagalongs who utilize their first escape plan (and fail) while Zuko, Sokka, and Suki stay another day to discover if Hakoda is part of the new transfer of prisoners. He is. Sokka catches him up and they develop a new plan; take the warden captive and ride out on the gondola.

Wrenches are thrown in the work when first Mai, then Azula and Ty Lee show up. Mai wants answers as to why Zuko left. To her, he is a traitor while he sees it as part of his destiny to save his country. Azula and Ty Lee attempt to stop the heroes’ escape and the teens face each other on top of the gondola. Mai takes Zuko’s side on the ground, giving them the opportunity to get away. Azula is furious. But when she goes to eliminate Mai, Ty Lee sides with Mai, using her chi blocking to take out Azula. They do not have the chance to flee; Azula orders them locked up.

The two-part episode does a good job of showing Zuko and Sokka interact; they’re a similar age and it’s been pointed out by fans that they both have younger sisters that are naturally gifted benders, both are missing mothers, and desperate to prove themselves to their fathers. They even reminisce over girlfriends on the flight to Boiling Rock. During their escape, Sokka catches Zuko when the prince leaps from the platform for the departing gondola. And through the battle on top the gondola against Azula, they effortlessly cover each other.

Boling Rock ends with the Water Tribe family being reunited. Only to have to break apart at the beginning of The Southern Raiders when Azula attacks the temple, hoping to become an only child. Brother and sister face off again, allowing the core heroes to fly away on Appa (and another daring rescue for Zuko…please stop attempting to fall to your death). But when they’re all joking around the fire later, it’s clear that Katara still does not trust Zuko. Zuko approaches Sokka, inquiring about the day his mother died. It seems as if Katara has tied her anger about that event to her anger at Zuko, and he cares about what she thinks of him. We flash back to the raid on the Southern Water Tribe. Sokka went to help his father and the other warriors when the black snow began to fall. Katara had gone to their mother, only to find a strange man in their hut. Kya, their mother, soothed Katara and sent her after her father. When the rest of the family returned, the man was gone and their mother was dead. A few more questions reveal that the group responsible was the Southern Raiders. Zuko offers to take Katara to their headquarters where she can exercise justice. Aang counsels forgiveness. Katara’s not sure she can do that. Sokka even advises that Katara let go of her rage; Kya was his mother too. “Then you didn’t love her like I did!” is the biting response. Just, ouch.

Katara willingly uses bloodbending to get her answers, unsettling even Zuko. When she faces Yan Ra (a despicable man, offering his own, admittedly annoying, mother as recompense) she almost does it. They discover that Kya had died protecting the last waterbender of the South Pole. Katara is ready to unleash all her power as a master, shooting ice daggers at him, seconds away from ending him. But she won’t become the same as him, empty inside. Back at their camp, Aang is proud of her; but she didn’t forgive Yan Ra. She is however, ready to forgive Zuko.

The show does its own recap special; The Ember Island Players where the teens engage in a popular fanfic plotline, watching their own story play out as a stage performance. Their characters are exaggerated and annoy the heroes. Katara is overly dramatic, Toph is a man, Aang is a woman (oftentimes in traditional theatre, teenage boy parts are played by young woman, a popular example is “Peter Pan”), Sokka speaks only in quips. For Zuko, it’s his worse mistakes shoved in his face. The show-within-a-show plays up the fan pairing of Zuko and Katara, which upsets Aang. But it’s the end that really depresses our heroes; as a play put on in the Fire Nation, Azula and Ozai successfully kill Zuko and Aang, Ozai declaring “the world is mine!” and the crowd cheers. There is horror in the teenagers’ eyes.

Everything comes to a head in this season. It also really showcases that this war is being decided by children/teenagers. The main characters range between twelve and sixteen years old. Sokka is fifteen and takes charge of two major battles. Zuko is sixteen and crowned Fire Lord. Aang is twelve and confronts Ozai.

Ozai_versus_Avatar_Aang

The latter half of the season, Aang has been struggling with the dilemma of how to put an end to Ozai, claiming that violence is never the answer. He even greets the tyrant at their final battle saying they don’t have to fight. He was taught as an Air Nomad monk that all life is sacred and he cannot take another person’s life, no matter how horrible they are. The final duel starts with Aang fleeing from Ozai; he’s on the defense. Ozai shoots lightning at him and Aang redirects, like Zuko taught him; he has the perfect opportunity to end Ozai, but points it away. Ozai calls him weak, like his people, who are not worthy of existing in his world (megalomaniac much?). His last stand was to create a ball of rock surrounding him, but Ozai broke through. When that happened, a perfectly positioned nub of rock presses in on his scar, helping him unlock the Avatar State. He comes back powerful and effortlessly bends all four elements into an orbit around himself. Now it’s his turn to chase the self-proclaimed Phoenix King. This is the first time we’ve seen fear in Ozai’s eyes. Yet even then, when he is controlling all that power, Aang comes back and cannot deal a killing strike. Aang’s last mystical journey on the back of a lion turtle taught him to bend the energy within a body resulting in the Avatar taking away Ozai’s bending. (There’s a really cool visual where their bodies are overtaken by blue [Aang] and orange [Ozai] representing their wills. Ozai almost overtakes Aang, but he comes back stronger and brighter).

The final Agni Kai between Azula and Zuko, “the showdown that was always meant to be” is tragically beautiful. It is destructive and at least on Azula’s account, she has the intention of killing her brother. And it is quite possible that Zuko is willing to kill his sister, facing her so no one else will get hurt. But the imagery of blue and orange fire meeting, paired with the music, quiet and almost soothing in the background, is powerful. This isn’t some upbeat ride into danger or fanfare when the hero saves the day. We can hear the roar of the fire, balls of flame propelled at one another.

Azula_vs._Zuko

And Zuko has to taunt his sister (they’re still teenage siblings) about shooting lightning at him. He was not as successful the second time, primarily due to Azula shifting her aim to Katara. He’s unprepared and the angle is wrong and it’s not dissipated properly. It gets too close to his heart and he collapses. So Katara and Azula face off. Katara out tricks the princess, freezing her then chaining her to a grate. Finally, Katara is able to heal Zuko, exchanging thanks for saving each others’ lives.

We gain some sympathy for Azula in Book Three. All her life, she has been her father’s favorite and now that he’s bent on world domination and titles himself as the “Phoenix King” and Supreme Ruler of All, he passes on the now insignificant title of Fire Lord to Azula, explaining that he needs her at home. She fires back that “you can’t treat me like Zuko!” And with the betrayal of Ty Lee and Azula, her former staunchest supporters, Azula is paranoid. She’s learning that fear is not the best tactic to retain supporters. Mai told her “I love Zuko more than I fear you.” Azula banishes her servants, the Dai Li agents; everyone she was once close to, leaving her alone. She envisions her mother in the mirror, claiming that she is proud of her and loves her. Azula throws her hairbrush and cries. Zuko tells Katara that Azula is slipping; he can take her. When Katara defeats her, she’s left screaming and breathing fire before breaking into sobs. As the hallucinated Ursa says, Azula is confused. Like Zuko, she lost her drive. Her purpose for so long was to follow her father and now that Ozai has essentially cast her aside, she’s lost. Everyone she’s ever cared about, she’s pushed away.

Touching on the themes running throughout the show, the core troupe of heroes became their own family and that group was certainly more important than blood family. That is most clear in Zuko’s case, with both his sister and father the major threats, but he’s learned to rely on his uncle’s teaching. Katara fights to keep her family together, except she keeps getting ripped away from her father. Toph and Katara face off over the issue of family roles in the group. Zuko’s destiny is to restore the honor of the Fire Nation now that he has struggled and suffered and followed his own path. Ultimately, what all the young people learn through their adventures is that they can shape their own destinies and they decide on their own honor.

There are some paired-off couples at the end of the show, after Zuko has been crowned Fire Lord and promises to aid the Avatar in guiding the world into an era of peace. Sokka and Suki are together, exchanging a brief kiss before they’re separated during the air ship takedown. Mai returns for Zuko and there’s a kiss, though she warns him to “never break up with me again.” And the final shot of the show, before the ending title card is a silent scene between Katara and Aang, where they exchange a deep kiss.

I have to admit, I am in the camp in the fandom that prefers to pair Katara and Zuko. They’re a bit closer in age to one another and the show even demonstrates the awkwardness of younger Aang and older Katara. Aang takes the idea of stage-Katara together with stage-Zuko too seriously and pushes a kiss when she says she’s confused. Also, there’s the dynamic of opposites. They’re opposite elements and started off on opposite sides of the war; but they’re both passionate and they make a good team. Reminder, this is my opinion, others may have different views.

Recommendations:
Fanfiction:
SWCLC; has an awesome slightly AU (alternate universe) series called “Airbender’s Child” (I don’t want to give away too much, but it does involve Zuko in the gang a lot earlier). Also has an excellent story “Arranging Marriages” (again, AU) and a “Proposal” series.
YouTube:
ChannelAwesome: the Nostalgia Critic has an entire series of vlogs (video logs) on each episode of Last Airbender and a load of other content.
HelloFutureMe: also has a lot of content on Last Airbender and other categories that are near and dear to my heart.

Next Time: we continue down the path of memory lane to Disney, starting with Snow White and the Seven Dwarves