As Rochefort puts his ultimate plan into action, the Musketeers race to rescue Queen Anne and launch a desperate plan to save France from falling under Spanish control.
Like many opening instalments of a two-part finale, this episode suffers a little from lethargic pace and some padded plotting as the Musketeers rescue Anne and squirrel her away to safety at the convent, only for her to determine to return to Paris almost immediately. But with Rochefort growing more unhinged by the minute – to the extent that he’s willing to poison King Louis just to reinforce his position – the unfortunate Doctor Lemay literally losing his head and both Constance and Aramis facing their darkest hours, there’s a definite sense of both personal jeopardy and bigger political stakes with France’s sovereign status the ultimate prize.
Though never unpredictable, various ongoing plot elements come full circle to good effect here. Rochefort uses Anne’s letters to her brother, the King of Spain (written at his behest in An Ordinary Man) as leverage to strengthen his position. Anne is brought back to the convent (from last season’s Knight Takes Queen) where she slept with Aramis and conceived the Dauphin. And the culmination of Marguerite‘s jealousy of Aramis and Anne results in his arrest for treason.
Only the return of Catherine, Athos‘s brother’s fiancée from The Return, falls flat, as her mission of vengeance against Milady proves to be little more than a trivial and barely needed plot device to help bring the former husband and wife closer together again, leading to their kiss after hiding from Rochefort in Cardinal Richelieu’s secret cabinet. It’s a terribly leaden and underwhelming return for a character who had been built up to be a major threat only to utterly underwhelm.
The series’s three major female characters all feature strongly in an episode which is as much about their bravery as it is the Musketeers’. Anne is steely and resolute, unafraid to risk her life to protect her adopted country from her homeland despite the efforts of the Musketeers to ensure her safety. Milady demonstrates that she is capable of acting for the greater good – or, at least, doing the right thing when it coincides with her desire to get her revenge on Rochefort after he nearly chokes her to death and makes her beg for his forgiveness. And Constance insists on staying at the palace to protect the Dauphin and stoically refuses to testify against Aramis and Anne even when Rochefort has Lemay executed and sentences her to the same fate the following morning.
Which leaves us with Constance facing death, Aramis accused of treason and Rochefort on the point of a bloodless palace coup, with only Porthos – riding into the lion’s den to lure the spy-master Vargas – standing in the way of preventing Spain from winning a war without even needing to fight a battle. Can the Musketeers overcome the odds and defeat their nemesis before France falls?
Not bad. Clunky and contrived in places – with the moments of tension between the various Musketeers feeling particularly forced – but good enough to tee up next week’s season finale nicely. This season’s darker episodes have tended to be the show’s weakest but this one works well enough without ever quite fizzing off the screen.