The revelation that Milady de Winter is Athos’ treacherous wife, whom he believed was put to death years ago, spins the story in a different direction. Athos doesn’t fear for his own life – we’ve already seen that he doesn’t care if he lives or dies – but this revelation also places D’Artagnan’s life in immediate peril.
After the high drama of the opening scene, we quickly change gear as Porthos is brought face to face with the cuckolded husband of his latest mistress, Madame Coquenard. Porthos is humiliated by the elderly Monsieur Coquenard, who capers around in a bizarre fashion (complete with antlers on his head!) before collapsing.
D’Artagnan is summoned for a meeting with the Cardinal. Pasco’s Cardinal remains conversational and reasonable – as stated before, it makes a change from portraying Richelieu as a cackling villain and it only serves to make him all the more deadly. He doesn’t attempt to suborn people through fear, instead he uses the much subtler weapon of charm. And even when he gives D’Artagnan an ultimatum, Pasco still doesn’t raise his voice. “Up till now, whether you knew it or not, my hand has been behind you. The moment I withdraw my hand, why then my friend I would not give one farthing for your life. You will remember hereafter, if any misfortune befalls you.”
There’s more odd shot changes during this meeting. Every so often, the camera cuts away from the two actors to show the various suits of armour dotted around the room. If it happened once you might believe it was a miscue from the vision mixer, when it happens again it must be a deliberate choice.
Later, the Cardinal enlists the assistance of the three Musketeers to escort him to a meeting. This is a baffling move, since his meeting is with Athos’ hated wife Milady de Winter, whom he’s planning to send to England to meet with Buckingham.
The Cardinal wishes to prevent Buckingham from intervening in France’s civil war and has chosen the Englishman’s love, the Queen of France, as the lever. If Buckingham doesn’t withdraw his army, then the Queen’s honour will be tarnished beyond repair. With the three Musketeers ear-wigging in the next room, they now know all of the Cardinal’s plans ….
Once again an episode closes strongly, this time as Athos confronts his wife. Both Jeremy Young and Mary Peach are excellent in this short scene. Considering the wrongs he’s suffered, you might expect that vengeance would be uppermost on his mind, but, as highlighted before, he’s more concerned about D’Artagnan’s fate.