Thursday, October 2, 2014

BBC's The Musketeers Reviewed!

The BBC's The Musketeers has all the adventure and fun of the original Pirates of the Caribbean, except in series format.

King Louis XIII is guarded by his Musketeers including Athos, Porthos and Arimis. They, along with their fellow comrades often come up against assassination attempts on the King and the Queen, city schemes, thievery and murder. The evil Cardinal, whilst principle advisor to the King, is ever plotting and scheming for his own ends and what he believes to be the ultimate good for the Church. The Musketeers are joined by D'Artagnan, a famer's son who is initially seeking revenge for his father's murder. Although not officially a Musketeer, D'Artagnan quickly becomes close friends with Athos, Porthos and Arimis and joins them on their adventures.

Follow me under the cut for more on the first season of The Musketeers and in particular the Season 1 finale!

I have to say, in this version of the classic Musketeers tale; Athos, Aramis, Porthos and D'Artagnan are cast perfectly. Their chemistry together makes for a lot of warm fuzzies when watching the series and their brotherhood becomes more believable as the series continues.

As the King's personal guards, the Musketeers (particularly these ones) often find themselves in danger and in battle. Each character has his own vice to deal with throughout the season; D'Artagnan has a hot and quick temper as well as a desire to be commissioned as a full Musketeer, Porthos has a darker past and some drinking issues, Arimis is a lover and often finds himself in trouble with the significant others of various women and Athos has his guilt over the supposed death of his wife.

All of these stories are explored throughout the season and there is sufficient character development to keep the show entertaining whilst being light-hearted.

Athos' wife, it turns out, is not dead and in fact works for the Cardinal as his hired assassin in many ways. She seeks to seduce D'Artagnan and pit the friends against each other, however this isn't so much for the Cardinal as it is for her own revenge. We discover that in fact, Athos was the one who sentenced his wife to the noose upon hearing of her past life and after she killed his brother who had found out and threatened their happiness. The two are continually confronted with both each other and their past and are unable to come away from it with any closure.

The show is colourful and accessible as well as being predominantly a bit of fun. Although there are some darker moments, The Musketeers is more about some neat fight sequences, some bonding and some hats.

The season finale was actually, until the last 15 mins or so, quite satisfying. It's always great when a show gets the mood and the pace right and such a disappointment when their don't. In many ways, The Musketeers did both of these things in its finale.

The episode opens with a drunken Athos shooting D'Artagnan when he moves to stop Athos from shooting his former wife Milady de Winter. D'Artagnan wakes up in her chambers being cared for after the shot grazed his side. She tells him that his comrades left him in the street after he was wounded and after his initial disbelief, Captain Treville arrives to tell him that the Musketeers no longer want or require his services. Shocked and angry, he agrees to kill Athos for Milady de Winter.

At this stage I begin to feel like this is all going too fast. Why do they suddenly hate each other so much, where is the camaraderie gone? Thankfully, it is revealed that D'Artagnan and the other Musketeers are still all friends and that this is a plot to get the Cardinal to confess to his involvement in the recent attempt on Queen Anne's life.

D'Artagnan, Arimis and Porthos stage a fight in which D’Artagnan seemingly kills Athos. He rushes to Milady de Winter to seek the Cardinal's protection as the other Musketeers will surely want him dead.

Upon meeting with the Cardinal, he agrees to have a letter implicating the Cardinal traded by Porthos and Arimis seemingly in return for his own execution, but instead suggesting that the Cardinal protect him and give him employment in the Red Guard.

Milady de Winter suspects that this plan might be a trap and so employs her own men to rid herself of the Musketeers and kidnaps Constance - whom D'Artagnan is in love with - to use as leverage if necessary.

The Cardinal reveals his involvement in the attempt on the Queen's life to Arimis, Porthos and D'Artagnan and when he believes that there is nothing that any of them can do with this information anyway, Queen Anne herself steps out of the shadows and reminds him of her power and influence with the King.

Here is where the finale misses its first greatest opportunity; Queen Anne pardons the Cardinal. Not only does this make no sense dramatically or plot wise, it is also the perfect way to write Peter Capaldi out of the show, and soon after, he was cast as the Twelfth Doctor in Doctor Who and will no longer be able to reprise his role as the Cardinal anyway. I really think that they should have bitten the bullet on this one before hand and would have been seeing much greater benefits now.

Queen Anne also reveals her pregnancy soon after this and alludes to Arimis that it is his child. Of course, the Cardinal overhears this, or at least suspects the connection, setting up the tension for next season which will have to be re-established now without his character.

The Musketeers engage in a great battle against Milady de Winter's hired guns and it's a really fun and action packed scene that the show would definitely benefit from more of. During the battle, Milady de Winter recaptures Constance and is going to use her to bargain when she gets away. Athos does not kill de Winter and tells her to go far away and never show her face again. Even when she indicates that their lives and fates are bound to one another, Athos still allows her to walk away. This felt forced and made very little emotional or logical sense. The chemistry between the characters certainly does not lead me to believe that Athos would have spared her for any reason, but additionally, his own guilt at all the people that she had mu... would surely override his guilt at initially sentencing her to death. It's pretty disappointing.

With Constance safe, she and D'Artagnan admit their true affections for each other once again and in a very satisfying way for viewers. However, when whey return to her home they discover her husband claiming to have tried to end his life by jumping off the roof of their house and threatening to kill himself if she ever leaves him, despite knowing that she and D'Artagnan have been seeing each other. It's a real shame as this emotional blackmail is used to split the two characters the second they are realistically put together and carries on an old stereotype that would have been much better broken.

All up, the first season of The Musketeers is a great and fun romp and although the very end left a little to be desired, there is certainly hope for season two. Unfortunately, I recently read that season two was aiming for a much more adult audience with more violence and more sex scenes. This is really frustrating as there are a lot of shows on television at the moment that do exactly this and it's getting boring. I would have loved to see The Musketeers continue as a more family friendly period show that is more about fun than about realism or darkness. To be honest, it's beginnings were a little confused on this front with the more adult content seeping through initially and then the show finding its feet in the lighter humour and plot lines.

I guess I'll have to wait and see what season two holds.

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