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Informal Reviews - The Musketeers

I dont watch that much TV. OK, Ill rephrase that; I dont watch that much live TV. Anything I do watch is on catch-up services like iPlayer. To take things further, Id say that BBC 1 is a channel I rarely see. They have only put on two shows that I watch. The first is Have I Got News for You, while the other, more recent production is The Musketeers. For those who dont know, The Musketeers is a very loose adaptation of Alexandre Dumas The Three Musketeers, and by very, I mean its a series of self -contained adventures that use the same characters and setting. Granted, all adaptations have to be different, but this follows the source material so loosely that it barely qualifies as one. Anyway, with the concept out of the way, lets talk about the series. Luke Pasqualino plays DArtagnan, a young swordsman from Gascony travelling to Paris with his father. While at an inn, DArtagnans father is murdered by a man claiming to be Athos of the Musketeers, a prestigious regiment dedicated to protecting King Louis XIII, played by Ryan Gage. Seeking revenge, DArtagnan travels to Paris where he confronts the eponymous Musketeers: Tom Burke as Athos, a noble with a troubled past; the boisterous giant Porthos, played by Howard Charles; and Santiago Carbrera as Aramis, depicted as a Casanova serving as the brains of the group. They all serve under Captain Treville, played by Hugo Speer, and spend most of their getting into fights with members of the Red Guards, a regiment who pledge their allegiance to Cardinal Richelieu, the Kings closest adviser. Speaking of Cardinals, Peter Capaldi plays an amoral, high-ranking politician who schemes and plots for his personal benefit as well as that of his country. This is not to be confused with Capaldis other famous role in The Thick of It, in which he plays an amoral, high-ranking politician who schemes and plots for his personal benefit as well as that of his country. Really, they are different. The Cardinal isnt as foul mouthed as Malcolm Tucker, and has even less scruples. I reckon that Cardinal Richelieu is the archetypal Grand Vizier in the world of fiction. While the historical figure might not have been anything like any of his depictions, Dumas did end up giving him the popular image everyone sees him as. He is a lot different from Tim Curry in the Disney version, in that he doesnt seek the throne for himself, but he is still intent on controlling it. Furthermore, he starts out as something of an anti-villain, as he believes that he is acting for the good of France. In a few episodes in the middle of the series, thats something which cannot be denied. I have to admit that the first episode wasnt great. I got the impression that the writers couldnt decide on the tone, dithering between campy swashbuckling and angst-ridden drama. The problem was that the campy swashbuckling had all been done before, which simultaneously made the drama feel tacked on. For example,

one scene involves Aramis having a relationship with Cardinal Tuckers mistress and having to hang out of a window to avoid being caught by the Cardinal. At the end of the episode, the mistress is killed by the Cardinal for her disloyalty. Fortunately, the series does end up improving later on. My pick of the season would be the third episode, Commodities. The story itself revolves around the Musketeers arrest Emile Bonnaire, a Lord Flashheart-style merchant and explorer who had violated trade agreements between France and Spain. The setup is very similar to Elmore Leonards short story, 3:10 to Yuma about a group of lawmen escorting a prisoner through dangerous lands. In the same way, the Musketeers have to escort Bonnaire from Le Havre to Paris, where they have to contend with rescue attempts from Bonnaires wife Maria, and an ambush by his angry business part ner, while at the same time being discreetly followed by two Spanish agents. When Porthos is wounded, they have to take refuge at a run-down chateau owned by Athos, where he tries to deal with his personal demons, primarily involving Richelieus spy, Milad y de Winter. The episode has drama which is more believable, particularly with Athos, and tensions mount even more when Porthos discovers that Bonnaire is a slave trader. Yeah, I forgot; Porthos is black in this version. Apparently it was intended to mirror Dumas father, the son of a slave and a French aristocrat who went on to become a Napoleonic Marshal. The season finale is just around the corner at the time of writing, and a second season has been commissioned. However, the issue with this is the fact that Cardinal Tucker is going to be written out, as Peter Capaldi is unable to return due to his new role in Doctor Who. I know the writers might not be too keen on recasting another Darrin, but I just cant see The Three Musketeers without the Cardinal. In conclusion, Id say that The Musketeers isnt for everyone, despite being on a mainstream channel. Its a little clichd and the fact that everyone in France sounds like theyre from EastEnders can be very distracting. However, I do enjoy the clichs, and the main characters all get some funny lines. If youre after an interesting period drama, this isnt for you, but if youre after some mind-numbing swashbuckling action to pass the time on a Sunday night, I thoroughly recommend it. Its all for fun and fun for all.

Written by Andrew Roberts