Dee Discusses: The Musketeers Season 1

Posted: December 26, 2014 by Dee in Dee, General Media, Musketeers, Television
Tags: , , , , , , ,

There are spoilers in this review.

I love love love love love The Musketeers and all things related to the Musketeers. There is something about the story and time period that steals my heart away, much like Sherlock Holmes or Camelot. This is hardly rare, because these fandoms keep coming back in one incarnation or the other. They live in the collective imagination. I’ve read the book by Alexandre Dumas, and highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t yet. So when my friend Andrea told me the BBC started a new TV series on it, I was intrigued. I watched every episode available at the time and then anxiously waited for each new episode. The BBC is smart, having shorter seasons so there’s no filler to speak of, but I went “noooo I want more!” Luckily, season two starts on January 2nd, so I thought I’d write this first to prepare for it.

What I always appreciate about television is that it has the time to develop characters and plot over several episodes. Because of that, I grew closer and more affectionate toward each of the main characters as time went on. The show is about the King’s Musketeers during the 17th century, a group of skilled and honorable warriors who exist specifically to protect the King. In this case it’s King Louis XIII. They are ever at odds with Cardinal Richelieu’s men; the Cardinal is used to having Louis’ ear alone, and he doesn’t appreciate the King becoming his own person. Much of the show is about the Cardinal grasping for power and control, manipulating everyone to get it, and the Musketeers attempting to thwart him at every turn. The Cardinal is now off the show, due to Capaldi becoming Doctor Who, but they already have planned his replacement as the big bad guy: the Compte de Rochefort, also a great character from the novel. The Cardinal is not dead, however, so perhaps he could show up again. Meanwhile we get to know the main cast, a little about their past, and their motivations. I’m probably going to ramble more about characters separately, because on the whole the show is like a period piece procedural. Every week there’s a case they have to solve, they do, huzzah, next episode.

themusketeerstoget_2790590b

D’Artagnan is arguably the main character, or at least the person the viewers identify with first since he’s who we see first. And he’s the stranger in a strange world, wanting desperately to prove himself honorable and worthy of the Musketeers. He came a long way from when he first showed up, prideful and angry and wanting to kill Athos to avenge his father. Over the season he struggled to become a Musketeer, especially considering he lost his lands and was barely keeping afloat. He became comrades and best friends with the other three, and fell in love with the married Constance. Constance was mostly defined by her relationship with D’Artagnan, which is a shame I think. She gets involved with the plot usually only because he needs it, and I’d love to see more of her own motivations. She’s supportive of the Musketeers and brave and intelligent. They do address the realities of the time, with a woman’s worth being tied to her husband, and an arranged marriage for Constance didn’t exactly mean happiness. I don’t like infidelity storylines; I still wish her husband didn’t care about it, like they could lead their own separate lives. Obviously that wouldn’t happen, especially in the time period, since the question of heirs comes up. They did the classic “break up with him to save him” trope, and that just made me sigh. I’d really like to see Constance have a storyline that isn’t solely connected with the men in her life.

Athos has always been my favorite character, in the books and all subsequent material. While I’m not a fan of bad boys, I do have a soft spot for melancholic characters. I was hard on Tom Burke when the show first started because he was purposefully cold and withdrawn. He took a little time to grow on me, and it makes sense for his character. Athos is a former nobleman, and he’s extremely private, which is why it takes so long for the others to learn anything about him. Including his relationship with his ex-wife. Errr, is she even ex? They didn’t exactly have a divorce, nor did she die. Athos is tormented by the memory of his one true love, Milady, who had a past and killed his brother. We still haven’t gotten all the exact details on it, but generally she had a bad past, his brother found out and threatened to expose her, and she killed him. Athos then was forced to have her hanged as punishment for her crime, and that destroyed him. He abandoned his home and title. Somehow the other two wormed their way into his life, and he’s a very loyal and protective friend. He’s just dry and overly calm about it. The destructive relationship with Milady and Athos is a huge driving point of the season. She’s working for the Cardinal and wants him dead, while at the same time, there’s this sick sort of obsessive love they have for each other. She was defeated in the end and he allowed her to live, but she was exiled. Clearly we already saw in the trailer that she will be back. She did sleep with D’Artagnan in the first episode, but I’m glad that never became a real problem. They pretended Athos cared to trick her, but he and D’Artagnan weren’t really at odds over it.

uktv-the-musketeers-s01e10-still-04

Porthos’ background without a doubt is my favorite. They decided to go at a new angle here, and hire a mixed-race actor for the role. And went right ahead with addressing it on the show, with Porthos being the son of a former slave. He’s spent his whole life struggling to get from the gutters and treated like crap, both for his class and for his skin, and he’s very proud of his role as a Musketeer. I hope they continue with that angle, and I’d love to see them get more into how each of them joined the Musketeers. A flashback episode? How they joined and how they met each other. Don’t tell me I’m the only one interested in that. Porthos is kind and big hearted, and he’s usually the comedy relief, but all of the characters get to be funny in the show. Aramis is the most religious of the group, having at one point considered becoming a priest or dedicating himself to god. Obviously this life suits him better, especially with his eye for the ladies. Aramis is impulsive and often makes decisions that bite him in the ass later, and his companions have to bail him out of. But he always means well. It’s a shame he never found out that his lover in the first episode was killed by the Cardinal, I thought that was coming back. Moving forward Aramis’ story will be that the Queen’s son is actually his, and he’ll never be able to claim that role. I look forward to seeing how they navigate that, especially since it brings up questions of Anne’s intentions here. Having a child meant she got to keep her position and the King didn’t put her away. Was there any part of her that intentionally tried to do this? Or was she just giving up and having some fun while she could?

I’m fond of all the side characters too. Even the King grew on me with time. He came off as a little annoying and whiny, and he still does, but he can also be honest and noble at times too. I enjoyed the episode where his mother came back, because that was historically accurate – at least to a point, her betraying him was – and it was good growth for him. Anne is nice so far, I’d also like for her to have storylines outside of being a love interest. The Captain is great, him giving Athos’ eulogy with the others adding in commentary is still hilarious. His dedication to his people and to the crown is unshakeable. Even when he admitted to doing the wrong thing before, I loved that. Ninon was only in one episode and I want her to come back, because she was brilliant and fun to watch. Ninon also brought a storyline for both Anne and Constance that wasn’t defined by their romantic entanglements, so obviously it’s possible.

bbc1

Overall the season is a fun romp. I love the period piece. The costumes are great, the setting is fun, they use history to their advantage sometimes, and then other times just ignore it for plot reasons. The actors are all very charismatic, and their friendships feel very real. I always liked Constance’s friendship with the other Musketeers, and I’d love that to continue from here. The chemistry between the cast isn’t forced in the least, you believe they’ve been friends for many years. The actors work very hard behind the scenes to learn swordplay and be in fighting form. I like dark and twisted stories, and Athos/Milady certainly is that. But there is something very attractive about the noble ideals of the Musketeers and their quest for honor. They buy into the classical idea of knighthood, defending the weak and fighting against evil, but these versions aren’t afraid to get their hands a little dirty doing it. I enjoy the comedy the most about the show. It has serious plots, but it has this light hearted appeal to it. It’s warm and entertaining. Each episode has a major plot, but the overall story stays the same, up until the Cardinal’s actual fall from grace at the end. I’m curious to see how they’re going to go with Rochefort, because he’s much more aggressive than the Cardinal. January 2nd, I’m waiting for you.

Also the opening credit music is one of the best on TV. I groove to it all the time. When the show starts again, I’ll try to recap every episode.

Advertisements
Comments
  1. […] talked about my love for this show in the season 1 review, so naturally I was extremely excited for the premiere. It has spirit, charm, and great […]

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s