The Musketeers: 101 “Friends and Enemies” Review
Reviewed by Lewis Hurst.
Adrian Hodges kicks off his ten part drama The Musketeers in a strong, if somewhat shaky first instalment. This was a fairly typical first episode, setting up the major characters and plot points for the rest of the series.
The plot as it was presented in the episode was a fairly simple one that was pretty easy to follow, if a bit predictable. I couldn’t help but feel that it was the wrong sort of story for a first episode. Imposter Musketeers and the impending execution of one of the main cast feels like something you would expect to find later in the series after we’ve got to know the group a bit more. The story was very good, but it may have made a bit more sense to do something much safer and serves to show off each of the characters a bit more. But the story was entertaining enough and opened the show up for more interesting stories in the future so I suppose I can’t complain too much.
Sadly, the plot put one of the three Musketeers out of action, with Athos arrested and due to be executed for crimes he didn’t commit. For a first episode, this struck me as a strange move to put one of your main characters, in fact the first billed in the opening credits, in a prison cell for most of the first episode. While this allowed us to get to know D’Artagnan, Porthos and Aramis a little more it bugged me that Athos is still very much an enigma and it’s sad to see a pretty strong performance from Tom Burke go to waste here. Hopefully he will receive a little more focus in the next few episodes.
As for the other main characters, they were all well-written and likeable. Luke Pasqualino was fun and immensely likeable as D’Artagnan, showing strong acting chops that should allow him to hold his own when he goes up against a certain Cardinal later in the series. Aramis was the more instantly loveable members of the group with Santiago Cabrera giving one of the best performances I have personally seen him give… and this is a Lancelot fan speaking. Porthos on the other hand was enjoyable, but could quickly become overused, his type of humour could become old very easily. But on the other hand it was a lot of fun seeing him attempt to take on an opponent armed with just a fork.
Tamla Kari portrayed a very tough and no nonsense Constance Bonacieux who instead of falling head over heels for D’Artagnan puts him in his place rather quickly. D’Artagnan roping her in to help towards the end… dressed as a prostitute to distract a guard was pretty funny. We didn’t see enough of her to really get a sense of her character although there’s enough to suggest that she may have some feelings for D’Artagnan despite her marriage to another man. Maimie McCoy as Milady de Winter however was an absolute joy on screen, oozing just the right amount of menace and seductive charm to make her a considerable threat to the heroes. It was a nice touch seeing her change the parameters of her mission by killing Mendoza, making it clear to Richelieu that she works for him on her terms, not his.
But of course the highlight of the episode was Peter Capaldi as Cardinal Richelieu. Many will be tuning in to get a taste of the new Doctor and Capaldi didn’t disappoint. He oozed menace every time he was on screen. Capaldi made the role his own, giving Richelieu an air of evil that few other actors could manage. When it was revealed that most of the episode’s plot was simply to further Richelieu’s goal of starting a war with Spain, it made him an excellent villain in my mind. He didn’t care that an innocent man was about to lose his life, all Richelieu wanted was his ultimate goal. Richelieu is also a very cold man, killing his mistress simply because she slept with another man and then poisoning one of his own guards just to keep him quiet. Capaldi’s presence on screen is intoxicating and he is immensely watchable for every moment he is on screen.
The episode was superbly directed by Toby Haynes and was filled with stylish shots making full use of the show’s exquisite sets and the beautiful locations in Prague. Shots of the Musketeer’s all in black riding across snow-ridden environments stick in the mind and are particularly memorable. The action was fun and engaging to watch on screen and the episode was filled with shots that, if viewed on a cinema screen would rival anything that Hollywood could put out.
The episode was further helped along by an excellent score from composer Murray Gold. Better known for his work on Doctor Who, Gold composed a smaller more intimate score for this show that wasn’t afraid to go big in the action sequences. If there is a soundtrack release I will certainly be getting it. Sadly, the theme didn’t sit right with me. Feeling a little too upbeat for what is a very dark show, it stuck out like a sore thumb. It is a very good theme, but just not the right one for this type of show.
The Musketeers charged out of the gate with a strong episode that sets up the show perfectly, despite its few issues. The weakness in parts of the script were covered up by stylish direction, great music and excellent performances from all involved. Friends and Enemies started off weakly but soon shot off like a rocket, telling a very fast paced and epic tale not afraid to take a few risks making the show a welcome change of pace compared to the safer more family-friendly Atlantis.