The Musketeers: 102 “Sleight of Hand” Review
Reviewed by Lewis Hurst.
After a shaky, but still great, first episode, The Musketeers had a lot to prove this week. But prove itself it did with a good episode.
With Richelieu putting his scheming on hold for this week (to a degree anyway), it was up to guest star Jason Flemyng as Vadim to be our villain for this week. Flemyng was great in the role and made scenes featuring Vadim watchable and enthralling. The way Flemyng filled Vadim with a sense of confidence that he could not be stopped was marvellous to watch on screen. It was in the writing Vadim fell apart. He had no real motivation apart from greed. But as this was just a filler episode and we’re unlikely to see Vadim again (unless the show takes a very different approach) I’m willing to let it slide.
The plot this week was interesting, even if it wasn’t as great as it could have been. The plot took a few too many twists and turns that it started to stretch credibility at times. First there wasn’t an assassination plot, then there was, then there wasn’t etc. The twists worked early on in the episode, with the episode making us believe that our main trio has left D’Artagnan to rot in prison only to reveal it was all part of a plan to get D’Artagnan in jail in order to talk to Vadim was a stroke of brilliance. Now, being the genre savvy viewer I am, I found it suspicious that Vadim would completely trust D’Artagnan after exchanging no more than a few words with him so it was a nice touch when it was revealed Vadim knew D’Artagnan was a spy all along and was simply playing a game as he was so confident the Musketeers could not stop him.
One thing this episode improved on from last week’s was that it took time to develop characters a little more. Everyone seemed better written this week. Athos in particular shows a little character taking on a type of father figure role for D’Artagnan, believing he’s not ready for this sort of mission. In fact, all three of the Musketeers start to show a more big brother/fatherly type of relationship towards their newest recruit which was a very nice touch. Meanwhile Constance seems to be becoming aware of her growing feelings for D’Artagnan which should play out well in coming episodes. Aramis meanwhile seems to have set his eyes on the Queen, while she has her eyes on him, which will probably end badly for the both of them. This should be an interesting story to see develop.
And of course, Milady had some stuff to do as well. Saving D’Artagnan from some pursuers and then manipulating his lingering feelings for her in an attempt to make him switch sides should ignite some significant emotional turmoil later in the series. It’s possible the show may play up the question of if Milady has any feelings for D’Artagnan or just sees him as a pawn to be used and cast aside. If so, I look forward to seeing it develop.
The episode was once again stylishly directed by Jamie Payne creating some truly beautiful shots and making the action fun and intense to watch on screen. The use of light and dark in the conclusion of the episode worked brilliantly in giving Vadim an almost supernatural feel, playing into his theme of misdirection.
Despite its problems, this episode was still a lot of fun. While it wasn’t as good as last week’s instalment, the show now seems to have found its balance and style, hopefully setting the tone for the rest of the series. While this was no more than a filler episode, it was a very good one with a lot of nice touches making it a fun, entertaining venture that you won’t want to miss.