The Musketeers: 108 “The Challenge” Review
Reviewed by Lewis Hurst.
Well, who didn’t feel sorry for poor Constance at the end of that episode? Not only has her scheming husband forced her to end her affair with D’Artaganan, but now she believes that D’Artaganan has started a relationship with Milady. That poor woman. I’ve enjoyed seeing their relationship progress and after its significant leap last week for it now to be in its worst possible place leaves me hopeful for lots of drama in the next two episodes.
Now on to the episode itself. Well, in my personal opinion it was very hit and miss this week. There was an awful lot that worked, but there was some stuff that didn’t work either. The first half of the episode was pretty slow and dragged. There wasn’t an awful lot happening that was particularly interesting or engaging. D’Artagnan’s thirst for vengeance against Labarge, while a good idea, didn’t particularly interest me. Perhaps it’s because a burnt down farm is not a particularly engaging motive for audiences. Porthos’ romance with Alice meanwhile felt like a waste of screen time, especially when at the end of the episode it didn’t seem to do anything to change him as a character. The scenes themselves were nice, but it just felt like they were a distraction from the main story, and in fact, didn’t we cover all this earlier in the series? But there’s no denying that the second half of the episode was a huge improvement with the many subplots coming to a head and leading to a satisfying climax.
Athos trying to train D’Artagnan to be a Musketeer was an excellent touch though. It allowed both characters to develop a little and built up a strong bond between them, making Athos almost a replacement father figure for D’Artagnan. Athos coming to D’Artagnan’s rescue in the Bastille was a great scene, really solidifying the friendship and the nice revelation that Athos sees himself in D’Artagnan was an excellent touch.
Captain Treville was in focus this week. I couldn’t help but be moved when he chose to name himself as champion in order to stop any of his men facing Labarge. It was an excellent spot of development for the character and in the duel, I believed that Treville would actually die. While I am glad he didn’t, I can’t deny it would have been a very emotional end to the episode. The Cardinal meanwhile didn’t do much this week apart from being a very pantomime villain with it certainly seeming that he was doing evil things for evil’s sake. Perhaps this is tying him with his more ruthless ideals as introduced last week, but certainly there are better ways for this to be portrayed than just turning Richelieu into a “boo, hiss” pantomime villain. Milady however got up to quite a bit this week. Despite giving D’Artagnan the money he needed, she’s revealed she plans to turn him over to the Cardinal’s side very soon. Exactly how she will manage this remains to be seen, but with her threat to Athos it certainly seems she doesn’t have D’Artagnan’s best interests at heart.
Director Farren Blackburn was an interesting choice this week. His directing shots were strong and engrossing. Everything was well framed and the action was well shot, but I felt the directing wasn’t as visually enticing as in previous weeks. While good, it just didn’t sing to me like previous episodes did.
And of course, I must mention that D’Artagnan is finally a Musketeer! After 8 episodes no less. It’s taken a while but it’s finally occurred. While I feel it should have happened earlier in the series, it’s great that D’Artagnan has finally proved his worth.
Overall, I felt this episode was a mixed bag. What worked, worked very well, but what didn’t work stuck out like a sore thumb. It certainly wasn’t The Musketeers finest moment but it wasn’t its worse either, leading to an above average episode that while parts of it are significant is pretty forgettable overall.