The Musketeers: 201 “Keep Your Friends Close” Review
Reviewed by Lewis Hurst.
And The Musketeers is back for another series! Alas, minus one beloved cast member. Yes, with Peter Capaldi having obligations elsewhere in time and space, the first scene of this episode quickly told us Cardinal Richelieu had conveniently died in-between series 1 and 2. Sadly a reason was not given. We can only imagine he died choking on all that scenery he was chewing! When it was first announced the Cardinal would be killed off, rather than recast or replaced with a suspiciously similar new Cardinal, I was worried about how the show would progress without Capaldi, arguably its strongest factor.
I needn’t have worried. Marc Warren impressed as Rochefort (sadly missing his trademark eye patch from previous adaptations), giving us a new villain who wasn’t just a carbon copy of the Cardinal. Rochefort felt unstable. Unlike the Cardinal, who was cold and calculating with every plan carefully planned out, Rochefort feels more like the type who’ll just roll with what he’s given. If the Cardinal was in it for the long game, Rochefort is the “dogs chasing cars” type. Warren gave a surprisingly subdued performance, making Rochefort very menacing, like the calm demeanour was disguising a ticking time bomb that might go off any second. Seeing Rochefort develop throughout the series will be interesting. Here’s hoping he can be as strong a threat as the Cardinal.
As for the plot in this week’s episode, it was fairly standard. It seemed mainly focused on setting the pieces in place for the rest of the series. Not to say the rescue wasn’t thrilling (it was), but it was rather small scale. But it put all the pieces in place so I suppose it can’t be held against the episode. I just didn’t feel any sense of threat or peril. We know Rochefort won’t succeed. We know the Musketeers will return unscathed. And we know the general will not give up his secrets. In fact, I got the general sense the Spanish had just given up trying to get him to talk, although this could have been part of Rochefort’s plan. A healthy General is easier to bring home than a wounded and tortured general.
And D’Artagnan and Constance… good heaven this show seems determined to keep the two apart. Then again, if they were together, what would Constance do if she isn’t pining for D’Artagnan while stuck in an unhappy marriage? D’Artagnan kissing Lucie was an obvious attempt by the writers to create yet another rift in their relationship, as if they needed one. I hope Lucie appears in more episodes this series, as well as being a great character in the short time we knew her, it would make the kiss make more sense if Lucie is to stick around for a bit. Perhaps D’Artagnan could pursue a relationship with Lucie, making Constance jealous as a result?
Aramis meanwhile is grappling with the idea that he can never be a father to his son. It’s a nice personal story that will hopefully develop. My one complaint is that Aramis and the Queen didn’t get a scene together to talk about it. Hopefully that will come later in the series. The danger involved with Aramis’ dilemma will be interesting to see unfold. There’s no denying, this is TV drama. The King will find out Aramis is the true father of his child sooner or later. It’s not a question of if; it’s a question of when. Especially since the end of the episode reveals that the Cardinal can continue to menace the Musketeers from beyond the grave, sadly not as a ghost. It’s more than likely the Cardinal imparted his knowledge of the child not being the King’s to one of his lieutenants before he passed, with the knowledge to be unveiled at the right time. But the question is who does know? If Rochefort is the Cardinal’s most trusted lieutenant, then he is the prime candidate. Is this information something he plans to use to drive a wedge between the King and Queen as he plan to? Getting the Queen and Aramis imprisoned and possibly executed for treason is a pretty big scheme and could be exactly what Rochefort needs to throw France into disarray, provided he does know the truth that is.
Speaking of the Cardinal, I almost expected the Cardinal himself to reveal himself as still alive when Aramis and Athos were taken to the crypt. It would be a stunning twist on the part of the writers. But hey, I suppose there’s always the imagination.
On other lingering story threads, it’s going to be interesting to see if Porthos will learn the truth of his parentage. Exactly what occurred and what that truth is, well that’s a mystery. Here’s hoping it develops strongly.
The directing of this episode was pretty well done I must say. The action scenes were all fairly well shot and got the right tonal beats when it came to the action. The chasm sequence was well shot and proved to be sufficiently thrilling. And of course, Murray Gold’s musical score was top notch once again (seriously, where is that soundtrack BBC?).
And of course a special shout out to the humour in this episode. I practically lost it when Lucie automatically assumed D’Artagnan was gay upon seeing him with his shirt off and a man in his underwear on the floor. Plus, being gay myself, it was great to see Lucie not bat an eyelid and simply tell D’Artagnan to find somewhere else to indulge in his “activities”. It’s nice to see BBC promoting acceptance of homosexuality, even if I must assume it wasn’t exactly prominent in 1630 France. But it’s a nice touch and it made me laugh.
Overall, it was a strong start to the series with all the pieces being put in place for future episodes. While I had some quibbles, it didn’t detract too much from the episode to impact my enjoyment. Here’s hoping for the rest of the series to be just as strong. Plus the wonderful Maimie McCoy is back next week as Milady De Winter! That can only mean good things!