The Musketeers: 302 “The Hunger” Review
Reviewed by Lewis Hurst.
The Musketeers continues to take a progressively darker tone this week as the show delved into slight political intrigue and conspiracy, seeming to be taking more and more notes from Game of Thrones this series, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing; as long as the show doesn’t lose what makes it unique along the way. Thankfully this episode provided a strong plot, a new main character who looks set to be a fine addition to the cast, and a deeper insight into our new villains in an excellent instalment that proves the last episode, while entertaining, was simply putting the pieces in place so stronger stories could be told.
The most important addition in this episode was Sylvie, played by newcomer to the screen Thalissa Teixeira. With Milady de Winter absent until later in the series due to Maimie McCoy’s pregnancy, the writers saw fit to give Athos a new love interest until then. Sylvie could easily have come across as a filler character until Milady returned, thankfully this proved not to be the case. Sylvie proved herself to be a great character, one who is at odds with Athos ideologically as opposed to morally with Sylvie being not too fond of the king and the current running of the country; foreshadowing the French Revolution in 1789, over 100 years after the show takes place. Louis’ great-great-great grandson would be executed during these revolutions, ending the monarchy in France until 1814. While this has no bearing on the show’s story, it’s nice to see the show has kept some historical accuracy by planting the seeds of dissent among the populace.
But back to Sylvie, I must say she was a very watchable presence on screen. Despite being a relative newcomer to the screen, Teixeira held her own very well against the main cast showing strong acting ability and even managing to outshine others during the episode; Sylvie’s outburst of anger after Leon’s death and her grieving over her father’s corpse come to mind. And it’s always nice to see actresses of different races get major roles in film and TV, especially if they’ve been cast for talent (which occurred here) which is the correct way to cast diversely; cast the best actor for the role regardless of race. Diverse casting is a very touchy issue at the moment thanks to “#OscarsSoWhite” controversy so it’s always great to see a show cast diversely in the correct way instead of just trying to tick a diversity box. I greatly look forward to seeing more of Sylvie as the series progresses.
We saw a different side to villains Feron and Grimaud this week as it was revealed their working relationship is a volatile one with Feron trying to curb Grimaud’s violent nature whereas Grimaud shows resentment to Feron for his “weakness” by taking medication to escape his pain. The scenes involving the two were particularly tense, with it not being exactly clear who had the most power. It was an interesting decision to show the two at such odds like this, perhaps implying a rift may occur later in the series leaving the Musketeers to face two threats as opposed to one. But despite this, the two seemed to work well together effectively with Feron handling the political side and Grimaud handling the “dirty work”, even if Grimaud did not take well to being told not to kill the Duke as his death would cause too many questions. The two are an interesting pair and if they continue to be written as well they could emerge as the show’s stronger villains.
A highlight of the episode had to be Hubert and d’Artagnan’s conversations in the cells and the unlikely friendship that sprang between them. It was a nice change of pace for the show to slow down and let us get to know some of the guest characters a little more. Hubert was an interesting character and presence and seeing him and d’Artagnan not exactly agree but come to a mutual understanding and respect of sorts was a nice touch. In fact, I was saddened to see Hubert die as I felt he could have contributed a lot more but his death was the main driving force for Sylvie joining forces with the Musketeers, so I can understand why it had to happen.
An issue I found with the episode was again Constance. Just like Spoils of War, Constance doesn’t really have a part in the episode. She could easily be removed with little problems. I’m slightly worried by this treatment of the character; do the writers have no idea what to do with her now her romantic subplot is resolved? The best part about Constance in Series 1 and 2 was there being more to her than her love for d’Artagnan. To see all that vanish just because the romance subplot is resolved is saddening. I hope Constance gets treated better as the series progresses.
Another issue is the slightly awkward placement of the titles sequence. It interrupted the flow of the episode’s opening and was quite jarring. Perhaps, in future, the title sequence may be better placed at the very start of the episode so the show can drop the “pre-titles sequence” which this episode proves it really doesn’t need or want.
Speaking of editing, the placement of some scenes also felt a little off. While it wasn’t a huge issue, I can’t help but think some scenes could have been switched or the flow reworked. It didn’t hurt the episode however, but a bit more natural flow can’t hurt things. While it’s certainly a limit of the format, many television shows do struggle with pacing; it’s something the show should be trying to fix. Good pacing can help overcome shortcomings in other areas.
The plot of this episode was pretty great. It took the expected twists and turns (some predictable) but it serviced the episode brilliantly. Some writers seem to believe you need a complicated plot to keep audiences interested, but time and time again it’s proven that even a simpler story can be great if it’s well told. In the hands of another writer, the Duke being in league with Feron would have been a late game twist but thankfully writer Simon J. Ashford realises there’s no reason to withhold that from the audience and instead offers it up early and moves the story along. The episode allowed the characters to carry the story with the plot being heavily tied into the personal arcs of several characters. Notice how the title The Hunger can refer to not only the literal hunger of the people of Paris, but Grimaud’s hunger for blood? Or Feron’s hunger to be free of his pain? Or Sylvie’s hunger for revenge? Or Aramis’s hunger to be the man he used to be? And so on. It’s proof of great writing. Any good story should be able to be stripped down to a singular theme and all the character arcs and other storylines should fit this theme or grow from it somehow. This allows a more focused story and every element feeling natural to the story itself. And this episode did just that, with the theme being “hunger”.
This episode was a strong entry in the series. Not only did it introduce a great new main character, it also told a great plot and took the show down a darker path. If The Musketeers is to head further down this path, I’m excited to see the results. Especially since there’s no risk of alienating viewers and getting cancelled anymore, it can allow the writers to do whatever they want. This episode also had one of the stronger scripts in the show’s history, with excellent use of the theme “hunger” and developing the characters in unique ways through this. While the episode wasn’t perfect, it was a very entertaining instalment that promises more greatness to come.