The Musketeers: 303 “Brother in Arms” Review
Reviewed by Lewis Hurst.
The Musketeers continues its winning streak with another good episode, showcasing the show’s plunge into darker territory with a story that focused on the poor treatment of soldiers by the government of Paris. It was a fairly engaging plot that worked for what the writers were trying to do. However, I do feel there was too little going on in the episode to support the episode’s length at nearly an hour which left the story feeling a little stretched as a result. While there was some nice character work, I couldn’t help but wish for less plot scenes and more character scenes throughout; especially when the plot’s third act began halfway through and was stretched over the remaining half hour. If there had been less scenes devoted to the plot and more scenes devoted to the characters things would not have felt so stretched.
Perhaps my biggest issue with this episode was it not developing its supporting cast enough. It was clear the episode wanted us to feel sympathy and emotion towards Christophe and Josephine, sadly there wasn’t enough time with them to make us feel sympathy. Even though the characters had a fair amount of screen time and were well written, they just didn’t have enough time for an emotional connection to be made and it feeling like a scene or two with the characters was missing from the episode. Apart from that, Christophe and Josephine had some nice scenes together and some good development, with Josephine’s death being touching if not providing the emotional reaction it should have.
The biggest revelation of this episode was Louis revealing to Treville that he is dying of tuberculosis. This was the strongest scene in the episode and was well acted by both Ryan Gage and Hugo Speer. Treville’s reaction to the news was a particularly nice touch. While other shows would have had Treville convey his reaction to the news through dialogue, the decision was instead made to show it through physicality with Treville saying nothing and just collapsing into a nearby seat with shock. It was an excellent touch that made Treville’s sorrow more real as a result. The revelation also explained Louis’ odd behaviour throughout the series so far.
Louis dying would cause a huge shake up for the show. For the longest time, it’s only been Louis and Anne who still hold faith in the Musketeers as a peace keeping force with many others not having such respect. Louie’s death would be a blow to the Musketeers in the political landscape and we can easily picture Feron minimising their role as much as possible. Louis is marked for death now and will likely pass before the end of the final episode this series. It’s just a matter of when. I imagine Louis will die sometime in the middle of the series so the show has enough time to deal with the aftermath of his death and for Feron to presumably make his grab for power. Feron talking with Gaston about the perils of childhood and possible misfortunes that may befall the Dauphin certainly indicates Feron may have his eyes on taking the throne and with Gaston in prison and Louis dying; Feron need only convince Louis to legitimise him and then “remove” the Dauphin in order to become the heir.
Constance shared a nice conversation with Anne about her fears of becoming d’Artagnan’s widow and holding off on having children because of this, not wanting to be a widow raising a fatherless child. This conversation was reflected at the climax with a look exchanged between Constance and d’Artagnan during Josephine’s death, revealing d’Artagnan also seems to be holding back on starting a family for the same reasons as Constance. It reminded me how much I enjoyed Constance as a character, but offerings like this are too little. The show again seems to be struggling to find something for Constance to do. I was willing to forgive this for the first two episodes, but three episodes in and finding a way to give Constance something to do that’s natural to the story and not forced still seems to elude the writing team.
Anne is also getting the same treatment, with other characters even pointing out how detached from events she is. My fears that the writers are just having Constance stick around so she can die at the most dramatic opportunity are slowly seeming to be realised. It’s an incredible shame that the writers seem to be at a loss for what to do with two of their female leads when there’s not a love triangle or secret affairs involved. I am hoping and praying Constance doesn’t end up “stuffed in the fridge” IE a female character killed off when the writers can’t find anything to do with them and/or to give a male character emotional angst (so named for an infamous sequence from the Green Lantern comics) similar to several female characters over the years.
The action scenes in this episode were fairly enjoyable. The big face-off between the Musketeers, the soldiers and the Red Guards was a particular highlight, even if Constance conveniently arriving with reinforcements at the same time as Sylvie was a tiny bit cheesy. The shootout was certainly the stronger part of the battle.
The episode’s “guest” villain Prince Gaston was an interesting addition with a strong performance by Andre Flynn. Portrayed as someone who will do anything to get on top and stay on top, Gaston was also a man who was incredibly out of his depth in the political landscape. Gaston was an unpleasant character who certainly deserved what was coming to him, which is presumably living out his days in prison for treason. It’s always great to see political manipulations on the show, a shade of the series taking a Game of Thrones like approach, and Feron proved himself to be a master in this episode, showing some of his true intelligence and cementing himself as a powerful villain. Feron manipulated his brother’s blind trust in order to remove him as a rival and reveal the names of nobles who plotted treason against the king, nobles who could potentially be blackmailed at a later date. When Feron told his brother not to mistake his illness for weakness it came across as a line that was more directed at the audience than Gaston. If anything, this episode proved what an excellent addition to the cast Rupert Everett is and what an effective villain he portrays. It’s hard to believe this is the same man who played comically ineffective villains like the ill-fated Secundus in Stardust and the spoilt brat Prince Charming in the Shrek films, certainly showing what a versatile performer Everett is.
Sylvie was once again a nice addition to the episode, despite a miniscule part. I was quickly relieved to see the show dismiss any chance of a Sylvie/Athos/Aramis love triangle with Sylvie confirming her romantic sights are clearly set on Athos, despite her flirty exchanges with Aramis.
Focusing on the mistreatment of soldiers too old or too wounded to fight by the government was an interesting topic for this episode as this has always been a very controversial issue in many countries, with support of such soldiers often being seen as not good enough by many. The show didn’t delve into the topic enough for it to make an impact, instead derailing it into a violent standoff, so it’s a shame the show didn’t do more to make a statement about it. While it was perhaps the safe route, it is again a very controversial issue still debated in many countries; the show could have shown some strength by sticking to the issue more strongly. But it is a double edged sword, as otherwise the episode could have come across as preaching its message too hard. If the show is to tackle topics like this, it needs to find the right balance.
While the weakest in the current run so far, Brother in Arms still had quite a lot going for it. It delivered a fairly engaging plot, some good action, and great character work on the villains and on Louis and Treville. But the episode faltered on developing its supporting cast, not pushing its message enough and the show is continuing to side-line two of its female leads. However, despite this Brother in Arms was another good instalment in the series and hopefully promises the team will be trying to bring their A-game to the rest of the series. If the writers can learn from Brother in Arms’ missteps, the rest of Series 3 could be magnificent.