The Musketeers: 304 “The Queen’s Diamonds” Review
Reviewed by Lewis Hurst.
And the award for most misleading episode title of The Musketeers goes to…
I didn’t see any trailers or synopsis for this episode so I was going in pretty blind, so upon learning the episode title I must admit it gave me very different anticipations for what the plot would be. The title The Queen’s Diamonds put me in mind more of the plotline of Alexandre Dumas’ first Musketeers story (and the plotline many adaptations use including more recently the 2011 film) which features the Musketeers dashing to recover diamonds belonging to Queen Anne that are in the possession of the Duke of Buckingham in England. So the plot we got here wasn’t exactly what I expected.
The show took a break from its progressively darker tone to provide a very light hearted episode, presumably to help the show keep its primetime slot and not alienate viewers. This led to an episode that made the main story take a break for a week to focus on a filler plot, made up of two small plots tied together by a massive coincidence. The bulk of the episode was made up of the Musketeers running around to find diamonds stolen from the Queen of England while the other saw Aramis reuniting with a woman from his past to help her deal with a blackmailer threatening her impending wedding. Both of these plots could have carried their own episodes which was probably the episode’s main failing. By trying to do both plots, it meant there wasn’t enough time to do either enough justice with the Aramis subplot suffering the most and feeling like an afterthought; although it was funny of Aramis to note he expected the blackmail mystery to have been more difficult to solve instead of being solved in the very next scene. The plot here was incredibly half baked. There could have been something more to it, but it just felt lacking. In fact the episode was more focused on providing lots of comedy.
Now taking a break to do a comedy episode is always welcome, various other shows do it effectively, but the decision to do one here feels strange. While yes, the show was getting progressively darker so lightening the tone a little was probably called for but to do it in a way where it felt like an episode from another show was almost baffling. The comedy here stood out harshly against the darker elements leading to a tonally confusing episode. The return of Émile Bonnaire (last seen in Commodities back in Series 1) was a welcome one, but his presence only brought back the lighter tone Series 1 had in comparison to this series. This episode felt more like one that could have been from the show’s early days. While that wasn’t a problem per say, it clashed with the tone Series 3 has established so far. The show has evolved since then so perhaps a return to the “old days” was not a wise decision.
My other main fault with the episode was its conclusion; specifically the face-off between Aramis and the other Musketeers as Athos tries to get the last diamond from Pauline. The sequence felt incredibly out of character for Athos and seemed to be inserted only to add tension. It’s not like Athos to barge in and point a pistol at civilians without explaining why he needed the diamond. I’m certain if Athos had just said “the diamond is the Queen of England’s and was stolen from her”, Pierre would have been more willing. As it was, pulling his pistol and then threatening Aramis who tried to protect Pierre and Pauline was a confusing decision, especially since Porthos found the whole thing amusing shortly afterwards. I’m struggling to see exactly what becomes of painting Athos (and d’Artagnan by association) in such a negative light, especially since the scene is never mentioned again. If the show wants to make our heroes more morally grey, that’s fine. But at least give us a scene of Aramis confronting Athos over his actions to make the scene feel more natural. As it is, it feels like a brief out of character moment that was written in for the sake of having a tense conclusion. If future episodes don’t address this sequence, then I will be pretty disappointed.
Speaking of disappointments, this episode wasted a talented guest star. I’m of course talking about Paul McGann as St Pierre. McGann is an excellent actor and one the show should have put to better use elsewhere in a bigger role. As it is, it’s saddening to see McGann, an actor who’s always got the short stick and seems forever doomed to be wasted in various series (Doctor Who, Alien3) get wasted yet again.
More positively however, the comedy in this episode was good. Bonnaire delivered some great humour to the episode and you can tell James Callis loved playing the role. His comedic timing was perfect and his enthusiasm seemed to be forcing the other actors to try and be funnier than him, which in turn gave everyone excellent rapport and comedic timing. I’ve always enjoyed comedic characters who vastly overestimate their importance to others and Bonnaire supplied that in spades. Even simple exchanges like “My friends!” “We’re not your friends” had me chuckling.
Feron didn’t accomplish much this week. In fact he really didn’t do much of anything at all apart from delaying the Dutch for the Queen of England. The most we established this week was establishing yet another sibling he doesn’t get along well with and him imparting the knowledge of Louis’ sickness to Grimaud along with his intentions to take advantage of it by gathering the armies of Gaston’s allies to (presumably) make a claim to the throne upon Louis’ death and ensuring the Dauphin meets with some tragedy. Grimaud meanwhile seems to have taken an interest in Sylvie, attending her meeting of like-minded “revolutionaries” dissatisfied with the treatment of the poor and even contributing funds to her cause. Exactly what his interests in Sylvie are remains to be seen. Does he view her as a potential ally? Is it simply to gain her trust to try and get close to Athos? Or is it more? We’ll hopefully find out soon.
Aramis’ subplot meanwhile was a bit of a waste. I’m still not sure what the episode tried to do with it. There are various possibilities it could contribute to Aramis’s arc, but exactly what was never clear. Is there more to it? Perhaps the subplot was originally longer but had considerable footage cut from it? Or maybe they realised the episode didn’t have enough plot for a full hour so they threw in a random subplot to pad it out? Either way, I don’t see why it was needed when the screen time could have been used better. Pauline only had a few scenes so we don’t really care she’s lost everything. We never got a grasp on what sort of person Pierre was. It was resolved too quickly and was made part of the main plot by the biggest of big coincidences; because of course Pierre just happened to buy the last diamond the others were looking for. Coincidences for the sake of the plot are sometimes forgivable, but this is taking the cake. Not to mention the subplot being much darker than the rest of the episode, this jarred with the tone of the rest of the episode leading to the episode itself becoming incredibly tonally confused.
In summary, this episode was Series 3’s first misfire. It wasn’t awful by any means, but it didn’t hold up to the standards set by previous episodes. The episode made many mistakes which didn’t help it in my eyes. It was confused tonally, didn’t devote enough time to either subplot to make them satisfying, jarred tonally with the rest of the series, wasted an excellent guest star and had a confusingly out of character moment for our heroes. That said however, each scene itself was good and the episode was overall enjoyable, even if as a whole it didn’t live up to previous highs.