The Musketeers: 305 “To Play the King” Review
Reviewed by Lewis Hurst.
After a brief humorous interlude last week, The Musketeers returned to the doom and gloom for this instalment. Like last week’s episode, the episode tied together plots that could have been their own episodes but this time with a little more success.
With three different plots running at the same time, you could be forgiven for thinking the episode was a little overstuffed. Thankfully the episode didn’t fall into the same pitfalls last week’s episode faced. Using the prison break as the launching point for the episode’s two plots was a novel idea and tied the two together in a natural way, unlike the coincidence that tied last week’s plots together. The plot that took up most of the episode, and was with no doubt the episode’s strongest, was that of Borel; a madman believing himself to be the king. Borel’s story was ultimately a sad one, as his actions were never really in his control. Due to the times he lived in, the proper care for Borel was not available and despite d’Artagnan’s attempts to provide him with better care it was never going to work out.
At the episode’s end you can clearly see d’Artagnan was distraught at having to kill Borel, but sadly there was no other way out of that situation. It was an interesting topic on mental health that highlighted the issue that sometimes people do not receive the proper care they deserve. If it had been recognised earlier that Borel was unwell, he could have received better treatment and not left to rot in prison. As it was, Borel’s time in prison only aggravated his symptoms and made him a more violent individual which ultimately led to his death. The scene where Aramis consoles d’Artagnan for leaving Borel with the nuns, leading to their death, by telling him he couldn’t have known what would happen and all that matters was his intentions was also a nice addition to the plot line, adding some more character and development to d’Artagnan and Aramis.
The rest of the episode meanwhile covered an attempt by Grimaud to steal the King’s gold reserves. This was a simple B-plot and while entertaining it didn’t contribute much overall ultimately leaving Grimaud standing around for most of the episode waiting to get in, serving as simply a way to get Borel free from prison and to have Grimaud and Feron involved in the plot somehow. Thankfully this plot line was more organically woven into the rest of the episode than it could have been.
Speaking of Feron, his political scheming this week was engaging television, with the figurative noose beginning to tighten around his neck. Feron’s schemes were coming back to bite him, as it was time to pay back the money he borrowed from the Dutch in the King’s name. Treville uncovered the deal and knowing the King had made no such deal, left the Dutch’s letters in the King’s office for him to find. Feron’s attempt to steal the letters was great to watch as Anne and the Dauphin interrupted him. Now, Anne’s intentions in this scene were unclear but it came across that Anne suspects Feron of being up to no good, hence her sticking around in the office. It was nice for Anne to finally do something this series by thwarting Feron’s attempts.
However it was all for naught as Feron killed the Dutch representative, pinned the murder on Borel who also unwittingly burned the only proof of Feron’s deal. It was a frustrating moment when those papers went in the fire. Due to everything going wrong for Feron, it also left Grimaud exposed which as we saw at the end left their working relationship incredibly fragile with both now presumably planning to double cross the other at a later stage due to now no longer trusting each other. I wouldn’t be surprised if Feron sets up Grimaud to take the fall for his schemes in a future episode. Feron is also getting noticeably frailer, relying on two walking sticks instead of one at the end of the episode indicating he might not be long for this world like his brother if his gout continues to deteriorate his physical condition. Whatever becomes of this series, Feron and Grimaud have become engaging villains and Feron could be right at home in the political scheming landscape of shows like Game of Thrones.
I must also add that it was finale great to see Constance and Anne finally contribute in this episode. After the show made the tragic mistake of side-lining its two female leads for the past few episodes, it was refreshing to see the two be part of the plot for once instead of just standing on the outskirts. While Constance only played a small part in the episode, and is still being criminally underused in my opinion, it was good to see her get involved for once. As for Anne, it was incredibly exciting to see the plot revolve around her for once; with one of the main focuses of the episode being her steadily deteriorating relationship with Louis being unable to stand his extravagances doting on the Dauphin instead of attending to his people and kingdom. The episode also showed that she and Aramis still share strong feelings for each other which had the side effect of causing even more tension in her and Louis’ relationship. Hopefully the show can devote the time to developing this further in the remaining five episodes. I must also commend the show for creating an incredibly tense sequence as Borel kidnapped Anne while she played to his delusions to stop him from killing her.
The music was also on point here. Since the departure of Doctor Who composer Murray Gold, the music in the show took an (expected) downturn. While the music was enjoyable and serviced each scene, it also became slightly more generic and forgettable. To put it simply, my hoping for a The Musketeers soundtrack release dropped after Series 2. Series 3 however has been on an upward trend and the music at the end of this episode, as Athos and Sylvie kissed was amazing stuff. Hopefully composer Paul Englishby can keep this up for the rest of the series.
Thankfully this episode managed to keep solid pacing and some well-directed sequences. This episode came together as a whole a lot more than last week’s. While the directing on The Musketeers will never match shows like Hannibal, Game of Thrones, Marvel’s Daredevil or Marvel’s Jessica Jones, It’s good to see the show doing the best with what it has. Especially since it’s become increasingly clear BBC has slashed the budget for this third and final series with more sets being reused and repurposed than ever before; quite a few “new” locations in this episode have been recognisably used in the show before. While this is obviously a side-effect of many BBC shows suffering budget cuts due to BBC’s financial troubles over the license fee, it has made “Paris” feel a lot smaller than it did before now feeling like the palace, the garrison and a few streets as opposed to feeling like a large city.
But that said, To Play The King was a very entertaining episode. It was certainly an improvement on The Queen’s Diamonds, perhaps suggesting this new darker tone is the more natural fit for the show.
It’s hard to imagine that we’re halfway through the last ever series of The Musketeers; which is a shame as Series Three has felt like the show’s strongest so far. With only five episodes of the show left, it’s going to be hard to bid farewell to the show. So here’s hoping the team pull out all the stops for the second half of the series.