The Musketeers: 309 “The Prize” Review
Reviewed by Lewis Hurst.
The end is nigh for The Musketeers but the show is still managing to pull out all the stops by producing a stellar first part to the two-part finale. This episode addressed some of my grievances with the series so far and also managed to tell a gripping story and give a great send off to two of the show’s main stars.
The deaths of Louis and Treville was an expected consequence of the show entering its final episodes, but it didn’t detract from the emotion of the scenes. Louis’ death coming within the first five minutes of the episode was especially surprising, it was something I wasn’t expecting to occur until the end of the episode. To have it occur at the start was a clever move as it allowed the plot to advance much faster. The death scene itself however was well acted by Ryan Gage, an often overlooked member of The Musketeers cast. Gage crafted a magnificent character who, in the hands of lesser actors, may have come across as nothing more than a needy man-child incapable of making his own decisions which is indeed how Louis is often portrayed in other adaptations of The Three Musketeers (the 2011 film is a perfect example of this). Gage was able to give Louis magnificent depth and become a beloved member of the cast. While there’s only one episode left, he will be sorely missed.
The same goes for Treville. His death was a matter of inevitability, it was always going to happen, just a matter of when. So when it finally happened, it was great to see that the show was able to deliver a fantastic end for the character. Treville has always been a man who put the king’s safety above everything else, so for him to die heroically buying time for Porthos and the Dauphin to escape was a perfect death for him. Treville was never going to go down quietly and anything less than a blaze of glory would have been disappointing. Hugo Speer has been a phenomenal actor on the show and he has probably not received the praise he should do. Treville has been a constant presence on the show, more constant than Louis, due to being a father figure to most of the main cast. It’s always sad when a character who’s been there since the beginning dies, especially one who has been such a strong figure within the show itself. Like the King, Treville will be dearly missed. A standing ovation and (metaphorical) toast to Hugo Speer and Ryan Gage. The show would not have been the same without them.
The Price had a great plot. The attempts to hide the Dauphin from Gaston and Grimaud was the main attraction. The endeavour was great because, like the best plotlines, it involved ALL of the show’s main cast. Everyone had a part to play at some point, bar Louis (for obvious reasons) and Milady (who was absent this week but will presumably return for the finale). Seeing the Dauphin passed around allowed everyone a chance to shine. Constance however shone more than most.
It’s no secret that I’ve been less than fond of the show’s treatment of Constance this series. She’s been side-lined, ignored mostly and is often present when she doesn’t need to be, presumably because Tamla Kari is a main cast member and has to appear despite there being no placement for her leading to Constance just being there and not being used effectively. So to finally see Constance contribute and return to the character we all know and love from Series 1 and 2 was excellent. And the same extends to Anne, who has been similarly underused. If anything, this episode was all about the show’s female characters (bar Milady). It’s great to see the ladies back in the fore.
The game of cat and mouse led to some fantastic moments, but the standout was clearly Grimaud’s hunt for d’Artagnan and the Dauphin in the Washerwomen’s house. It was a wonderfully tense scene and Grimaud was at his most threatening. The slow stabbing of his sword in-between the floorboards was enough to put anyone on edge and the Washerwoman’s poorly timed sigh of relief was an amazing moment simply for the fact it made me shout “you idiot!” at my television screen. Matthew McNulty has been doing an excellent job as Grimaud so far, so props to him for taking it one step further and making Grimaud actually terrifying in this sequence.
The rest of the episode had excellent plotting as well. Seeing Treville settle into his role as regent and dive into political warfare by manipulating Gaston’s greed and Bellavoix’s wants to be independent to turn both against each other was excellent television. Conjuring memories of Tyrion Lannister’s attempts to root out which of the council members was feeding information Cersei in Game of Thrones, I had a big grin on my face during the whole segment as Treville’s plan became clearer; namely to get Bellavoix’s army away from Paris and to ruin his partnership with Gaston by painting Gaston as wiling to betray his allies for a sum of gold and by doing so dismantle the threat without any bloodshed. It was a masterful plan and would have worked perfectly if Grimaud hadn’t found the Dauphin and killed Bellavoix.
To say this was a well written episode would be an understatement. Even though it may be his first script for the show, Dusty Hughes crafted an excellent screenplay that managed to get the characters perfectly and told an excellent plot. If the show hadn’t been cancelled, I’d ask for him to return but since that isn’t an option I’d settle for BBC to employ Hughes’s talents on other shows. Such talent should not go to waste.
Susan Tully also shone in the directing chair providing some well-directed shots throughout and managing to pull magnificent performances from the cast. Louis and Treville’s death scenes were also wonderfully directed, if a little too fond of slow motion.
In conclusion, there’s actually nothing I can say to fault The Prize. It was an incredibly strong episode that set the stage brilliantly for a gripping finale. But like every great first part of a two part story, it managed to hold its own as a standalone story and set a tough act to follow for the show’s final episode. With the show bidding farewell to two of its main stars in this episode however, it makes you wonder what surprises are in store for the finale and the Musketeer’s final confrontation with Grimaud. But when it comes to this episode, The Prize may not have been referring to The Dauphin, because an episode of this quality is sure The Prize of the series. Now let’s see what Monday will bring…