The Musketeers (1×03) “Commodities” – Review

by

This week, The Musketeers takes a break from all the sword-fighting to develop its characters more… sort of.

BBCMUSK_0768-2 - Copy“Anyone can tell a woman she’s beautiful… Making her believe it is where the genius lies.”

So the main task this week is to add some color to the series by fleshing out a few of the slightly vacuous leads. It opens brilliantly with a beautiful shot of a ship (soured by the later revelations about it) and a man marching from it and directly into the story.

We follow this week’s mysterious man (last week it was Vadim, next week it’s Marsac, see a pattern?) into a tavern where it all kicks off. It’s a good opener though, with excellent dialogue such as the above line, and crucially it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Plus it’s nice to see women fighting instead of men for a change!

“That was very formal.” “I like to be polite.”

Ambush! The plot has a few more dramatic scenes before we settle in to secrets and talking. This week we have the first remnant of conflict within the musketeers which is an untapped and interesting prospect.

Bonnaire is solid if not particularly memorable, and his lover Maria is dispensed with as quickly as she arrives. However, the horse-chase sequences lift an otherwise static episode and the fact the horse can only go so far is the sort of practical detail that this sort of series usually glosses over. I’m impressed The Musketeers didn’t. The horrible revelations at the end of the episode are conveyed effectively by the dialogue. “It’s not cheap labour Bonnaire, it’s stolen labour. Stolen lives!” Well done to The Musketeers for handling a sensitive issue deftly.

Athos owns the chateau???! The stark visuals of the empty rooms works well, and director Saul Metzstein drifts from those shots to shots of Tom Burke’s rose-tinted memories. Athos’s past is revealed subtly and slowly, in which we are given answers to a mystery we didn’t really realise existed. His connection to Milady di Winter is a neat revelation and the subversion of our expectations very satisfying. Tom Burke is the strongest Musketeer actor – he’s sublime, vulnerable and admirable.

The Musketeers“May I say, sire, you never fail to surprise me.”

The Cardinal should be running the country! Peter Capaldi has been brilliant as the series’ main villain so far, even if the stories aren’t really justifying that position in the narrative. I expected him to be constantly waging war against the musketeers but actually, in story terms he is usually kept away from them.

Unfortunately though, The Musketeers doesn’t quite do enough to surprise us this week. Yes there are those nice revelations but there’s also the oddly uninspiring point where the opening titles crash in. There’s the gun-related double bluffs we’ve seen, I’m sure, in both previous episodes. Last week it was gunpowder. This week it’s all about the horses. And just like the last two episodes, it comes nowhere near to passing the Bechdel test. There is a real danger of The Musketeers descending into a dull and masculine production line, which is avoided this week simply by the freshness of the story.

Final verdict

The episode started with a pub brawl and it ends with one as well. Another reasonable outing for the series, and one that admirably concerned itself with the characters more, but still lacking in certain areas. Next week it looks like we are back to crash bang wallop. Say what you want about The Musketeers, it runs at a pleasantly breakneck speed!

Fight count: Previous total = 8. New total = 10.