The Musketeers (1×09) “Knight Takes Queen” – Review

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This week on The Musketeers: an ambush! The Queen’s fertility! Nuns with guns!

The-Musketeers-BBC-image-the-musketeers-bbc-36723418-4422-2713Ambush!

It’s a slow opening for The Musketeers this week. It’s like a sumptuous but slightly tedious shampoo advert, the Queen swimming, gives way to a scene of the King, miles away, doing some terrible flirting. It’s all a bit surreal.

And then the trajectory becomes clear and it all kicks off! The royal couple are yet to conceive and the Cardinal is making it his duty to see that the supposedly-barren Queen produces an heir. It’s annoying that this relatively important fact has not been mentioned before, but the plot is exciting and befitting a penultimate episode. Plus it foregrounds the wonderful Alexandra Dowling as Queen Anne. And then Aramis takes his top off! Does it get better than this?

Nuns with guns!

With a team of horsemen on the prowl, hoping to assassinate the Queen, our brave Musketeers take up refuge in a convent! It’s the chance for some real pathos and wonderful comedy, both of which is duly exploited. The gag when Athos asks why they have muskets, and the nun replies “For shooting Protestants”, is one of my all-time favourite TV show gags. Then the direction steps up with some amazing swooping crane shots soaring from firebombs to over the big castle walls and down below. Brilliant, action movie stuff.

Seeing the Musketeers under siege is fun and a slightly different direction for the show, although it does perhaps get drawn out somewhat. It’s an excuse to blow the budget and the effects are impressive.

Quite by coincidence, and that may or may not be a ridiculous coincidence, we bump into one of Aramis’s past loves. The Musketeers has, at times, been a little too free-wheeling with the pasts of its leads. It does reach the stage, after a past love, family member and/or mate of each hero has cropped up, had an episode, and then died, that becomes unrealistic. Why have we never heard about these people before and why do we never hear of them again afterwards? It’s a trick old TV used to miss, and a mistake that seems a bit kindergarten now. Having said that Aramis’s story works well, performed as excellently as ever by Santiago Cabrera, with his dead baby mirroring the Queen’s inability to conceive. The problem is, when his old flame dies we have absolutely no attachment to her and it really makes no difference. That’s a big moment that falls very limp.

And then, consider this for a moment: in a nunnery, Aramis’s ex has just been shot, and straight afterwards, he gets with the Queen! It’s a brilliant twist though, well teased out by the actors. Now I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking… if she gets pregnant now… ?

“The Musketeers will protect her.”

It all draws to a thrilling and slightly implausible climax, in which the enemies tunnel into the cellar so they decide to take the Queen to the cellar. Surely that is the worst place for her? Aside from that it is suitably thrilling, and I loved that they gave even a relatively minor character a full death. The building up to “our last shot” works well, but there is a lot of shooting and it does almost get to the point of too much. Maybe questions about levels of violence in a drama with a weapon in the title are moot. The other problem here is of course that much of episode two was built around the Queen being kidnapped by a criminal. This is has happened a few times across the series and though not a massive deal, it does point to less thorough communication between the writers.

Final verdict

“Knight Takes Queen” was exciting, breathless, advanced the arc of the series and led us somewhere strong for the finale. Bring on episode ten!

Fight count: Previous total = 27. New total = 32