‘The Musketeers’ Episode 3: ‘Commodities’ Review

“To erase the past. To destroy it completely”

The Musketeers

© BBC/Larry Horricks

The Musketeers are forced to face up to their past in the best episode of the series so far, thanks to some series character exploration.

The Musketeers are tasked with protecting infamous merchant trader and explorer Emile Bonnaire on his journey to Paris by order of the king after breaking France’s peace treaty with Spain.  Bonnaire played comically, if not a little to shouty by Battlestar Galactica‘s James Callis, is a chancer, a cheat, and a coward.  Someone who’s struck lucky, not through wit but by sensing an opportunity and then running for the hills before his enemies catch up with him – which is exactly what they do while on route with the Musketeers, who have to contend with a disgruntled business partner, a jealous wife and the Spanish secret service.  A straight forward mission becomes even more complicated when Porthos is injured, and Athos is distracted by his past.

Athos, Porthos and Maimie McCoy as Milady de Winter really drive this episode.  We learn so much about our characters it feels a lot more like we have an understanding about what drives them.  We finally learn why Milady is so driven with vengeance against Athos?  We knew they were once lovers and Athos tried to kill her, but the gaps are filled in as we’re shown through a series of flashbacks that they are in fact married.  Athos ordered Milady to be hanged after killing his younger brother who was going to expose her as a criminal.  Tom Burke does a magnificent job of showing a range of emotions as Athos becomes withdrawn, solemn and distracted as his old family home brings back his painful memories.  The chemistry works well in the showdown as his home burns at her hands as she tries but fails to kill him.  There’s also a nice little partnership developing between d’Artagnan and Athos, with Athos revealing he doesn’t know how to go on after five years of grieving and guilt now he knows Milady is alive.  However, I’m looking forward to seeing how this new partnership will continue when Athos discovers d’Artagnan has slept with his wife; ructions are bound to happen leading to difficulties working alongside one another.

With Bonnaire intending to run slave ships to farm tobacco, it pours salt into Porthos’ wound as Porthos’ mother came to Paris as a slave.  Enraged by his immoral and cruel idea, Aramis and Porthos hope the king will punish the slippery trader but instead the Cardinal offers to go into business with him.  The gang help Porthos to get revenge in the end, but it really highlighted the harsh life and realities he came from and how much he must have fought to be apart of the Kings Regiment, Howard Charles puts in an affecting performance, “Men are born free, no one has the right to make slaves of them.”

Peter Capaldi so far only seems to be appearing briefly in the series but he makes use of his screen time with his menacing stare and lines like “Any notion of a personal life ended the day I picked you out of the gutter and made you my creature” and “Explain them as if your life depended on it – which incidentally it does!”  With this episode being darker than the previous ones I’m hoping we’re going to see more of the Cardinal as his plotting becomes more apparent.

The Musketeers is still, I’m glad to say, proving to be a fun and well-shot drama with plenty of excitement to come. My only complaint about the episode would be, as I mentioned previously, Callis’ shouty performance which I didn’t really understand considering he has a well spoken accent anyway which is what his character appeared to have, just deeper and louder.  Tamla Kari is also still getting little to do other than display concern and jealousy about d’Artagnan.  I couldn’t help feeling Milady was encouraging Constance to have an affair with  d’Artagnan.  What has she got planned?