The Musketeers Series 2, Episode 1: ‘Keep Your Friends Close’ Review

“The Cardinal knew all your secrets and will expose your sins even from beyond the grave”

7566901-high-

The Musketeers returned with an all action second series opener in the oddly placed (and less high-profile) Friday night slot. Not quite sure of the BBC’s reasoning of that decision considering the high ratings it achieved in its Sunday slot. Personally, I still think it would suit the Saturday Doctor Who/Atlantis slot better. Confusing as the decision may be, it’s as if The Musketeers had never been away, with a mission to complete and high production values still present in the Prague scenery that passes for France. And with the right amount of drama and humour to interest most parties.

Series 2 of The Musketeers was faced with some obstacles to overcome on its return though, the most notable being the departure of our villain of the piece, Peter Capaldi‘s Cardinal who got a better offer in tv’s most wanted role as the Doctor in Doctor Who. Writer Adrian Hodges chose to kill off the Cardinal off-screen, which I must admit I was a little disappointed about. Capaldi did such a great job building the character I was hoping the Cardinal would have been sent to work with the Pope considering his disdain at the thought of that last series. It wouldn’t have made any difference to the story but it would have been a humourous goodbye to the one-time schemer (and of course left the door open for a cameo if the show should run longer than his timelord tenure).

Of course that leaves an opening for a new villain and superbly fitting that role is Marc Warren as Comte De Rochefort. Rochefort is a spy who plans to use the Cardinal’s demise to his advantage by manipulating situations in his favour to place him in the King’s counsel and confidence, and reacquainting himself with the Queen in the hopes of driving a wedge between the couple. Considering the Queen has just given birth to Aramis’ son and is passing him off as the King’s, I don’t think it takes a genius to work out where Rochefort is likely to get his leverage from. Warren’s villain is more ruthless a nemesis; quick to kill those who get in his way, unlike the Cardinal who got Milady to do his dirty work.

The second obstacle the new series faces, is the declaration that the series would be taking advantage of its 9pm slot by being more darker but still suitable for a family audience. This stems from concerns by some viewers and critics that series one was a little tame for its post-watershed slot. I don’t think that dynamic has changed much so far, the only hint is an attempt to make it sexier by more shirts off and hints of a sex scene. It’s fair to say though we’re still very much in family territory – that however may change as the series progresses. The writers did a good job of packing a lot of action and adventure in the first episode, while still allowing for a more quiet heartfelt moments between Constance and D’Artagnan.

The moment is however jaded – certainly from a female perspective. D’Artagnan showed little sympathy for Constance’s plight, in fact calling her a “coward” when she pointed out that as a female she would be ruined and lose everything by having an affair with him while her husband is still alive. This seemed an immature and selfish reaction from D’Artagnan to her very real fears. Plus the fact she’d only just witnessed him kissing Lucie de Foix, doesn’t exactly scream he’s all in their relationship. I’m really hoping we’re not heading for a love triangle, we already have Constance’s husband in the mix and another triangle with the royals and Aramis. We don’t need Lucie added.

I really enjoyed the first series and I enjoyed the first episode of the second. Several stories have been set-up from Porthos’s parentage to the return of Milady next week which I’m sure bring more drama to the fold. There’s a few teething issues but that’s to be expected in a first episode, however I think The Musketeers has come back strong. If it lives up to its ‘darker’ pledge, I’m expecting a gripping series.