Monday, November 24, 2014

SHOW REVIEW: The Musketeers (BBC, 2014)

The Musketeers (BBC)
Created by Adrian Hodges
Based on the novel by Alexander Dumas
Cast: Tom Burke, Santiago Cabrera, Peter Capaldi, Howard Charles, Alexandra Dowling, Ryan Gage, Tamla Kari, Maimie McCoy, Luke Pasqualino, Hugo Speer

Who doesn't love The Three Musketeers, in some form or other? Dumas' classic adventure novel is famed in song and story, with several TV serials, at least four major motion picture adaptations, and apparently a musical (written by none other than P.G. Wodehouse) to its name. (A musical? How have I never heard of this before?!) 

I myself spent my childhood with the 1993 Disney version with a star-studded cast, not the least of which was Tim Curry as Cardinal Richelieu. While this version will always be my favorite, I also love The Musketeer with Tim Roth (2001) and most recently The Three Musketeers starring Orlando Bloom and Logan Lerman (2011).

You might be asking "With so many adaptations out there, do we really need another one?"

Let's just say we definitely need this one.

So settle in, put on this excellent opening theme by Murray Gold (of Doctor Who music fame) that can show you the kind of awesomeness you can expect from this series, and I'll give you a few other reasons why this could be my favorite adaptation of The Three Musketeers yet.



Because Adrian Hodges' brainchild is a television series, there is a lot more room to explore events of the novel. Instead of just a new movie boasting new angles, a television format gives us the opportunity to witness more and different facets of these classic characters. We get more depth for each of the Musketeers, and the chance to become better acquainted with them individually. We don't just see Athos of the tortured soul, the scallywag Aramis who's really such a softie, and Porthos with the heart of a soldier, but what made them this way and where they go from here. That is exactly why we need this adaptation.

One thing explored in nearly every single version is the tortured soul of Athos, husband of the now-murderess Milady De Winter. And who doesn't love a good tortured soul story? Anyone who knows anything about the Musketeers knows about Athos' self-loathing and secret history. This show doesn't shy away from the Athos history everyone expects, but but! We also get the chance to see him maybe move past it. Without spoilers, Athos' character believably and beautifully develops throughout the show and I cannot wait to see what the second season will bring for him. I have never imagined a version of this story where Athos gets to be happy again because no version has ever lasted long enough for us to find out.

12 Reasons Why BBC One's "The Musketeers" Is FantasticEveryone's on the lookout for strong female characters so I'm pleased to tell you that Constance, D'Artagnan's love interest, is wonderfully round and developed. She's tough, but in the no-nonsense housewife kind of way. I love her determination and personality. She's fiery and opinionated, but I also love that she has no qualms about being a woman. Too often 'strong female' characters come across as incredibly masculine, so I love it when I find the leading ladies who are feminine and not ashamed of it. Now, this doesn't stop her from asking D'Artangan to teach her shooting and fencing, but she never complains about petticoats...

In addition, I absolutely love that Treville, Captain of the Musketeers, is involved so much in the show. Many versions I've seen gloss over his involvement or leave him out completely, and he is one of my favorite characters from the book.


While there are several story lines and elements that stretch through the entire season, this is much more an episodic adventure. Each episode sees a new thrilling adventure for the Musketeers, political drama/intrigue unfolding at the French palace, and all the while sneaky CapaldiCardinal makes his plays in the shadows. I prefer this format for the show, where the episode's plot takes priority to the season plot, because it has a lighter, funner feel that's appropriate for the (mostly) action comedy.

Now don't get the wrong impression. This show is not all fluff and frivolity. There are several episodes dealing with major social issues and events of the day, like women's rights and education (The Rebellious Woman), slavery (Commodities), revolutions (Sleight of Hand), the frightening power of the Catholic Church (The Rebellious Woman), and all the joys of royalty, like back-stabbing family members and political upheavals (The Good Soldier, The Exiles, Knight Takes Queen). Plus, there's that mind-blowing thing with Aramis and you-know-who in the finale. Like, what the what?!'s actually kind of brilliant...

Truer Adaptation

Though there have been many additions and creative differences in this show (and let's face it -that's what makes it fresh and so exciting!), I still feel this series holds to a truer sense of the book.
  • Constance, D'Artangan's one true love, is married. While I don't love that an affair is a major part of the storyline, and it would probably be a turn off for some of the other more conservative watchers like myself, it is originally in the novel and it's also historically accurate. I mean, they're French. It also happens to be another one of those things that hasn't been carried over so much into other adaptations.
  • King Louis is more like a spoiled brat than the young noble wrestling with the best choices for his people. He has his moments, sure, but he delegates most things to Cardinal Richelieu. That's what makes the Cardinal so dangerous.
  • King Louis and Queen Anne have no love story. Unlike the '11 and '93 movies, the royal couple are not portrayed as uncertain budding lovebirds, but more realistically as subjects of an arranged marriage who manage to tolerate one another.
  • A possible Man in the Iron Mask reference. (???) So, you know, maybe they're planning way, way ahead for the show's future. I like the optimism!

My favorite by far has to be the relationship and constant rivalry of Cardinal Richelieu and Captain Treville. This is another thing rarely shown in any version that I've seen. As opposed to the all-out war often depicted between the Red Guard and the King's Musketeers, the novel described what can only be called a constant 'one-upping' on both sides, a rivalry far from innocent as it often involves duels and bloodshed but nonetheless something of a sport to be enjoyed if not downright encouraged by the King of France. The Captain and Cardinal are constantly trying to outdo the other in the hopes of winning the King's favor. Though bitter, this rivalry is often rife with jokes and banter, and this series just flows with it.


Okay, I'm not usually the person who points this out -there are so many better ways to judge a good show! -but a fact that can't be ignored is the decent amount of eye-candy here. There. I said it. And I am not ashamed!

There is great chemistry and charisma with the four musketeers and -judging from behind-the-scenes features- they have way too much fun with this show. All this bleeds through into the performance, so yeah. These guys embody the musketeer bond.

Peter Capaldi makes such an incredible Cardinal Richelieu, I'm a little scared to see him as the Doctor when I finally get the chance. *chants DVD release date* He's an amazing actor, but he pulls off the plotting, dastardly man of the robe with such conviction and sass it gives me goosebumps. Speaking of DW, his role as 12 has the unfortunate drawback of not allowing him to reprise his role next season on The Musketeers. *sob* So savor these 10 episodes well, dear reader.

I personally love Hugo Speer as Captain Treville. Father Brown introduced me to this actor in his role of Inspector Valentine, which I always felt lacked in character depth. I had a feeling Speer could really do a character much better justice, given the chance, and his work as Treville proves me right.

Plus, the list of guest stars is stunning, with James Callis, Vincent Regan, Ashley Walters, and Sean Pertwee, to name a few.

Add it to your To Watch List RIGHT NOW

You have no reason not to. It's already been slated for a second season and, while they'll have to work some Hollywood* magic to get around Capaldi's absence, we will get to see the Man in Black aka Rochefort finally enter the mix. *squee!* As far as characters, I feel like this next series is going to give us something incredibly unique in really going beyond what we know and taking the opportunity to explore new facets and development for the characters. I'm talking Athos, Athos, ATHOS!

So those are the reasons. Welcome to The Musketeers.

-Also see BuzzFeed's '12 Reasons Why BBC's The Musketeers is Fantastic'.
*Can you really say 'Hollywood' magic when it's a BBC?

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