9:46 pm - 01/19/2014

The Musketeers, episode 1, BBC One, review

The first episode of the BBC adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’s Three Musketeers is enjoyable revisionist pulp fiction, says Mark Monahan.

Cleavage, firearms, swordplay, leather jerkins, grubby hostelries, chickens flapping around in streets – and more cleavage. What else, frankly, do you need to create an entertaining telly rendering of Alexandre Dumas’s famous novel The Three Musketeers?

Well, you need a plot for one thing, in which respect the first, self-contained episode of writer-director Adrian Hodges’s new 10-parter The Musketeers (BBC One) wasn’t at all bad. It began with a 007-style pre-credits “teaser” in which we saw a middle-aged man introduce himself as Alexander d’Artagnan (middle-aged?), only to be blasted to kingdom come by a younger type who had introduced himself as Athos (eh?!).

I wonder if this opening, beyond being instantly wrong-footing, was also a subtler kind of mission statement. The fellow in question turned out to be the celebrated character’s father, hence his age – but d’Artagnan senior is not, to my knowledge, given a Christian name in the book, still less killed in its opening pages. By giving him the name of the novel’s author and despatching him instantly, was Hodges signalling his intentions?

It would make sense. For although he has dutifully preserved the setting (Paris, early 1600s) and the key players, he appears to have jettisoned everything else. Dumas would have recognised next to nothing of last night’s plot, and may have been similarly astonished to see the sort of antics (drunkenness, card-sharping, adultery) that his noble trio of King’s guards were up to.

Purists must have been weeping into their leather-bound volumes, and indeed I’d have joined them in objecting to a landlady bidding d’Artagnan junior to “enjoy!”. While making no claims for it as landmark television, though, I rather enjoyed this undemanding helping of revisionist pulp fiction. The episode galloped along, introducing several apparently unconnected threads that it finally tied into a neat bow, with the overall narrative efficiently driven by the Machiavellian Cardinal Richelieu’s unyielding desire to remain indispensable to France’s perfumed popinjay of a monarch, Louis XIII.

Having been the prime minister’s “enforcer” in The Thick of It, Peter Capaldi is now essentially performing the same function for Louis. As Richelieu, the new Doctor Who is playing it straight, his cardinal not quite roaring as one might have hoped, but a charismatic villain for all that.

As the musketeers themselves – Athos, Aramis and Porthos – Tom Burke, Santiago Cabrera and Howard Charles dived in headfirst, having plenty of swashbuckling ensemble fun but keeping it all generally the right side of arch. And Luke Pasqualino was suitably glamorous as d’Artagnan, as was Maimie McCoy as the hit-woman Milady.

The late revelation of her true identity was surprising, as – still more so – was Richelieu’s treatment of another belle, even closer to him. To get a pre-watershed slot, Hodges has rather soft-pedalled the violence overall, but the unsentimentality of this latter scene augurs well for future episodes.

So did you watch it? On a scale of Arthur to Lancelot how hot was Aramis?

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la_petite_singe 20th-Jan-2014 02:51 am (UTC)
Capaldi, Lucrezia's Paolo and Mystery Sock in one show?! omg give it to me now pls
winter_lace 20th-Jan-2014 03:21 am (UTC)
mystery sock?
la_petite_singe 20th-Jan-2014 03:30 am (UTC)
Yeah, that's what we called him on Heroes, because that's how Hiro said it ("Mr. Isaac," as in Isaac Mendez the super-hot clairvoyant painter guy)
ohofkors 20th-Jan-2014 02:53 am (UTC)
Can't watch it on BBC One, so I caught it on a live stream. Luke is so cute.
isntdaveone 20th-Jan-2014 02:53 am (UTC)
are there any gay characters on this show??
wheeler 20th-Jan-2014 03:02 am (UTC)
No, but all the men watching it are now gay.
planetrob 20th-Jan-2014 03:06 am (UTC)
spread 20th-Jan-2014 03:08 am (UTC)
punkylana 20th-Jan-2014 03:16 am (UTC)
i'm not a man but mte
pastelstar 20th-Jan-2014 03:21 am (UTC)
roxas39 20th-Jan-2014 03:26 am (UTC)
ourferocity 20th-Jan-2014 02:53 am (UTC)
i think i like the look of this
dirtyxboots 20th-Jan-2014 02:53 am (UTC)
I really need something to replace the merlin sized hole in my heart. Atlantis just did not cut it :(
londonshowers 20th-Jan-2014 02:56 am (UTC)
Atlantis looks so fucking bad!
I know Merlin had it's cheesy cheap effects and costumes but I'm wondering now from an outside pov if it looked as bad as Atlantis does lol
planetrob 20th-Jan-2014 02:56 am (UTC)
atlantis is horrible
punkylana 20th-Jan-2014 02:59 am (UTC)
dirtyxboots 20th-Jan-2014 03:04 am (UTC)
I really tried with atlantis but it was horrifically bad..like merlin wasn't breaking bad or anything but it was a genuinely charming and funny show. i actually had to give up on atlantis because it was so dreadful it was painful tbh =/
ms_geekette 20th-Jan-2014 03:07 am (UTC)
Both Merlin and Atlantis are sorta kids shows, tbh. Both have a sizable humor component, there's a little slapstick.

Robin Hood was a kids' show until the end of S2, when they taught children...ok, I can't spin that, it was a pretty horrible decision - some people reported that their kids cried pretty badly and sorta rage-quit the show. I guess you've got to learn sometime, eh?
euraylie 20th-Jan-2014 03:06 am (UTC)
I know! Of course Merlin had Colin Morgan, but it also at least had the magic story line. Atlantis barely remembers that it's protagonist comes from the future. Plus, while the cast are all nice, they are very much 'meh'.
sarahvma 20th-Jan-2014 03:10 am (UTC)
You'd probably like Shield if you liked Merlin.
snggdsyreus 20th-Jan-2014 03:11 am (UTC)
morticiafrump 20th-Jan-2014 03:15 am (UTC)
same here :(
_pinkpornstar_ 20th-Jan-2014 04:58 am (UTC)
I miss my stunning Queen Morgana.
leenerific 20th-Jan-2014 02:56 am (UTC)
It was interesting! Suffering from "Pilot-itis" so I'll definitely keep watching and hope it gets into its groove.

Edited at 2014-01-20 02:56 am (UTC)
planetrob 20th-Jan-2014 02:57 am (UTC)
when will it come to Canada?
gee 20th-Jan-2014 02:57 am (UTC)
Sweaty men with weapons....sure, I can give that a go.
20727 20th-Jan-2014 05:38 am (UTC)
beautiful icon
punkylana 20th-Jan-2014 02:58 am (UTC)

euraylie 20th-Jan-2014 03:07 am (UTC)
Yes! Alone for this fine man I have to at least watch the first ep.
morticiafrump 20th-Jan-2014 03:15 am (UTC)
the reason i'll be watching tbh
crayzee_mouse 30th-Jan-2014 08:35 pm (UTC)
He's so beautiful!
illiade 20th-Jan-2014 03:01 am (UTC)
I'll give it a go since I have nothing else to watch, how long is it supposed to be?
punkylana 20th-Jan-2014 03:03 am (UTC)
1 hr, the first season will have 10 episodes
illiade 20th-Jan-2014 03:07 am (UTC)
Oh ok, that's not bad. That's the one thing I like about British dramas, they rarely go for more than 10 episodes so I can catch up whenever.
ms_geekette 20th-Jan-2014 03:03 am (UTC)
OP, good choice of icon subject. XD I'll admit other than Capaldi, out of the Musketeers, Santiago with his jaunty gun is probably the largest motivator for me to watch, haha, although I didn't realize some ladies I liked were on it, also, sooo... It can't be any cheesier than Atlantis, tbh. (I haven't watched the first ep yet and haven't read the article so don't tell me if it's cheesier than Atlantis...I think that would be a hard thing to do. Also, this seems geared to a slightly older age group so fingers crossed.)
leenerific 20th-Jan-2014 03:06 am (UTC)
sarahvma 20th-Jan-2014 03:07 am (UTC)
Oh thank God. He looks terrible in the promo photo, but he's his usual self here.
punkylana 20th-Jan-2014 03:17 am (UTC)
so fine <3
isthisdesire 20th-Jan-2014 04:19 am (UTC)
ayy dios mio mmm papi
sarahvma 20th-Jan-2014 03:06 am (UTC)
What have they done to my beautiful Santiago?
punkylana 20th-Jan-2014 03:22 am (UTC)
he has long hair and a beard now but he still looks beautiful

i mean

sarahvma 20th-Jan-2014 03:28 am (UTC)
Thank God. I don't know why I bothered trusting a BBC promo image. Their photoshop guy is clearly drunk all the time.
chrislola 20th-Jan-2014 03:13 am (UTC)
i'll give it a try. even though the last thing i need is another show to watch.
justkeepworking 20th-Jan-2014 03:20 am (UTC)
Dear Santiago,

Fuck me.

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