The Musketeers, Season 1 (2014)
Reviewer: Charity Bishop
The Three Musketeers has enjoyed many big and small screen appearances since the novel first delighted audiences, this recent offering from the BBC a gorgeous adventure with a surprising amount of heart behind it.
The court of King Louis (Ryan Gate) of France is full of intrigue, the innocent, fun-loving monarch playing into the hands of his nefarious Lord Chancellor, Cardinal Richelieu (Peter Capaldi). A notorious spymaster with an infamous assassin, Lady DeWinter (Maimie McCoy) in his employ, his ultimate intention is to secure France as a global power, with him the influence behind the throne. Alas, the pesky patriotic troublemakers known as the Musketeers keep interrupting his carefully-laid plans, and to add insult to injury, Aramis (Santiago Cabrera) is bedding the cardinal's mistress! Aramis soon has other things on his mind, when he, Porthos (Howard Charles) and Athos (Tom Burke) are sent on a secret mission, to uncover the whereabouts of a musketeer carrying important documents on behalf of the king.
Soon enough, they run afoul of the mouthy, showy D'Artangan (Luke Pasqualino), who also makes an impression on his unhappily-married landlady, Constance (Tamla Kari). Before any of them know it, they're caught up in a whirlwind of romance, adventure, excitement, and danger... which leads them to a fateful attempt to protect Queen Anne (Alexandra Dowling) and defend the throne.
I'm a stickler for costume drama accuracy and this show doesn't have it, but it's so much fun and so gorgeous, I forgive the structural flaws. Capaldi proves an effective villain, the cardinal sometimes vulnerable and other times frightening, his moods shifting alongside his ambitions. Even though no one has any moral fiber to speak of, and sexual trysts follow every single lip lock, between friends or strangers, these musketeers are a likable bunch, with fully developed back stories. The music is catchy, the costumes ranging from simple to exquisite, the amount of detailed work in the garments stunning. Anne and others show forgiveness toward others' transgressions, even extending (naive) mercy to their enemies, making a strong point about divine love. The writing is often quite good, there's not a feeble actor in the bunch, and by the end I wanted to start over again. And maybe that's the problem.
I don't support adulterous relationships on principle, but here I found my standards slipping, dismissing it because of the enjoyable characterization. Simply because most of the sex happens off-screen doesn't make it clean, nor are these trysts ever treated with seriousness, beyond the occasional wink-wink at the audience that Aramis somehow manages to get women into bed, convincing them it's just "for fun," when most of them clearly don't feel the same way. Constance fights her love for D'Artangan fearful of social censorship, not out of obligation to her husband or her Catholic faith, but somewhere along the way, I stopped caring and started rooting for them. The result is the heroes' morals match the villain's morals, or lack thereof, blurring the line between the heroism aspired to by musketeers and their flaws. It makes them human, but from a Christian standpoint is hard to overlook.
Many instances of implied premarital or adulterous sex (every onscreen kiss leads to off-screen fornication; couples grip one another, kisses deepening, falling onto beds or out of shot); couples wake up together; some of these trysts are adulterous. A villain seduces men, claiming her near-execution was because she defended herself against a rape. Lots of heaving, low cut bodices. The cardinal accuses a woman of lesbianism, leading to a trial where other women give evidence against her.
Scattered profanities, and uses of "God" as exclamations.
Mass casualties from bullets, arrows, and swords, never that gruesome.