The Musketeers, Season 2 (2015)
Reviewer: Charity Bishop
Peter Capaldi's departure for Doctor Who left the BBC scrambling for a new villain the second season of their hit series. Though the show struggles in the first two episodes, it soon finds stable footing and takes us on a new adventure where events from the first season have their payoff.
France mourns, King Louis (Ryan Gage) devastated at the death of his Lord Chancellor and trusted friend, the cardinal. The Musketeers, on the other hand, familiar with the cardinal's diabolical underhanded dealings, are less than upset, hopeful this will lead to a new future for the Musketeers, with the Red Guards leaderless. Without a patron and protector, Lady DeWinter (Maimie McCoy) seeks a new position at court... as the king's mistress! Queen Anne (Alexandra Dowling) revels in the birth of her new son, keeping her tryst with Aramis (Santiago Cabrera) a secret.
Given a position in the queen's household, Constance (Tamla Kari) tries to reconcile her feelings for Artangan (Luke Pasqualino) with her husband. Porthos (Howard Charles) seeks information about his parentage, while drastic circumstances force Athos (Tom Burke) to face up to his tortured past. And, this is the least of their problems when the Spanish spy, Rochefort (Mark Warren) returns to court and assumes the cardinal's role, with nefarious intentions of his own...
Though some episodes are sharper than others, this second season proves just as engaging as the first, developing the musketeers further, introducing us to their family members, exploring an uprising with a prophetess intent on war with Spain, and showcasing a villain that becomes emotionally unstable and violent long before a thrilling climactic payoff. Truths come out that threaten everyone's lives, not everyone lives to the closing credits, and the momentum continues throughout. The costumes are inaccurate to the period in some instances, but so clever and eye-catching, I don't care. One of the best episodes features a deadly game of chance, people's lives resting on a coin toss, but it explores the power kings have over ordinary lives. Certain characters and scenes tug on our heartstrings, lovers ripped apart or reunited, and the king becomes an increasingly pathetic character with each subsequent event.
I admire the ability to cover dark, probing, adult topics without much problematic content, outside the disturbing ideas themselves; since the focus lies on character development, this season has less problematic implications than the first, but many of them are more troubling, emotionally. It never lingers too long, but themes of sexual violence (rape, forced prostitution, arranged marriages) range through several episodes. As it escalated, I was left looking forward to a resolution... and a happy ending.
Brief backside nudity in the first episode, along with a shot of an adulterous couple kissing and rolling around in bed; a man pays a prostitute to pretend to be the woman he loves; young girls are forced into prostitution and "sold" to the highest bidder (the musketeers save them all); the villain tries to rape the queen (he tries to kiss her, and forces her to the floor; subsequent scenes between them have sexual tension); a lady in waiting becomes intimate with Aramis, then regrets giving him her virginity.
Two uses of GD, some profanities.
Mass casualties from bullets, arrows, and swords, never that gruesome, but blood seeps from under slain bodies, spilling between crimson lips; a man strangles a woman to death on-screen, slowly; he tries the same thing on several others, but releases them.