‘The Musketeers’ Episode 4: ‘The Good Soldier’ review

A stodgy, filler episode this week, that lays bare some poor characterisation. The unspoken is vastly more interesting than the dialogue, though Peter Capaldi and Ryan Gage do inject some humour into proceedings.

It is Aramis’ turn to have some character development this week, as he is reminded of a massacre that took place five years ago. The Duke of Savoy is in town to sign a treaty, and it was near Savoy the massacre took place. Could the two be linked? Well, obviously.

The characterisation for the Musketeers so far consists of giving them something to object to (something ambiguous like slavery or killing twenty people), and then watch them be angry at it.

Aramis ultimately wants justice over revenge, which he states early on, and so it’s not much of a journey for him. Conversely, Constance – having been distraught by shooting someone in the very first episode – has now performed a total u-turn and wants to learn how to swordfight and shoot, mainly because it allows D’Artagnan to put his hands on her waist as she aims (fortunately it’s not as cringeworthy as a similar scene in Torchwood). Possibly the increasingly tight corsets are cutting off the blood to Constance’s brain, making her forget her previous trauma.

Peter Capaldi gets more to do this week, and responds with a fine line in dry sarcasm. While Richelieu lets too much get away from him to be impressively Machievellian, he does at least feel like a real person, as does King Louis XIII. Ryan Gage’s sullen pout continues to deliver laughs and portray character very well.

It’s easy to see how Richelieu could manipulate this petulant child of a monarch, so when it is revealed that someone betrayed those massacred in Savoy, one assumes it must be Richelieu’s doing. If you’re watching in critical mode and know how the show works, you’ll realise it won’t be that obvious, and so it has to be – and is – Hugo Speer’s Captain Treville.

The only drawback to this is that so far Treville has had about twenty lines across the series, most of which are commands to his military subordinates. We barely know him, no matter how much Porthos insists he’s a fine man. There’s a lot of telling rather than showing going on here, as well as contrived ways to advance plot. It’s the least gripping the series has been.

When the truth about the massacre is revealed, the ramifications are left unexplored – probably by design – leaving the viewer with a chance to cogitate. If they do, they’ll find a depressing situation where the Musketeers are loyal soldiers willing to kill for the greater good. A collection of downbeaten James Bonds without the ability to get away from their masters.

When four Musketeers confront their commander, he refuses to speak, and they leave. For all the playground oddness of the scene, the power is very much with Treville.

Whether the series is content to keep swashbuckling, or break the characters free from these shackles remains to be seen. I personally hope it’s the latter.

Aired at 9pm on Sunday 9 February 2014 on BBC One.

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