Among many of the literature adaptations that movies and TV serve to us, Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers must be one of the more prevalent ones. The most recent one came to us not so long in the past – in 2011, Paul W.S. Anderson directed a version of Dumas’ classic novel with Logan Lerman, Matthew Macfadyen, Luke Evans, Ray Stevenson, Mads Mikkelsen, Christoph Waltz and Orlando Bloom in it. Going further back, in 1993, Disney Musketeered with Chris O’Donnell, Kiefer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen and Oliver Platt. So when, in 2014, BBC threw us another version of Dumas’ story – created by Adrian Hodges and entitled The Musketeers – one of my complaints was: AGAIN? REALLY?
I was ready to hate it. I went into it with no enthusiasm whatsoever. I had zero expectation when I decided to try out the first episode, out of boredom (not even curiosity!) Despite having Luke Pasqualino, whom I thought was a gorgeous eye candy from Snowpiercer, and Maimie McCoy, whom I became a fan of in Endeavour, I really had not thought to pick up this series for watching.
Oh, how wrong I was!
Instead of being bored by The Musketeers, I was thoroughly entertained by it. It’s not even the same case as BBC’s Atlantis, which entertained me through its addictive cheesiness and sheer balls for wrecking Greek mythology. I was seriously entertained by The Musketeers to the point of looking forward to it as my weekly dose of fun and recommending it to others. It’s mindless entertainment, yes, and it’s probably only half historically accurate but it’s definitely more inventive and imaginative than what W.S. Anderson gave us in 2011 with his movie… perhaps it’s precisely the lack of ‘Americanism’ in this show (it is, after all, made by the BBC) that I find enjoyable. To be fair, for being a French story, this show is lacking a lot of Frenchism as well, but what the heck. At least it feels European, instead of American, this time.
In short, this is a period costume drama with attractive people and adventurous plots in it – all the recipes for a good popcorn excitement in front of the TV. For me, that’s just wonderful! It keeps me from getting bored anyway.
Now that the show is coming to an end (season finale is on Sunday, 30 March 2014 in the UK), I’ve decided to sit down and properly think of the reasons why I like this show so much. As a result, I came up with a list of 10 reasons why I love it. My goal is to convince more people to watch it – either by tuning into it via BBC iPlayer or buying the DVD/Blu-ray that’s coming out soon. (Or, hey, torrent. I’m not judgmental.)
For reading convenience, I split the list into two parts. You are warned for ramblings, fangirling and possible spoilers in each of the points. Enjoy! And hopefully you’ll be convinced to watch the show.
Reasons 1-5 of why I love BBC’s The Musketeers
One. D’Artagnan is a cheeky bastard!
The great thing about Luke Pasqualino’s version of d’Artagnan is that he doesn’t look American. He doesn’t even look British. He has that Mediterranean look going on about him and that makes him very different from the previous d’Artagnans I’ve seen (Gabriel Byrne, Chris O’Donnell, Logan Lerman and, if I remember him correctly, Michael York.) This version is also less heroic than others – he makes mistakes, is hotheaded, likes to mouth off against his elders, is not gallant from the beginning (the way he took advantage of Constance! Ugh!), probably a womanizer-in-the-making, often guilty of underestimating women, etc. – and yet he has that dry wit and even common sense that seems to be beyond his years. This d’Artagnan intrigues me. Having watched Pasqualino in a few stuff now (once again, my favorite is his part in Snowpiercer), I can safely say that he’s a solid performer and promising actor. Getting to watch him week by week has been the most entertaining part of my 2014 so far.
Two. No two-dimensional characters!
The great thing about this version of The Three Musketeers is that there are 10 separate stories in the first season so, while this is probably not the purist’s idea of Dumas’ classical work, it is still a wonderful expansion of that world. As a result, the characters that we all know and love become something else.
We know that Athos is the charismatic older man with a sad past – but instead of just hearing about his past in an exposition, we get to see how he acquired his melancholy. We also know that Aramis is usually portrayed as the most religious of the Musketeers, but in The Musketeers, his ties to religion is shown in a more palpable way with a connection to his past. My favorite character background and development is Porthos. Not only is he portrayed as a mixed race Musketeer (which is a homage to Alexandre Dumas’ ethnicity), but he has one hell of a back story, involving the historical Cour des miracles, in it.
Having the story told in 10 episodes is definitely advantage for character development so I applaud Hodges for this approach.
Three. Capers, adventures and shenanigans abound!
Similarly, having 10 episodes means that we don’t only get just one big story about how the ambitious Cardinal Richelieu secretly tries to start a war between France and England. Instead, we get TEN continuous stories about how the Cardinal uses manipulation, underhanded tactics and other methods of ‘persuasion’ to control the kingdom. That’s about ten nefarious plots, involving the Cardinal or no, that will keep your heart racing for ten straight weeks!
But even if the Cardinal is not around, there’s still enough drama to keep you glued to the TV. Tales of slavery (episode 3 “Commodities”), revenge (episode 4 “The Good Soldier”), coming of age (episode 9 “The Challenge”) and even feminism (in episode 7 “A Rebellious Woman”) don’t only spice up the show, but add meat to it. Then you get guest appearances from the likes of Marie De Medici and Duke of Savoy.
Every week is swashbucklingly fun, with drama, humor, emotions and intensity packed in each episode. It is very hard to resist a show that can consistently serve all of these elements and yet The Musketeers manage to do it almost without fail during its entire first series run.
Four. The Cardinal is most diabolical indeed.
My first reaction when I saw Peter Capaldi in The Musketeers was: “Holy sh*t! Is this the man who is going to play the new Doctor in Doctor Who?!” Because I can’t imagine him being in DW, playing the leading man, after seeing him in this historical show where his character is so freakishly evil. I don’t think ‘diabolical’ is enough to cover it! Hands down, this is probably the best Cardinal Richelieu in recent times: he convincingly plays the part of a concerned mentor to the king, a cautious ally to the Musketeers and also a serious menace to society and humanity in general.
Without giving away too much of the plot, this version of Cardinal Richelieu always has something up his robes and is probably the one priest you will never want to have as your spiritual guide. I think I stick around with the show to wait for the moment of his downfall. He’s so evil that when he finally gets taken down (don’t know when), it’ll be very satisfying to watch.
Since Capaldi won’t be reprising his role as the Cardinal in the next season of The Musketeers, I hope that whoever replaces him as the Cardinal will be just as good. Luckily, Great Britain does not have a shortage of portrayers of villainy and I already have a few names I want to suggest to Hodges… (or perhaps they will defy history and bring in Cardinal Mazarin several decades ahead of his time? I’m not discounting that either, no matter how far-fetched this may sound!)
Five. Captain Treville, oh la la!
Remember The Full Monty? Remember that guy named Guy who is quite the handsome lad and turns out to be gay and ends up being boyfriends with the dorky looking lad from the same group? Yeah, that’s Hugo Speer. And yeah, the same Hugo Speer from The Full Monty is now playing the charismatic silver fox captain of the Musketeers, Captain Treville. Minor role in the novel, non-existent in the recent Musketeers films, but big role here. Treville also has some kind of a back story (tied to Aramis’ past) and even though it’s still just a supporting role, Speer is a very engaging actor who has a strong screen presence. If there’s one thing that I want to thank Adrian Hodges for in his version of Dumas’ story is that he brings Treville to life in such an amazing manner.
Continued in Part 2.