“The Musketeers” are back on BBC America for a second season. The title is “Keep Your Friends Close” and I suppose, by implication, enemies closer as the saying goes. Noticeably missing is Peter Capaldi as Cardinal Richelieu, due to the actor’s prudent switch to the BBC hit, “Doctor Who.” Richelieu is far from everyone’s minds however, as the premiere opens with his funeral and the question of a suitable replacement on both the King’s Council and the helm of the Red Guard. He even speaks from the grave with an ominous warning to Aramis at the end of the episode. One wonders why, if the Cardinal knew everyone’s secrets, he didn’t put them to good use.
King Louis (Ryan Gage) is thoroughly disappointed when Captain Treville (Hugo Speer) turns down Richelieu’s job. Meanwhile, the D’Artagnan (Luke Pasqualino), Athos (Tom Burke), Aramis (Santiago Cabrera), and Porthos (Howard Charles) are on a mission to retrieve one of Richelieu’s men. I was always weary of these types of missions, as it tends to take a while for the momentum to build. However, it appears the production team and cast have settled in nicely into the swing of things. The musketeers rescue the Comte de Rochefort (newcomer Marc Warren), who has a dark and suspicious air from the start.
His vital information for the king leads right away to another rescue mission: return to the Spanish fortress for General de Foix (Dominic Mafham), the architect of the strategy used against the Spanish. Rochefort is revealed to viewers as a Spanish spy and he’s successful at winning Richelieu’s empty spot with de Foix’s rescue. He’s proven to be quite ruthless, cunning, and even a capable fighter: qualities that will be sure to give the musketeers trouble. It’s easy to go further in saying that he’s worse than Richelieu, who detested Spain. Yet, Rochefort doesn’t seem to have much love for the Spanish either, save the queen, and may dispense with the alliance of convenience soon.
There are a few teasers of conflicts yet to come. Constance is given a job as confidante to Queen Anne (Alexandra Dowling), a post secured for her by D’Artagnan that no doubt irks her husband Bonacieux (Bohdan Poraj). It’s clear from her strange daydreams that she still carries a torch for D’Artagnan, who labels her a coward. Even more curious is the fact that the queen even wants a private messenger but there are strong hints that the King’s newborn son is actually Aramis’. The other small teaser is Treville and de Foix’s role in the past of Porthos, whose father was a friend of the aforementioned comrades.
Surprisingly, there’s quite a lot of action in this episode, which could be in part because it’s a season opener. D’Artagnan even gets a neat underwater scene. Another reason for improvement may be the new UK time slot, shifting to the so-called “watershed” period when more violence and adult content is permissible. It also seems like secondary characters are being given more room to grow, including King Louis, who is a big focus in next week’s installment.
“The Musketeers” airs Saturday evenings at 9|8c on BBC America.