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TV Review: ‘The Musketeers’ Encounter ‘The Prodigal Father’ as Intrigue Builds

Caution: This review contains spoilers.

Howard Charles as Porthos - BBC, Photo: Dusan Martinek

Howard Charles as Porthos – (C) BBC Photo: Dusan Martinek

Since the first episode of the second season, “The Musketeers” has dropped hints about Porthos’ father. Finally, in “The Prodigal Father,” we get to meet the reclusive and mysterious Marquis de Belgard. It’s a chance for both Liam Cunningham and Howard Charles to shine in their portrayals as reunited father and son. However, as Captain Treville (Hugo Speer) points out, it’s not so simple as that. Years ago, Treville left young Porthos and his mother in the Court of Miracles, hardly a nice place to be cast out.

Porthos also meets his half-sister, Eleanor (Emma Hamilton), and her husband Levesque (Steven Cree) whose mistreatment of servants catches the eye of the other Musketeers. As one can imagine, it’s hardly a happy family reunion except for the Marquis, who is pleased that Porthos is more skilled at fighting than Levesque. However, Porthos is conflicted about his whole life, wondering if his status in the Musketeers can be attributed to Treville’s guilt rather than his own skill. Ultimately, Porthos’ abandonment can be traced back to the machinations of Belgard after all, stitching up the temporary rift with Treville, who can be considered better father material anyway. My only criticism is that the fake picture of Porthos’ mother was way too easy to figure out as just that, given the fellow’s reaction of confusion and surprise to his father’s “gift.”

Meanwhile, Constance (Tamla Kari) stubbornly prefers mourning Bonaciex’s death rather than rushing straight into the arms of D’Artagnan (Luke Pasqualino). In the end, she comes to her senses and things finally seem to be going well for them. Also, Rochefort (Marc Warren) is continuing to gain influence over King Louis (Ryan Gage), who is in fear for his safety. The distressed monarch signs papers which give Rochefort full control of the household and perhaps other affairs of state. (Always read the fine print before you sign.) Nonetheless, Rochefort’s devices are of no secret to Milady and to some extent, the Musketeers. Even Queen Anne’s (Alexandra Dowling) good esteem of him crumbles when he attacks her in her chamber. Luckily, Constance’s return comes just in time to save the queen from immediate harm but not from accusations of treason concerning her Majesty’s connection to Aramis (Santiago Cabrera).

Certainly, Rochefort is quite creepy but I’m not entirely convinced that he’s shaped up to be a great villain this season. Don’t get me wrong, Warren has been very good with his performances of the material he’s been given. Throwing a new villain into the mix supposedly gave the production team an opportunity to try new things, it’s been said. Take for example, the new adventures of the king, giving Ryan Gage more to do than merely fuss and be a childish ruler, which have been welcome avenues to add another dimension to his character. However, it seems that most of the time, Rochefort pops up in pursuit of the queen or to play court to the king. Rather, I would attribute the “darker” and more action-intense plots to the change in time slot. Greater flexibility in the plots could still have been managed even with Cardinal Richelieu in control of the king’s guards.

Stay tuned for next week’s episode, which looks to be centered on Aramis and Queen Anne. Will Rochefort succeed in his plans?

New episodes of “The Musketeers” airs Saturday evenings on BBC America at 9|8c.

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TV Review: Season 2 of ‘The Musketeers’ Starts Strong

“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.

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TV Recap: ‘Musketeers,’ Mothers and French Diplomacy in ‘The Exiles’

Caution: This review contains spoilers on “The Exiles.”

The latest episode of “The Musketeers” on BBC America focuses on two different types of mothers, with a nice twist. Aramis (Santiago Cabrera) and D’artagnan (Luke Pasqualino) are charged with retrieving Agnes and her infant son from the country. However, the baby Henry is kidnapped before the men arrive, making the routine assignment anything but ordinary.

Meanwhile, King Louis’ (Ryan Gage) party is interrupted by the arrival of his mother, Marie de’ Medici (Tara Fitzgerald). She seeks protection, claiming that people are after her life. Louis is upset because de’ Medici tried to seize his throne before and was subsequently exiled. The conflict gives a bit more depth to the monarch, who is persuaded to provide help. Cardinal Richelieu (Peter Capaldi) gets a great line here as he says, “Decapitating one’s mother is rarely popular with the people, sire. It always looks a touch ungrateful.”

It’s a tenuous alliance between Treville (Hugo Spear) and Richelieu (Peter Capaldi) as they work to protect King Louis from his mother. Louis seems ready to accept his mother again into the royal household, a move that both officials do not see ending well. Eventually, their suspicions are revealed to be quite sound as political intrique mounts with the discovery that baby Henry’s father is the late twin brother of Louis.

The standout performances of the evening come from Capaldi and Fitzgerald. Their standoff as Richelieu and de’ Medici is pivotal to the fate of the French crown. Richelieu is asked to switch his allegiance as de’ Medici admits her plan to bring her armies into Paris within the hour. Fitzgerald perfectly radiates an aura of danger with her eyes and confident smirk, as Capaldi appears to walk the tightrope with measured unease and annoyance in his countenance.

There’s a clever use of hair and costuming to portray the potential shift in power as well: de’ Medici puts on a finer dress and more elaborate (and regal) hairstyle as she asserts her advantage over Richelieu. Richelieu’s black robes and deep red cape have also changed to a black robe with brighter red accents across his chest. However, the Cardinal manages to turn the tables on the conniving grandmother with his own news of the baby’s supposed death, thanks to the assistance of Treville.

Overall, the episode was entertaining. Aramis shines a bit as the central Musketeer, focusing on his promise to keep Henry safe rather than dive into a predictable plot line of romancing Agnes. For a couple of minutes, one could easily find the baby’s death believable. It also brought in another interesting villain. Marie de’ Medici is going into “retirement” but her return as an adversary for the Musketeers would certainly be welcome in the future, given that Capaldi will not be returning as Richelieu next season.

“The Musketeers” airs Sundays at 9|8c on BBC America.

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