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The Musketeers: Season One (DVD)
The Musketeers, Athos, Aramis and Porthos, are far more than merely royal bodyguards for King Louis XIII; they are inseparable, loyal unto death and committed to upholding justice. Together, this crack team of highly trained soldiers fight for honour, for valour, for love, and just for the pure thrill of it. When d'Artagnan arrives in Paris to avenge his father's death he soon impresses the three Musketeers with his bravery and skill, and quickly discovers kindred spirits in these boisterous soldiers. Witty, action-packed episodic stories combine with breathtaking adventure and stunning production values to create this cinematic, blockbuster drama series with universal appeal.]]>
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But whereas "Robin Hood" inexplicably killed off vitally important characters in its season two finale (leaving the survivors to meander listlessly through an awful final season) and "Merlin" clung so strongly to its formula ("keep the magic secret") that it shut down all possibility of any meaningful development, "The Musketeers" finds that happy balance between plot and character. Throw in a good grasp of continuity, high production values, and actors that embody their roles to perfection, and this a show that fully delivers on its promise of being swashbuckling fun for the whole family - emphasis on *fun*.
If you're a fan of Alexandre Dumas's novel (and subsequent sequels) be warned that you're not going to find a faithful retelling of the plot. Instead, the writers are more concerned with keeping the spirit of the novel intact whilst spinning their own tales across the ten forty-five minute episodes that comprise the first season. And despite the departure from Dumas's stories, the scripts are pretty solidly written. Sure, they follow familiar plots (rescue a damsel in distress, thwart an assassin, clear the name of an innocent man/woman, hunt down a dangerous criminal), but there are very few plot-holes and some unexpected twists in the usual formula. Best of all - nobody is stupid, least of all our heroes. So many stories rely on characters behaving like idiots or ignoring the obvious, but this show very much pits intelligent villains against equally intelligent heroes, giving everything a real sense of suspense and tension.
The cast is impeccable. Seriously, there's not a weak note among them, and it's going to be difficult accepting future actors in these roles, so brilliantly does this cast embody each character. Tom Burke is a droll and world-weary Athos, the de-facto leader of the group who has perpetual suffering in his eyes despite his snarky quips. Santiago Cabrera (who played Lancelot on Merlin) is the free-spirited Aramis, whose religious faith and gentlemanly air belies his enjoyment of hedonistic pleasures.
Luke Pasqualino is a wonderful D'artagnan, capturing his youth, inexperience and hot-headedness without tipping him into obnoxiousness, whilst Howard Charles is probably the best Porthos I've ever seen. In a lovely touch, the writers draw upon Alexandre Dumas's personal history to map out the backstory of Porthos (in conversation, Porthos mentions that his mother was a freed slave; Alexandre Dumas was the son of a black Haitian, who in turn was the son of an aristocratic French father and a freed slave, Marie-Cesette). Already people are kicking up a fuss that the character is being played by a mixed-race actor, though I honestly don't see how anyone could watch five seconds of Howard Charles in the role and not think that he wasn't born to play Porthos.
Peter Capaldi is Cardinal Armand de Richelieu - so wonderfully nuanced in his plotting and scheming that I'm almost resentful that we're going to lose him to Doctor Who, whilst Ryan Gage has the thankless task of playing King Louis XIII as a petulant man-child. Yet even he injects his role with a sense of pathos: this is a king surrounded by more competent, intelligent men, and despite all his posturing and bluster, Louis KNOWS it. That self-awareness does wonders in generating sympathy in the audience, for there's a clear effort on Louis's behalf in trying to keep up with those around him.
For a show that's headlined by so many male stars, you may be forgiven for thinking that there's no room for any women. There you'd be wrong. Tamla Kari is a wonderful Constance, with a weary tolerance but deep affection for all the Musketeers, who proves extremely useful when it comes to providing distractions and gathering information. Alexandra Dowling is a fragile and beautiful Queen Anne - perhaps a little underused at times, but with plenty of potential to grow as a character. And then of course, Maimie McCoy as Milady de Winter. It's my opinion that any adaptation of Dumas's story will rise or fall on its depiction of Milady, for she's the ultimate foil to the Musketeers, a woman whose seductive charms is about the only thing that could threaten their bromance. Here McCoy goes for femme fatale over guileless charm, making Milady a suitably cunning adversary. Yet the writing manages to explore her desire for revenge without demonizing her, and the simmering tension she leaves in her wake is one of the highpoints of the show.
Even the guest-stars bring it their all, with appearances from Jason Flemying, Zoe Tapper, James Callis, JJ Feild, Annabelle Wallis, Vinnie Jones, John Lynch and Tara Fitzgerald (basically, a bevy of familiar faces that you'll recognize from Poirot, The Tudors, Merlin, Downton Abbey and a range of other BBC dramas).
In short, "The Musketeers" is like getting a mini-action movie every week, filled with verve and energy and charm. I honestly can't remember the last time a light-hearted drama left me this satisfied. The chemistry between the leads is fantastic, the characters imminently loveable (even the bad guys!), the theme music rousing, and everything about the costuming and set design is gorgeous.
I'd say it's suitable for younger viewers (perhaps ages eight and up), though parents might want to have a quick trawl-through before leaving children alone with it. The violence is largely stylized with minimal blood, and any bedroom scenes are largely composed of characters reclining in bed with their clothes on (or at least fully concealed under the covers).
But most importantly, this is a show that actually has *heroes* as its protagonists. In recent years it feels as though there's been an onslaught of anti-heroes on television, with shows revolving around drug-dealers, serial killers, vampires, pirates, smugglers and other unsavory folk. I've enjoyed plenty of those shows, but I honestly can't tell you how uplifting it is to watch a show starring likable, decent men who uphold the law, live by a code of conduct, respect women, and consistently place others before their own needs. Sure, they've got their foibles, but all of them are focused on doing the right thing, and living for something greater than themselves. How utterly refreshing.
"The Musketeers" gets five whole-hearted stars from me.
The other writing that is great are the three females, Constance, Milady and the Queen. They are extremely intelligent and their unique contributions to the series are awesome too. I love that the writing addresses womens issues, gender roles, Porthos being biracial (though it is hinted this will come back later, his parentage). Really fun themes spun into the plot.
There is "sex" in that the musketeers and other characters definitely sleep around, however, there is nothing particularly graphic. No grinding, no nudity, it's more hinted at than shown (the couple in bed after, as opposed to wasting two minutes watching them get it on) which I appreciate because teens could watch this too. Because they keep the sex toned down it is more family friendly that way.
Even the violence isn't gory. which is kinda nice. On the whole, the characters drive this series and it's great fun. The hardest part of watching it is trying to decide who is my favorite Musketeer.
Most recent customer reviews
The movies are wonderful to watch and enjoy the British version