The Musketeers episode 2 review: Sleight Of Hand

Review Rob Kemp 26 Jan 2014 - 22:00

The Musketeers continues with a fun, exciting episode that has Rob quietly optimistic for the series...

This review contains spoilers.

1.2 Sleight Of Hand

Last week I wondered if the BBC would have a problem filling Sherlock’s timeslot with something as equally entertaining and special. At the time I didn’t think they did, (have a problem that is) although I was concerned that in retelling such a well-known story the audience might lose interest when the initial fascination died down. After all, despite the peril, we can be pretty confident that each story will start and end with the same number of Musketeers. It’s the journey then, that’s important and in this The Musketeers is proving to be fun, exciting and exactly what we need on a Sunday evening.

It’s in the smaller moments where this episode excels. That’s not to say the main plot wasn’t enjoyable. Jason Fleming’s Vadim is an interesting villain, whose penchant for trickery and deception keeps the story flowing even though the twists are a little on the nose. Alongside this, we get a little more of the D’Artagnan and Constance Bonacieux entanglement, although Mr Bonacieux’s lack of screen time makes this appear less Dangerous Liaisons and more Four Weddings. We are also introduced to the beginning of stirrings between Aramis and the Queen, which although in keeping with both characters, moves away from the source material in a departure that may interestingly have substantial ramifications as the series develops.

However, right from the off, it’s the throwaways and minor scenes that make this episode really good fun, which shouldn’t be too unexpected from Toby Haynes, who gave us Sherlock’s excellent The Reichenbach Fall. The opening play on the Musketeers motto, the interplay between D’Artagnan and Constance and the great scene with Athos and Aramis interviewing Vadim’s mistress were all enjoyable moments. What could have been quite easily some perfunctory exposition has some of the best lines of the episode.

It’s not just the dialogue that’s good, the visuals are also interesting. The fights in the catacombs have such a good use of shadow and light that it imbues the show with a quality and style that makes it so interesting to watch. In a fitting climax, the imagery of Vadim dripping both blood and coins during his final walk is yet another example that the show is capable of adding depth to what could so easily have been a run-on-rails adventure.

With the attention on Vadim, the series main villains are kept largely to supporting roles, consequentially Capaldi and McCoy have little to do here except reinforce their ability to pull strings and commit murder. The Musketeers themselves also take a back seat, but it’s good to see that even then, Charles and Burke are striving to add individuality to their characters. Charles’ Porthos, for me, is still The Musketeers prize asset (yes – even in a show with Capaldi as Richelieu) and I hope that he is given the opportunity to shine as a main character, rather than scene-steal within the ensemble.

Pasqualino was front and centre for this episode and continues to impress upon the audience that despite being a well-coiffured ‘pretty-boy’, he can act as well.  That’s going to be essential to the show’s success as it would appear that he’ll be central to several of the main plots. He’s certainly proved that he can do heroics and romance, how he’ll cope with betrayal, affairs and Milady will be a much tougher test.

Sleight of Hand was fun and exciting, but with a quality of touch that has me quietly optimistic, even at this early stage in the season.  Yes we may think we know the story, but if it’s this entertaining do we care? ­­

Read Rob's review of the previous episode, Friends And Enemies, here.

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Better than last weeks episode, but thats not saying much. I like the gritty style, the choreography and most of the acting, but the cliches need to stop. Im unfamiliar with any of the musketeer canon, but it surely isn't as cliched as this? And if it is, it wouldnt kill the writers to change all that. It is an adaptation after all.

Where to begin? How about Mrs look-how-conniving-I-am. I dont know the characters name, nor do I care to. Ugh, why do ALL of these historical action/dramas have to be full of these grinning, manipulative women? And this one looks and acts exactly like Cersei from GOT.

You know what, I can't be bothered to write anymore, but there is MUCH more I disliked.

Beautiful sets, stylish, atmospheric and well cast but the plot had too many holes and the script was terrible. You could almost see Jason Fleming wincing while having to deliver those corny lines.
I almost laughed out loud at how silly it was when the chief of the musketeers came out with some line about D'Artagnan being undercover while talking to the musketeers in private, who obviously were already in on the plan, just for the benefit of the audience - he might as well have broken the 4th wall and looked at the camera. That level of spoon-feeding is just insulting to the viewer.

I know right. I believe one of them actually said "I think she likes you" to D'Artagnan. I mean who the f--k wrote that?

I enjoyed this, its much better than the dire Atlantis.

I'm really enjoying The Musketeers. Yes it's corny, but it's a lot of fun.

In many ways it's just like Atlantis, but with a story, pacing, quality acting and characters that you can actually give a damn about! (meow)

And it needs some kind of award for the funkiest new TV theme tune of 2014.

completely agree, horrendous script. Case & point - "Common sense, is for common-ers". oh and let's not forget Mdme Bonificieux's helpful clunking exposition mid-episode - "First you were a condemned man, now you're a fugitive!" just as well she reminded him, D'Artagnan does look a bit forgetful.

I gotta agree, I drifted away a bit this time, but seemed to come back whenever the swords appeared. Maybe it's Murray Gold's amazing score. Despite that, it was good fun. I'm just loving the details: the carved leather, the gowns, feathers, buckles, furniture. It must be so much fun to be a part of making this show.

Missed the first episode, watched the second last night and was impressed considering it's only just started and actors normally take a while to get 'comfortable' with their characters ...

Looks good, nice and pacey, some great lines (laughed out loud with their advice at the duel "It's all good!") and yeah some real clunkers, but I'm also quietly hopeful about this series ...

I'd just like to put it out there I'd love to see a new series of The Scarlet Pimpernel, maybe a bit more actiony [sorry random thought moment] ...

I'd love to see a new Pimpernel series too, it must be about time for one.
I always liked the Richard E Grant version from about 15 years back, shame they didn't make a few more of them.

I'm enjoying this too. Good fun swashbuckling stuff for a Sunday night!

Another episode of rip-roaring, swashbuckling, rollicking, thigh slapping nonsense. Although not quite enough Capaldi in this one for my taste (why does no one ever mention he's an Oscar winning director as well as a hell of an actor? Just a thought) it was still very entertaining. Let's face it, this show could have turned out a lot worse. Like Atlantis-bad. Think on that.

Am i right in thinking this is filmed in the same place as Merlin was filmed. Some of them hallways looked familiar . Oh i enjoyed this weeks explosive episode. Shame the baddy died at the end as he could of been a great regular villain aside the new doc

Parts of Merlin were filmed in France, and this was filmed in Prague, which is in France .. so ..

Prague is in France..?!

I agree. I think The Musketeers could compete with Merlin which I thought was fantastic! Atlantis is not a worthy replacement for Merlin!

Prague? France? Not two places I thought went together...

So it turns out Prague isn't in France ...

So it turns out Prague isn't in France. ...

Milady is the quintaessential femme fatale and both she and her personal story are quite relevant in the book. If they changed anything about that it'd be terrible. She's quite the villain.
I think that the canon can be said to be cliched, in a way, but it is a literary classic. Almost all of them are cliched nowadays because our cliches come from them in the first place.

Sorry, but to compare this archetype of the manipulative, dangerous woman - which is well done and at the right place here - to Cersei Baratheon simply shows that you pay no attention at all to GOT and its characters. Cersei has a much more complex background and motivation, which shows in every line in the book and every second she´s on screen. Oh, and she´s blond, BTW.

That said, The Musketeers turns out to be MUCH better than I had expected. I gave it a chance because the Merlin guys are busy elsewhere (and judging by the comments here doing the exact same kind of BS over there as I feared) and therefore this has a true chance to shine. My heart was sold at the first scene of the first episode (the whole inn at the road setting had too much great Warhammer scenery to not feel great right from the start), and the head followed soon after, with now two very solid and nicely written and acted episodes in a row.

A very good start for a series that could have been so easily killed by so many things.

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