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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