The Musketeers episode 4 review: The Good Soldier

Review Rob Kemp 9 Feb 2014 - 22:00

The Musketeers introduces a soldier suffering from PTSD in this week's episode. Here's Rob's review...

This review contains spoilers.

1.4 The Good Soldier

Last week’s Commodities struggled to juggle the dramatic intensity against the series' more traditionally fun and adventurous elements. The Good Soldier tackles similar themes and approach in exploring the troubled past and character of a single Musketeer, in this case Aramis, whilst juggling several side-plots designed to keep the other Musketeers busy.

The story is relatively simple despite the themes it explores. The Duke of Savoy (well played by Vincent Regan) has come to see the King in order to sign a treaty that will tie the two countries more closely together. A failed assassination attempt leads the Musketeers to explore the events of a past massacre in which Aramis barely survived. The revelations of their investigations touch heavily on several important themes – friendship, loyalty, trust and treachery, which for a series whose legendary motto is centred on solidarity should and does make for an entertaining hour.

Santiago Cabrera plays the conflicted Aramis well. Where past iterations of The Musketeers have sometimes failed is that these characters are supposed to be nuanced and complicated. All too often they have they been played within broad clichés – the pious one, the lover, the fighter, the drunk – and whereas this might work for the duration of a film, a series of any discernable length presents more challenging demands. Here Cabrera has to sell the audience not only his loyalty to his country but also to his comrades and chain of command whilst facing the possibility that those he held in such high regard betrayed him several years ago. It’s an inner conflict that could have so easily have come across as forced, but Cabrera does so well that when he confronts Treville you feel that he's fully justified in his actions, even when coming to his defence at the close.

What The Good Soldier does better than Commodities is even though it’s principally all about Aramis, his story touches the others in far more substantial ways than that of Athos and his past life with Milady. Honour and integrity is the very core of what it is to be a Musketeer, by having these values threatened we get a sense of what this friendship is all about, and what these seemingly very different people see in each other. This is demonstrated no better than when Aramis reveals his thoughts on Treville’s betrayal, the reactions of the other Musketeers and the trust they put in him, despite their own misgivings and disbelief are significant.  Yes - it’s just another way of bonding the four closer together and for the audience to buy into a relationship that puts such high values before others, but it doesn’t mean it any less effective or moving. At the end of episode we really do start to get a feel for what bonds these four together as well as what baggage they bring.

It was also good to see Richelieu grabbing some screen time. Despite some excellent nastiness in the opening episode, the good Cardinal has subsequently lacked any real involvement. The Good Soldier unfortunately doesn’t give him much in the way to extend his credentials as someone with whom not to mess (and in that regard Milady is starting to have him beat) but it did give us a glimpse at what he’s like when his back is against the wall. However, I have to say, I was surprised. When faced with exposure of his detainment of the Duke’s counsellor I expected him to be able to think or scheme his way out of the situation as opposed to appear rather helpless. The character of Richelieu, much like D’Artagnan, has been portrayed in many different ways and it could be that this is just the direction Hodges wants to push the character. There’s nothing wrong in that, and it would certainly be more interesting than a seemingly unstoppable mastermind. All too often we look for weaknesses in our heroes to make them believable, but to see them in villains as well makes for a much rounder characterisation. Either way, I’m still looking forward to when the Musketeer back stories are complete and the series can refocus on the Richelieu and Milady plot threads that have been hinted and trailered but have much, much further to go. 

Also worthy of mention is the way in which Hodges has been developing the relationship between D’Artagnan and Constance Bonacieux. Wisely keeping her husband sufficiently off-screen to give the romance chance to bloom, but enough for the audience to understand that he’s a bit of a loser generates a feeling of permissiveness and by so doing we happily accept it - despite what infidelity means in the context of the Musketeers’ code. The question remains though, how will the relationship be treated once it occurs and once it’s revealed? Milady’s visit in the previous episode had a feeling of something portentous, and certainly other adaptations have played the meeting of the two women as deadly. However it develops, the reward for the writers’ thoughtful approach is that I feel that those two will drag the audience through the proverbial mill before the series end and add some real emotional punch to counter the plots and sword fights to come.

All in all – a good episode that shows The Musketeers can handle drama alongside the fun and action. More like this please. 

Read Rob's review of the previous episode, Commodities, here.

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