The Musketeers episode 7 review: A Rebellious Woman

Review Rob Kemp 9 Mar 2014 - 22:00

A Rebellious Woman is a triumphant return to form for The Musketeers. Here's Rob's review...

This review contains spoilers.

1.7 A Rebellious Woman

The Musketeers has been suffering from what could be considered a mid-season slump. In of themselves, the past few episodes haven’t been disastrous, but they are guilty of not living up to the relatively high bar set in the opening episodes. They had the feel of filler, the narrative calm before the ramp up to the end of the season. In many ways A Rebellious Woman confirms this, as it sees a triumphant return of form for the show.  

This week it’s all about Ninon De Larroque (played with admirable defiance and passion by Annabelle Wallis), an independently wealthy woman who cherishes independence, freedom of thought, the right of education and above all else the ability for women to enjoy all three. Of course, in seventeenth century France this is anathema to the strict religious teachings and direction from Rome, which sees any such act of independence as heresy. It just so happens that Rome has sent an envoy to the Cardinal in an attempt to persuade France to drop their treaty with Sweden.  It is as this point that the two stories collide with the Cardinal having to scheme against De Larrouque to take her fortune, whilst satisfying Rome that his faith remains to the church in order to secure popularity for his own advancement. Cue Salem-like witch trials, poison, Milady and that Freudian slip.

This is truly The Musketeers back on form. It felt like there was a renewed energy amongst the cast as the banter quotient was high, the lines hit well and for the first time in a while, everyone looked truly comfortable in their roles. A reoccurring problem with The Musketeers has been the shoe-horning of heavy drama in-between the humour and action making it feel out of place and awkward. A Rebellious Woman has the issue of women’s rights front and centre, and consistently throughout the episode. As the other plot lines were intrinsically interwoven with De Larroque and her plight it strengthened the issue rather than detracted from it, which meant the episode felt much more cohesive and less contrived.

There were also some great scenes. I criticised the way in which the King was portrayed in the previous episode as he appeared a caricature of himself – playing it extremely childish and unlikeable. Here, the King, although at times immature seems much more in control of himself as seen in his response to Sestini’s introduction as he still grasps the importance of the situation and knows how to take advantage of it to great and humorous effect. The trial itself was really well done, especially the appearance of Miladay and Athos’ subsequent reaction. This was in many ways an important moment that the series had been building up to and it was good to see it wasn’t fumbled.

Whilst talking about the trial, I have to mention the excellent work by Murray Gold. Gold’s music has been generally great – the theme alone is a good example of how he so well captures the spirit of a show. However, there are a couple of examples, the trial, the building of the pyre and the final Constance/D’Artagnan scene in which they all benefit from his interpretation of the mood and character and are in turn much better for it.

Perhaps the element I most enjoyed was that, after fearing Capaldi had been wasted as a Cardinal who was too often passive and under developed, we finally had an episode that seemed worthy of his talent. Here we saw what the Cardinal was about: cunning, maliciousness and selfishness. The plot was tailored to explore what he would be willing to do for his own gain and advancement, and we were left with no uncertainty over how far he would go. His stating that he wasn’t a cruel man, just a practical one wasn’t just a good line, but was an excellent window into his psyche. Of course - he is a cruel man – but that fact he doesn’t see this as cruelty but rather a measure of practicality is not just bordering on the psychotic but is exactly what you want in such a great and interesting character. He last speech declaring that nothing will stop him rung with a significant ambiguity – stop him from what? The finding out, I’m sure, will be good.

Although the Cardinal’s morality-debating, witch-burning and poisoning was by far the most enjoyable aspect of the episode, it didn't make the most impact. That, of course, was left to the final scene in which D’Artagnan and Constance finally got it on. I’ve wondered how the show runners were going to get around the fact that despite their obvious attraction and Constance’s less-than amorous affection for her husband – they were still going to commit adultery. They handled it in the best possible way – with an episode focused on the liberation of women, their rights and freedoms, along with an innocent Freudian slip followed by a very guilty pause. The lack of signposting (D’Artagnan was kept largely in the background throughout the episode) gave it additional depth and wallop. Just how their relationship continues will no doubt be explored in the next few episodes, hopefully it continues in the same thoughtful and patient way it has developed.

I’m pleased that A Rebellious Women worked so well, especially after the recent episodes lacklustre approach. Finger crossed it continues, but of course it must as next week we welcome Vinnie Jones… 

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

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