The Musketeers episode 9 review: Knight Takes Queen

Review Rob Kemp 23 Mar 2014 - 22:00

Fighting nuns feature in this week's enjoyable romp of a Musketeers episode...

This review contains spoilers.

1.9 Knight Takes Queen

Last week’s episode, The Challenge, was – let’s face it - a bit of a disappointment. Not only did it lack the spark and quality of the previous week’s excellent A Rebellious Woman it’s also guilty of not giving the significance of D’Artagnan’s commission nor the souring between D’Artagnan and Constance the weight it really deserved. This week however, Knight Takes Queen, written by Peter McKenna and directed by Andy Hoys (director of The Musketeers’ so-so The Exiles) moves the action away from Paris towards the country and a convent so that the Musketeers can protect the Queen against seemingly insurmountable odds.

Principally a ‘seige’ episode, it’s a concept that should work well within The Musketeers world. France’s best, protecting the Queen against committed and skilful enemies appeals to everything that is good about The Musketeers. Action – tick. Good banter whilst facing death – tick. Cardinal being a git – double tick. Fighting nuns throwing beehives – err, tick. All the ingredients are there for a fun Sunday evening’s viewing. 

It comes as no surprise then that the episode opens well, with the opening twenty minutes establishing great pace and intent, building nicely up to the siege itself. However (and yes, unfortunately there is a but), this is where it goes slightly wrong. Knight takes Queen pays for its fairly hectic opening in that when it does take a breath, the audience catches up, looks around and realises that it’s been deceived.

The bad guys - or more specifically the threat that they represent - do not live up to expectations, appearing as they do a vacuous rent-a-mob, keen to run into bullets instead of dodge them. Their leader, Gallagher (Lochlain O’Mearain) has been introduced as someone you’d undoubtedly want to stay clear of, especially if you were a rat. Unfortunately  that’s  about as badass as he gets. Indeed, although Treville speculates that they are of the same quality as the Musketeers, their suicidal approach to the convent would indicate otherwise (at times it was like watching auditions for entry into the crack suicide squad of the Judean People’s Front). Ultimately, despite the significant odds there was never any real sense of threat towards Athos and Aramis or the Queen. There were missed opportunities aplenty and I can’t help thinking that a better use of night and the dark would have been a more dramatic way in which to increase both menace and the plausibility of a worthy foe – but unfortunately that would have also meant that Aramis wouldn’t have been able to bed the Queen.

In what has been a consistent theme with The Musketeers, there is no better way than ruin the flow of the main story than introduce a dramatic sub-plot that has either no place within the context of the episode or serves to distract or detract from the main story. However, to give its proper due, there had been rumblings of secret desires between the Queen and Aramis from as long ago as episode two, so this wasn’t a surprise.  Also, much like the way the writers gave credence to Constance’s affair with D’Artagnan, what better way to justify the unfaithful acts of the Queen than in an episode where her husband has effectively given her a death sentence, albeit unwittingly. Again, as in most Musketeers episodes the best part is not always in the event – but the banter that takes place after, and the exchange between Athos and Aramis in the morning after the night before rates highly amongst them.  

So if this sub-plot gets a pass, the other concerning Aramis finding his ex-fiancé as a nun in a convent they stumble across whilst being chased by lots of men - most certainly does not. If we get past the contrivance of finding his ex-financé in the first place, she actually serves no purpose whatsoever (unless you think that that Queen only slept with Aramis because he needed cheering up). Fortunately she doesn’t survive long enough to be any significant distraction but it would be really nice if, just for once, the show could just concentrate on getting the one plot right.

I did have significant concerns over how Capaldi was being wasted as the Cardinal, but the last few episodes had really started to give him room to demonstrate just how nasty he is, and in Knight Takes Queen, his eye for opportunity is especially cunning. Similarly, in previous episodes he’s been weak and passive in resolving problems, typically relying on the Musketeers for help. Here he’s on fine form, pulling Milady’s strings and framing the Count without any sign of guilt or conscience. What was also good is that the developing antagonism between Milady and Cardinal is quite clearly now ready to boil over. The Milady and Cardinal relationship has been an interesting and well played transformation. Initially it appeared that Milady posed more of a direct threat and her reaction and relationship to the Cardinal seemed more as a peer than as a willing servant. The fear that’s started to creep into McCoy’s performance adds to the Cardinal’s menace and her increasing desperation at his growing agitation will undoubtedly come to a head in next week’s finale.

I couldn’t finish without some mention of fighting nuns. It was a nice touch, if a little too tongue in cheek, but when a nun hurls a massive beehive over the wall it had a Monty Pythonesque feel that seemed a little out of place, (but you did have the Judean People’s Front attacking the convent, so was strangely appropriate).

Despite the lack of overall threat and missed opportunities in the execution of the siege, Knight Takes Queen was an enjoyable enough romp. It was neither an example of how good the series has been, nor an episode consigned to the bargain bin. It possibly didn’t quite reach the crescendo I was hoping for as the season’s penultimate episode, but I can only hope (and the teaser didn’t disappoint) that next week's finale ends the show on a high. 

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

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I really liked the episode (apart from the whole infidelity subplots in the series, but that's just personal taste, if it's part of the franchise then so be it), especially the increase in viciousness from Capaldi's Cardinal. I think where it let itself down was the villain. He's introduced as a really good shot and a force to be reckoned with, an equal to the Musketeers. But as far as I could tell, all he did was watch his mooks get mowed down. I don't believe he actually did any fighting or anything - certainly no 'boss fight' as we got with Vinnie last week or Flemyng in the second episode. In fact, despite his apparent introduction as a sharpshooter, I'm sure he only fired three times (well multiple times in his intro, then twice after, the Queen's maid and his mook). Unless I missed some shots in the battle (actually, I think he took a shot at Arthos through the window which Athos had to dodge, ok four then) that really underplayed his use.
But yeah, such as with me, I talk a lot about what I didn't like and it makes it seem that I had a negative view of the episode when in fact all that means is that apart from that, I liked the rest of the episode.

One of the best so far. Fun, beautifully shot and involving.

I'm surprised by the negativity of these reviews, to be honest. Complaints about adding emotional drama? Surely that's a good thing. Here, it's a grumble about the nun sub-plot, but it was one of the most fascinating aspects. It's still the first series, we're learning about the characters. Aramis' actions with the queen are given a new perspective given what his old girlfriend said about him and it's unsettling. And it's absolutely worthy of note that he doesn'tconfide any of this to Athos. He purposely hides his grief. I personally felt the story increased my understanding of the musketeers and the episode was better for it.

And lastly, loving the fighting nuns!

I really love this series so sad that its ending :(( why why why

It has been renewed for a second season next year.

Enjoyed this much more than Atlantis. Watched every episode of this whilst I gave up watching Atlantis about 1/2 way through.

Knight takes Queen in more ways than one. I wonder will the King be expecting an heir soon not knowing of the dalliance between Aramis and the Queen this week?

Constance has always been married in the stories. In the Richard Lester directed movies from the 70s Racquel Welch was married to Spike Milligan whilst having an affair with Michael York.

I disagree with the fact that Isabelle was useless. She was used to make Aramis emotionally vulnerable. As he explains, up until now he has been in love with a lie, a lie he has told himself about being in love with this wonderful, idealized young woman from his youth. All other women have been not meaningless (he seemed to truly care for Adele) but definitely substitutes nothing serious. The Aramis of the show, unlike the Aramis from the book is somehow sentimental behind the frivolity and the cunning. He wouldn't have slept with the Queen in normal circumstances because it wouldn't have been worth it: too risky. But in a moment of vulnerability this powerful and tempting woman goes to him and tells him that it'd be a privilege for any woman to be loved by him. So, that checks for a lot of what makes this Aramis who he is: sentimentality (beautiful woman in danger going to him), checked; sense of adventure (first the Cardinal's lover, now the Queen? I see a pattern), checked; a thing for innocent looking ladies who take their chances (again, both Adelle and the Queen look delicate and naive but then go for it), checked.
If anything, I think that Isabelle was fridged in the worst sense of the trope, but she was in no way useless to the plot. It is not that the Queen slept with Aramis to cheer him up, it is that Aramis slept with her because he needed the reassurance that he could love and be loved. He was conflicted. It was not the grief for Isabelle, but the grief for himself, a self he lost with Isabelle's speech.
I think it added depth to his character, as Nothern Star said in his/her comment. I find that all characters are complex and interesting in this show. I'd like to see more of the Queen, because she remains the most mysterious character to me.

I am quite happy with this show. I'd be so sad to see it ending.

I couldn't stop laughing when the nun said "To shoot rabbits. And protestants."

I am worried about the little preview at the end. It looks bad for a character I thought we'd be watching next season...

My previous experience with the mythos has, sadly, only been through how it permeates popular culture (so, mainly Tom & Jerry :P ), I have, until this one, never seen an actual adaptation in its entirety, despite wanting to. But this is the quote from Wikipedia that I have to go on concerning d'Artagnan/Constance: ' After d'Artagnan rescues her from the Cardinal's guard, he immediately falls in love with her. She appreciates his protection, but the relationship is never consummated.' This would seem that this show is deviating from that, hence my belief (but, as I said, I'm not that familiar with the mythos, so I may be wrong) that this infidelity stuff isn't in the original work, therefore added just for this show, and because of my uninterest in them, my disdain for them, which is personal preference.

Affairs with married women appear throughout the D'Artagnan Romances. It was somewhat accepted behaviour at the time as women had more freedom after marriage than before ("France. It's a different planet.")

Porthos relied on the money given to him by a widow, Aramis had an affair with Madame de Chevreuse while Athos went on to have a child with her. Aramis was heavily implied to be the father of Madame de Longvilles baby. The queen was conducting an affair with the Duke of Buckingham.

As you yourself said it's an adaption. It's changed for a modern / tv audience in the same way as Robin Hood is in the various adaptions: 1930s - Errol Flynn version, 1980s - Robin of Sherwood version, 1990s - Kevin Costner version, 2000s - Jonas Armstrong version etc... Same is true with Sherlock Holmes adaptions.

Each adds a bit to the mythos in the same way as the first Robin Hood stories were told in which Marion didn't exist. Nasir the Saracen first introduced in RoS was carried into Costner's version with Morgan Freeman and into the Armstrong version as a female Saracen.

Here, Porthos is of mixed race which isn't in the books though Alexandre Dumas who wrote them was too.

Tom & Jerry, no mention of Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds?

It gets away with a lot of religious jokes against Protestants .

These people were Real ???.

I'm worse, I've never even seen anything with the musketeers, all I knew was there was 3 of them and I thought they were outlaws or something.

well I thought that the Musketeers just got better with every episode. The acting is brilliant and the storylines entertaining. Not only is it four good looking blokes dressed in leather but four very good actors. I hope there will be a second series as I think it just gets better and better. I for one hope the series continues.

Or was it the People's Front of Judea?

As the final episode approaches I hope that the second series is as much fun as the first series seemed to be. I wonder how much ad libbing was in the episodes. Excellent acting by all and I do look forward to the second series.I hope they keep the outfits though!!!

King Louis XIII was meant to be gay! It annoys me when it's not portrayed that way!

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