The Musketeers series 1 finale review: Musketeers Don't Die Easily

Review Rob Kemp 30 Mar 2014 - 22:00

The Musketeers rounds off its first series with a satisfying finale...

This review contains spoilers.

1.10 Musketeers Don't Die Easily

So here we are, the end of The Musketeers' first season. It’s fair to say that it hasn’t been the most even of rides, the quality dipped noticeably during the mid-season, but overall the series has given us enough thrills and excitement that getting to the end has been an enjoyable and at times fun journey rather than a chore. In fact, Sunday evenings will feel decidedly more grey without the colourful adventures of the Musketeers and the early renewal for a second season now feels like a good move by the Beeb rather than the risk it so easily could have been.

The real question is – did it stick the landing? In many ways Musketeers Don’t Die Easily is representative of this first season; at times it was great, at times it lost its way but it was generally good value throughout.

Musketeers Don’t Die Easily picks up the threads left by last week’s foiled assassination of the Queen, albeit after a period of some months. The Cardinal needs to cover his tracks and by so doing sets Milady the titular task of killing the Musketeers. Putting aside the fact that in seventeenth century France you probably could quite easily kill four Musketeers, the story combines betrayal, conspiracy and subterfuge to defeat Milady, expose the Cardinal and be home in time for tea and medals.

The façade of D’Artagnan turning against the Musketeers worked well, and despite the obvious nature of the ploy, it was a little disappointing to see it being dropped so early in the episode. However, the overall pace and sense of consequence gave the episode some of the weight that's been sorely missing at other times in the series. This did feel like a season’s final episode and the stakes were appropriately upped.

This was Milady’s episode and Maimie McCoy is finally brought out of the shadows to takes a central and direct role in the proceedings. The series has carefully developed her relationship with the Cardinal and we much better appreciate the threat that he represents to her life. Filling in a little of her background worked well, we understand the lengths she has to go in order to protect what she has but it also gives her an injection of sympathy without which Athos’ final judgement would seem completely inappropriate.

Musketeers Don’t Die Easily therefore represents a good, but not wholly satisfying conclusion on her season’s involvement (I don’t quite buy that we’ve seen the last of her). McCoy has consistently done well to mix seduction, innocence and violence into what could be so easily a pantomime villain. In many ways she is the Cardinal's most direct weapon, and if anyone could kill the Musketeers you would believe she could.

That’s where the story lets her down, because instead of doing it herself – and we certainly know that she’s both capable of the planning and the action – she goes to someone who is everything she is not, brutish and direct, i.e. the exact kind of person who would find it difficult to kill the Musketeers. Don’t get me wrong, it’s always good to see Sean Pertwee pop up but he was playing the role that Vinnie Jones played a couple of episode back, that of the generic bad guy with the penchant for violence. Having taken this route, it never really felt like the Musketeers were in any danger and so the episode was a little light on tension, especially towards the end. I also feel that we sold short on her final scenes, I get that letting her go was an ideal and somewhat easy way to leave the door open for her possible return, but even with the little sympathy we might have felt, it robbed us of any satisfaction that she was going to be held to account for her actions,.

I was also surprised that with everything else going on in the episode they went as far as they did with exposing the Cardinal’s plot to the Queen. Despite the quality of the four Musketeer leads, Capaldi continues to steal most scenes and his realisation that he’d be duped by D’Artagnan was easily one of the most satisfying of the series. However, in some ways it – like Milady’s last scene, felt a little short and almost trivial. Here was the man who had plotted and killed for his own advancement and yet when finally exposed the Queen is content to have him know she’s watching. For a man like the Cardinal I’m not sure that’s a threat that he should be all that worried about, indeed, the seeds sown at the episode’s close would make it appear likely that the Cardinal will soon be very much back on top. There were times throughout the season that the Cardinal was made to be more of a bystander than a key antagonist, and that’s okay if you have others equally as nuanced and threatening but looking back, that wasn’t the case. So for the Cardinal not to have had a larger presence seems wasteful, especially with such a talent as Capaldi. That aside, he has been great in the role and his absence in the next series will be very sorely felt.

The Musketeers, as characters, have acquitted themselves well throughout the series, and although Musketeers Don’t Die Easily may have not had them quite at their wittiest or most thrilling, it was still a fine showcase for an ensemble that have developed impressive charm and camaraderie. D’Artagnan comes off the best and the on and off again relationship with Constance was handled well. It was a nice surprise to see that the show-runners had decided to end the relationship on such an unhappy note rather than go for the more clichéd and predicable option. Again, there’s certainly more to come in the next season and as long as they follow the same careful development it should make for interesting viewing rather than descend into a bad soap pastiche.    

Musketeers Don’t Die Easily aptly fulfils its role as a season finale, it tied up some outstanding plots whilst creating a few more for the season to come. Whilst not the best (my vote goes to A Rebellious Woman) it certainly wasn’t the worst (step forward The Homecoming) it ends what has been generally good season, maybe not in the most emphatic way, but certainly in a satisfying one.

Read Rob's review of the previous episode, Knight Takes Queen, here.

Series one of The Musketeers is now available on DVD.

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I was left a little unsatisfied by the time the end credits rolled. The leniency shown towards the Cardinal and Milady, along with the big reset on the Constance/D'Artagnan relationship, smacked a little of deliberately stringing out storylines for the sake of another series.

Don't get me wrong, I've been a huge fan of this series. I guess I was just looking for a more complete payoff at the end.

Yep, I really liked tonights episode, in fact I have largely enjoyed the series. I found myself actually wondering if certain characters were going to survive (especially when compared to the Dumas books) - maybe that's one of the benefits of playing a wee bit loose with the source material, it means that certain established events could happen at any time.

I have thought that largely the action scenes have been very well staged, the Musketeers are all really well played as are all the characters. It might have been nice casting to have Sean Pertwee as Rochefort (a character I am surprised didn't appear at all - though I did miss two episodes)

Has it been confirmed if Peter Capaldi has any involvement at all in the second series. I understand that it would be incredibly difficult with his Doctor Who commitments but because of the set up I can't see the introduction of Cardinal Mazarin as a replacement being as satisfying as Richlieu. Maybe Rochefort could appear and take up some of the threads.

Anyway, a very enjoyable series in my opinion.

I quite enjoyed it, it would maybe have been better if Athos had stayed dead a little longer but i liked the fact the Queen was in on the Cardinals treachery and also the way his face dropped when he saw he was priceless, mind you, also his face when he realized the child was Aramises and not the Kings was a picture proving that Capaldi really has been the best thing in this series and he will be missed in the second series but i have also enjoyed the cammoradrie between the 4 Musketeers also. Overall it has been an enjoyable series and perfect Sunday night viewing, i hope the second series is just as enjoyable but doesnt lose it like Merlin did for a while

Is it possible for Peter Capaldi to still be in series two, just in a recurring role rather than a regular? Make him the Boss bad who still pulls strings in the background, even if he can't have as regular appearance as he currently does?

I was quite surprised that I was actually fooled by the fact that D'Artagnan was pretending to be disillusioned, especially as they'd already done it in the second episode. I was initially confused with the plot at the beginning, wondering why the characters were being suddenly very antagonistic, and the fact that he was just pretending was a surprise and explained everything and suddenly the plot made sense. I'm not usually fooled by stuff like this (you'll have to take my word for that, but I am not being arrogant when I say I'm usually on top of plots, I have to be, I'm a hardcore Whovian during Moffat's era :P ). So kudos for that.

Brilliant finale. I'm really going to miss this show. The set up for series 2 is fantastic, with so many carefully planned out threads: the implication that Milady will go to England (and de Winter), the animosity between the queen and the Cardinal (much more purposeful here than in the books), the queen's pregnancy, the Cardinal's realisation that Aramis is the father. It's a genuine loss to know it's all for nothing since Capaldi has left.

In the original books (with a scar) and the 3 Richard Lester movies (with an eye patch - which later movie versions continued - played by Christopher Lee) you also have Comte de Rochefort who like Milady worked for the Cardinal. Most of the time the Musketeers interaction was with Milady and Rochefort, not the Cardinal himself.

Cardinal Richelieu also had a later replacment in the books called Cardinal Marazin but in The Musketeers mythos, a bit like Sherlock and Moriarty, the main nemesis is Cardinal Richelieu.

Ah. Is suppose that'll be what they do then.

England perhaps brings an opportunity to introduce The Duke of Buckingham.

They may not have a main nemesis next season.

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I must admit I thought Hugo Speer was Sean Pertwee when the series started. As it was pre-Gotham I wonder if they both auditioned for Treville.

As well as Rochefort this adaption has also dispensed with the Musketeer's servants in the original novels; d'Artagnan/Planchet, Athos/Grimaud, Porthos/Mousqueton, Aramis/Basin and Milady/Kitty.

Does it not occur to you that perhaps employing the showy third-party ambush method was so that Milady could claim to have shown she made an attempt on their lives without seriously making an attempt on their lives?
If she has the depth she's alleged to, I don't think it's a stretch - and I don't say this to absolve the character of blame, because I don't particularly like her.
As for D'Artagnan coming off best - you must be watching a different show to the one I've been watching!

I'll be quite curious to see how the queen's pregnancy storyline plays out; clearly the cardinal has his suspicions, but seeing as DNA testing didn't exist back then and the only people who know about the affair are the queen, Aramis and Athos, I can't really see how they can develop the storyline beyond the Cardinal making baseless accusations? Him going up to the King and saying 'the Queen slept with Aramis' doesn't really hold much weight without evidence, especially considering any such accusation would just result in the queen revealing what she knows about the assassination attempt. This is of course assuming the character is in the next season...

I agree - D'Artagnan wasn't the best character out of the four (my personal favourite was Athos) but I believe that his story has been stressed a little too much over the series. I think that Porthos was the worst (Dumas would hate me) because his only proper development happened in episode 5. I love the series as a whole and I can't decide whether it's my favourite BBC show (it has some pretty tough contenders in torchwood and Robin Hood).

Great show.Very few shows are historically correct but that's ok.i want enertainment not anorak accuracy.Sundays won't be the same without it.

Milady will be back with Buckingham, I'll wager that will be the major plot in season 2. As for the Cardinal, I'd rather see him recast than cut out. Cutting him out now won't make any sense whatsoever.
Capaldi was spectacular, but I'm sure there are other actors out there up to the task. Hopefully the Cardinal will just keep more in the shadows, leaving the main antagonist work to Roquefort :) Can't wait to see who they cast for him!

It was always a bit of meta-fun for me to think that maybe Richelieu always "let" the Musketeers win because he was secretly the Doctor having a bit of fun.

I think what's missed a lot is the advantage of the political ploy of letting the Cardinal live. The Queen can now declare his guilt at any time and have him executed. Another attempt on her life would be extremely foolhardy and with a high risk of failure (again, ending in his death) With him alive, however, the Queen has the service of one of the most powerful men in France in her pocket because he'll have no choice but to toe the line from this point on.

And even if he does conclude Aramis' is the father, he has no proof of it, claiming it would land him in hot water and risk causing the very troubles he sought to avoid by making the assassination attempt in the first place. Despite everything, he does see his actions as being best for France, which is part of what makes him such a believable villain, his motivations feel solid.

Great episode to finish on, and a very nice review of it. Some differences with the review though; I never expected to see 'The Musketeers' die, not with Season Two in the pipeline. However, Constance, I was really worried about her. And the Cardinal, is it really true that everything he does is for the good of France? I think so, or at least the Cardinal really believes that is actions are purely selfless. And so, apparently, does the Queen.
Sparing Milady and the Cardinal does smack of keeping villains around for S2 though.
Still it was a great finish; big fight scenes, questions of honour and loyalty, and finally, "All for one. And one for all!"

I thought it was weak, not up to par of the other episodes, someone believed that D'Artagnan and the Musketeers fight was real? Did any of them die? that the Cardinal would suffer serious consequences of their actions? the only real concern was Constance.

ok, they went with the cliche of the pregnant queen of Aramis, yawn, but do not need the scene Aramis and Anne being so obvious, as if the audience was like a child, where everything needed to be explained? to show for the Cardinal? as someone said above, he could not do anything with this information because not prove, and would he do that? disappointing and cliche. Peter Capaldi was brilliant as Richelieu, and he will be missed, I think if they advanced the pregnancy of Anne, I know she just had her first child with almost 20 years of marriage, could perhaps introduce Cardinal Mazarin. I loved the show and can not wait for next year, but the ending was disappointing.

Traditionally, D'artagnan is the lead role in the Musketeers stories - he was the main role in Dumas's books and the main role in most film and tv versions of the story over the years - so it's no surprise that his story has been "stressed" more than the others during this series, though Aramis has done pretty well this series too. I agree that Porthas was the least used but the producers can never put D'artagnan at the bottom of the pile and they probably can't Aramis either.

I think Luke Pasqualino has done well in a role that's arguebly the hardest to define out of the four Musketeers.

I just simply love this series! As soon as it's available to me, I'l be purchasing the Blu Ray set, It's just so much fun for me, I like the look of the uniforms, way more badass than the classic ruffled shirts, The chemistry of the friendship is notable, the fights are more realistic than the classic fencing of past films, I'm looking forward for next season!

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