The Musketeers episode 9 review: Knight Takes Queen

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. 

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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).

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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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