This review contains spoilers. Read our spoiler-free review, here.
3.1 Spoils Of War
The Musketeers are back for their final season and the show opens big, in every sense. Yes, it has an impressive-looking battle but it’s also big in the sense of its scope. This opener packs in an awful lot of elements as it ties up loose ends from the previous season, reintroduces us to the main characters and then sets out its stall for the season ahead. In sixty minutes that’s an ambitious ask and one that it almost manages to pull off as the inevitable scrum to pack it all in means that some parts feel a little rushed. Look no further than Aramis’ introduction which, given time and maybe pushed a little further into the season, might better sell the animosity between him and Porthos. This is a small gripe though in what’s a great opener for this third and final season.
Although new showrunners Simons Allen and Ashford have promised a much darker season for the Musketeers, it’s difficult to tell on this one episode alone, but there’s certainly promise with the introduction of two new villains. Matthew McNulty’s Lucien establishes his presence from the off, lurking in shadows and being generally very nasty to everyone. This is very much a person with whom not to play Thumb War. The finger cutting and his later execution of the General establishes that this guy doesn’t muck around. Personally I like my villains to be the no-nonsense type – I can’t stand talking or justifying before they do something villainous (Bond, I’m looking at you here…). Bad people are bad because they do bad things without having a soliloquy every five minutes. So it’s refreshing to see Lucien be a man of little words but incisive action – I hope that doesn’t change as the season progresses.
It almost seems that we get the opposite with Rupert Everett’s Marquis de Feron. I must admit, he didn’t impress within the first few minutes with a portrayal that seemed strangely over the top and pantomime-like, something sharply at odds with both the episode and series. However, the more time we spend with him, the more I grew to like him not in spite of his colourful character, but because of it. Here’s a villain who can’t resort to physical violence, so his only means of attack are his words and Everett has come up with a way to make what he says interesting. Even better, because of his eccentricities we’re never quite sure what he’s going to say next. Here is a villain who wears his true colours for everyone to see (apart from the King, because, well, he’s a bit dim), and that’s not bad, in fact it’s refreshing to have an honest-to-goodness git that causes everyone’s blood to boil. Throw in Lucien and a couple of other bad guys that the writers have promised and that’s an interesting and powerful mix to cause our heroes no end of problems. Well, it wouldn’t be much of a show otherwise would it?
And what about those heroes? Well there’s nothing here in this episode to give anyone apart from Cabrera’s Aramis much to do and he does a great job of selling the internal conflict (although we all knew what was going to happen the minute he turned up on screen). As an ensemble there’s still much life there and if this season is really going to plumb the depths of despair then I truly hope we get to see those four rising to the challenge. All too often over the past two seasons they’ve been sacrificed for the sake of others and if this is to be their final hoorah than they must be kept front and centre, which despite all the jobs Spoils Of War had to do, this was very much their episode and it was all the better for it.
As for the rest, it was good to see that Constance hasn’t lost that spirit and fight now that’s she’s finally in wedded bliss with d’Artagnan (although I can’t hold my breath on that one…). Ryan Cage’s King Louis is still very much the entertainer for all the wrong reasons with his Queen suffering valiantly in the background. There was no Milady, but her return surely can’t be that far away and if anyone needs a good fitting send-off then it’s her. With all the other villains due to pop up you do wonder just how she’s going to raise her head above the parapet, but I can’t imagine she’ll go softly into the night.
As an opener then, it does almost everything right, but suffers a little for its ambition to do everything. The cast have seamlessly slipped back into their roles and now that we’ve settled down and gone through the necessary set-up, it’ll be very much up to them to make their mark and finish the show on the highest possible note.